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As the Storm Rages Around Me, How Should I Pray?

January 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Prayer, Self Knowledge

Q: Dear Dan, I have recently become aware that I have no desire to make petitionary prayers for myself.  I noticed this Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004 Wikimediamost as Hurricane Sandy raged around me, causing lots of high wind destruction in our area.  The power was out and there was nothing to hear but the howling wind.  I talked to God.  I told Him that I probably ought to be asking Him to keep me safe – but that I knew He keeps me safe always and that I know my home is not in this world anyway.  So to ask Him to keep me safe seemed like asking Him not to let me suffer.  And I know suffering is part of the human condition; it is just a matter of how and when.  So instead I told Him how much I love Him and how grateful I am that He is with me no matter what.  I told Him that if He wanted to spare my house, my health, and my life in that storm, that was fine with me, and that if He wanted to take any or all of them that night, that was fine with me too.  I felt profoundly at peace and slept like a baby even with all the noise around me.
 
A few days later I met with faithful Catholics.  I told them this story and they both reacted like I had two heads.  They stressed that we are supposed to ask for what we need and one pointed out that even Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him. I left feeling horrible like I had done something very wrong and wondered if it was actually a form of pride not to feel the desire to make petitions for oneself?  I still feel no desire to do so (although I happily offer petitions for others) and I have apologized over and over to Jesus if my lack of desire in this offends Him.
 
My question is twofold: first, is it wrong not to want to make petitions for oneself, and second, if it IS wrong, should I be making those petitions even if I don’t ‘feel’ them?
A: Dear Friend, first I must say that I really appreciated your questions and your beautiful recounting of that very difficult time. It strikes me that your questions are not only applicable to those in dire circumstances, but also to the general day to day need to intercede on behalf of others. This is also a good time to ask our readers to remember those who are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. I have attempted to briefly answer all of your questions:
Question: Is it wrong not to want to make petitions for oneself?
Answer: Absolutely not. In fact, the more we increase in holiness, the less we are inclined to worry about ourselves and the more we are inclined to desire suffering and sacrifice on behalf of others. That said, it is never a problem to pray for yourself. If my memory serves me, St. Catherine of Sienna admonishes us to pray for ourselves first and then for others. Why? Because we need the prayers in order to be holy enough to love and serve others!
Question: Is it wrong to make petitions if I don’t “feel” them?
Answer: The way we pray should generally not be dictated by how we feel. So, we should make petitions as the Church directs in Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, or other expressions regardless of how we feel. The more mature one is in the faith, the less we need feelings or external stimulus to aid us in our devotion and service. Still, it is true that the Holy Spirit can and will move us to prayer through inclinations we receive that might be rooted in compassion, concern, or other expressions of love for those in need.
Question: Is it a form of pride not to want to make petitions for oneself?
Answer: I am having trouble understanding how this could be so. It could be that they are seeing pride in you for some reason and are conflating that issue with this issue of prayer and thus causing the confusion. They may have mistaken your recounting as a form of pride. However, it is possible to recount holy acts or inclinations without pride and just as a matter of interest as we work to communicate how the Lord may have moved in and through us in particular circumstances. This would be a good thing to bring up with your spiritual director.
Sorry to be so brief. I hope this is helpful. I will open this up for Fr. Scott or other experienced spiritual directors or readers to see if they have any further insights.
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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. If you have an interest in having Dan come speak at your parish or Catholic event or group, contact us at rcspiritualdirection@gmail.com or call 818-646-7729.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    How should we pray when we have a spiritual storm. I acknowledge my weakness and sinfulness before God. I found confession and spiritual direction to be beneficial during the storm. A priest my confessor is we should just pray for holiness no matter what our state is. He also told me to Pray to Mary to bring me closer to Jesus. Scripture and mediation is helpful as well as prayer of others. Adoration is a bonus but what else should I do. I remember all the victims of hurricane sandy and the tragedy that happen with the shooting of children in Conn. it’s hard to remember all the things to pray to God for asking for love grace and mercy. I try to include everyone in the divine mercy and the holy rosary, but I can’t remember everything. I also feel selfish wasting time on praying to God for myself but I was told we need to pray for ourselves especially durring the tempest, the storm, the fire. That is when we need to pray the most and ask for graces. What else can I do to not use up prayer time selfishly on praying what I feel. I pray Offten for the will of God to be shown as it is hard to Offten know the will of God. My concern without any direction we can be moved any which way to pray is that ok. I like my prayers to be creative as I do not want to bore God. He deserves of course much better than I can offer him. There are times of prayer in which is just listening to God this is the hardest for me right now especially when you are in a spiritual storm.

  • tapinu33

    As your friends stated to you that Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him, he also said ” Your Will be done”.
    I am glad you asked this question because when I pray and ask for anything for myself and anyone else I give it all to God and pray for His Will to be Done.
    There is a Peace when we give it all to God.
    Thank you also Dan for your answer.
    Blessings+

  • Becky Ward

    My take on the reaction of other catholics is that they are simply ignorant of the spiritual life and the peace we gain when we know Christ.

    Isn’t there a story about Jesus and storms in the bible?  :)  I think this is a great piece of testimony to what God can do when we trust ourselves to his divine providence.

  • LizEst

    In one saint’s life (I believe it was Catherine of Siena but not sure if that’s the one) the Lord’s comment to her was “I love the soul that is forgetful of self.” 

    That said, it doesn’t hurt, after you’ve brought to the Lord all the people and intentions you’ve promised to pray for, to ask for virtues you need.  In one’s poverty of soul, in humility of heart, ask for what you need in accordance with God’s will in order to do His will and serve others as He would like that done.

  • AnnieB

    Wasn’t it Therese of Lisieux who said during a storm she had no desire to wake Jesus but to watch him sleeping knowing all would be well? I have been through many storms, spiritual and natural and I have learnt to treat them in the same way as calm weather. Having said that I was in church late one night with wind howling and did find myself praying that our church had been built on rock not sand!

    “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well.”

  • MarytheDefender

    I remember Typhoon Milenyo many years ago. The howling wind and torrents of rain were scary. But there was something I was very grateful for that night. A local TV station plays religious music videos before closing for the night. That night they played “Simeon’s Canticle” by Hangad. It was so peaceful and comforting, that despite the fierce storm we felt safe and secure. I’m sure they brought hope and the warmth of God’s love to many people that night. 
    Here is the song. :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf-6vEZLcQw

  • Pingback: A Lutheran Ordinariate Coming? | Big Pulpit

  • Richard

    The Rosary.

  • JoFlemings

    This is very interesting- I am learning alot from this discussion- thanks for posting it!

  • LizEst

    So beautiful Mary.  It gave me goosebumps.  Thank you for sharing with us this sung canticle that the Church prays every night for night prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Loved it!

    • MarytheDefender

      I’m glad you liked it! Want a copy? What’s your email?

      • LizEst

        That would be lovely.  Thank you.

        totus2us@verizon.net

        • MarytheDefender

          I’m sorry it wont send… I keep on getting mailer error…

        • MarytheDefender

          Still wont send… My email address is  

          leia_r_go@yahoo.com

          • LizEst

            Ok.  I have sent you an email.  Maybe now your computer or email system will recognize my address and allow you to send the music.  Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/midnightmonster Joshua Paine

    As to how not praying for yourself could indicate pride, consider Esmerelda in Disney’s version of the Hunchback. In contrast to the other, grasping petitioners, she sings, “I ask for nothing / I can get by / But there are so many / Less lucky than I”. Although her concern for the [even more] poor is commendable, she makes a point of not praying for herself because she imagines herself sufficient to handle her own concerns without God’s help. Not to say that anything like that was the case with your correspondent.

  • LizEst

    Quite alright, Mary.  God sees and blesses your good intentions. 

    (I retyped the address just to make sure I have done it correctly.  If that still doesn’t work, and you want, post your email address.  I will then send you an email.  And then, you can try again.  Maybe it won’t send it because it doesn’t recognize my address in your address book from previous messages.  I truly don’t know why it wouldn’t work.  My husband, not I, is the tech smart person in our home!  Ha!)