Stress: A Pathway to Prayer? Part 1

Your refrigerator just conked, your boss is threatening more lay-offs, your back aches, your checks bounce, your head throbs, and your dog ate the neighbor’s newly planted pansies. The last thing you need is some chirpy voice from the remote land of spirituality counseling, “pray.”

But maybe that’s exactly what’s needed. We tend to avoid prayer when we desperately need it most. It could be similar to this situation: the computer geek explains a short-cut that takes twenty minutes to learn. Knowing it will save hours! But do you learn it? Of course not! You’re too busy to take that twenty minutes.

Such short-sightedness can also interfere with a habit of prayer that could take even less time. If you’ve got an hour to crash in front of t.v. or the time it takes to fix a drink and consume it, you’ve got breathing room to pray. And the rewards will be much greater.

Stress is here to stay. So what are the blessings in this darkly wrapped package? How can it become a pathway to prayer? Several suggestions follow.

Jesus and Stress

If we think of Jesus as floating amiably three feet above earth, never dirtying his hands or his garments, always surrounded by a golden aura and enjoying a perpetual serenity, the gospels quickly correct that image. John 6, for instance, tells of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee, followed by a large crowd. Tired and hungry, he sits down to rest with his friends. But guess what? A large, demanding, hungry crowd invades their privacy.

Some of us would run the other way. But Jesus asks Philip where to buy bread to feed them. That leads to the miraculous feeding of five thousand. Afterwards, realizing the people want to make him king, Jesus “withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (15).

That alternation between action and prayer seems to be a constant rhythm in his life. He never says, “today I fed five thousand, or cured a leper. I don’t need to pray.” Or, “those Pharisees are really stressing me out! No prayer today!” He seems to draw the strength and energy for draining work from life-giving “times apart” with his Father. As regularly as we feed our bodies, he feeds his soul. And if he who was God needed such nourishment, how much more do we limited humans!

To be continued…

Originally published in EVERYDAY CATHOLIC, St. Anthony Messenger Press

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