Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry

Today is the feast of St. Padre Pio. He was an extraordinary priest who took on great sufferings for souls. He spent hours upon hours of his life hearing confessions, because his desire for everyone to know the love and mercy of Christ in a tangible way was so great.

St. Padre Pio was known for saying this simple phrase to anyone who came to him with a troubled heart: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” He then went on to say, “Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. Have courage and do not fear the assaults of the devil.”

There is great depth to be unpacked here. Within these straightforward words, St. Pio gives us a road map of trust and surrender, all pointing the way to Christ.

Pray. Prayer is our relationship with God. If we’re not praying, we are failing. Prayer is where we get to come before God with our whole hearts laid bare, sin and all, and be in communion with Him. Prayer is the open space of resting with God, speaking to Him what is on our hearts, and listening to the word He desires to speak to us. Prayer is the first step to surrender.

Hope. One of my best friends always says, “Steer into hope.” We need this theological virtue of hope to infuse our lives, because God is trustworthy, and God will never abandon us. St. Paul writes, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). There is always, always, always hope. We may not see the way, but we can hope. No matter how bad things get, there is the hope of God always being with us. His light shatters all darkness.  He so desires your good.

Don’t worry. Worry can be such a slippery slope. There is so much in life that is worrisome; we certainly all experience it. Worry leads to despair, doubt, and discouragement. Worry robs us of our peace. Worry suffocates us, growing into a dull hum in our hearts that tells us God is not here, or that God cannot overcome whatever situation we find ourselves in. Worry breeds lies. Jesus commanded us to not worry in Scripture several times, and St. Pio reminds us of His words—don’t worry. God is here. God is greater. You will not be overcome.

Let’s join together and pray, hope, and refuse to worry. Surrender and trust is not easy, but it sure is liberating. It allows us to let go and allow God into everything. He’s not worried. Big problem or small fear, He’s got us, in every single way.

**If you need an anthem for letting go of worry, I recommend this song by Housefires. The bridge says, “God’s not worried, so why should I worry?”

Holy Hands

“It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.” -1 Timothy 2:8

We express with our God-given bodies the very disposition of our hearts.

I remember watching a video all the way back in my college psychology class about how our body language not only conveys things to other people about who we are and how we are feeling, but to our own minds, as well. If we sit hunched over with our arms folded, that sends signals to our brain that we are unhappy or closed-off. If we stand up straight, that sends signals to our brain that we are confident and at ease.

What are we conveying to other people with our bodies? Do we use the hands and feet God has given us to serve others with compassion? Do we meet the gaze of people who need Christ’s love? Do we use our voices to bring God glory?

St. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

We are not our own. We belong to God. So when it comes to prayer, too, how we express our love for God with our bodies makes a difference. Now, I’m not talking about a particular spirituality here, because I think our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is sometimes too fragmented by the, “I’m this kind of Catholic” mentality. Let’s meet for coffee if you’d like to discuss that haha.

I will give you an example to describe what I am getting at: my spiritual director once told me, after a season of difficulty, that I needed to pray with open hands again. Without even realizing it, I had been praying with my hands over my heart out of fear, as if I was shielding myself from letting God in. Interiorly, I had walls of self-protection up, and exteriorly, it was manifesting in my expression of prayer.

God gave us our bodies to physically express our love for Him. Do we pray in a way with our bodies that tells God we are open? Prayer and worship are not about us, in the first place; it’s about giving God the glory He deserves with our whole heart, soul, mind, and being. God deserves all of us. And we have the awesome opportunity to offer our very beings as a sacrifice of praise to our almighty God. With an open physical expression, our disposition of heart is opened to God, like the centurion in today’s Gospel who said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof” (Luke 7:6).

There is something so powerful about praying with an exterior posture of surrender. It expresses worship, surrender, trust, and vulnerability. It admits our own weakness. It declares our total dependence on our Heavenly Father. It changes things, takes us out of ourselves, and helps us focus totally on the Lord, body and soul aligned in love for Him. We get to give God all that we are, holding nothing back from Him.

Let God be Mighty

“For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods, the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.” -Deuteronomy 10:17

Sometimes it’s hard to let God be God.

In some cases, we put Him in a box, restricting what God is able to do in light of our own human expectations. We put limits on our limitless God, putting finite restrictions on His infinite nature and love. We forget that He is outside of time, can move mountains in an instant, and is always working for our good.

In other cases, it is really hard to let go of control, especially when faced with a stressful or anxiety-inducing situation. Sometimes, we know deep-down what we need to do, and the only thing holding us back is the fear that when we take the leap, we will fall to our destruction rather than falling into His arms.

Sometimes, our big hearts swell with the desire to heal and fix problems and be everything to everyone. But we can’t: only God can be God. Jesus calls us to love like Him, knowing that we can’t be Him. And He doesn’t want us to or expect us to. Even in the most dire situations, He whispers, “Let Me be the Savior.”

Can we let God be mighty? Can we let Him surprise us with His love? Can we let Him rescue and save us, our families, and our friends, especially those closest to us who are hurting?

Today, let’s loosen our grip on control and fall to our knees with open hands, asking great things of our almighty God. He wants to do great things for us. He wants to save, heal, restore. And He can and will—we can’t. We are nothing without Him, but we have everything with Him.

Jesus, You are the almighty Savior, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace. You are infinite love, mercy, and goodness. You can do all things. You are the way, the truth, and the life. We surrender all we have and all we are to Your almighty, all-powerful hands, trusting that You always have us and those we love in Your tender care. You are God, we are not, and we praise You for that. We let go of all we’ve been holding onto and fall into Your arms. Amen.

Sweet Surrender

Time and time again, God brings me back to a place of joyful and peaceful surrender. Not only am I a planner, but I sometimes desire to know exactly what’s going to happen in the future out of self-protection and fear. When the way ahead is uncertain, how I would love to have a cloud from the Lord like the Israelites in today’s first reading so I would know when, where, and how to move. Yet in the questioning and waiting, God gently whispers to my heart, “Just wait and see. Trust, my daughter.”

There are a lot of unknowns in my life right now, and I’m learning again and again to be okay with that. If God wanted me to know what He had in store for me, He would reveal that to my heart right now. But He hasn’t, and that is not for nothing, because God wastes nothing. He is teaching me how to trust in His goodness moment to moment, following in the footsteps of Our Lady’s mighty FIAT.

When we trust Him, we don’t need to have all the answers—because He does.

Sometimes, we’re just swimming in the currents of the river, getting tossed about by the waves and trying to stay focused on keeping our head above water. But God, in His infinite goodness for our life journeys, can always see the whole river. He knows what lies ahead and what lies behind. He knows the purpose, and He knows where He is leading us. And all at once, He is swimming with us through it all, leading us to the next right thing, leading us to a deeper communion with Him.

So I rise and greet the gift of a new day from God, with a courageous YES in my heart to whatever He has for me in the here and now, and with an even bigger YES to the things that lie ahead that are yet to be unveiled. What a journey it is.

Thank You, God, for the gift of unknowns. My unknowns are known to You, and I thank You for that. My unknowns are intimately held safe and sacred in Your hands. I praise You through it all.

Ask with Trust

In today’s first reading, Abraham asks God if He will spare the city of Sodom if fifty people living there are innocent. God says yes, and Abraham goes on to pose the question again, asking what if the number of innocent people were forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, then ten—would God still spare the city? Each time Abraham asks, he is careful to say that he does not want to offend the Lord, and each time God faithfully says that He will not destroy the city.

St. Teresa of Avila said, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.” God invites us to ask great things of Him because He wants good things for His children. Nothing is too great, too small, to seemingly silly, or too weighty to ask of God. We can go to Him with anything that is on our hearts, because He cares about every detail. God sets us free to go to Him with childlike dependency when we ask things of Him.

Childlike dependency is not foolish or naïve when it comes to the disposition of our hearts with the Lord. Rather, it shows wisdom and great strength. Childlike dependency means that we can go to God with anything and ask anything of Him, knowing that no matter what, He will provide for us, that He comes through.

We should ask things of God because we trust Him, not out of a place of a lack of trust.

In this first reading today, Abraham was asking these questions out of trust the Lord, out of a place of hope in what the Lord could do to save the innocent. Even when we don’t see a clear way, we can trust that the Lord is the way, and He cares about the questions, needs, and desires of our hearts infinitely, even when we can’t feel it. God is just that good.

What will you ask of the Heavenly Father today? Don’t be afraid to go to Him like a little child, asking great things from a place of surrender to His will and total dependence on Him.

Father, we trust that You want to lavish Your love on us, Your children. We surrender each desire of our hearts to You, knowing that You hold our desires as sacred. We trust that each prayer we pray is infinitely important to You. We trust that You always give us what we need, even if it was not what we originally planned or had hoped for, because You are our good Father who does what is best for His children. We thank You for never leaving us orphaned, unheard, or uncared for. We love You. Amen.

What Are You Waiting For?

“Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.” -2 Corinthians 6:2

Now is a very acceptable time.

Last week at a youth ministry conference I was at, one of the speakers posed the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It has stuck with me ever since and made me ponder in prayer how much I let fear hold me back.

Fear runs deeper than just being scared. Fear is the voice from the enemy that tries to ruin what God wants us to do before we even take a first step. Fear comes from the accuser that tells us we’re not enough, that we aren’t cut out for it. Fear brings anxiety in trying to have all the answers and figure things out when God just wants us to be present with Him.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Now is a very acceptable time.

What are you holding back from God? What is blocking your heart from His?

Behold. He is with you. He wants to give you whatever it takes for what He is calling you to. He won’t lead you astray.

Behold. Each moment God gives us is a gift, a grace that we can use to radically love or to doubt Him or ourselves and put things off for another day.

What are we putting off? Is it more time in prayer? Is it a job change you know you need? Is it a mission trip you feel God calling you to? Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?

Now is that very acceptable time to take that next step towards God, wherever He is leading you on His path of peace. Be not afraid.

Always Faithful

“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

‘I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.’” -John 15:26-16:4

In today’s Gospel, Jesus prepares the disciples’ hearts for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a great gift of God’s faithfulness. Whenever we are struggling or confused, we do not have to turn far, because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We are never left alone.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember God’s faithfulness. We can get cynical and believe the lies that nothing good will ever work out for us, that we are not wanted, that we don’t belong. The truth is that God has great things for us. He is a good Father who desires to lavish His love on His children.

As we read on in the Gospel, Jesus is real with the disciples just as He is with our hearts—this life of following Him is not easy, and people will turn against us out of ignorance, hatred, and their own brokenness. I’m sure we have all experienced this in one way or another, and it hurts and is difficult. But we have the Holy Spirit right there with us, and when we speak the truth with love it is always a victory with God.

God is too good to give up on Him when things get difficult. I was thinking about this the other day when faced with the recent death of my grandfather—as tempting as it is to give into despair in painful circumstances, God is just too good to do that. He never promised a life free of suffering, but He promised to be with us through it all in very real and intimate ways. And when we surrender our will to Him, He brings about the most beautiful graces. Time and time again, He paves a way out of seemingly impossible circumstances. Time and time again, He brings resurrections. His goodness never fails us. When we open our hearts wide to what He has for us, we have no need to be afraid because the Holy Spirit is within us, desiring to work through us and show us the way through childlike dependence on our Father.