When All You Can Do is Pray

This was a tough week.

It started with my school’s Monday morning mass when Father mentioned two special prayer requests.  The first was for his home country of Venezuela and the second for one of my students whose father was dying.  The rest of the week brought Boston, Waco, and the discovery of a growing tumor in the eye of a coworker’s baby daughter.

All of it left me at a loss.  I was saddened by everything, but it was all distant enough that it wasn’t interrupting my daily life.  Moreover, there was nothing I could do about any of it.  Normally, when something’s broken, I fix it.  I’m energized by my crazy projects and get my highs from the seeing everything come together.  But this… there was nothing.

So when I came home today feeling tired, slightly sickly, and rather discouraged, I escaped by watching television and browsing the internet.  The problem with television, though, is that the distraction is only temporary.  Likewise with the internet, except today I spent most of time reading about Boston and various webpages linked from there.  All of it served to increase the sense of helplessness.  Then I got hungry.

As I ate, I tried to figure out what I’d do with the rest of my night.  Finally finish Middlemarch?  A Netflix movie?  Sleep?  I ultimately came to the conclusion that my restlessness wouldn’t go away until I prayed, so I headed over to my church’s chapel.  Conveniently, adoration was just starting with Evening Prayer.

Sidenote:  Throughout all of this I was sort of freaking out about Honduras too.  Tragedy is inescapable there.  What am I going to do when I can’t solve people’s problems?  How do you maintain joy in the midst of such sorrow?

As we went through Evening Prayer, I was hoping some REALLY profound verse in the reading that would strike me or the deacon’s reflection would take away all my worries.   Nope.  But that was okay.  It felt safe and peaceful there.  Eventually, my mind wandered back to a time in high school.  I remember being upset about something, shrugging my shoulders, and saying “Well, all we can do is pray.”  My friend’s response: “But that’s enough.”

That idea kept coming back to me tonight.  Why am I so quick to shrug off prayer? Am I proud?  Lazy? Do I doubt that my prayers are being heard?  Or that they actually bring about change?  Regarding the last two, all of the scriptures and saints say the opposite.  Prayer is powerful.  Prayer changes people.  Prayer is necessary to change the world.  In fact, the Missioners spend almost 3.5 hours in prayer daily.  It sounds like a TON at first, but you quickly discover how necessary that time is.

Lastly, I realized my longing to help those suffering could find its fulfillment in prayer.  It sort of reminds me of Lewis in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”   I can’t go to Boston or cure illnesses.  But I want so much to help.  If Facebook and Twitter are any indication, people across America have been feeling the same thing. With prayer we’re not bound by the physical limitations of this world.  We can do something.  And if we do pray, it will enough.

Disclaimer: Please, don’t misunderstand me.  You can never just say “keep warm and eat well” when you have the means to help your neighbor.

Unrelated, but something sure to bring a smile to your face after this rough week is this video.  I’m ridiculously proud of these boys and their rendition of “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from Mulan.  Watch it!  









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