Why bother to pray at a time like this?
We spend so much of our lives pretending to be God, it is often difficult to remember that we aren’t. We proclaim it to the office staff, we remind the family of it by the day, we ply friends with stories of our supernatural victories over small children and store clerks and neighbors. Even early in the process when we go to prayer, we take with us the same attitude of the imperious and the agitated. We order people and things to do our bidding and make our worlds perfect. We secretly expect God to do the same.
But then, somewhere in life, we find ourselves facing walls that will not move. Someone we love needs special care now—and will need special care all their lives. We lose the savings of a lifetime and all the retirement plans that go with them. We develop a chronic disease that will not end our life but will limit it severely. We watch the business fail and there’s not a thing we can do about it.
Now we find ourselves new people. We have become the spiritual beggars we never before understood. Except that even begging is useless now. And we know it.
So for what do we pray at a time like this? In fact, why bother?
The questions are important ones. It is possible that there is nothing that teaches prayer more quickly, more effectively, than having nothing to pray for that can possibly happen. We are lost in the land of nowhere to go but God, not to change the circumstances of our lives but to change our whole attitude about what life is really about.
We learn now in the throes of a heavy heart that the grace simply to be may be one of the greatest graces of life. We discover in the silent arms of God that it is enough to be loved, to be understood, rather than “saved” from things that are their own kind of salvation.
Sickness saves us from glorifying the cosmetics of life.
Need saves us from isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.
The limitations of others save us from self-centeredness.
Powerlessness saves us from the sickness of arrogance.
Then, when we go to prayer we go, not to be given something but to be quiet, to develop a heartbeat of acceptance, to become the calm that is calming. Humility makes listeners of us. And in listening to everything that happens to us, we find God’s word for us.
—from Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer (23rd Publications) by Joan Chittister