Over and over again lately I’ve been hearing about how tired and overwhelmed people are feeling. It seems like everyone is counting down the hours until those few precious days of Thanksgiving break begin. And who can blame them? The majority of students, faculty, and staff work tirelessly, and often selflessly, to get their own work done in order to care for their family and friends.
And yet, aren’t we just entering the season of giving? We are asked to give our money, resources, and time; to remember those who have less than us. Though it is done out of good will, the invitation to give can often seem relentless, and, at times, perhaps a bit overwhelming when one simply feels like they have nothing left to give.
Lately I’ve been feeling more called to prayer than ever. I long to pray not only for my own friends and family, but also the students and staff I work with, and the world as a whole. It seems like every day I become more aware of the pain that so many of us carry around under the surface, rarely letting on to what is happening in our inner lives.
The past couple of days I’ve also been feeling like I simply have nothing left to give. My time is stretched to the max and my financial resources are not without limits. What else can I contribute to the needs in my community?
And then it came to me. I can always “give” through my prayer life. I can pray for my friends and family who are suffering personal tragedies of loss, grief, and uncertainty. I can pray for my students, so many of whom are worried about their futures as well as the burdens of being a full-time student, both financial and emotional. I can pray for those who were victims of the horrible typhoon in the Philippines, and the tornadoes in the Midwestern United States. I can’t necessarily physically help everyone, but I can certainly pray for everyone.
And so can you. No matter what your personal beliefs and relationship with God are, God is always there for you. God listens. God cares. And God responds. And because “the function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays,”[i] prayer helps us to become humbler, more selfless people. For a moment, we can transcend our own little universe and unite ourselves to a greater cause, a greater good, and a greater love; we can unite ourselves with God. When we pray, it is easier to remember that the world does not revolve around ourselves, and that we all have something positive to offer in every moment.
As the holiday season approaches, I have committed to carrying around a little book in which I record the people and situations I want to pray for. This practice not only physically reminds me to pray for these intentions, but also that I have the power to positively affect the world through prayer and the actions that often spring from prayerful reflection. No matter where your relationship is with God, it is never too late to start again. God is always there – smiling, loving, and rejoicing in your presence and prayerful desires.
This post was written by campus minister Sarah Fontaine-Lipke.
[i] Søren Kierkegaard