Let Us Pray: Presence and Surrender

As I gave our son his nightly bath, my wife, Lauren (who I call La La), showered in the other bathroom. It dawned on me: Is this the only time she gets to herself each day? Those 15 minutes in the shower? 

Soon she would put our baby to bed, maybe nurse him to sleep, then probably pump. Next she would prepare the bottles and make our son’s food for the next day. Maybe we would sit on the couch for 30 minutes to watch a show, but soon our son would be waking again. (Why even bother paying for streaming services?) 

In a year, our son, Indy, has only slept more than four hours straight a handful of times. When he wakes, he usually doesn’t want me; he wants his momma. My wife, night after night, stumbles through the dark hallway into his bedroom to sleep next to our son with their mattresses on the floor. It’s the only thing that calms him down. Before long, it’s 5:30 and my wife is getting up to teach at an elementary school. 

One day she returned early from work, so I offered, “How about you get away and do something for yourself?” 

Her response: “Thanks, but this is my only time to play with Indy.” 

La La is always thinking about being a mother. Her downtime is spent messaging pediatricians, researching Indy’s sleeping problems, or, most recently, planning his first birthday—a baseball-themed party that I sought to infiltrate with Chicago Cubs decorations. 

“He won’t even remember his first birthday,” I protested one day, questioning the elaborateness of the party we were planning. The day before I had proofread a “Rookie of the Year” baseball card she made for him: Height: 30 inches. Weight: 21 pounds. Teeth: four. Bench Press: 6-ounce bottles. 

“Yeah, but we will,” she said. “And don’t you want him to see pictures of his party when he’s older and be reminded of how loved he is?” 

Prayer in Action

What does all this have to do with prayer? Lately I’ve been intrigued with a philosophy that is outlined in the Bhagavad Gita called karma yoga, which a translator of the Gita describes as “nothing but performance of one’s duties without any desire for specific results, but rather as a sacrificial offering.” Those words, “sacrificial offering,” struck me as a kind of prayer in action, one that is epitomized by loving mothers, superhero women, and those who embody the sacred feminine. 

As Richard Rohr writes, the “feminine principle” is that which is “vulnerable, interior, powerless, subtle, personal, intimate, and relational,” whereas the masculine principle is “clear, rational, linear, ordered, in control, bounded, provable, and hard.” He concludes, “Both the feminine and masculine are good, but they must balance each other.” 

Giving All, Letting Go

I’ve begun teaching this philosophy to the golfers I coach as they play a game that requires full presence, commitment, trust, calm, and then acceptance (and letting go) of the results. I’m trying to apply it to my own creative life as well. My publisher recently sent my new book off to be printed. I’m good at leaving it all out there creatively; I spent seven years working on the project. I’m not so good about detaching myself from the results. 

As my wife gave birth to our son, I witnessed someone who had to be fully present—with each contraction, breath, push—and then almost immediately let go of results. This sets the tone for motherhood, one of giving your all, then letting go. 

When my mom was alive, she told me her saddest day of mothering entailed picking me up from school the day after I was cut from the golf team in seventh grade. She had seen me work hard all summer long, but now she was dropping me off at the course to play alone while the other seventh graders practiced with the team. She did not argue with the coach, and she did not tell me to focus on making the team next year. In that van ride years ago, my mom sat with me in distraught rejection. She held me. She carried me. 

From the womb to her loving arms to those silent van rides, where I was comforted by knowing I was not alone, my mother had surrendered me to the world. A decade and a half later, she told me she cried all the way home. 

On the eve of our son’s birthday, La La told me she was sad. A year before, he was still in the safety of her womb. Now he was walking around, finding a way to hit his head anytime we took our eyes off him. Already she was letting go—and teaching me how to pray. 

Asking for Help

There is nothing wrong with asking for something in prayer, as this names for God the desires of our hearts. But sometimes in a culture that is so focused on results, this can also bleed into our prayer lives, leading us to treat God like a genie. 

Let yourself pray without asking God for “something that I want.” As the Father told Jesus in John 17:10: “Everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine.” Might this also be true of us, whom Christ lives within? 

Prayer: Already Yours

Fountain of love, grace, and beauty,
help make me aware of ways that I can partner with your flow.
Make my life a sacrificial offering while also cultivating my own identity as your beloved. 
Help me let go when I have given my all.
Help me give the fullness of what you have given to me
without attaching myself to the results of my efforts, for I know already that I am yours. 

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1 thought on “Let Us Pray: Presence and Surrender”

  1. Fr. Dennis Koopman, OFM

    I wanted to download and print your article, “Hail Mary Full of Grace” but it did not come up on the screen. The other articles from you May 2023 magazine came up, but on this one???
    We get the magazine via our friary, parish, St. Francis Rectory, PO Box 730, Teutopolis, IL 62467-0730

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