Asking for Grace to Want the Grace

frustrated man in pain
In the Spiritual Exercises, we’re often instructed to ask for the grace we desire. That grace could be repentance, sorrow for sin, gratitude for God’s gifts, desire for truth and justice, and so on. We identify what grace we desire, and we ask God for it.

God already knows our desires. The asking we do is not for God but for us. Sometimes I don’t really know what I want until I try to name it. Often what I desire is in line with God’s desire for me and the world: truth, compassion, justice, healing.

But I also need to identify the desires that are not in line with holy love. I “should” desire forgiveness and reconciliation, but what I really want is revenge. I “should” desire healthy relationships in a thriving community, but I prefer to avoid other people and nurse my wounds alone.

What do I do when I don’t really desire the graces God offers me? It’s silly to lie to God by asking for something I don’t want. Yet, I need to keep communicating with God, even if my honest prayers are skewed by how I’m feeling and how I’m looking at the world.

It’s perfectly fine to ask for the grace to desire what’s better for me and others. Here’s a sample prayer:

Lord, right now I don’t care about [name] and I want nothing to do with her. All I feel is betrayal, anger, and hurt. I don’t want to talk to her, think about her, or deal with her. So, I offer this mixture of feelings to you. I can’t express what isn’t true, but I want to get to the place where I am willing to seek forgiveness or offer forgiveness. The wise part of me wants to get to the place where I can have a calm and loving conversation with this person. Lord, you and I both know that the time isn’t now. Please prepare me to say and do the right thing. Prepare her too. Prepare the right time for the right interaction. Help me want the better, higher thing. Amen.

You can use whatever bits and pieces of this sample prayer that suit you and your situation. I encourage you to pray with utter honesty—but also with faith and hope.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

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Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Vinta,
    Your prayer is so very helpful and expresses so many realities that surround forgiveness. in particular, the timing and tone of the hoped-for reconciliation. Your words – ‘The wise part of me wants to get to the place where I can have a calm and loving conversation with this person. Lord, you and I both know that the time isn’t now. Please prepare me to say and do the right thing. Prepare her, too. Prepare the right time for the right interaction. Help me want the better, higher thing.’
    Thanks for your many gifts.
    Rob

  2. What a lovely prayer! It accommodates the very human hesitation (reluctance? difficulty?) to ask for forgiveness and to forgive while allowing it to be overcome by the grace to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much for giving us this piece. I really need this prayer now. I’m struggling with this issue and your writing is so helpful. Thank you. Please pray for me as I will pray for you.

  4. This is an excerpt from Kevin Hart’s “The Darkness”:

    Women you know are weeping in the night:
    They weep in backyards, upstairs rooms, they weep
    Because of words too cold and words too cheap.
    (Their sons are loaded for the fight.)

    They weep in kitchens everywhere, in dough
    That’s baked into the daily bread of grief,
    Because of talk that follows like a thief.
    (It enters ears then aims a blow.)

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