Sometimes, You Just Gotta Pray

By Chris Sparks

I’ve been having a difficult couple of months. It’s been a combination of pandemic fatigue, big projects, isolation, health concerns — just a host of things all converging at once. I’m sure most everyone is in the same place. 2020 has not been kind to any of us.

You know what turned things around for me, almost more than any other cause?

I went to Confession, received Holy Communion (thankfully, Massachusetts has a low COVID count right now, and my parish is open), and then I sat down in front of the Divine Mercy Image one night. I made my list of problems, concerns, and prayer intentions. I laid it all out before God, and I said, “I know my sins, my weaknesses, and my failings have made all this harder than it had to be. I know I’m part of the problem. The thing is, You’re the perfect one in this relationship. And You got into this relationship knowing what I am, knowing I’m a sinner, knowing I’m imperfect. So help me, You with everything. I have nothing. I’m out. I’m dry.” And then I began to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet about all the impossible things, one Chaplet after another, each time looking at God and just saying that I handed Him everything.

And guess what? After a while, the weight began to lift. Impossible things, impossible situations began to seem less weighted with difficulty. God came into the various situations. He took on the burden.

Eventually, I felt I was done for the time being, prayed my daily Rosary, and carried on.

It made all the difference in the world.

I write about the Divine Mercy. This is my job. You would have thought I would have figured out I needed to do that some time ago. But I didn’t. It took matters weighing me down to the point of being flat out on the ground to realize that, alongside all the natural steps I needed to take, all the work that still needed to be done, and all the other remedies and chores that certainly didn’t just disappear, that Divine Mercy would make it all become small enough to carry.

After all, we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, who also told us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). What makes our crosses easy and light? Only the grace of God.

And we are given extraordinary quantities of that grace through the Sacraments, the Divine Mercy Image, and the Chaplet. In Confession, we are forgiven any and all sins we may have committed, so long as we confess them according to the norms of the Church. All burdens may be lifted in the confessional. There is no sin too great, no burden too heavy for the absolution from the Church to lift. And in the Eucharist, God Himself comes to us. We are made one with Him, one in a way that dazzles the angels and scandalizes the devil. The Eucharist is the source and summit of all the gifts God has given us, because the Eucharist is Jesus Himself.

And the Divine Mercy Image is an icon of Jesus Himself, allowing Jesus Himself to step toward us, to unveil His love and mercy, to shower graces upon us.

Jesus told St. Faustina:

I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 47, 48). I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (327). I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world (47). These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299). By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (742). Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace (313).

And of the Chaplet, Jesus promised:

Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you (1541). Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death (687). When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior (1541). Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy (687). I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy (687). Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will. (1731)

With the Sacraments and the Divine Mercy devotions, we may carry any cross and overcome any difficulty. All things are possible with God (see Mt 19:26). We just have to let Him into our present need.

Does that mean every dark night is penetrated so easily? Not at all. Nor every burden lightened. But I have to say, I didn’t expect to see this burden made manageable by my prayer. It brought home to me once again that prayer isn’t like chemistry, where you mix this prayer with that gesture of reverence, a work of mercy, and this fast, and voila! A predictable result! Nor is it like medicine — take two devotions and call the doctor in the morning. Rather, it’s fundamentally about relationship, about loving God and neighbor enough to talk to them, and talk to each about the other. We have to talk to God about our burdens and expect Him to help us out. We have to talk to our neighbor about God, and help them come to know Him. And sometimes, you have to set out into prayer without any sense of how long it’ll take, how many times you’ll need to pray a particular prayer, or when God will answer.

Sometimes, you have to know that your burden is great, but God is mightier. You’re just going to have to pound on the gates of Heaven until you get an answer (see Lk 18:1-8). Sometimes, you have to just be ready to pray as hard as the burden is weighty. That’s the model of prayer in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, as depicted in Louis de Wohl’s excellent novel Lay Siege to Heaven. Saint Catherine prayed with determination and love, with persistence and perseverance, and she didn’t stop until wonders happened.

There is no formula. There are only the promises of God, and the witness of our brethren who have had prayers answered in miraculous or at least attention-grabbing ways. There is the One who loves us into existence from moment to moment, and the knowledge that He is therefore mightier than anything He’s created.

So I share this story for what it’s worth, because I know I’m not the only one who’s been at the end of their tether recently. We all are facing the final months of a year unlike anything we’d anticipated, and looking ahead to a lot of unknowns. It’s time and past for the burdens we bear to become a little lighter, for Christ’s grace to come washing through our lives and hearts, to reduce our crosses to manageable size again. It’s time to let God be God and know that we are not.

Sometimes, you just gotta pray. It’s time to pick up your Rosary, make your list of problems that need solving, and go pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in front of the Divine Mercy Image until those burdens lift.

Jesus, I trust in You! Pray for me. I’ll pray for you.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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