Pope Francis gave us clear instructions for prayer with his 2013 encyclical The Joy of the Gospel: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.”
The pope’s boldness has always stunned me—and how appropriate given the year we've endured. He is pointing to all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment! Not a single one of us is off the hook. All of us need to encounter Jesus personally in a new way, right now. But how can we have a “renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” in our busy lives? And what does it mean to cultivate “an openness” to letting Jesus encounter us? The answer is simple, if not always easy: we encounter Jesus, and he encounters us, through prayer. Prayer changes everything in our relationship with the Lord.
Here are a few prayers to get us started on the right foot in 2021.
Prayer to Love, Starting with Myself
We cannot give what we do not have. To grow in love is to open ourselves to God, the all-consuming Ocean of Love, and to allow him to heal us and bring us into relationship with him through the sacraments, through the teachings of the Church, and through prayer. Each of us has been given unique gifts and abilities that God wants us to share with others and yet we are loved not for what we do, but for who we are in Christ. We are all beloved daughters of God!
Lord, teach me to love myself.
You gave me this life.
You blessed me with this temperament.
You formed me, and I am loved by you unconditionally.
In my eyes, I have many faults.
I am constantly beating myself up about something.
I question my conversation from the day before.
I question the purchase I made, the work I’ve chosen, or the clothes I wear.
Lord, help me to rise about my self-doubt.
In reality, your love is all that matters, and you love me as I am.
Bless me with the gift of loving myself as you love me…as I am.
Thank You, God, for Your Gifts to Me
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. —1 Peter 4:9–10
Lord, I know you have blessed me with certain talents to share.
Help me to realize those gifts and to make full use of them.
Some days I feel more inclined to keep to myself,
to be lazy and to hide from the cares of the world.
But I feel your pull at my heart.
Help me not to complain about the people you send.
Help me to embrace my gifts and to share them abundantly.
Lord, you provide. May I, in gratitude, pay forward your gifts
to those who need to receive them most.
Give Me Strength, Lord
Many people rely on us each day: our spouses, our children, our employers, our parents, our friends. We are pulled in many directions, yet find ourselves pressing forward, even when we are too tired. Acknowledge to God that you, too, have limits. As you ask him for the strength for all you need to do today, remember to discern what is today’s work, and what is for another day. The same work will be here tomorrow after we have found rest for body and mind.
Lord, I am tired. I need a break from this hectic day.
Help me to listen to my body.
Give me the wisdom to know my limitations,
knowing I cannot give my best effort when I am tired.
Help me to let go with humility, to release myself from the need
to prove myself out of pride or stubbornness or self-righteousness.
Instead of pushing and pressing on,
creating anxiety, conflict, and distress in those I love most,
help me to acknowledge the need for rest.
Guide me in my decisions and choices,
and give me strength to persevere…just enough
for what you want me to accomplish today.
A Prayer to Pray Together
Life is busy, and we get caught in the hectic ways of the world around us. We must consciously take time to pray with our spouses. Though some couples find it a challenge to pray together, it is essential to the unity of a marriage, as we hope to lead each other toward heaven. As we pray together, let us also pray for other couples, strengthening one another in living out our marriages with holiness.
Lord, you say that where two or three are gathered in your name, there is love.
Help us to come together in your name.
We offer you our love for one another as a gift,
to take and to multiply in the community we serve.
Help us to keep you at the center of our loving marriage.
Help us to grow in our relationship, to strengthen one another,
and to accept one another’s weaknesses.
Bless our marriage with the gifts of grace and understanding,
fortitude and humility, unity and peace.
May we be a source of love for all the lives we touch.