Praying Through the Small Things

This morning after Mass, I went to my local Catholic bookstore. On my way back I asked Christ’s permission to stop at the bakery for a bagel. This instinct to ask for something so small caused me to really think about prayer and my relationship with God.

First, I think it’s worth mentioning that I am a child of God and a princess of the Most High. After praying about the bagel I thought, Why are you wasting God’s time with something so trivial? In a world with murder and theft, war and poverty, he has more important things to worry about. Don’t be so selfish! Then he reminded me that he is not constrained by space and time. He has enough energy and time to devote to my small prayers and to the big prayers of those who suffer in anyway.

This small prayer made me think of the prayers of children. In my RE class, the children write down one prayer and they are often small and seemingly unimportant to adults. We see the horrors of terror and broken families while little Billy wants a new bike. To that child, it’s important; and to God, that child is important. As a sign of love, what is important to our loved ones is important to us. He hears the prayers of Billy and myself, although they are small. He hears your prayers for health and safety. He can hear it all!

The final point I’ll make is to pray without ceasing, like St. Paul says. When we invite Jesus into the small decisions, it’s more natural to invite him into the big ones. We tend to seek him in life’s major challenges like marriage, childrearing, and treatments for life threatening illness. He loves answering these prayers but he also wants you to ask if you should go to the bakery on your way home from the bookstore. It is in these prayers over the insignificant things, that we develop a relationship with our Lord. Think about your dearest friends. Are they dear to you because they only showed up when you were going through major life changes? Or are they also their for you in the day-to-day grind of life? Christ is there in both the big things and the little things. But it is through cultivating a relationship in the small things that we can build obedience in the big things.

Scripture is full of God’s invitation to invite him into life’s small dilemmas. Pray without ceasing, be like children, I will come in and dine with you. Of course it is the will of God to love, support, and guide us through all of life’s major challenges. But he also wants to be in our minor annoyances. Guess what, hears literally every prayer, no matter how big or small. In the small ones we are able to learn how to tune our hearts to listening to his response. So today my recommendation to you is to pray the small things: What to have for dinner, what time to go to bed, what color eyeshadow to use. I”m sure he’ll love it!

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Living at Home

I still live at home with my parents and I plan to continue. Many young people these days are desperate to fly the nest but I’m perfectly content staying where I am because I recognize the benefits of being home.

  1. Finances: It costs a lot to live on your own, a lot more than living with your parents. Rent+renter’s insurance+car+car insurance+utilities+food=a lot of money that doesn’t need to be spent. I buy groceries for my household. That is my only financial responsibility. Some young people pay for their cars or cell phones, some families even charge rent. Chances are, the amount of money you spend living at home is significantly less than what you would spend living on your own.
  2. Training: There are so many great things we can learn from our parents still. One of the funnest things for me is cooking with my dad. We often do this spur of the moment so if I didn’t live at home, I wouldn’t do it very often. I have the opportunity to try different recipes and cleaning techniques so by the time I have a family and a home of my own, I’ll be prepared.
  3. Togetherness: So many young people experience loneliness which can lead to a lot of problems. Rather than pretending a boyfriend, roommate, or a dog can be used to supplement your family time, spend time with your family. The family is a natural, God given support network designed to bring peace, comfort, and love.

Too often young people want to be “independent” and move out of their parents’ homes. Problem with that his, we are not designed to be alone, and we aren’t responsible enough to live alone. It doesn’t make any financial sense to move out and yet kids are proud and do it anyway. Just stay under the care of your parents until you are under the care of your spouse.

I also want to finish this post with a clarification. If you are in a dangerous household, leave. No one should be subjected to any kind of abuse so if you are, go to your parish and seek assistance in changing your situation.

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Imaginative Prayer

This past weekend I went to the inaugural meeting of young adults at one of the parishes near my home. It was a lovely evening with Mass, snacks, witness talks, and a lesson about prayer and Catholic art given by Father Sports. It was a truly lovely evening. I really like learning about art, particularly because I love history. Father showed us the Call of Matthew by Caravaggio, and explained how we are to use images, like the painting, to help us pray. Father ended the talk by saying we should imagine our Lord in our lives at the grocery store or sitting with us as we watch a football game. It’s a strange way to consider praying but I have found it to be one of the most beneficial.

The main reason I like it is because of the informality. Christ is our king but he is also our brother. We should display highest reverence for our Lord and participate in the formal prayers of the Church like Mass, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. But this formality can really throw some people off. Also different seasons of life require different types of prayer.

I used to pray the Rosary everyday. I loved it, I felt I was receiving such abundant graces. Lately, though, I haven’t been praying my Rosary as much. This doesn’t make me a bad Catholic, it doesn’t mean I no longer value the Rosary, and it doesn’t mean I won’t go back to a daily Rosary one day. Lately, I have been in need of less structured, imaginary prayer. I need our Lord and our Lady in the muck of everyday life right now. I need them to sit on the couch with me, carpool with me to work, and hold my hand as I walk through the day. I find myself more conscious of their presence in the muck of real life when I pray this way. At work, when I get stressed, I look out the window and imagine the Blessed Mother standing in the parking lot smiling and telling me to let God let go of whatever I’m getting stressed about. I imagine Jesus standing behind me when I’m working on difficult paperwork. And when something goes wrong, he places his hand on my shoulder and reminds me to take a breath, be patient, and relax.  I imagine my guardian angel sitting in my passenger seat, so when someone drives like a lunatic (myself included) my angel is there to protect me and remind me to slow down.

Imaginative prayer is a spectacular type of prayer because it reminds us of how present the powers of heaven are in our daily lives. Our Lord is first our friend, he wants to walk with us in life’s difficult and messy journey. We can invite him into our messy journey when we engage in imaginative prayer. Now this doesn’t mean he isn’t present already or it is harder to perceive his presence when we utilize other forms of prayer. I just think it is another spiritual weapon that can be added to one’s arsenal. When you find yourself unable to focus in structured prayer like the Rosary, try informal, relaxed, friendly, imaginative prayer.

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The Original Men in Black

I saw a picture similar to this on Pinterst once and thought it was funny. It also made me think quite a bit about priests and their vocations. The Men in Black search out aliens and help them assimilate into the rest of society. Priests search out lost souls and help them assimilate into God’s heavenly society. Both jobs (one more than the other) are important to the individual as well as the larger culture the benefits from their presence.

I also think priests are superheroes. I really love Marvel, in case you couldn’t tell. But I think priests should be the superheroes of we look up to. One day during Lent I went to Confession and Mass. As expected, it was packed. Father Smiles was hearing Confessions along with Father Toes. A few minutes before mass was supposed to start, the light above Father Smiles’ confessional went off (off=no confession, red=someone’s confessing, green=your turn!) Thought that was peculiar and I thought it was even more strange when he left the confessional. I’d never seen that before, but I assumed he had to go to the little priest’s room or something. But suddenly Mass started and guess who was presiding over liturgy. Father Smiles! After Mass there was still a line for Reconciliation and before I had time for my post Mass thanksgiving prayer, he was back to hearing confessions.

In this moment I decided priests were superheroes. They completely sacrifice themselves for the love of God’s people. Captain America let the Winter Soldier beat him up because they were best friends. Father let us beat up on them in the confessional because we are all God’s best friends.

I praise God for the original Men in Black and I pray they continue to feel the support of laity. It is far from an easy job, but someone has to do it!

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Prayerful or Gossip

One of the things I have noticed with my brothers and sisters is that we tend to gossip under the guise of prayer. I’ve heard people say things like, “Pray for jane because John lost his job.” sounds like a nice sentiment but maybe Jane and John don’t want the entire parish to know that. Perhaps they confided in one or two people that don’t need to share with everyone that they have fallen on hard times. I’ve also seen people hold information over another’s head. Someone said they were going on a retreat but the rumor that went around certain circles in our parish was that this person had a medical procedure. Whatever the case may be, if that person wanted their business known, they would have put it in the bulletin.

Some of us think we have to know all the details of a situation to pray for someone. This isn’t the case! When we don’t know what is going on but we know something isn’t right, we can pray for their intentions. I do this all the time in Mass. I like to watch my brothers and sisters receive Holy Communion and some people look defeated. I praise God that they have come to him for help rather than the horrible alternatives the world offers>. I obviously don’t know the details of what is going on in that person’s life. Jesus knows what is going on in that person’s life so I can pray for whatever they are praying for and that His will be done in their life. This helps me to love my brothers and sisters without falling into the temptation of gossip.

Tip: Pray, “Lord my brother or sister is in need of your grace. I ask that you please listen to their prayers and answer them in accord with your will. I pray that you shine your mercy and grace upon them as they travel this difficult path. Thank you for your blessings. Amen.”

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Trust

The hardest aspect of relationships, in my opinion, is trust. This is true of all relationships including my relationship with the Lord. I often see the image of the Sacred Heart at church from the Divine Mercy which says, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Each time I go to chapel i say this, some days I mean it and some days I don’t. Trust is difficult because it means we are giving up control.

I’ve said it before, my sin is pride. I like to think I can do things that I can’t do, that I don’t need help from others, and that the world revolves around me. All of that is, of course, nonsense. But out of my own fallen state, this is my thought process. It makes friendships difficult and is burdensome on my relationship with Christ. The only thing he asks of us is to trust him. We think Catholicism has this long list of rules and prohibitions but the truth is, they can all be summed up with “Jesus, I trust in you.”

What is faith? Trusting in the things that can’t be seen. What is hope? Trusting in tomorrow. What is love? Trusting that you can give all of yourself to another. All he asks of us is trust, and the only thing my pride doesn’t want me to give him is trust.

I think I can control things and solve problems but can I? No, of course not. It is only by the grace of God that I wake up each morning. When we fall into the temptation of our own abilities being greater than Christ’s, we fall into this lack of trust. Each moment of each day we must trust Jesus. Every time we drive, we trust that other people won’t run lights. We trust them more easily that we trust our Savior? That’s crazy! He loves us more than his own life, so much he knows the number of hairs on our heads, so completely that he has known his plans for us since the foundation of the universe.

How can we learn to trust him more? We have to always remember that he must increase and we must decrease. Through humility we trust Blessed are the poor in spirit. Trust is what our relationship with the Lord depends on. It is what we are required to give.

Living out this reckless abandonment to divine providence is daunting to say the least. When the Lord places something on your heart, don’t ask questions! Follow the will of the Lord obediently and diligently. That is what trust looks like in action. Think of the trust Mary has when the angel Gabriel comes to her. We have to follow her example of trust. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. He waits for us and walks with us in our journey. We have to trust in him always. When our pride inevitably gets in the way of that trust, take a moment and pray. The only thing he asks from us is trust.

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How Often Should We Pray

St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. Well…that was a short post! In all reality, it is very hard to pray constantly but this is what we are told to do. To do this, in a practical way, is to devote segments of outlives to prayer. The first and last 10 minutes of everyday should be in prayer. When you are in the bathroom, pray. When you are alone in the car, pray. Spend all of your time praying.

Prayer in its raw form is just a conversation with the Lord. We must have more conversations with him than anyone else. We must spend more time seeking him than we are seeking anything else. Christ alone can save us, Christ alone should be at the top of our priorities. Family, work, and sports are fine, but we are to love the Lord our God above all other things.

Pray without ceasing. Prayers should be like air or water to us. Don’t go a moment without breathing life into your relationship with the Lord.

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