“Let go, let God”
This is a phrase I’m sure you’ve seen around, maybe written on a sticky note in your friend’s planner, maybe posted to a classroom wall in a Catholic school, or maybe as a piece of kitschy wall art for sale at the Hallmark store. To me, it has always sounded like a copout. Let go of what? Let God do what? Instead of working to overcome my difficulties and frustrations, I’m just supposed to . . . let go?
Plus, it’s not easy in my personal or prayer life. It wasn’t until last week, when after hearing my confession, a priest told me to pray a rosary asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that I realized I needed to understand what this phrase means. The priest had reminded me that “we can’t pray ourselves into heaven.” I should be asking the Holy Spirit to help me get there.
The more I reflected, the more I realized that I had fallen into a pattern where I thought that every prayer I said needed to be better than the last. Unconsciously, I believed that God wouldn’t listen to an imperfect prayer.
So, how do I let go? I must remember that how well I pray doesn’t matter. God is perfect. He knows our own hearts better than we will ever understand ourselves. He knows our prayers and does not evaluate them based on their beauty or logic. The only thing that does matter is that we ask Him. Still, easier said than done.
Fr. Randy Dollins, a priest at St. Thomas More parish in Englewood, CO, gave a template for humble, contemplative prayer in a recent homily. I think that his advice offers a practical way to “let go” in prayer.
- Start with three Jesus breaths. Close your eyes, breathe in, and as you exhale, slowly say his name. “Je-sus.” Though this sounds silly, you are inviting the Holy Spirit into your prayer, asking him to guide your mind and heart. The repetition of Jesus’ name helps clear your mind.
- Lay your intentions before God. They don’t have to be eloquent, or even a narrative. Simply call to mind the things upon which you seek His guidance.
- Listen for God’s answer. Remember that it is rarely clear-cut and might not come right away. When you invite Him into your inner dialogue, He doesn’t necessarily reveal His answer the way you expect.
It’s easy to nod sagely when you hear someone say, “Let go, let God.” In an abstract way, many people agree with this statement. But do they—do you—live it out? Conduct a self-reflection with these three questions, asking yourself if this week, you have . . .
- Let someone else win an argument?
- Dropped your expectations of an event and gone with the flow?
- Truly listened to someone else’s thoughts instead of just waiting for them to finish speaking?
If you ask yourself these questions and try your best to improve, you are learning the art of the Hallmark sign: you are starting to “Let go, let God.” Though I’m not sure that I’m ready to hang it on my wall just yet.