Praying Through the Pain

person with walker in hospitalAnyone who has ever tried to read the Bible or use a popular prayer app while recovering from surgery or undergoing chemotherapy can describe how difficult it is to pray in these circumstances. The words swim on the page; the meanings don’t register; the mind wanders; the pain blots out all other thoughts; when the pain subsides, drowsiness takes over; some passages trigger worries and anxieties; the joyful ones seem irrelevant.

At first glance, Ignatius seems an unlikely guide to prayer in such circumstances. As a soldier, he prided himself on not showing any sign of pain and, for a period after his conversion, he was drawn to extreme penances. Where his wisdom speaks to the aging, and particularly the suffering aging, is in the overriding objective of modeling ourselves after Jesus.

To know, love, and follow Jesus means experiencing pain as Jesus experienced it. In reading the Passion narratives and about the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, applying the principles of imaginative prayer or lectio divina may show us how to let go of our fears and lead us to a new experience of hope. Or, as Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper, “Where I am going you know the way” (John 14:4).

—Excerpted from God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet by Barbara Lee


  1. It’s been a long year of tests, treatments, fears, pain, worries, surgeries. Your first paragraph description of attempts to read or pray is spot on. Sometimes my best was to sit with hands open in my lap and quietly pray, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know “ Ezekiel 37:3.
    Now as things have eased up, I’m returning to more familiar practices and prayers. I’m so grateful: that I can move around unassisted, that I can sip my tea and listen to early morning birds, that I can read or pray with more focus. I’m so grateful that no matter our condition, God knows and understands all our feeble leanings toward his heart of Love.
    I’m also very grateful for this Jesuit website, offered to all. You nourished this wobbly Protestant through a long year. Thanks be to God.

    • God bless you, Nancy. We are all “wobbly” but thanks be to God we are finally beginning to pay more attention to what we have in common than to our differences.

      • As a “recovering Baptist turned Anglican,” I fully understand. And am immensely grateful to God for leading me to this blog as it expresses where I am.

  2. Dear Martha, I will add you to My prayer list. I have had back surgery and an implant, but my spine is in very bad shape and has been for about 50-60 Yrs) . I hope you have a very good surgeon (A minimum invasive one) . God Bless and happy recovery.

    • Bad spine, 72 yrs old, chronic pain, do not want surgery but doctors seem indifferent. Cannot walk without pain, full of fear, prayer is difficult, have lost my connection, yet I long for it

  3. I find solace in asking Pedro Arrupe, SJ, to intercede for me. After he suffered the stroke, he had to let go of alot. Sometimes, the only prayer I can make is “Jesus!” of “help.”

    • When my aunt was 95, she lamented that the only thing she could say to God was “please” and “thank you.” I told her that was enough–and I say the same to your “Jesus” and “help.” Blessings!

  4. I am in recovery and will be having back surgery July 18. This reading gave me hope. Prayers welcome for a successful surgery and a healthy recovery.


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