Paul tells the church in Thessalonica to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 3:17). And in these times it feels like we’re either praying all the time (O God, please help us) or we’re so tired and exhausted we haven’t prayed much at all. I don’t know what your experience is, but I think I’ve done both in the last 18 months. There are extremely stressful times when I feel like I’m praying all the time. And then there’s times when I’m so worn out that I feel so distant from everyone. Including God.
Prayer isn’t an easy thing in the best of times. Finding space to be alone with God can be a challenge. Most of us have a lot of things on our calendars, a lot of noise in our homes, or a lot on our minds. And even those of us who are empty nesters or widowed-sometimes the quiet at home becomes deafening. The house is too quiet. The COVID crisis has made all of this worse. Those who were busy before COVID are busier than ever. And those who lived alone before COVID, now feel more isolated. There might be some of us in the middle of that spectrum, but I think it’s fair to assume that most of us struggle to find space to be alone with God.
Finding calm and peaceful moments these days is a challenge, but it’s also what all of us need. We need some time to be quiet, be alone with God, and experience God’s love for us. God’s love can help us face the coming days, whatever they might bring. Taking time away from the chaos and crisis of the world can give us the strength we need.
I thought I would share a famous prayer that could help us all get started. When we don’t know what to say when we pray, sometimes it’s helpful to borrow someone else’s words. These words come from Thomas Merton, a famous monk. I think they speak to our time.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, thought I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
However, you pray, may these words give you somewhere to start. Or maybe one of your favorite Psalms will give you a start. Find time to be alone with God, even just for a few moments of brief silence. Even if it’s just a walk around your backyard or neighborhood. God is still with us, and can still give us the love and comfort we need.
Prayer Taken from: Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 1956.