Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let's Pause and Pray Often

I would venture to guess that with today's presidential elections and the future of our nation weighing heavy on the minds of many, many of us will pause often today to whisper a prayer to Lord about our hope for the future of our nation and the importance that rests in the results of today's election.

As often as we may claim that we find it difficult to find the time to pause to pray throughout the day or that life often puts us in auto-pilot mode and we forget our commitment to pray unceasingly, the truth is that when an issue looms large enough in our personal lives or our collective conscious as a family, community, church, nation or world, we remember to pray. If our spouse is on a plane or a dear friend is in labor, we remember to stop and pray. If a hurricane or other natural disaster threatens our area, we remember to pray. On the day of an important election, we remember to pray. I'll admit, I have been guilty of being selfishly attentive to prayer when something mattered to me and willfully neglectful when life was abuzz with activity and there seemed little time to slow down for anyone else's needs. But I do not want to be that way any longer. I want to battle that tendency that renders me a self-serving pray-er and be the person who pauses for the urgent needs of others, both those whose needs are close enough for me to see and those whose needs lie hidden in dark, rank brothels and trucking containers and ships in far corners of the world.

Shouldn't we strive to commit ourselves to pray the urgent, begging rescue prayer we pray for ourselves for the needs of others on a regular basis? Shouldn't we be daily pausing to beg God to pour out His mercy on a world with so many of our brothers and sisters suffering? If it was your biological brother and his family going on three years living in a tent in Haiti, would you not remember to stop and pray? If it was my younger sister missing and in danger of having been transported into a life a sexual slavery, would I know be crying out continually for her rescue and safe return? If it was my own children who did not have enough to eat today or who could contract deadly malaria at night while they slept, would I forget to pray for them? If my closest friend risked an unjustly high maternal and infant mortality rate in her pregnancy, would I remember to beg God to protect her and her baby throughout those months? The cold, hard truth is, I remember to pray when something matters to me. God, make these things matter to me. Do not let me insult the suffering and oppressed by calling them "brother" and "sister" and then bidding them to keep warm and well-fed. Press their needs upon my heart with the same urgency the needs of my biological family press on my heart. Teach me to shun self-deprecating guilt that makes me turn away from their needs as too burdensome. Keep from the temptation to put on blinders or to filter the ugly truth about the world's brokenness in order to protect my own comfort. Free me from the fear of a broken heart, for the most broken of hearts is that which keeps its hands clean by walking past the dying man on the road. Give me, Lord, the kind of prayer heart the Good Samaritan must have cultivated for days and weeks and years before the moment he stooped to lift his brother from the dirt and bind his wounds.

In her book 7, Jen Hatmaker's last mutiny against an excessive life is to slow down the pace of her life by intentionally observing prayer pauses throughout her day. Similarly, Ann has been encouraging us all to slow down and breathe, to remember that life is not an emergency, and to count all the ways He gives and loves and blesses throughout every single day. As Catholics, we live this reality in the daily prayers of the universal Church we call the Divine Office. I have been able, through grace, to cultivate a pretty good habit of praying the Morning Prayer of the Church. But that's about the only pause I remember regularly. I have many friends who are excellent about daily making these pauses and I aspire to follow their example. Technology offers us all kinds of help, like apps to pray with wherever we find ourselves at any given hour and chimes to remind us when it is time to pause. 

But I am praying to God to give me a heart that remembers. A heart that breaks for the urgent needs and real suffering of so many around the world at every given moment. A heart that shudders to think that every minute, two children are trafficked into sexual slavery on the same planet on which I live, children known and loved and named by God and destined for a future full of hope but thwarted by a perverse evil. I am going to make an effort, while I complete this series, to make my prayer pauses throughout the day, and during them, to cry out with the psalmist as he pleads for mercy on the lowly and afflicted and justice on the evil-doers. I am going to beg God to open my heart and mind so that I can pray and remember with an awareness that ignites a fire in my heart rather than locks me up in paralyzing guilt. I am going to beg God for my heart to break in such a way that I know that only He can save. And I am going to pray that I can pause in prayer so that I can be inspired to action when the moment for it arrives. 

Will you join me in pausing to pray? And let me know how you are doing with it? We can share our successes and failures and maybe help each other along the way?


  1. I didn't read this early. I knew I wanted to read it. I seem to have waited till the right moment. I've been stuck for hours, scrolling here and there, around FB, looking for something as this election has drained me.

    This, my friend, is what I needed to read. This will be my mission too. This what I can tell my kids in the morning we are going to do now that the election is over. Thank you for this kick in the pants..I think I can go to sleep now, after I read it one more time ;).

    1. Kacky, I'm glad it ministered to your heart. I know how many people might have needed something else to think about last night. I appreciate you stopping to pray with me.