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Welcoming Prayer

Ursala Houser, leader & blogger

We all know the comforting scriptures that wrap around us like a warm blanket.  "He works all things together for the good of those who love him." (Romans 8:28)  Or my favorite, "We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us." (Philippians 4:13)  These are my bread and butter scriptures; when I'm down and out, I read and reread these to get me motivated.  I am not ashamed to admit that I had one of those awful tee shirts in the 90's that my friends and I called "witness wear."  It had one of those inspiring scriptures written on it in big bold letters.  (Okay, maybe I am a little ashamed).

These scriptures are true and I don't deny the truth that they have spoken into my life at different times.  However, what do we do when life throws a curveball?  Like when both you and your husband are hit with sickness at the same time?  Or your baby brother is diagnosed with incurable cancer?  What do we do when despite all the prayers and fasting that brother dies?  What do we do when a mother and father have to pick up the pieces of that broken life and live without a son? I know it sounds funny but, in the face of all these things, what I am suggesting we do is Welcoming Prayer.

You're probably saying "wait, did I read that right? Welcoming Prayer?"  And I know it sounds unusual, but yes; Welcoming Prayer. To be clear, I'm not saying we are to condone the situation, rather that we welcome the feelings that the experience triggers inside of us.  The practice of Welcoming Prayer gives us a unique way to consent to God's presence and God's action in the midst of our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in our daily lives.  The natural question that arises from this is, "Why would I do this in troubled times?" The simple answer is to transfer control of our lives out of our own hands and into God's.

There are three steps for Welcoming Prayer, but for me, the first step in Welcoming Prayer is the most challenging. When we approach Welcoming Prayer we first need to:

1) Focus and sink in:
Seems easy enough, but let's unpack this action a little more.  This step does not involve amplifying bad feelings or justifying them (see I told you, it's hard!).  On the contrary, it involves feeling what you feel either physically or mentally and connecting those centers to process where these feelings are hitting you.  

Tension headaches, chest pain, and back pain are all examples of the physical center.  Bad dreams or fogginess can be examples of the mental center. At this step, I like to pull away to a quiet spot. My room, my office, my car, or even a bathroom stall will work and take a few deep breaths to focus myself, and then I simply check in with myself. I think this step is the most difficult for me because I'm not a "feely" person, I have had to work hard to allow myself to be okay with feeling my feelings.

 It helps me to make a checklist of my centers (head, heart, body) and ask each one, "how you are feeling?"  I know this seems silly, but trust me...it works!  And yes, I ask myself, "Head, how are you feeling after this?" and my head responds "okay" or "not so good," or "I'm feeling kind of dizzy," to which I would take the moment to make myself more grounded.  Then I would move on to the next center until I checked in with all three.  I also understand that it isn't always convenient to pull away and have this check-in with yourself.  So, if  I'm in a situation where I cannot pull away, I'll discreetly take a breath and try to connect with my centers on the spot. If I cannot do that, then I just wait until I can get alone for 5-10 minutes to do my check-in.  

2) Welcome:
The next step to Welcoming Prayer is to welcome. Again this is not us surrendering to harmful or dangerous situations, this is us welcoming the feelings and emotions surrounding a particular situation. For instance, if you are angry you say, "welcome anger." If fear is the struggle, you say, "welcome fear." I understand that it is our natural inclination to press down these types of feelz, but accepting them immobilizes them and can allow us to move forward towards dealing with the issue.  

The final step in welcoming prayer is:
3) Let go:
I usually hold my hands face up and for this final step, twisting them down as if I were dropping something out of my hands and I say, "Lord, I let go of the desire to control my ________(insert emotion ie. fear)."  Recently, I have had some lingering health issues that leave me feeling fatigued.   The struggle to maintain the same schedule I did before is just exhausting.  So the current emotion that I feel is fear.  Fear that I'll be forgotten, or that by the time I'm fully recovered the world will have moved on without me.  

So my Welcoming Prayer is sounding a lot like this lately; "Lord, I let go of the fear of being forgotten or replaced. I know that you created me in your image for a purpose and that purpose is greater than fatigue.  When my strength is back, I know that I have a place. Amen."

I know that Welcoming Prayer is not a natural way to approach dealing with our emotions, but as we continue to pursue the presence of God, even in the bad times, I know he will be faithful in showing up in big ways in our lives.  

For more guidance as you pursue Welcoming Prayer for your daily rhythm, Thomas Keating has great resources on the subject.


Regina Irwin - August 31st, 2021 at 5:53pm

This is such practical and life giving encouragement. Thank you Ursala

Diane - September 4th, 2021 at 6:27pm

Wise words, my friend. I can’t help but think if we practiced this regularly, our world would need fewer psychologists and medication.

Anjeanine Delgado - September 5th, 2021 at 8:04pm

Thank you Ursala for this step by step practical example. So encouraging!

Aaron - September 6th, 2021 at 11:51am

Thank you! This is great!



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