Run Forth and Pour Forth

Originally published by Ministry & Liturgy Magazine, September 2012
– PDF version –  On-line version –

First Sunday of Advent:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Fourth Sunday of Advent:
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

I noticed a young man running down the street recently in the pouring rain. He ran with his arms flapping widely, wearing a T-shirt and baggy pants and not wearing socks or shoes. His long wet hair hung in his eyes and he appeared filthy dirty. The youth ran in the opposite direction of people standing in line waiting for our hospitality center to open. I noticed that he was running in the wrong direction for us to help him. He had the resolve to run in the cold wearing little clothing, but I do not know where he got the help he needed. He did not run toward change or even consolation.

I realize as we begin this new liturgical year, that I am the only person standing in the opposite direction of the congregation as I pray this opening collect at Mass. Until I witnessed the young man running wildly away from our ability to help him, I never notice my posture in the sanctuary while praying the collect. I pray that my heart is focused on the coming of Christ Jesus. I want to be running toward love and consolation.  I also stand with my arms open praying even against the flow of every other person.

I minister among people who desperately run to find God in their present life situations. This is often so difficult not only in the Advent season but in any season of the year. The collect for the First Sunday of Advent implies that we all have a deep relationship with God so that we can all run toward the prize of Christ that is waiting for us. This is where so many people stumble and fall. So many people feel so unworthy of God and so judged by the church. People suffering long-term mental illness rarely discover God in their circumstances of isolation and fear. The battle-weary soldier lives only in fear after leaving the desert sands of war. The sickly grandmother aches to have her absent children near but she has not heard from them in years. Advent prayers of waiting for the birth of a savior do not comfort the mother suffering her third miscarriage. We all seem to be running in different directions, all praying to be at Christ’s side.

This collect reminds me of people who run from their past to escape their pain. Others run from their futures because they feel life will remain difficult because they have never known anything other than suffering. They also run to escape the pain and threats of today. Still others do not feel worthy of God’s love at all. People’s lives remind me that the liturgies of Advent begin a three-fold awareness of God. I must cling to this hope in Advent. We praise God for the works of the past, for Jesus born in the world. We look ahead to the end of time when we will be united again in the Kingdom in Christ second coming. We also open our hearts and minds in prayer knowing Christ is already here among us in the present. God is worshipped in our assemblies revealed in the past, in our present and in the future. The liturgical prayers, the scriptures all proclaim this three-fold presence and invitation to prayer.

I pray the collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent begging God for a message from an angel to guide all of our lives and hearts into the healing direction of love and mercy. In these Advent days, people in every parish community seem to be running without direction, without hope to sustain them in the search for love, hope and peace. The Advent season lived and prayed in every worshipping assembly invites us to orient our hearts’ desire into the enduring love that is born among us still. We all desire to be welcomed by God and one another in this season of grace.

I point my heart and life in the direction of God as John the Baptist proclaims in the scriptures during this holy season. I model my heart from the ancient prophet who called out in the wild. I am so aware that many people feel left behind even with John the Baptist’s help. I ache for the day that we will all find our place in Christ Jesus, at his holy right hand in the Kingdom of God. Finding the real direction toward love is up to all who follow the way of Christ. The love we run toward is in our righteous deeds, in serving people who have lost their way. There is so much work to be done before we take our final place at Christ’s right hand, being present with those in our midst that cannot help themselves. I pray for the resolve for all to run to meet our Christ.

Path and Purpose

Originally published by Ministry & Liturgy Magazine, May 2012
– PDF version –

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time –
O God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray, so that they may return to the right path, give all who for the faith they profess are accounted Christians the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ and to strive after all that does it honor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time –
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Iesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

I know the path to Christ is often convoluted and winding. The new translation of this particular prayer for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time zigzags and twists us even more along the path to Christ Jesus. I fear that aspects of this prayer may be misinterpreted. This opening prayer runs the risk of creating judgment from the assembly toward other people I who may be struggling with their place in life and within the church.

I usually cringe when I hear from someone that a person has ’’gone astray.” That phrase for me implies judgment of someone’s life, and rarely do people know the real story of any other person’s journey. The path to the Crucified means entering into personal suffering, which no other person should judge or condemn.

I learn through my years of ministry not to judge people who leave the church or who struggle with faith. In fact, I usually learn the most from people who sit in the dirnly lit last pews of any church or others who take a break from going to church until they sort out the issues of life. I learn from people who face tragedies such as a stillbirth and who fall deeply into depression and cannot commit to believing in God. I am in awe of people who struggle through a family suicide that takes them on a journey of nonbelief, even for many years. In so many cases, people judge others for the action of not participating in Christian community without realizing the pain that has settled into their hearts.

This prayer invites us to consider the correct path to Christ. The real path leads to the way of the Crucified. Suffering in life is never easy and creates paths that are treacherous and foreboding. Faith is awakened when we all invite God into our suffering. Many people cannot find their way beyond this blind curve. When suffering overtakes them, they may turn to alcohol, drugs, and destructive behavior. This is when the path really becomes steep, with unknown outcomes. I learn in our fragile community to remove the blame from my interactions. I cannot blame people in the confessional for the ways in which they deal with mental disorders or past abuse. I do not blame people in any conversation for the outcome of their lives. People need to take full responsibility for their actions; however, I do not add to their burden by blaming them for their pain. This opening prayer is a bumpy road for me.

I desire more than ever for people to find their way to Christ. This is the only path to real joy and purpose in life. The goal for every parish community is to invite people into desiring God. This is the message of the collect of the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. I weep when people cannot desire God, who can heal them. The pain of divorce, suicide, drugs, and mental illness often ‘strips people of the basic desire for God. We cannot blame people for their suffering, but we can teach people how to pray in deeper ways. Every community must help remove the obstacles people face in order to truly desire God in their lives. God is here to heal and reconcile, no matter our suffering, no matter who we are in the world.

Every worshiping community needs to take these opening prayers to heart. We need to invite people into experiences of setting our hearts on the love God has promised for every person. We need to give action to our conviction of love. This means getting our hands dirty and learning how the issues of justice challenge us. We need to be in relationship with people who live outside, others who may never be released from prison or people who suffer severe mental illness. We need to understand the family issues of the immigrant. We need to interact with our neighbors in nursing homes and care for babies born addicted to drugs, as well as for the mothers who birthed them. We all need to fix our hearts on the place of God’s love for people, so we may all find true joy and hope in his world.

Answering the challenge of these collects takes time and faith. Every parish community needs to risk stepping beyond their gossip and judgment of people. Every parish needs to find new ways of inviting people — in every form of prayer — into a deeper hunger for God in the Eucharist. Prayer and service lead us on the exact path of Christ Jesus. Experiencing the place of true gladness within our parishes is the mission for us all.

A Reading from the Prophet Bonnie

Originally published by U.S. Catholic, December 2008
– PDF version – Online version –

God’s messengers are often just as surprising as the words they bear.

Advent always opens me up. Just when I think I am in control of my life and ministry, I am confronted by the challenges of a new liturgical year. The prophets get under my skin. The gospels splash my soul to surprise and awaken me.

Never has Advent shaken my priorities as the year Bonnie camped out in front of the red doors at our urban parish. Our small chapel in Old Town, Portland, Oregon serves our low-income neighbors, our homeless friends, and people just getting on their feet after prison. Just before Thanksgiving Bonnie wheeled a shopping cart to the front door filled with her stolen treasures: picture frames and toys, extra sweaters and fake flowers.

Bonnie signed up for our hospitality center on her first morning in search of new clothing and a warm breakfast. Her boundless energy disturbed everyone’s routine in the small basement room. Suddenly our entire staff, volunteers, and the room full of guests awakened to her forceful presence. We panicked as she stuffed food into her pockets, paperback novels under her jacket, and rolls of toilet paper in her plastic bag.

Bonnie’s kleptomania unnerved the staff, her penetrating voice disturbed many of our shy guests, and her wiry presence evoked fear in me. Bonnie began her Advent journey by disturbing our entire operation.

She prayed during Mass on her first day with a voice that could stop a train, screaming out every liturgical response at the right time but with a dozen extra words. She threw off the rhythm of our common prayer so completely that the entire congregation stopped speaking. People erupted with complaints and tried to quiet her. Bonnie persisted with her prayer.

Many of us were left confused and bewildered in those first few days with Bonnie. She stirred up resentment among our neighbors, angered many parishioners, and even blocked people from entering our front door.

But I also began to notice something shift inside me. Slowly I opened my eyes to see her differently. I began to hear the message of Jesus in Mark’s gospel: “Be watchful! Be alert!” Bonnie shook me out of my own sleepiness toward people who suffer beyond my imagining. I started to interpret her disturbing actions and screeching voice as our Advent wake-up call, a real prophet in our midst.

She challenged our professional ideals regarding how we deal with crisis and how we try to keep order as we serve the poor. As the voice crying out in the desert, she echoed the words of Isaiah and John the Baptist to get our acts together and let go of our control. Bonnie was not going to let us get too comfortable thinking we were in charge of our lives or even of the parish. Once we all began to see her as a gift to us, she started to change our experience both of her and of the Advent season.

One day during Mass I heard Bonnie screaming outside the chapel. She was trying to stop people from stealing her things. When Bonnie started screaming, I saw one of our parishioners leap out of the pew to go outside. There was something about her scream that day that was raw and primal.

I felt deep sadness rise up in me. Bonnie was communicating to us that many things in our society are not right. Her haunting scream reminded me of all the ancient prophets who tried to get the attention of people to reform their lives and society. I heard in her scream the challenge to wake up and realize that addicts need shelter and sobriety, people need adequate housing, and the mentally ill need affordable medications. I felt in her scream the poverty of the world.

Bonnie also changed my perceptions of her loud responses at Mass. In the very predictable patterns of common prayer, I understood by her piercing voice that those who are marginalized by poverty or mental illness need to be heard. Mass could no longer be prayed on autopilot. We had to think about what, how, and why we were praying the liturgy. She made us think about our responses to the Word that was proclaimed. She halted us in the middle of blindly reciting the Creed. Like the biblical prophets before her, she was teaching us how to pray and live with new awareness and intention.

Bonnie still reminds me that most of the suffering around us remains hidden and secret. She helps me realize we all must take on the prophet’s role when disease, poverty, loneliness, and financial instability grab hold of our communities. People who suffer silently need the voices of the rest of us to speak up for the abandoned and neglected. The Advent season calls for courage and conviction to make faith real, inviting, truthful. Advent is a time to go deeper into our human condition, beyond the surface of relating to one another from our financial status or educational backgrounds or the styles of clothing we wear.

One day Bonnie approached a woman named Sally, who was born with one arm shorter than the other. Bonnie walked up to Sally and said, “Don’t worry about that arm, honey. When Jesus comes back, he will fix that right up for you!” Bonnie really believes in Emmanuel, God-with-us. She even voiced God’s consolation and joy announced in the prophet Isaiah: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”

I thank God for our prophet Bonnie. Even though she washed her glazed donuts in our baptismal font, collected our hymnals in her shopping cart, and took hundreds of our plastic rosaries to wear around her neck, we all recognized that she carried Christ into our midst. She unstuck my notion that Advent is about the purple polyester fabric in the sanctuary or the flattened, artificial greens with faded, purple ribbons posing as the circle of life. She helped me break open the lie that Christmas is for the rich and well-deserving. God desires to be in relationship with all of God’s beloved.

Before Bonnie left our parish, she knelt down in front of the crèche on Christmas Eve. Several parishioners feared her kleptomania as she approached the newborn king. Instead, poised in prayer, she placed a clean, meticulously folded purple blanket in the small stable. It was her cleanest blanket, her source of warmth on the cold Portland streets.

I never realized I would find the birth of Jesus in the center of mental illness, homelessness, and my own insecurity. God gave us the gift of hope years ago in a small stable and continues to grace us with real human beings who teach us that faith is about relationship. I wait patiently for Advent this year to see if our prophetic sister returns. I wait for love again to awaken me.

Oven-Baked Fears and Homemade Dreams

Originally published by CHURCH Magazine, Summer 2008
– PDF version – Online version –

At the 25-year mark, the author is finding profound meaning in priestly ministry.

I dreaded taking time to dine with the bishop. I scurried around with last-minute details of lost luggage at the airport, calming elderly relatives, and handling requests for different hotel arrangements just four days before my priesthood ordination. The bishop’s invitation to the four of us who were to be ordained that weekend raised in me much anxiety about why we were summoned to his simple, former-convent apartment to discuss the ceremony that had been planned for months. My classmates and I carpooled across town to meet the Ordinary of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, William McManus.

He was better known to us as “Billy Mac” for his approachable style and his vision of a servant church. I felt anxious about this meeting on his soil because I feared a last-minute oral exam, which always induces dry mouth and a baked brain on my part. We pulled up to a parking space just outside his apartment and I tried to persuade my brothers that it was not too late to change our minds about this evening’s plans.

Bishop McManus quickly opened his outside door wearing a kindly, gentle smile. He held a small glass of scotch above his head and said, “Welcome guys, I am so glad you joined me. Come in.”

He explained to us that he was recuperating from heart surgery, witnessed by his weight loss, and which explained the simple menu of oven-baked chicken, a plate of white rice, and steamed broccoli. He invited us to his kitchen table like a proud parent, and prayed reverently in thanksgiving for the food and for our decisions to become servants of God’s table.

Bill quickly spurted out commands for ordination day, details and items he needed to ordain us presbyters. Then he shifted gears. He put his fork and knife on his Melmac plate, leaned back into his chair, looked us in the eyes, and said, “I have two questions for you. What are your fears? And what are your dreams?”

I felt both the chicken and the fears lodge in my throat. My brain started to bake. Nearly twenty-five years later, I have no idea what I said that night and I have no memory of how my three brothers replied to his startling, acid-producing questions. After going around the table, each of us sputtering out answers, Bishop McManus then spoke. He started to cry. His words, perhaps lubricated by the scotch, sounded a note of disbelief as he reminisced that forty-four years had passed since his ordination day. He admitted that his dreams of an inclusive church never came to life as he imagined. The bishop told stories of his faltering dreams of working toward peace, providing comfort for young women carrying their children to full term, feeding the growing numbers of hungry people, and of his grief over the fact that Vatican II had never really been tried. He encouraged us to live the real dreams of the church. He invited us to take over where he left off; to go to bed tired; to live selflessly, because others starve for food, shelter, and a sense of belonging in the world and in the church. The tired, elderly man reminded us our commitments would produce great costs. Bill whispered to us how lonely he was being a bishop. In his first year in South Bend, Indiana, no one had invited him to dinner. He advised us to care for each other, to honor our religious community, and to be not afraid.

For twenty-five years I have held the memory of that meal in my heart. It is only now in my jubilee year that I understand the wisdom of his words and the passing on of his dreams. I reflect on the iconic meal with Bill McManus because in these past six and a half years I have finally found a home in the church. I hopscotched around the country, tried out various careers, interests, parishes, and leadership positions. None of those careers in ministry opened me up or healed me, gave me my real voice, or evoked courage within me. None of that happened until I found myself living and working among our society’s marginalized.

I work among so many of the people Billy Mac told us not to forget. In a small urban parish in Old Town in Portland, Oregon, I minister among the fragile, those living outside, and people suffering from unimaginable mental illness. Every day I pray among the fraught who simply need clean underwear, a warm blanket, or a place where they feel they belong.

I landed here not on my own power, but with a thud from the Spirit. I arrived broken and discouraged from years of trying to sort out my place in the larger institution. I showed up at this place because the successor to Bishop McManus stripped me of my priestly faculties in that same diocese because I had hired a massage therapist to work in the retreat center where I was director. That was the most fear-producing moment of my priesthood. Praying through all the issues of that trauma, I created some new decisions about my life and my relationship with the church. Finally, after all those years of fear-clenching, I pried open my priesthood and offered back my entire life to God. It is in this setting where I finally let go of so much of my personal fear, my insecure feelings that I am the outcast of the church. At last, I am not in control of what God wants of me or where he leads.

I arrived at the Downtown Chapel after driving cross-country with few physical possessions. I carried with me my spiritual emptiness, tangible anger, and questions about whether I would survive everyday work among the poor. Walking in the building that first afternoon, the odor overwhelmed me. The stench of men not showered, lingering foul alcohol-breath, stale cigarettes, and wet garments packed in small backpacks stopped my breathing, yet welcomed me to my new home.

Along with my luggage, I unpacked my intense defensiveness about living in a place where I was not sure I wanted to be. As I slowly sorted out the contents of my suitcase, the stench of my sense of entitlement and the vile odors of my own resentments overwhelmed me. I stashed away in time the obnoxious fear that my circumstances were somehow more alienating and hurtful than anyone else’s. I made the decision to finally move beyond my own hurt. I chose to learn this time from the real suffering of other people.

My teachers presented themselves quickly, quiet reminders of what it means to be most human, honest, and sincere in their suffering. Patrick, a year older than I, immediately started calling me “Ronnie the Kid.” Even with his unstable mental illness, Patrick reads people and understands when others are hurting. I watched him in prayer. I listened to his public prayers for the plumber to fix his toilet, for doing his laundry and grocery shopping. He asked us to pray for him because he feared his inability to unscrew the cap off the shampoo bottle during his weekly shower. I realized in all my years of life and of priesthood, I was never that honest in my relationship with God. I wanted what he had. What he has is the faith to make his real life his prayer, without pretense and without lying. I began to feel a new sacrament inside of me, a real presence where fear started to loosen. We became friends. Patrick teases out of me the crippling effects of my own insecurity every day with his presence at the Eucharist.

I woke up one night with a most unexpected teacher, gunfire under my bedroom window. I heard five shots. After running downstairs, I spoke up to the police as if I had some vital information to share. An officer told me that I had slept through the first four shots. Nine bullets killed eighteen-year-old Daniel outside our church door. I had been sleeping—in so many ways. That night I was confronted with real violence and my own blindness. I could not control the suffering around me, nor could I contain answers to all of these questions in the tidy confines of a church building. I started to connect our work of prayer within our sanctuary to the terror of our streets. We now expose our common prayer on street corners when violence hits us again and again. We process into the streets after celebrating Sunday Eucharist to pray for peace on all corners, for families experiencing loss, and for the church to become an instrument of justice. Between the gunshots that night I started to find my home here. I care for these people and I do not have answers to solve their problems. I am a caretaker of our reliance on grace and I must offer myself to God in ways that this community needs to be healed.

Bruce cornered me one day in our lobby after Mass. His eyes pierced the awkward silence, his tobacco-stained fingers confessed his struggles. He whispered his longing to be baptized, to join in our search to discover the truth of the church. This community had already marked his impression with acceptance. Bruce admitted his years of heroin addiction and his newfound recovery of almost two months. I felt fear tighten around my body. I was not sure what I could offer him, unsteady as I was about my own ability to trust this community.

Trying Each Day

His fierce fight to find God still leads me to heartache as well as great joy. Bruce battles demons beyond my imagining. He prays, some days he wants to pray, other moments he wants to want to pray, anything to shield himself from gut-wrenching desires to use drugs. Just a week before his baptism he relapsed. He tries to find God’s love, but his addictions tell him he can live without God and our community. Today, he tries again.

Bruce’s zealous search for God mirrors many stories in our community and in some ways my own story as well. I listen to him with an ear that hears my own fears. His blind spots and hardness remain so obvious to me. He stands behind a wall of fear that may never be bulldozed by any community’s love or anything human at all.

So he keeps coming back in search of what only God can do, heal him. I stand with him, with others like him, and they all teach me to come to God as I am, with self-stripping honesty. Bruce teaches me there is no other place to go.

Christine started to join us for daily Eucharist with shy hesitation. She tested the waters of her belonging in our parish each day. Months passed before she revealed to me that she suffers from multiple personality disorder. She never felt loved growing up with unspeakable family abuse. She never felt a sense of belonging because she dissociated her childhood from reality. Today she teaches me to sort out my own life, to trust its broken pieces and to see the whole picture. I listen to her shed the protective shells of her fear, the clinging rage, and her overwhelming reluctance to trust people.

During a parish retreat I shared with Christine a few frustrations about my own life. The following day she stopped me and said, “Thank you for sharing your life with us. We do not want a priest in a box.” Those words opened me up. They gave me permission to creep out of my own shyness, a place toward being myself. She invited me deeper into my own fear, where I find a home in my honesty.

My friends here teach me every day that faith is about people. I learn to create community by naming real suffering, exposing the harmful labels of mental illness, addictions, and homelessness. People connect through admitting these differences because we need everyone to survive. I discover integrity about my own priesthood, my leadership, and my very life in this new frankness. I never learned this kind of honesty in the seminary or in my graduate studies or in any catechism. I study it here because I have no cure for people’s doubt, no solution to cumulative years of their depression, no antidotes to keep people from using drugs or alcohol. Here I discover how to reach out beyond my fear, to rely on the person of Jesus.

Our parish staff grapples every day with how to serve beyond our expertise. We find our answers not in cut-and-dried solutions, nor perfect rubrics, nor in assumed authority, but in gathering the fragments of people lost along the margins of society. We build up people by touching their inconsolable suffering. We admit we do not have answers, we listen, we console, and we hold on to mystery itself. People do not always get what they want; most of life for the poor does not work out. We try to expose the healing power of Christ so we celebrate the anointing of the sick weekly at a daily Mass. We gather people living with depression for retreats every other month. We open our doors to prostitutes on Saturday evenings and offer a “School of Prayer” after Mass on Sunday. Every volunteer in our daily hospitality center reflects on the Sunday gospel so as to realize our reliance on strength beyond our own. I speak weekly now on a local radio station to connect the Sunday gospel to the human stories that continue to convert me, people who show me that I must rely on God in order to live.

Now I relish the experiences of my past fears, at least most days. I live today grateful that finally my own scars allow a new openness in me to accept the pain, grief, and incompleteness of others. I would have fallen on my face had I come here hiding behind my previous life of self-protecting power, dark denial, and inauthentic behavior. This parish community remains simple, unencumbered, and remarkably full of lessons I still need to learn. This place compels me to discover each one that comes my way. I experience here how facing my personal fears forces open the process to really dream about what is most important—people’s lives.

I celebrate now twenty-five years of public ministry, growing into the fears and dreams Bishop McManus initiated us into with oven-baked chicken and his warm hospitality. I make plenty of hurtful mistakes, and many dreams pass me by. Finally after all these years, I learn I can offer nothing without being intimate with God. Now, I see for myself that no amount of money can hide suffering or build authentic dreams. I cannot fix people’s misery, solve their questions, or control their opinions.

At last I get it: we all need God on earth to survive, and this need turns our hearts toward desire. I desire Jesus. I celebrate this jubilee year lovingly with people arriving from around the country, rearranging flight schedules, retrieving lost luggage, and changing last-minute hotel reservations. This time I stand comfortably at the feast of Eucharist, tears in my eyes, age spots and thinning hair, grateful for the oven-baked fears of my life and the homemade dreams for all of us gathered here.

Prayer in times of Worry

The first line of each prayer was written by members of a retreat group who suffer depression.  Additional lines were written by Ronald Raab, C.S.C.


Worry keeps us from living fully. It holds us hostage when we obsess about our past regrets. Worry stifles the future when it overwhelms our dreaming and hopes. When we live in worry, the present becomes dull and lifeless. Worrying about yesterday, today and tomorrow suffocates the work of God’s life within us.

Jesus, in his ministry, invites us not to be afraid, not to worry. We need to listen carefully to the work the Spirit within us, to place all worry in the care of God. Jesus touches our fear and invites us to be open to new life. This ability to rest our worry in God is a process of growing into faith.

These simple prayers are meant to be a springboard for your own reflection on the patterns of worry in your life. The source of these prayers comes from a group discussion on the topic of “worry.” The first lines of the prayers in bold face print were written anonymously from those who suffer depression. Facing constant worry is life is a challenge and burden for so many. Allowing God to open us up to new life, living our true selves, is a step into faith.

The GOSPEL here is just a starting place for your own prayer and ideas. Pray with a Scripture text that speaks to you about worry in your own life. For example, a healing story may be a real comfort in your illness. Or praying a psalm may open the depths of God’s fidelity toward you. As you pray with “worry” in your life, chose a text of consolation and hope. Take some quality quiet time to begin this process.

The PRAYER section is meant to spark your imagination. Write a prayer from your own experience of “worry.” Write about your experience, not what your think someone else wants to hear. God is in the core of your worrying.

The JOURNAL section is simply a starting point for further reflection. I you do not know what to write, consider using one of these prompts to get you started. There are no correct answers, only your imagination.


GOSPEL – Mark 7:31-37

Again Jesus let the district of Tyre and went by the way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And the people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”- that is, “Be opened!”- And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”



“Jesus, worry is a great weight that pulls me down and drowns me in an ocean of helplessness. I can’t kick myself up to the surface.”

I can hardly breathe.
I hold the weight of my broken childhood.
I carry the anxiety past down from generations.
There is no firm ground to walk upon.

I am swamped with daily self-doubt.
Not even my own instincts can I trust.
My whole body is sore and tired.

I am reaching bottom.
There is no where else to go.
I am so frightened.

Throw me a rope.
Offer me a way out.
Raise me up.

I am tired of kicking.
Slowly my heart is getting the message.
I need to let go and float.
Catch me, hold me.

Open me up.
Whisper in my ear and cleanse my eyes.
Give me my voice back.

You are near and I can slowly feel your gentle presence.
Calm me down.
Offer me worriless air to breathe.
Your Spirit is new hope within me.




  1. The weight of the past seems _________________________________.
  2. I have trouble catching my breath in worry because________________.
  3. When I feel pulled down, I ___________________________________.
  4. Help me quit kicking and fighting myself so I ____________________.
  5. God, receive my worry and ___________________________________.



“Jesus, I worry that I will never discover the purpose of my life.”

My family told me I would amount to nothing.
I feel trapped in a cage of worry.
The door is locked from my past.

I fail at everything I touch.
I want to be really good at one thing.
So people would notice and like me.
Then I could escape the trap.

There is something more.
You invite me to look within.

Release me from this snare.
Open my eyes to the real gifts around me.
Help me see my worth.
Heal my discouraging thoughts.

Reveal my purpose to love you.
Satisfy my searching.
Wrap my worry in your gentleness.

I am finally seeing for myself.
My purpose is responding to your invitation.
You are there to receive all of my life.
The cage is unlocked.




  1. In my depression, worry keeps me _________________________.
  2. You are inviting me to __________________________________.
  3. Release me from the traps of ______________________________.
  4. Open new doors in my heart to _____________________________.
  5. God, you invite me to see _________________________________.



“Jesus, I don’t seem to worry as much as I used to.Is this some new kind of denial?”

I worry about my worry.
My foot is nailed to the floor.
Thoughts race in circles.

Go around again.
The same stories romp through my head.
Violence tramples me.

I am so drained and weary.
No one hears me.
No one can stop my obsession.

Help me circle around new thinking.
Take me around a different corner.
Help me run in your direction.

My own words are the nails in my feet.
My thoughts feed the selfish chase.
Help me rest.

I do not want to worry about my worry.
You can take it from here.
I trust you.




  1. The triggers that cause me to worry are_______________________.
  2. Worry evolves into obsession for me when ____________________.
  3. I need to take more responsibility for my thoughts and words because _____.
  4. God, calm me so __________________________________________.
  5. Jesus, I know your love in my life when ________________________.



“Jesus, thank you for healing me because I don’t worry about the things people think I should.”

My disease and I are friendlier now.
We have come to understand each other.
My limits are not a surprise any longer.

I still fight others expectations:
Get a new job.
Better yourself.
Clean up your apartment.
Save your money.
Buy new clothes.

But I am making due.
My pace is even and mine.
Time is healing my troubles.

Your grace provides patience.
Finally the message is clear.
Through all the worry of others,
Through all the chatter and complaining,
Through all the put downs,
Through all their arrogance,
I am not worrying.

You provide all I need.




  1. I realize others are trying to be helpful, but _______________________.
  2. I deal with the expectations of others, when _______________________.
  3. God, help me be patient with my self when others __________________.
  4. God, I am satisfied with myself, because I __________________________.
  5. God, help me be grateful when __________________________________.