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Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges

Meditations on the effectiveness of prayer

By: Heidi Bratton

Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges: Meditations on the effectiveness of prayer by Heidi Bratton

The Power of Our Prayers

My young son and I enjoy playing by a little stream near our house. One pleasant afternoon, his little wooden boat (actually just a disk of wood) got stuck on top of a large flat rock in the stream. Not missing a beat, he grabbed a stick and reached way over the water trying to dislodge it with the stick. Unfortunately, his stick was too short. Reaching out just a little too far, he lost his balance and fell into the stream hands first.

Amazingly, the slight change in water level and the redirecting of water currents from his hands thrusting into the water were just enough to lift his boat off the rock and set it free. Without ever touching the boat, my son’s actions freed the boat from being snagged and allowed it to continue on its way downstream.

Watching this scene unfold from the opposite side of the stream, I suddenly understood the effects of intercessory prayer. As it was with my son and his stick, oftentimes it is beyond our reach to give direct help to someone who has run into a snag in life. However, in some mystical way God has set up the spiritual realm like a body of water. Our diving into the water with prayers, petitions, praises, and sacrifices changes the course of the spiritual currents, effecting change for those who need help by bringing God’s peace into stressful or chaotic situations.

Imagine someone doing a cannonball into a backyard pool. Everything floating in the pool is affected by the waves and the rise in water level. In a lighthearted way, we could call intercessory prayer a “spiritual cannonball” and understand why it is that the more often we “jump” (pray), the better. All the more reason to “jump” higher and harder!

When I begin to doubt the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, I recall my son’s falling in the stream and how it set his little boat free. Then I resolve to do some spiritual cannonballs!

Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Help me to delight in knowing that prayer works! Remind me to do “spiritual cannonballs” for peace in the world, in my community, in my home, and in my heart.

The Snares of the Devil

It is a habit in some parishes to pray the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel at the end of each Mass. It is a short but powerful prayer:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

I especially love two images in this prayer. The word “snares” reminds me that very few of us run around wantonly breaking the Ten Commandments by stealing rampantly or murdering people. And yet we are all sinners. Big temptations to sin are on our radar like bear traps on a hiking path. We can see and usually avoid them. Little temptations to sin are like the snares used for rabbits and skunks. They are covered up by leaves, off to the side, and easily overlooked. Both traps and snares are set for us by the devil, by our own flesh, and by the world. But big or small, no matter what their origin, temptations to sin trip us up on the road to living peaceful, God-fearing lives.

And then there is the second image: “All the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” This reminds me that our enemy has minions who, like him, do not want us to live in peace. In the same way that the devil doesn’t care if I commit a thousand little sins or one big one, as long as I turn my back on God, the devil isn’t above having someone else do his dirty work.

I’m not really the warrior type, but saying the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, especially as a congregation in church, really gives me peace. It strengthens my faith and sharpens my desire to stay close to the Lord.

Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Help me to stay alert to the snares of the devil through frequent prayer and the awareness of your power and ability to protect me.

Creating a Prayer Corner

Do you ever visit enormous furniture showrooms just for fun? I do! Wandering around stores like IKEA sparks my imagination in the same way that visiting Disneyland does for young children—only it’s a lot less expensive. (That is, provided you don’t actually buy anything at the furniture showroom!)

What would it feel like to have those bright purple throw pillows in my living room or that wall-sized piece of art dominating my bedroom? Something intrigues me about the mindful use and arrangement of objects and colors to create atmosphere.

It also reminds me of one of the best tips I ever received as a newlywed: to set the stage for daily communion with God by establishing a prayer corner in our home. Over the past twenty-five years of marriage and family life, having a prayer corner has not only visibly shown our openness to God’s presence in our home, but it has also helped to create an atmosphere of peace.

A prayer corner does not have to be elaborate, but it should be aesthetically pleasing and inviting. (This is where a field trip to a furniture showroom comes in.) Elements to consider would be a comfortable place to sit, good lighting, and an organized place to keep items like a Bible, a rosary, or the Catechism. A crucifix or other artistic reminders of the faith could also help to create a peaceful, contemplative atmosphere. You might want to keep a notebook and pencil handy to write down Scripture verses, thoughts, or inspirations from the Lord, and maybe even add an iPod dock or CD player to play uplifting music.

Over the years, having a prayer corner in our home has helped me to actually get to praying instead of wasting precious time hunting for my Bible or rosary. Another peaceable bonus? When I’m in my corner, the rest of the family knows not to interrupt me!

If you are not able to visit a furniture showroom, consider viewing one online or treating yourself to a home-decorating magazine. Use the inspiration to create and enjoy your own prayer corner.

Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Inspire me and show me how to welcome you into my home with a prayer corner.

Read more of Heidi Bratton’s inspiring reflections about prayer, peace, and the Christian life in her latest book, Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges: 100 Meditations for Women (The Word Among Us Press, 2015). Available at wau.org/books

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