God, Come Through!

‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;*
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

Revelation 21

God became human form that human form might become the image of God.

God became human form, living among mortals, that mortals might have a new living hope beyond death.

God became human form to wipe away human tears, human pain, human lament.

What tears and pain do you carry today?
A broken relationship.
An inability to forgive and forget.
The pain of politics, loss of spiritual community, lack of finances.
A loss of purpose and meaning.
Feeling misunderstood and unseen.
A fear of getting older, irrelevant, unknown.

How might God be wiping away your tears and pain today?

How might the power and reality of God’s presence with you be a grounding and calming effect on your heart and mind?

I believe God sees the pain and creates space for us to face it and act as needed. I don’t like this process but I know what it’s like to avoid the pain long term. Depression. Anxiety. Mood swings.

When I’m in pain and loss, I need to know that I’m not alone and that I’ll be ok. I need a space to voice all my fears and hopes, struggles and issues. I don’t want to be in pain and loss. But it’s here and it’s better for me to face it than ignore it.

I want wisdom and strength to face the situations.
I want to be a loving person in all my interactions.
I want to forgive and love my enemy.
I want the energy to work towards breakthrough and wholeness.

God, come through!

Difficulties in Prayer

Reading and reflecting on “Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction” by Frank J. Houdek, SJ


I remember Eugene Peterson once saying that someone wanted to talk to him about their marriage issues.  But before they started, he asked them about their prayer life.  What does prayer have to do with marriage (or any other circumstance we’re facing)?  Everything!  

The ministry of spiritual direction has been life changing for me. Prayer is God’s responsibility and primary effort to be in communion with humanity. God initiates prayer that we might response by receiving such a free gift of consolation and communion; that we might become aware and alert to God’s wooing in our lives.

In “Guided by the Spirit”, Frank Houdek writes about some of the difficulties of prayer within the  spiritual direction (informally, many pastoral interactions) relationship.  Previously, Houdek is saying that prayer is an invitation into a deeper surrender and trust with the Source of Life.  Prayer invites us into a freedom to be our truest self where we experience God’s unconditional love for who we are.

Houdek points out a few difficulties we may experience in prayer:

  • Prayer is difficult because it requires deeper levels of trust that God loves us and is acting on our behalf.
  • Prayer styles and ruts are real. 
    •  It’s easy to get stuck on a style of prayer because that’s all we know.  Yet we’re not experiencing freedom, flow, or authenticity.  
    • We have a limited view of prayer that can diminish our experience instead of expanding God’s love.
  • An exaggerated preoccupation with the self.
    • “Often the source of this difficulty is a long-term sense of personal inadequacy…a lowered self-esteem, a sense of personal deficiency…[causing the person concern about doing prayer the right way].
  • We exert too much effort in making prayer “successful”
    • Houdek says that we may have a “…self-righteous approach to prayer predicated on the understanding that prayer is something one does and that, if one does it intensely enough, then God must respond.”
  • Exaggerated guilt can hinder growth and development in prayer
    • The directee recognizes the gap between proposed ideal behavior and actual performance”
    • What is the working image of God in this experience?  Most likely the demanding and judgmental God-parent.  
  • A pattern of moral disorder or real moral fault.
    • The person is aware that their personal behavior is destructive to oneself or others.  They’re doing life in such a way that is contrary to the love of God in their life.  

Houdek would say that these are very common difficulties that come to the surface in spiritual direction.  

For each difficulty, he offers some insights that are helpful in working through them.  I’ll highlight a few:

  • Find new styles, places, postures, to pray.
    • Prayer must be authentic to who you are.  You can sing, listen to music, meditate, pray in a group, do a prayer walk, charismatic prayer, scripture reading and prayer.
    • If you feel caught in a routine for a lengthy period of time that is not producing inner freedom and helping you to respond to the actions and initiatives of God, try changing up the prayer routine.
  • Discover and accept a clearer realization of God’s unconditional and unqualified love for you.
    • We need personal freedom from the constant and debilitating negative self-preoccupation.  (For some, it might help to pray with a spiritual director or trusted friend to remind them of God’s unmerited love).
  • How does a flower grow?  
    • By receiving sun and rain.  So too is success in prayer.  It’s a gift we received, something God is shining and raining upon us.
  • Practice some form of physical relaxation exercises such as breathing prayer, nature walks, contemplative prayer, art visualization prayer, or religious music to release rigidity towards prayer.  This will help lead a person towards more freedom and liberation from debilitating experiences.  
  • Concentrate on your values rather than ideals.
    • Too often, we can idealize our prayer lives.  “A focus on values and a concentration on commitment to value will gradually liberate the [person] from the tyranny of the ideal.”
  • Recognize the difference between feelings and morality
    • Feelings are morally neutral (and may point to a need to be attended to)
    • “It is how we choose to act that raises the issue of morality.”
    • Too often, we can deal with feelings of guilt in prayer over our “feelings” which are neutral.  Bring the feelings–anger, sexuality, guilt–into God’s healing presence.

Houdek says that “At best, prayer is always a matter of purity of intention by which every aspect and dimension of life is continually and consciously being redirected toward the living God.  It is the normal and ordinary response to the realization of God’s gifts to the person.  As this realization and awareness grows and takes hold of one’s consciousness–that God is gracious and constant in gift-giving– the [person] will pray more maturely and more responsibly, with considerable devotion, personal satisfaction, and spiritual consolation.”

Prayer Personality is Real


In all of my years of following Jesus (Christian spirituality), the theme of deserving or proving that I am good enough to be loved by God is a constant in my readings and struggling in my own life.  It is a battle, una batalla.  Why is it so hard to receive and experience the unconditional love of God?  

In prayer, God is inviting us to experience the presence of love.  

“All we need to do is to be open and available to the undeserved and unreserved love that God has for us…In prayer the true self can emerge because the person is loved and accepted without condition or qualification.”

Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective On Spiritual Direction

Prayer is a means to experience the love of God.

Prayer is a means to meet our true self that is loved and accepted without condition or qualification.

To be liberated then is to uncover and discover the true self as we experience the tender and fierce love of God for us.  

Prayer will become more unique to each person, much like a fingerprint is unique to each person.  No one person prays the same because there is no one else like you.  We might be comforted and learn from the way others pray.  But God’s love compels us to discover the unique way we respond to God’s initiatives in our lives.  

My prayer life is a lot like my daily relationships and life.  I like to have conversations with others where there is a time to listen and a time to share, a time to ask questions and a time to make statements.  A time to laugh, cry, or sit in wonder.  I see a counselor and we have deep and great convos.  I hang out with my wife and we talk about anything that’s on our minds and hearts.  We also argue.  I like to be outside of my house and breathe under the sun.  I like to plan and think about the future.  I like to dream.  

This is also how I pray.  It’s very dynamic, emotional, and honest.  

“Prayer is God’s revelation in the joys, pains, moods, and day-to-day ordinary events of life.  All this and more forms the stuff and substance of prayer…Prayer is a gift from God.  It does not create God’s presence or make God any more loving or available.  It simply helps one to become more aware of the various creative ways that God is already present and active in one’s life.  It consists not so much of what we do, but how much we allow God to do, to act in and through us, to gift us.  Prayer is an awareness of God’s constant and loving presence and action.”

Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective On Spiritual Direction

This paradigm flips the whole notion of prayer on its head.  Some like the “roteness” of a schedule to pray.  It’s part of their personality.  And in some seasons of life, it will be needed.  Others like it to be much more dynamic and fluid.  Whatever someone’s prayer personality is, the one truth needed is that prayer is God’s primary effort. 

God is wooing us to pray.  We just ask for the gift of grace to become aware and respond.  

Family Value: Self-Motivated

My childhood required me to be self-motivated and driven. It was in part to survive but also because I wanted something new that I hadn’t experienced before.

My wife and I are very self-motivated and driven. This means that we don’t need someone telling us what to do every corner. We do need advice, some guidance, and support along the way. But our dreams and hopes give us fuel to be motivated.

We also value freedom and personal responsibility. Our work will need to speak for itself. The way we carry ourselves and care for others will be signs of our freedom and taking responsibility.

We hope to pass these values on to our boys. We know their path will look different than others. We don’t expect them to be like us or to do the things we do. But we hope that they will learn the value and practices of being self-motivated and to take personal responsibility.

I’m not the smartest person. Really. I’m not. But these values and actions push me to exceed my limited “smartness”.

Self-motivation and drive translates into practices of living out of my hopes and dreams, my goals. It means I’m going to think through my goals and how to reach them. It means I’m going to ask others for help along the way. It means that I don’t need someone telling me, step by step, how to live my life but instead to encourage me to keep discovering, being aware, and taking responsibility.

It’s a different way to parent as well.

My kids grades are a reflection of multiple layers. While I care about the letter, I care about the effort and motivation. And it’s their grades to own. Yes, they need support and we’re here for them. Yes, they might not like certain subjects and struggle with some areas. But ultimately, we want them to own their studies.

There is a lot of empathy and grace for this process. Especially during the pandemic. 🙂