Written for Pergola, SSC e-newsletter, June 2011 edition
When Mother Irene taught us the Jesus prayer at the seminar in Tagaytay, a number of us could not relate to it. We could not relate to the supplication in “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.” I felt that it challenged my entire relationship with the God of Love, that I was entirely comfortable with. My God was a laughing God, a friendly God, who had a sense of humor and could take a joke.
My favorite icon is a painting of the laughing Christ. It was painted by this priest who does really tacky portraits of Jesus as a cyclist, a rock star, a basketball player, and the like. But he also did this one of Christ laughing, His eyes dancing, which I love. It is the portrait of a comfortable presence in my life, my friend, Jesus.
You can take it or leave it, Mother Irene said of the Jesus prayer. It was just another form of prayer she was suggesting.
But days after the seminar, I found myself saying, ‘Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me!’ in many circumstances. When I am sad, angry, bored, harassed, tired, it seems right to say, Jesus, have mercy. When I am on the road in traffic, late for a meeting, or unprepared for a presentation, how appropriate it is to ask, “Jesus, Have mercy on me.’ And when I hear news of an accident, a fire, a death, any loss, how fitting it is to cry put, ‘Lord, Have mercy!’
My relationship with God is such that when I pray, I do not ask for anything specific, outside of enlightenment, discernment, understanding, compassion and strength in the face of adversity. I hesitate to ask for something specific, having been warned to be careful what you ask for. So, I have learned to say, not without trepidation – “Thy will be done”.
And He has always listened. He has answered my prayers again and again. When I am tempted to be resentful, frustrated or angry at Him for not seeming to hear me, I literally cry out for help. And help comes, not always in ways I expect, but it comes. Always.
I am helpless before God’s will so I do not fight it. It is a difficult plan --demanding, expensive, requiring total commitment, and some of my friends say, over and above the call of duty. But He has never left me in the lurch. When the fulfillment of His plan requires something I cannot provide or afford, I cry for help and something comes up to make it happen. He sometimes makes me go through hoops, but this is something I have gotten used to. I’ve learned to say, with a laugh, “Bring it on, Lord. It can’t be more difficult than it already is.”
I have this running conversation with God which, until lately, I did not realize was a form of prayer. In recent months, I have felt exhausted, drained, my soul dry. When I remembered to pray, I would recite the ones I memorized as a child – rote, perfunctory, meaningless. I was bored with my prayer life. I had no passion for my usual causes. I was on auto-pilot, pretending to be interested in my family, my friends, my work, but really just going through the motions. But my ever-faithful God was looking out for me. He made it possible for me to go to Tagaytay for the seminar on “Praying Our Heart’s Desire” with Mother Irene. It was just what this tired old soul needed.
God has always been faithful, even when I am not.
16 April 2011