Four Powerful Prayers for the Tired and Weary Soul

One of the many things I love about the Catholic Church is her vast treasure trove of devotions. Rosaries, chaplets, novenas, litanies — and I want to do them all.

When I commit to doing too many daily devotions at once, though, I get overwhelmed. I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t try to gather all of the Church’s riches at the same time. There are times and seasons in life for different devotions, and God will call me to do the ones that will bring me closest to Him in each moment.

Sometimes, I fall into the trap of feeling like these devotions are all or nothing: Either I pray a whole Rosary, or I don’t pray one at all. Either I do a holy hour, or I don’t go to the adoration chapel at all.

When I start to think this way, I have to remind myself that God understands when the demands of my vocation prevent me from practicing a particular devotion in its entirety. I believe that the same God who was pleased with the poor widow’s meager offering in the Gospel (Mark 12:41-44) is also pleased when I turn to Him with the meager offering that I have when I’m in a state of physical or spiritual poverty.

Maybe it’s late at night and I’m putting the children to bed, and despite our good intentions we haven’t the time or the wherewithal to do an entire Rosary. I have to remember: It’s not all or nothing. We can pray one decade, or even one Hail Mary, to honor God. I don’t have to tuck the children into bed feeling guilty about what we failed to accomplish. Tomorrow might bring a full Rosary. Tonight, we give what little we have, and it is far better than giving nothing at all. He will multiply our small loaves of bread.

Maybe it’s difficult to do a holy hour with an energetic toddler. Again, it’s not all or nothing: I can stop by the chapel for five minutes and give my toddler the chance to “say hello to Jesus” in the Blessed Sacrament.

Or maybe I’m just burned out and run down from a difficult situation and can’t find the strength to do long, involved prayers. Sometimes I can barely utter a sentence. Sometimes I cannot speak at all.

That’s when I can remember the advice of a few holy people and offer God these simple prayers instead of the long ones I’m not able to do:

Pray One Our Father with Feeling

In his spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales writes:

“A single Our Father said with feeling has greater value than many said quickly and hurriedly.”

To say one Our Father with love is to pray as Jesus taught, in a way that dispels darkness and brings new life to the soul.

Look for Christ in Each Person

In her beautiful book, The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander writes:

“It is useless to flog a tired mind, useless to reproach a tired heart; the only way to God, when we are tired out, is the simplest wordless act of faith.

“A woman too tired for articulate prayer will find that for her the best of all prayer is the unspoken act of faith in Christ in her children. When she knows that she is setting the table and baking the bread for the Christ Child, her soul will be at rest….

“An old man whose love for his fellow creatures endeared him to them all confessed that whomsoever he met—before greeting him out loud—he greeted Christ within him in secret.”

When I look for Christ in everyone I encounter, I am making an unspoken act of faith, and I am able to love Him through loving them.

Say the Name of Jesus

“Our help is in the name of the Lord,” says Psalm 124:8.

Saint Bernadine of Siena, who is remembered for his great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, said:

“Glorious name, gracious name, name of love and of power! Through you sins are forgiven, through you enemies are vanquished, through you the sick are freed from their illness, through you those suffering in trials are made strong and cheerful. You bring honor to those who believe, you teach those who preach, you give strength to the toiler, you sustain the weary.”

Simply saying “Jesus” is a prayer of infinite power and strength.

Focus on a Single Verse of Scripture

Several years ago, a dear seminarian friend told me that he had begun meditating on one verse each day from the Gospel of John.

“Start reading the first chapter of John, one verse a day,” he told me enthusiastically. “When you get to John 1:5, you will be absolutely blown away by its power.” He was right; I was.

Another time, I heard a priest talk about Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” He suggested praying through the psalm like this:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

Both of these suggestions helped me to see the power in a single verse of Scripture.

In the past, I had often tried to read Scripture one chapter at a time. But as a busy mother, I found new joy in reading and praying a single verse at a time, especially when I was exhausted and burdened. The simplicity of the approach was easier for my tired mind to grasp, and I found that each verse of Scripture contains the inexhaustible depth of God’s voice.

If your soul is tired and weary, be gentle with yourself. You cannot climb a mountain when you can barely catch your breath to begin. When you cannot scale great heights, the Lord waits for you in the valley, where He makes you lie down in green pastures, leads you beside still waters, and restores your soul (Psalm 23). In the valley of simplicity, you will find rest.

image: Light Chapel by jplenio / Pixabay

Maura Roan McKeegan

By

Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a series of children's picture books about biblical typology, including: The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus, and, most recently, Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost (Emmaus Road Publishing; available spring 2018). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Catholic Digest, The Civilized Reader, Franciscan Way, Guideposts, and Lay Witness.

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  • Esther

    Thank you so much for this. That is just what happens to me and I feel so guilty. Some days: good with frequent prayers/rosary throughout the day. Other days: start out well but vocation, stress, time overcome me and it’s just babble – and guilt. God bless you, Maura.

  • Suzie Andres

    Maura,
    This is so helpful! Thank you! I am really grateful for the blend of your own experience and the wisdom of the Saints. I could really relate to that feeling of guilt and the silly reaction we have of not doing anything, when actually Jesus is so pleased for us just to look at Him and say “I trust in You”…

  • cristina simona

    Wonderful, inspiring and helpful thoughts! Thank you. Be blessed!

  • Maura Roan McKeegan

    Thank you, and God bless you, too, Esther.

  • Pat

    Thank you for your ideas. I always have believed that the secret of fruitful prayer is when it comes from the heart. It can be said with few words .

  • Maureen

    Thanks so much for this write up. This is so inspiring. God bless you Maura

  • Maura Roan McKeegan

    Thank you, and God bless you, also, Maureen.

  • CDville

    Thank you, Maura. I had a horrible day at the office today, and my bad attitude made it worse. I caught this essay just minutes before it got rotated off the CE homepage. You and Suzie always gently remind me to do what little I can, that my widow’s mite really is valuable to Jesus.

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