Prayers Rising

smoke from candle“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.” —Psalm 141:2

I just blew out my candle on my desk, and the smoke billows upward. I take my palms and catch some of the spindly lines, moving them upward as I add my thoughts of thanks. I didn’t expect this small visual reminder of prayer to touch me so.

I’ve finished planning a retreat for a women’s group, and it’s time to transition to the next task on my list. So I extinguish the candle in gratitude.

And still the smoke ascends. I think of incense and my prayers rising to God.

I place my hands above the portly candle again, allowing the smoke to filter through my fingers. God, permeate my heart, my hands, my work, and my offerings to you.And now I realize that the flame is not entirely extinguished and that smoke has been rising the entire time I’ve been typing this. It relentlessly escapes from the orange tip of the wick. It reminds me of a spiritual truth, as I realize that today would need another 48 hours to complete everything I wanted to accomplish on my to-do list.

I hope I can retain this insight: When you think your light is extinguished and when your hope falters, have faith that a spark is still there. Resist the temptation to give in to despairing thoughts and to a list of unfinished business.

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. Thank you, Loretta, for your beautiful reflections. Sometimes our prayer is a bright flame, sometimes a glowing ember, always rising upward to the heavens.

  2. It’s easy to give in to despair when you have too much to do. Thanks for the reminder to stop and pray. Taking a few moments for gratitude can help.

  3. I have a candle burning near me and I must blow it out for the next part of my day. Thank you for reminding me it’s been there, burning. I’ve only just been able to reclaim a certain part of my life and in that past life, I always had candles and incense burning. It was an acknowledgment of God and a devotion toward Him. I’ve lit them recently out of habit because my past is so far away. Thanks for reminding me of what it’s always meant.

  4. Thank you, Loretta. Your writing of Pryers Rising is one more reminder for me of how to experience prayer in the smoke rising from the candle. Your suggestion of leaving our busyness in the hands of our Lord is also appropriate for me Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  5. Beautifully written as I was drawn into your experience of prayer as I also visualize my prayers as incense rising to the Trinity. Unfinished business becomes busyness that takes us away from time with our Lord – may we be enabled to leave the unfinished business in the hands the One who created us and gifted us to do God’s will. Blessings.

    • The examen for today could not be more “right on”. We are planning our 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Nov. 26 & I woke up with my head swimming thinking of all the “things” I need to accomplish today. This examen will be my anchor for the coming weeks.

    • Roberta, congratulations on so many years of marriage. You are like the candle that continues to burn on and on!
      Blessings to you.


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