Transforming failure | Preparation Prayer
In order to be really present to today’s prayer session, let’s take a little time to prepare ourselves. This will involve quietening ourselves literally and figuratively. Firstly, find a good place to pray. If you are confined to your room, there’s not much choice. But remember, prayer is about real connection and not just perceived perfection. So find yourself in the best place you can.
Secondly, get in touch with what needs to be quietened in you today. You could think about three sites- your head, your heart and your body.
Notice what is going on inside your head. What are you thinking today and how does it differ from yesterday? Don’t get caught up in any thought in particular. Just notice how your thoughts are.
Notice what is going on inside your heart. What are you feeling today and how is that unique to this day? Again, don’t allow yourself to get too caught up in any feeling. Simply notice your feelings.
Notice what is going on in your body. How does your body feel today in comparison to yesterday? Notice the sensations you have- comfort, discomfort, pain, tiredness, restfulness.
Begin, now, to notice your breath. Perhaps breathing is difficult today. If so, go gentle and breathe as well as you can. As you do, acknowledge that each breath, however laboured, is a sign of the gift of life within you. Give thanks to God for this gift.
As you sit, breathing and giving thanks to God, allow your body to become heavy where you sit or lie. Allow a sense of quietness to come over you. This may take a few minutes. Stick with it until you feel ready to proceed with our prayer session for today.
Prayer theme: Transforming failure
Few things in life are certain, but one of the certainties of life is this: we will make mistakes. We will make a lot of mistakes. Early in life we often feel guilty and ashamed of our mistakes, perhaps thinking that we are the only ones who make them. As we grow older, however, we see that making mistakes – messing things up and failure – is part of life for everyone. While mistakes are not to be sought out, they are not the end of the story.
Mistakes are to be learned from and grown out of. They are opportunities for us to sheepishly, maybe, and humbly, definitively, turn back to God in search of the forgiveness or strength that will inevitably await us and help us to move on along a better path. One of the best lines in the New Testament dealing with failure comes in the story of the Prodigal Son, or the Forgiving Father as it is increasingly known. When the wayward son, who has really messed up, comes back to his father seeking forgiveness for his mistakes we read the following about the father’s reaction to the son: ‘He fell on his neck and kissed him.’
How wonderful to have a God who falls on our neck and kisses us when we mess up and ask for his forgiveness! And what better way to be his presence in the world than to do the same for others in our lives? Bring to mind the often unpleasant experience of failure, sit with it, try to find an image that captures it for you. Admit your vulnerability in the face of this experience. Acknowledge that you need God’s help: make it real, not just asking a remote God but pleading with a living, breathing, concerned and compassionate God. Make your own petition of what you need in your own words: ‘God,’ for example, ‘I really messed it up this time, I really can’t cope and I desperately need some help.’ Feel the weight of your need or desire in your words.
Picture Jesus on the Cross and try to connect emotionally with his awful pain and Passion, his whole project having failed, his friends having turned against him, having been betrayed by a friend, and abandoned by all but a few. He found a way though, abandoning himself to God (using the words of the Psalms: ‘Into your hands O Lord’), by being faithful in prayer and believing against all odds that the power of God transformed this situation. All the violence, evil and hatred was transformed into forgiveness and compassion; death or disaster was not the end; in fact, it was a new beginning.
Use your imagination to hand over your failure to Jesus to have it transformed; it takes complete trust and commitment.
Luke 15:11–32 (NIV)
But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Jeremiah 8:4 (NIV)
Thus says the Lord: When people fall, do they not get up again? If they go astray, do they not turn back?
Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
1. What have been the moments of apparent failure in my life?
2. How would a compassionate God look on those?
3. What healing and forgiveness do I have to pray for?
Lord Father God, thank you for this time of prayer that I have undertaken, united with all others who are praying this day.
I am also united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love for all creation. In this unity I sit, one of many and one of your beloved.
I ask for the continued help of your Holy Spirit as I end this time of prayer to enter back into the business of my day.
Help me to take the lessons I need from this prayer time today. Help me also to leave behind me anything that I do not need to take with me.
Above all, help me to know that I stay connected to you at all times and that I only need to pause, breathe and pray to become deeply aware of this.