Lent Project Day 4: The Challenge of Prayer

a close up of the crucifixes of three Rosary strings. One is a metal crucifix attached to a pearl-bead rosary, one is bone, attached to bone beads, and the third is wood beads with a metal crucifix.
Prayer beads: A full Rosary and two decades.

Prayer takes many forms in my world. Mass, the decate rosaries  that I use for mindfulness, Grace before meals, the exasperated “Jesus, take me now”, the invocations of the Pantheon of Catholic Saints. The evening settling to the slow recitation of Je Vous Salue, Marie (Hail Mary, en francais).

In past Lent projects, I’ve had a few methods of being mindful with prayer. I do Tea Kettle Prayers all the time; not just in Lent. While the water boils, I consider what I need help doing, and what I am grateful for.  Depending on my caffeine needs that day, this can be very grounding. Also works as Microwave prayers (practiced whilst the microwave spins away), Stoplight prayers (practiced while out in the world being busy – not that *that’s* a thing with the C-19 work at home mandate), and in past Printer prayers (practised whilst standing in front of the printer – which you use once in a blue moon – waiting for everyone else’s print jobs to finish so yours can happen).

I do breath prayers whenever I feel anxious. I repeating a single line to the tide of a deep breath. When I feel Not Enough: (Inhale) I am, (exhale) God’s blessed child. When I feel overwhelmed: (inhale) Come to me all who are burdened, (exhale) And I will give you rest.  When I feel frustrated: (inhale) With God, (exhale) All things are possible.  When I feel anxious or I wake up from one of those nonsensical panicky dreams: (Inhale) Seek the lord, (exhale) While he may be found; (inhale) Search for Him, (exhale) While he is still here

I use these last two a lot.

It’s easy to pray for people you love. It’s even pretty easy to pray for people you don’t know. It isn’t an imposition to my day to have a kind thought for those who mourn when you pass a funeral procession. A quick Godspeed when an ambulance or fire truck speeds by. Or when you watch/read/listen to the news, pray for people affected by the thing. Since the news often (usually) focuses on unfortunate events, it feels satisfying to say to yourself that you’re praying for the 6 families displaced by the fire last week, or those affected by the power outage in Texas, or, yaknow, COVID-19. I was thinking about this a few days ago when my gentleman associate and I were on our way to a chiropractor appointment. This was the first time I left the house (other than walks with Louie) in weeks.  We were stopped at the lights in front of Cambridge Memorial, there were some folks in scrubs, crossing the road to the parking lot at the end of their shifts. Certainly, a good time for a prayer of thanks.

I know that there are lots of people who don’t like the category of Catholics, people who say they like me (personally) who really really don’t like The Church (and me, by extension). I can pray for them. I can pray that even if someone doesn’t believe themselves, that they respect what I believe. They just don’t understand. I’m not going to evangelize to try to convince someone who doesn’t want to believe, but I still know that my actions speak more about my beliefs than anything else.

And sometimes, it’s Throatpunch Thursday and your prayer looks a-whole-lot like “Thank you, God, for not being able to set things ablaze with my mind”. It’s hard to muster the spiritual energy to bestow blessings on someone you reallyReallyREALLY want to…not.

I’m not going to be all pious about this. I’m terrible at praying for my enemies. TERRIBLE! I hold grudges like it’s an Olympic Sport and I’m defending the gold. I could put on a clinic. My prayer intentions for enemies look something like “Thanks for putting the King of the Douchebags in my life a lifetime ago. The damage he has done to my self-worth means that I can now be empathetic to other damaged people. I will likely never recover because he was so good at his douchebaggery, but at least I’m a good listener.” and “Thanks for the anxiety you’ve given me. It makes it hard to be healthy, but it’s also given me the gift of knowing that not all illness is visible.”

*sigh*

Don’t get me wrong, when something bad happens, I do look for the gift wrapped in there. And sometimes the lessons are harder to excavate than others. I can be empathetic now because I know what it feels like when someone tears you down. I can support others because I recognize what it looks like when you feel like you have no support. I can tune my Universal Translator to hear when someone is hurt because I know what it sounds like when you hide your hurts.

Pray for your enemies was the *first* reflection I did on the *first* Lent Project, 8 years ago. It was on the Thinkythoughts Lent Ideas incubator (paper-based) list for 2 years before that. It’s been a solid decade since Pray for your Enemies surfaced for me. And I’m no better at it today than I was then.

I’m not sure I want to bestow blessings on my enemies. But I know that I want to WANT to pray for enemies. I don’t even know what that looks like. I’m not there, and I don’t know what the path forward looks like. But Lent is a perfect time to think about this. Consider: Then Simon Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. “Put your sword back in its sheath!” Jesus said to Peter. “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me? (John 18:10-11)

Jesus could have let the servant bleed out. He could have incited his followers to riot. But he didn’t. He said “My Dad asked me to do this, so I’m doing it”.

Amen, Brother. As I’ve said before, prayer means a lot of things, but it’s always a conversation with God. Maybe, when praying for my enemies, it means not making situations worse. Maybe it means not setting someone ablaze with my mind. Maybe it means trusting that when we know better, we do better.

This Lent, may my mind be quiet enough to hear God speak. May my enemies be few, and my prayers be sufficient.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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