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Persistent Prayer

First seen on the Behold Visio Divina Blog - August 2023

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Monica as well as my birthday! I’ve taken great comfort in sharing this special day with her. Especially as the Lord has called me to a unique life of intercession for certain people who have crossed my path over the years. St. Monica is someone who grounds me. Whenever I find myself getting frustrated or tired from saying the “same” prayer over and over, she gently makes herself known.

While I can relate to the pain she held daily knowing that her husband, one of her sons, and her mother in law were rejecting God, there is even something more that comes to mind. I often think about the fact that she never gave up praying for them and the surrender it took to persist. I’m sure many of those prayers came from a broken heart, knowing what-Who-they were missing, but I think many of these prayers also came from a heart so full of love that she had nothing else to do but pour it out to the Father in joyful trust that nothing is impossible for Him!

How much better off we would all be to pray this way and persist in joy even when all seems hopeless. Joy amidst pain is one of those unique Christian paradoxes. We can feel them both so deeply and it can take true work to let the joy in when pain is already so heavily present. But when we know God, truly know Him, we’ll find in those moments amidst pain an opportunity to pause and reflect on who He is that the barriers to joy seem to disappear. 

I can remember this happening in my own life last fall in the midst of getting some disappointing news, struggling to discern my next steps in life, and the death of a good friend. Sitting on my bed feeling overwhelmed by all the pain, I remember thinking- God is still good. The thought actually startled me but I kept pressing in - God has a plan for these people and for me. Even though I felt surrounded by darkness and I truly could not feel His presence in that moment, I still knew who He was. 

What helped St. Monica to keep praying? She of course had a deep relationship with and trust in God, but maybe it was also the testimonies of others’ answered prayers. Perhaps she didn’t grow bitter in some kind of comparison of her life to others, but rather used their stories as fuel for her own persistence. Because what’s the alternative? She could have given up on her son and surrendered him to the evils of the world. While I’m not a mother, I know that would never be an option. It may be tempting when you find your heart broken again and again or you’re sprawled out on your bed from exhaustion. But that love never truly goes away, so neither do the prayers ever fully cease. As St. Therese says, “prayer is a surge of the heart.” 

So as I’m sitting here seemingly surrounded by many of my own unanswered prayers, I find myself also surrounded by books, podcasts, social media posts, text messages, voicemails, a beautiful sunny day, and the air my lungs continue to breathe in and out - all of which testify to a God who doesn’t forsake, forget, or fool us. 

God has not lied to you. His promises are true. He’s simply asking that you trust Him anew each and every day. It is then that He will provide you with the manna you need for this present moment - nothing more and nothing less. Because in the end, persistence is simply taking it one day, one moment, at a time.

*First published on Behold Visio Divina:

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