Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

40 Days for Life – What You Can Do

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The Scripture readings for this week remind us of the value of life. Psalm 54 emphasizes “The Lord upholds my life.” God is the author and provider of life. Without God, our heart would never pulse a single beat nor would we ever take a single breath. He alone has the right to choose when we come into this world and when we move on to the next world. That is why we must respect and defend life from conception until natural death.

In the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37), Jesus teaches, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Each child is a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception. Each child has a God-given right to live.

It is fitting that we have these readings to reflect on as this year’s fall 40 Days for Life campaign begins this week. Running from September 26th until November 4th, 40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil and 40 days of community outreach.

What can you do to help this effort? This fall, there are 316 individual campaigns taking place. To find one near you, please visit the 40 Days for Life website at If you are interested, you can connect with your local campaign in order to take part in peaceful vigils and work to bear pro-life witness in your community.

Not all of us are able to become actively involved in the vigils, but two things each one of us can do to help this effort are to fast and pray. I personally tend to think of this campaign as a second Lent. In this case, instead of being focused on our own spiritual growth and repentance for sin, it is focused on offering up our sacrifice and prayers for a larger cause. We join our prayers and sacrifices with others in order to help bring about important change in our world.

It can be impossible to know the difference our prayers and efforts make in the world, but there have been tangible results from past 40 Days for Life campaigns. There have been ten campaigns since the movement began in 2007. During that time, 5,928 lives that have been spared from abortion (and those are just the ones we know about), 69 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry and 24 abortion facilities have completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns.

Being pro-life matters. Won’t you please consider how you can join with others during these 40 Days for Life in prayer, fasting, and vigil to help change hearts and save lives?

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th. This feast recalls the seven scriptural references to Mary’s heartache. For a woman who “kept all these things in her heart,” (Luke 2:51) that heart knew a great deal of pain. Heartache often goes hand in hand with parenting. With great love and sacrifice comes the capacity to hurt deeply. When our hearts are hurting, we can turn to Mary and know that she has been there and that she understands.

Vatican approval for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows was first given to the Servite Order (also known as the Order of the Servants of Mary) in 1667. In 1814, Pope Pius VII extended the feast to the whole Latin Church. Originally assigned to the third Sunday in September, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15th in 1913.

There was also a second feast in honor of the Sorrowful Mother which was celebrated one week before Good Friday beginning in the 1700s. Considered a duplication of the September feast, it was omitted in the 1969 revision of the Church calendar.

The following are scriptural reflections for the seven sorrows of Mary followed by prayers Pope Pius VII approved in honor of those sorrows.

The Prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword shall pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of your tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by your heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the gift of the holy fear of God. Hail Mary…

The Flight into Egypt: “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of your most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and your sojourn there. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the gift of piety. Hail Mary…

The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us. Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:46-48)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried your troubled heart at the loss of your dear Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the gift of knowledge. Hail Mary…

Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary: “So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgatha.” (John 19:16-17)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of your heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of fortitude. Hail Mary…

Jesus Dies on the Cross: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which your generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony. Dear Mother, by your afflicted heart obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the gift of counsel. Hail Mary…

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross: “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.” (Matthew 27:57-58)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of your compassionate heart, when the side of Jesus was struck by the lance before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the gift of understanding. Hail Mary…

The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.” (John 19:40-42)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched your most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the gift of wisdom. Hail Mary…

Let Us Pray:

Let intercession be made for us, we beseech You, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Your mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Your bitter Passion. Through You, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

Book Review: Difficulties in Mental Prayer

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of reading Difficulties in Mental Prayer: A New Edition of a Classic Guide to Meditaion by M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R. Ave Maria Press has issued a new edition of this work which was first published in 1943. Obviously the world has changed a great deal in nearly seventy years. The Church has changed a lot as well, as has the way we speak about prayer.
One thing that hasn’t changed is human nature and the difficulties we can have with prayer. That is why this book is still of great value for those struggling with prayer. As Michael Casey, O.C.S.O. states in the Foreword of this new edition, “whatever the difficulties encountered by someone trying to pray, those caused by not praying are greater.”

Fr. Boylan does indeed emphasize this point. “Spiritual reading and mental prayer are as necessary for the life of the soul as the daily food is for that of the body.” When one engages in spiritual reading, one should always send up a quick prayer for help so that one may discern God’s particular message for that individual. A good example of such a prayer is “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Mental prayer is thinking about and talking with God, “a conversation which may develop into ‘looking at God and loving Him.’”

One of the main difficulties in mental prayer is that of distraction. Our minds seem to wander everywhere but the task of the prayer at hand. Fr. Boylan offers a simple solution. “If there is something that keeps coming in as a distraction, let us turn that into a prayer by talking to Our Lord about it. . . The great way to convert distractions into prayer, and to change a bad or an imperfect will into holy determination, is to talk to Our Lord about them, just as one speaks to a friend.”

Fr. Boylan also speaks of the importance of orienting our whole life towards God in order to progress in our spiritual lives. “Prayer will not develop unless the soul is advancing towards the fourfold purity of conscience, of heart, of mind, and of action.” Unfortunately, all too often, “we want to meet God on our own terms; we want to make a compromise; we want to work with Him at certain times and in certain ways, but to put it crudely, we want to be rid of Him in other circumstances. That is just the trouble: One cannot get rid of Our Lord for a time. He is there all the time, and one either treats Him as a permanent friend, or else has a ‘difficulty’ in prayer.”

Fr. Boylan also speaks of the value of sacrifice and mortification. “We only put ourselves to death – that is what ‘mortification’ means – in order to clear the way for Christ.” He also addresses the argument of not needing to pray because we are involved in lives of service and our lives are therefore prayer. “Although all our acts can be prayer, they will not be so unless there are some acts which are nothing else.”

Difficulties in Mental Prayer is of great value to anyone seeking to deepen his or her relationship with God. At one time or other, we all struggle in our prayer lives. Fr. Boylan offers encouragement and concrete suggestions to help us strengthen our prayer and commitment to God.

Finding God in the Housework

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

I do not enjoy housework. Not even a little bit. Just yesterday I was telling the young lady who lives next door to me that I wished I had a magic wand that I could simply wave and have a clean house! Alas, that is not the case and I do have to put things away and do the dishes and the laundry and clean the bathrooms and mop the floor and the list goes on and on in a seemingly never-ending cycle. This, despite the fact that my standards for cleanliness are not all that high. It’s really been bugging me lately. There are so many other things that I would much rather be doing with that time.

In the midst of my aggravation, what message did God send me regarding this? An email reminding me that housework is an opportunity to encounter God.
And, so it is. Every moment of our lives, if offered to God and done to serve Him, is holy. That includes the time spent with the laundry or scrubbing the floor.

First of all, we do these things because they are part of our vocation and one of our primary duties on this earth is to serve God by living our vocation to the best of our abilities. Secondly, we do our housework to serve those we love – so that they may have clean dishes and clean clothes and a healthy environment to live in. It may not seem that way as we are struggling to get it done, but doing the housework is actually an act of love.

The time spent on household chores can also offer a time to pray. These menial tasks usually do not require a great deal of brain power to accomplish. There are two ways to make them more meaningful. The first is to truly pay attention to them. Get off the auto-pilot and actually focus on the task at hand. Instead of simply rushing to get through them, live in the moment. Be thankful for the people you are doing these tasks for. Appreciate the fact that you have the physical ability to complete these chores.

Second, the time can be used to say the Rosary or some other memorized prayer or to simply talk to God. I would be willing to venture that when you are performing your household tasks your mind is usually elsewhere anyway – perhaps replaying conversations, turning over worries, or making future plans. Why not turn one’s mind toward God? Prayer and work can go hand in hand. While there are certainly times when we need to focus on one or the other more exclusively, manual labor and mental prayer are able to co-exist quite nicely.

I needed the gentle reminder that God gave me that my housework has value that goes beyond the short-term results. The dishes I washed today will once again be dirty tomorrow. The dog will shed again and somebody will definitely spill something on the floor that I mopped. The clean clothes will on again be dirty. But, if I do these tasks with a loving, prayerful heart rather than a grudging, complaining one, they will acquire a much deeper purpose. Perhaps, someday, I will even come to look forward to them!

Book Review: “Living the Rosary”

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries

by John Phalen, CSC
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

Fr. John Phalen is a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross which is committed to promoting the Rosary. In “Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries,” Phalen seeks to connect meditation on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary with experiences in our own life. “In following the life of Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary, we find the rhythm God intends for our own lives.”

For those unfamiliar with the Rosary, there are four sets of mysteries: The Joyful, The Luminous, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious. The Joyful Mysteries are The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation in the Temple, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The Luminous Mysteries are The Baptism of Jesus, The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist. The Sorrowful Mysteries include The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion. Lastly, the Glorious Mysteries rejoice with The Resurrection, The Ascension into Heaven, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Phalen does offer an appendix with instructions on how to say the Rosary.

Phalen emphasizes that the Rosary is a very scriptural prayer, with both the prayers themselves and the mysteries rooted in scripture. He opens the meditation on each mystery with the relevant scripture passages. He then offers a more personal reflection, frequently integrating anecdotes and lessons learned through his own priestly ministry. From there he generalizes to experiences we all may have had at some time in our lives. Questions, appropriate for either personal reflection or group discussion, close out each chapter.

His reflections offer a new perspective on the mysteries of the Rosary and their continued significance. While much can be gained simply by meditating on Jesus’ life as revealed in Scripture, connecting it to modern-day experiences may help some feel more connected to the events of so long ago.

For example, we are unlikely to ever experience being scourged with a whip, yet many have experienced the pain of bullying or abuse. An angel might not appear to us, but we all have annunciation moments that call us to a new way of life or new circumstances. People rarely literally come back from the dead, but there are all sorts of resurrections into a new life – those who have recovered from an addiction, survived cancer, or been released from prison all experience a resurrection. Like Jesus in the garden, we have all had the experience of begging God to take away a particularly heavy set of circumstances and asking for the courage to accept them. We have had the pain of carrying our crosses.

The mysteries of the Rosary are intimately connected to our lives, in ways we may never have previously considered. “Living the Rosary” will invite you into a deeper relationship with this powerful form of prayer.

Dealing with Distraction in Prayer

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Perhaps somewhere out there are women who can completely empty their minds and focus totally on God. I’m sorry to say that I am not one of them – never have been. Just by way of example, there are times I have said an entire rosary and realized at the end of it that my mind was elsewhere the entire time.

Perhaps someday my life will have less stress and less to think about, but I’m not holding my breath. Most of the senior citizens I know still have a whole lot on their respective plates – life seems to get more difficult, not less, with age. Therefore, I’m fairly certain distraction during prayer is something I will be dealing with every day of my life.

Obviously, it would be better if I could clear my thoughts, but that doesn’t seem to be within my capabilities at the moment. Then, what should I do? Does my prayer not count because my mind wanders? Should I give up praying as a lost cause? No, not at all.

I can take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this difficulty. Distraction during prayer is such a common problem that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the following advice: “The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.” (CCC 2729)

St. Teresa of Avila also suffered from distraction in prayer. She wrote, “Do not imagine that the important thing is never to be thinking of anything else and that if your mind becomes slightly distracted all is lost.” It is still important to keep praying. Praying provides us the “the strength which fits us for service. . . The Lord leads each of us as He sees we have need.”

Praying is too important to abandon due to distractions. When I realize that my mind has wandered, I try to bring it back to prayer. If my mind has drifted to a concern I am having, I ask God to help me with it. If my mind has traveled to a sinful thought, I ask God’s forgiveness. I may not focus on every word of prayer that I say, but I do know that God knows my intent to lift up my heart and my needs to Him.

This isn’t to say that I am giving up the effort to try to focus more. Lately, I have been making a concerted attempt to say one “Our Father” each night before I go to bed and truly pay attention to each word and the meaning it contains. It isn’t easy, and I don’t always make it through the whole prayer, but I am trying.

In the meantime, I will continue praying and offering my distractions up to God.

Book Review: Pathway to Our Hearts

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Pathway to Our Hearts: A Simple Approach to Lectio Divina With the Sermon on the Mount
by Archbishop Thomas Collins
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

Archbishop Thomas Collins states “Lectio divina is a prayerful encounter with the word of God. By the ‘word of God,’ I do not mean simply the text of the Bible; I also mean Christ our Lord.” “Pathway to our Hearts: A Simple Approach to Lectio Divina with the Sermon on the Mount” grew out of Collins’ experience of lectio divina sessions he held at the Cathedral in Edmonton, Canada. He emphasizes that lectio divina is not the study of Scripture, although such study can be good preparation for it. Rather, lectio divina is an “intimate encounter with the Lord God through the medium of his inspired word in the context of prayer.”

Each chapter in “Pathway to our Hearts” is designed as a full lectio divina session, focusing on a section of the Sermon on the Mount. Archbishop Collins begins each session with the simple prayer “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” and then an initial reading of the Scripture passage. He then goes on to offer his reflections on the individual verses. These reflections are truly powerful and insightful. Archbishop Collins invites reader to contemplate the deep meaning of these passages which have become heard so often they are sometimes glossed over.

The Sermon on the Mount offers a blueprint for Christian living. It is the heart and soul of Jesus’ teaching. The Archbishop delves into what it means to be pure of heart and to root out the evil desires that live within each of us. He offers a discussion of The Lord’s Prayer and what it means to truly pray. He talks about the role of anxiety and judgment in our lives and what we should do about them. He encourages us to ask for God’s help every day, to remember that “God is God and I am not . . . we acknowledge our reliance on God and on his power to save us.” Lastly, we must always choose life. It is the narrow road; it is hard; but it is the choice Christians must make every day.

The value of “Pathway to our Hearts” far exceeds its stated purpose. It is much more than a primer on lectio divina – it is an instruction manual for the Christian life.

Book Review: “Fragments of Your Ancient Name”

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditation
by Joyce Rupp
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2011

Litanies, or the repeating of various names of Jesus or Mary, as a form of prayer has a long tradition in the Catholic Church. In “Fragments of Your Ancient Name,” Joyce Rupp explores 365 names for God – one for each day of the year. We can never fully name God – He is a reality beyond our understanding. “The names that humans provide to portray this sacred essence contain only a hint of the one who stirs within the heart and life of each created being. . . [yet] each glimpse allows us a step further on the bridge uniting us with this eternal goodness.”

Rupp reaches both within and outside of her own Judeo-Christian background for the source of these names. As she states, “I learned not to be afraid that the names used by other religions might take away from my own relationship with God. . .If we can open our minds and hearts, we may well find that the varied attributes of divinity expand our vision of who ‘God’ is and draw us deeper into relationship with the Holy One.” Therefore, within these pages one will find familiar names such as “Father” and “Abba” and “Blessed Trinity” along with unfamiliar titles such as “Shakti” and “The Clement.” There are also many less traditional names for God. For example, “Mother of the Weary,” “Deep Well,” and “Tear-Wiper” are all included.

Each day features a name for God, the source of that name, a reflection, and a task for the day relating to the given aspect of God. This book need not be used in chronological order, however. One could simply open the book and find a page that speaks to the reader at that moment. No doubt some will become favorites and be referred to again and again.

“Fragments of Your Ancient Name” will challenge readers to expand how they think about, and name, God. It is a wonderful source of inspiration.

Why is St. Anthony’s Help Sought in Finding Lost Things?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Have you ever prayed to St. Anthony to help you find a lost item? This is a practice I learned from my mother when I was a little girl. Whenever something was missing, she encouraged me to seek his intercession. Over the years, St. Anthony has helped me find many, many things.

He hears from me on a nearly daily basis, not only to help me find things I’ve misplaced, but the toys, books, and mittens that my children have lost somewhere in the house and must be found and found quickly. He always helps me. If the item is there to be found, I usually find it pretty quickly, sometimes in some very unexpected places.

How did this tradition start? First, let us learn some basics about the life of St. Anthony. He was born in 1195 in Lisbon and given the name of Fernando. At the age of 15 he entered the religious order of St. Augustine. He would then spend nine years studying Augustinian theology.

The life of the young priest took a radical turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco and carried in solemn procession to his monastery. He was so moved by the experience, Fernando decided that he wanted to be a Franciscan, go to Morocco and become a martyr himself. As a Franciscan, he took the name Anthony.

Despite his desire, he never made it to Morocco. He became sick and needed to return home. His ship ran into storms and high winds and was blown to the east coast of Sicily, where he was cared for by the friars in Messina.

Anthony might have lived a quiet life as an unknown friar if he hadn’t gone to an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. While he was there, Anthony was asked to give a “simple” sermon. When Anthony began to speak, his holiness and knowledge impressed everyone. St. Francis heard of Anthony’s previously hidden gifts, and assigned Anthony to preach in northern Italy. Eventually, he was asked to also teach other friars.

In Padua, Anthony preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. As many as 30,000 people would crowd to hear him. He would sometimes hear confessions all day. He was exhausted and knew that he would die soon. He died in 1231 at age 36. The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles that occurred at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint.

How did St. Anthony, most known for his skill at preaching, become associated with finding lost things? When he was teaching friars, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. This was before the advent of the printing press, so the book itself was extremely valuable, but more importantly, it also had his notes for teaching which were irreplaceable.

A disgruntled novice decided to leave the community and took Anthony’s psalter with him! Upon realizing it was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. The novice saw a vision which compelled him to return the psalter to Anthony and return to the Order which accepted him back. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna. Shortly after his death people began asking St. Anthony’s help to find or recover lost and stolen articles.

The following is a traditional prayer to St. Anthony:

Dear St. Anthony,
You are the patron of the poor and the helper of all who seek lost articles. Help me to find the object I have lost so that I will be able to make better use of the time I will gain for God’s greater honor and glory. Grant your gracious aid to all people who seek what they have lost – especially those who seek to regain God’s grace.

Does God Actually Have a Plan for Our Lives?

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

When my time in this world is over, I hope that I have the opportunity to ask God one question. Actually, I would like to ask many more than one, but if could ask only one it would be: Was there a plan for my life?

A good friend and I debate this frequently. I argue that God does, in fact, have a plan for each one of us, determined before we ever take our first breath. If we tune in (also known as prayer), we can tap into that plan and do what we were sent to this planet to accomplish. My friend is of the opinion that we are put on this earth and then it is up to us to use our free will to live our lives. What happens to us is a result of those decisions. We are in charge of our destiny.

I understand the opposing view point. After all, we do have free will (although I’ve never really understood the balance between our free will and God’s omniscience – that’s another question for the Almighty). We don’t want to be mere pawns in a supernatural chess game. In addition, saying that God has a plan can be seen as a cop-out or an opiate intended to bring comfort, especially in the face of great pain and tragedy in life. People grieving do not want to be told it is God’s will. How can such extreme suffering be part of God’s plan? What kind of a loving God is that?

Yet, in spite of all that, I do still believe that God has a plan for us. Scripture supports the idea. Perhaps the most-oft quoted passage is from Jeremiah, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jer 29:11) The Psalms also give evidence that God will guide our steps. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8) “For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:14)

In fact, the whole of Scripture is the story of God’s plan for our salvation. All works for the good. God may not wish the sins and tragedies to happen, but He allows them to occur, and He is able to use them to achieve His purposes. God will not be thwarted.

A secondary reason that I believe God has a plan for each of us is that I have seen it in my own life. God’s plan is often only seen in retrospect, and I fully admit that I don’t understand all the various twists and turns my life has taken and continues to take. I’m pretty sure I got off the appointed path a few times. If God had a Plan A for my life, I think I’m now on Plan C or D.

But, even with all that, I can look back over my life and see God’s guidance at work. God hasn’t abandoned me, even when I sometimes feel as if He has. I’ve had second and third and fourth chances. The challenges in my life have each taught me lessons that have served me well as I have moved forward.

There have also been times I have been given glimpses of the future. People have made remarks to me, or I have dreamed dreams, that have been totally unexpected or out of context at the moment, yet years later, came to fruition. I think that has been one of the ways God has prepared me for the paths my life would take.

A last reason I am convinced that God has a plan for us is that so many things happen that are beyond our control. We tend to suffer from the illusion that we are in charge of our lives. Yes, we do get to make decisions, but life often throws us curveballs. The only decision we get to make is how we respond to them. Those “change in plans” often lead our lives in entirely new directions.

Does God actually have a plan for us? My answer is an unequivocal “yes.” I still hope, though, that God will explain it all to me someday. I’d like to know how it was all supposed to work out, where I made mistakes, where I made the right decisions, and the purpose of the hard times. I pray that one day I will understand.