Unceasingly

“As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:35-43)

Dear friends, I cannot tell you the number of times my prayers for certain intentions have dwindled over time because they’ve gone seemingly unanswered. I get disheartened, listen to that tiny voice of despair telling me to doubt God’s faithfulness, and don’t pray about it as much—and not out of surrender, but out of fear, out of feeling unworthy.

Mea culpa. Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.

The blind man in today’s Gospel was persistent in his cry for Jesus. He, a beggar, an outcast and someone seen as less-than, didn’t doubt that Jesus would hear and answer him because of who he was. Even when the crowd told him to be silent, they couldn’t stifle the outcry of his prayer.

When people tell us to give up, when the world screams that God isn’t good, we cannot cease our prayer. When we pray steadfastly, we allow the steadfast love of God to enter our hearts. We renew our trust in Him each time we cry out to Him. We proclaim how much we need a Savior.

In acknowledging Jesus as the “Son of David,” the blind man is declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord, that as the Son of David, He is the Messiah. This shows his great faith in who Jesus is.

Even though the man couldn’t see Jesus and the miracles He was working before his sight was restored, he had faith. He believed that Jesus is the Savior. When we can’t see what God is up to or when our prayers seem ignored, we can have faith that Jesus hasn’t left the picture. He never abandons us, and He always hears and answers our prayers.

One of my favorite worship songs, “The King of My Heart,” has a line that says, “You’re never going to let me down.” Has God ever let us down? Even in the darkest moments, no. Will God ever let us down? No, we can trust in His unending love. We can pray unceasingly, knowing that God is with us, fulfilling our every need.

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe”

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Do you ever feel “stuck” in your prayer life? Do you ever self-edit as you pray, trying to find the best words or the holiest way to put something? As you pray, do you ever feel disappointed in yourself for what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, and then lose the prayer as you rehearse your words again? These things have been happening to me quite often lately, so these words of the Lord before the Lord’s Prayer stood out to me as words of comfort and power to help me simplify and de-stress my prayer life.

Our God knows what we need before we even ask Him. He’s a Good Father, He sees his children as they are and also as the saints He desires for us to become. Prayer is not a submission request to God, prayer is requesting more submission to God and the plans He already has in mind for us. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking of prayer as this “secret weapon” to employ when things get really tough rather than the ideal mode or state of being human. Prayer is not meant to be “used” for anything, as Jesus reminds us here. Submitting all our requests and thoughts to God as perfectly as possible is not what our God desires; when approaching prayer, He desires that we first acknowledge Him as our providential, all-knowing, benevolent Father.

And if we take that as a starting point, we take prayer to be primarily Other-focused, not focused on our “list of things we’d like addressed soon, God, please.” Wha a comfort to just sit and let your soul meditate and dwell upon the depth of God’s knowing, deeper than we will ever know of ourselves. It is trust in this Knowing that love for God takes root, and grows through prayer, communication with God. Just think of how different conversations about something difficult you’re going through are with longtime friends vs. people you just met; the deeper shared knowing of the friends makes for a very rich and open discussion that requires less explanation, it’s just not needed. Whereas, there might be a lot of background knowledge required by someone you just met. Jesus, here, is speaking out of a deep knowledge of His Father, Whom He addresses as Our Father. He points us to the Father, He gives us His Father.

Maybe as a good prayer exercise, write down all that is in your mind, don’t think of grammar or anything, just write and pray for five minutes and see what comes out. Then, as you re-read the content of your prayers, take time to sit with each area of concern, or joy, and meditate on God’s perfect knowledge of what you need out of this situation, focusing on trusting deeper in His love. Embrace the mystery of trusting in the Father.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Seeking the Will of the Spirit

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Today’s first reading (found here) reminded me of a YouTube video I recently saw (found here) where a CFR friar talks about receiving a very clear and immediate answer to God when he asked Him, “Lord, is there anyone You want me to meet today?” Turns out, there was, and this friar was given a very specific description of him (something like, down to “a red hat, tan pants, and his name is David”). The friar followed the voice of the Spirit, Who even gave him a specific place to watch out for this man. Long story short, this friar met a man who fit this description exactly, and they ended up praying together spontaneously on the street. Nothing visibly miraculous happened, but this friar was so inspired by his experience that him and other friars continued to pray this prayer in the morning and waited to see what would happen, with expectation and willingness to be a fool for Christ stopping people on the street to say “Hey, I heard from God that I was supposed to meet you” (in so many words) and seeing what happened next. As this prayer practice spread, more miracles were occurring, some dramatic, like instant healings of chronic injuries. Turns out, God had some ideas and purposes just waiting to be asked for specifically.

And the same is undoubtedly true for us! There are Incredible works God has for us if we would only ask Him to work through us!

And as I type this, I am convicted by so many things in my life that have felt so obvious to me to pray about further direction. But all too often, I seek God only when I think I need Him. I seek Him in the manner of, “How can You fit into my life, how can You make my life better?” All too often, we are affected by the world around us that tells us, trains us from the core of our identity to the neurological brain networks governing our attention – and all too often, our consequent behavior – that following our desires will make us who we are meant to be, living our dream, speaking our truth, and now more than ever in the social media age of self-understanding, promoting and performing our brand of “yeah, my life is great, let me show you why it’s great.” Somehow, the great lie promulgated in our all-too-connected, consumerist, individualistic society is that life is about maximizing self-cultivation, and that we are all our own best judges over what that looks like.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of pressure. And I think this is where many of us get depressed, including myself: when we internalize the belief that we should know what will make us feel whole, and we either have tried different things over and over and never feel whole and happy, or we just generally feel like we have no clue, we get stuck in a perpetual failure loop. The greater news, and the truly liberating news, is that we. Need. To. Ask. God. For. This. We will not find the path to eternal life, and wholeness in this life, if we think we should know the way.

And that is the broader perspective shift that needs to happen. But what about on a smaller time scale? Basically, our automatic question usually driving our moment-to-moment decisions is “what do I want?” but living with the goal of being one with God calls us to reconsider, “what does God want?” I think we overthink prayer so often; God wants us to get back to basics. And one of the most basic beliefs about God is His Omnipotence, His all-knowingness, while we have tiny pinprick minds in the grand scheme of the universe. A very basic prayer but also infinitely powerful is when we simply ask God about what He desires for us. This first reading tells us just how amazing of a journey we can have in our lives if we harken to, listen for, and follow the voice of God over our own inclinations.

So, I challenge us all to give God our first fruits today. When you wake up, turn to God first, not your phone: “God, Here I am. What do You want me to do today? Is there anyone you want me to meet today? Please give me the grace to speak the words You want them to hear.” However, maybe there’s something that God has been putting on your heart again and again and you keep pushing it off to the side for another day. You know what God wants, or at least wants you to ask Him about, but you have not followed through. Bring that thing to the front of your intentions and give Him full reign over it, surrender that to His power and ask for clarity on what He wants for you.

May our hearts grow every more close with His own.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa