Is Praying Worth It?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on May 9, 2016

The other morning, as I sat down in my bedroom chair at 5:15 and began to pray, I thought: Is the world a better place because I begin every day by sitting in this chair and praying? Am I a better person because I pray here every morning? Does my time in this chair make a difference? Is it worth it?

meditation-1287207__180At first, I’m tempted to say no. After all, my prayer time doesn’t do anything to alleviate the sufferings of humanity, does it? My prayer time doesn’t feed a single hungry child. It doesn’t mend one broken relationship. It doesn’t comfort one tormented person. It doesn’t help clean up one polluted river. It doesn’t provide employment for one desperate job seeker.

I’m tempted to think that my prayer time might be better spent doing something tangible, something helpful. Like what?

+ like researching some serious problem in the world and helping to come up with a solution.

+ like volunteering somewhere—anywhere.

+ like crocheting afghans for the needy, writing a spiritual best seller, drawing a religious icon, composing a love song the whole world could sing.

+ like making tapioca for the two Sisters I live with.

+ or even like cleaning out my sock drawer.

In short, I’m tempted to think that my prayer time would be better spent doing anything rather than sitting here in silence day after day…pondering Scripture… rummaging through my life seeking traces of the Divine… trying to speak to a God who sometimes seems so far away or even non-existence.

But despite these thoughts, here I sit today. It’s where I sat yesterday. And it’s where I plan to sit tomorrow. Praying. Saying words that sometimes aren’t even my own. Other times sitting, wrapped in a silence broken only by a chirping bird outside my window or an occasional car passing down the street. Why do I persist in praying? Is it merely a habit I cannot break?

No, praying in the morning is much more than a habit (though it is that too). Maybe a little story will help clarify one reason why I persist in praying every day.

Years ago, during the Vietnam War, there was a man who stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle, often alone. One rainy night a reporter stopped to interview him. He asked, “Do you really think you’re going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?” The man replied, “I don’t stand out here to change the country. I stand out here so the country won’t change me.”candlelight-1258959__180

I truly believe that praying makes us more able to withstand the temptations of our age, those cultural practices and policies that go against the Gospel we cherish. And praying does more than that. It anchors our life. It is the place from which we reach out to life with compassion, courage, wonder, and hope. Sometimes praying needles us, telling us where changes must be made in our lives. Someone has said that praying is like calling home every day. Or (in the words of Thomas Merton), praying is “our daily appointment with Mystery.” When we pray we are saying, “God is so important to me I will set aside time each day to communicate directly with this Incomprehensible and Precious Being.”

Praying may not be practical. It may not be exciting. Yet praying is one of the most worthwhile things we do with our time. For during prayer we may find ourselves saying things like these:

First Installment 181

God, I’m here. If you wish to tell me something, I’m listening. If you wish to move my heart to do something, just go ahead. I’m ready… God, I believe in you, help my unbelief… God, I love you, help my lack of ardor… God, I want to love others, curb my selfishness… God, I long for a better world, heal my cynicism and despair… God, I wish to be grateful for all your gifts, mend my lack of appreciation… God, I love you. That’s why I’m here…praying. Amen.

 This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The song I’ve chosen is called “One Spirit, One Church” and was written by Kevin Keil and Mary Ann Quinlivan, OSU. (Kevin is married to Chris, one of my former students—and a faithful reader of this blog!) This song incorporates the traditional hymn “Come Holy Ghost” with this more contemporary refrain:

We are a pilgrim people; we are the Church of God,

a family of believers, disciples of the Lord.

United in one Spirit, Ignited by the fire

Still burning through the ages, still present in our lives.

Is prayer worth it to you?

How do you pray? In other words, what seems to work for you?

Do you have any thoughts on this song or the feast of Pentecost?

PS: Please say a little prayer for a presentation I’ll be giving Wednesday, May 11 at Holy Angels Church in Bainbridge, OH. I will speak on Psalm 23 at the women’s “Spirituali-Tea.” Thank you!

 

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen May 9, 2016 at 4:11 am

Just what I needed to hear Sr. Melannie this morning. Prayer is worth the time and effort. It turns down the noise in my life so I can listen to Spirit more clearly.

Kathleen

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Chris Keil May 9, 2016 at 8:25 am

Thank you!!

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Marie May 9, 2016 at 9:30 am

I sit hear with tears in my eyes saying Thank you Father, I needed to hear this.

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Joan May 9, 2016 at 9:53 am

Thank you for this blog, Sister. I will see you Wednesday at Holy Angels.

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Judy May 9, 2016 at 10:21 am

Psalm 23: I love the fact that, when the person walks through the alley of shadow of death, it changes from 3rd person to first person. No longer “He makes me…” Now it is thou/you.” And that is what happens when I am in trouble. Suddenly my relationship is more personal and intense because my need is desperate and immediate. God ceases to be a theory when I need a savior.

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Julie Deuling May 9, 2016 at 10:31 am

I love this saying: “A day hemmed in by prayer is less likely to unravel”
I consider morning prayer and mass as my anchor. The storms come and go, but my boat will not be carried away! The song was a beautiful blend of the old and the new. Thank you!

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JoAnn Welch May 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

Prayer is so important to me…a daily time away with God. It has great transforming power…thanks, Sr. Melannie …have a blessed week!!

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Evelyn B. Allen May 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

Without prayer, I don’t think I could function.
It gives purpose to everything I do, every day.
To quote Ignatius of Loyola – “All for the
Greater Glory of God.”

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Joni Dugan May 9, 2016 at 10:43 am

Hey there Melannie! Thanks loads — needed that boost! We are coming up for the Jubilee July 10 — JoAnne’s Sister — Sister Karen. Will you be there???? Hope to see you! Retired 2nd time around for business manager, but still do the web site and the bulletin. Click on the web site and see what you think. We are a central/inner city church, small, limited $, but very much alive!

Take care kid!

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Marilyn T. Sabatino, S.N.D. May 9, 2016 at 10:46 am

ah Penticost a favorite feast of mine…thaks for this song Mel..it always it always makes me shiver with hope………..about prayer…cannot always live with it..esspeacially when I’m rally opent to what eve the lord wants..but can’t live with out it or I’m lost.

blessings on yur presentation…..keep me on prayer i ;eave the 18th for trip to Italy

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Annette May 9, 2016 at 10:49 am

Thanks for the beautiful song, Sister! I’m looking forward to being with you at Holy Angels Wednesday!

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Tony May 9, 2016 at 10:58 am

If I stopped praying it would mean ,I have given up on God. I can’t because deep down I know he would never give up on me. That he is listening and someday somewhere my prayers will be answered. Prayer is all we have left in this crazy world.

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Barbie May 9, 2016 at 11:48 am

Very thought provoking, Sr. Melannie. Thank you!

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Marjorie May 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Prayer is “grounding time.” It is the time and space to remember who I am in relation to others and especially to our God. It is a time to remember that my deepest desire is to live my life in harmony with the Divine Heart of God. What works for me is praying the Rosary and just talking to God about my day. Listening – always trying to open my life by listening. Sometimes I even hear!

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Cathy May 9, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Dear Sister Melannie, I think your blog speaks to my heart because you speak of real challenges and share your vulnerability. I thank you for that. I so identify with your thoughts today. I come back to prayer daily because I feel the mystery of God is around me and so I seek to find him more deeply. And then I hope I return to the world carrying his love. It is always a work in progress.

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Kathleen May 9, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Thanks, Sister Melanie, I needed this meditation, especially this morning. Kathleen

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Rosemary May 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Happy Monday, Dear Sister
As soon as my eyes pop open, with
Rosary in hand, I begin my day.
It is that small connection, like my plugging in to God….that makes me feel safe. That whatever the day has to unfold, good or bad, happy or sad, I am never alone. For me, that is Pentecost….the Spirit always beside..
encouraging, uplifting, and holding on tight, when the water is rough.
Prayer is our gift..simple, and free…never runs out. God love YOU

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Annie May 9, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Great prayer—I really like that (the part under the lake picture that starts, “God, I’m here…”). I think I’ll use that in my prayer too. Thanks!

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Lin May 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for a thought provoking reflection today. Got a blast from the past as I read the authors of the song. I remember Sr Maryanne Quinlivan from St John College in the late 60s. Brought back a lot of awesome memories for me. Again thanks. Never know when something special is going to appear.

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Patty May 9, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Thank you, Sister.

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Dae Probst May 9, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I, too, start each morning with my hour of prayer. And it has helped me greatly in dealing with what I need to hear. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit has given me insight and strength.

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Diane May 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Oh my, yes, prayer is worth every minute! Prayer is the anchor that gives us the inspiration to do those good works you mentioned and to make God the focus of our lives. I find that a day without prayer is flat, if not a struggle to find joy. Prayer gives me perspective to see my life, the others in my life, and who I encounter, with the eyes of Jesus. If everyone prayed a little, how the world would change for the better.

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Joanne Bennardo May 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm

Dear Sister Melannie,
As I read your readers’ replies, it occurred to me that prayer not only speaks to God, but speaks of His wondrous mystery. While we pray-ers–maybe millions around the world–each join our hearts to His, God, in His great majesty, responds in love to each as though we are the only person in the world. I see prayer as communion with God, in community with and for the world.
God bless you. Joanne

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John Hopkins May 9, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Dear Sister Melanie,

Another beautiful blog! When we pray, we hold others up to God. Sometimes, we know the others — perhaps a relative or a friend. They may know we pray for them or they may not. Then there are the others we don’t know and they don’t know us — a convenience store clerk or waitress. We lift them up in prayer! Our recollections, daily meetings, thoughts, and daily interactions funnel into prayer. God bless you!

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Thomas D May 10, 2016 at 1:09 am

Yes, anything, any time spent, in silence or in contemplative or vocal prayer, that takes me out of myself, that disposes the soul to greater attentiveness and more profound listening, anything that conduces to what the Benedictine Hubert van Zeller once beautifully called “suppleness of spirit” — that is time well spent. Availability — to God, then to others. That seems to be key.

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Paul May 10, 2016 at 4:10 am

Dear Sister Melanie,

Thank you for sharing your thought about prayer with us. I enjoy and appreciate your blog.

Paul

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Bro. Leo van de Weijer May 10, 2016 at 4:45 am

Dear Sister Melanie,
Thank you for your reflection about Prayer. I start as well every day with an hour of prayer( morning prayers, meditation, Mass) . It gives me courage to face all what is coming in that day to me. When I come to the end of the day I go again for an hour of prayer ( half an hour silence, rosary, and evening prayers). In this way I feel a deep peace that comes from Jesus and his Spirit. I thank you again for all your work and continue to enjoy your weekly reflections. Be sure of my support as well.
Bro Leo van de Weijer.

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Melannie Svoboda SND May 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

Dear Readers All, I want to thank all those who have responded to this week’s blog. I appreciate how you shared your convictions about prayer, your personal experience with prayer, and some great quotations on prayer. We are all richer because of your insights! Thanks again…and keep the comments coming. Sister Melannie

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Shirley Sahlfeld May 10, 2016 at 10:54 am

Prayer is amazing! I have my best prayer time therewhen I am on my daily 3 or 4 mile walks. However I can pray anywhere or anytime. Thanks Sister for your blog. Praying for you on the 11th, wish I could be there too.

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Kim May 10, 2016 at 10:59 am

Thanks for your weekly inspirations. It is the Martha and Mary story. How would we stay grounded if not through prayer.

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Cathy Baier May 10, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Love this post and comments! Prayer connects us all. When I pray for my friends and relatives I feel more closer to them. I think I wrote before about my “prayer tunnel”. Each day on the way to work I turn off all noise and pray as I sit in traffic waiting to get to the other end of the tunnel. It’s a good start to my day.

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Julie Teder May 10, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Thank you for this wonderful blog. I feel we don’t always know the impact of prayer on our own lives, but our prayer may also be giving the strength and courage to “carry on” with a difficult day. for the people we pray for. Knowing that we are never alone, that God is always with us, is also inspiring boost for us to start our day.

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Susan Bachner May 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm

What a beautiful article. I sit in my chair every morning at 3 AM and sometimes I wonder if it is worth the effort. I do it each morning and the quiet and peace is a welcome guest. Thank you sister for always bringing God’s presence to our lives.

Happy Pentecost!!!

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Diane May 11, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Thank you, so much, Sister. for your beautiful, meaningful words.
Just what I needed at this time of my life.

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frank woidat May 12, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Fr. Ted Hesburg,deceased President of the University of Notre Dame once said that the most important prayer you can say is “Come Holy Spirit”. I use it many times every day and it works.It keeps me connected to the Lord and helps me in making daily choices and decisions.

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Wendy Stanek May 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Our choir sings this very song (Our Lady of Grace in Hinckley, OH). We through the grace of God have a new choir director and she has brought wonderful music and talent with her.

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Pat Sylvester May 24, 2016 at 7:47 am

I love this and knowing that you are sitting in your chair, and that I, and perhaps others are sitting somewhere, anywhere, praying is powerful prayer solidarity. Thanks Melannie, for your prayer, for your chair, for YOU and for sharing all three!

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