Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

How do the suffering pray?

October 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Prayer, Suffering, Theophilus

This morning I woke up after eight hours of sleep feeling like I hadn't slept at all. My head was heavy with pain, my body aching and complaining. I inched my way out of bed, took my mound of medication, and went to pray. As I began my time of meditation, the pain in my head continually how do the suffering praycalled to me, “Pay attention to me, I hurt.” “Jesus” I whispered. “Pay attention to me, I hurt.” “Jesus” I whispered, “give me strength to pray.” “Jesus.” After a few rounds of this and no ability to escape the constant complaining from my head and find a few words for Him, a simple idea occurred to me. “Pray the Liturgy” I thought. “You can do that and it will give you the words you don't have and will help you to win this battle this morning.” “Even if it is not a great victory, at least some of your thoughts will turn to Him.” Another thought came to mind, “I offer this pain for those who cannot pray.”

I wrestled through the Liturgy of the Hours and this created enough focus to distract me from the pain a bit and to offer a few inadequate sentiments to Him. Then I wondered how some of you fight this battle. I would like to hear from those of you who suffer but still engage and don't give up. How do you fight through and pray anyway? This is not a hypothetical question, but a practical one. No matter what your source of suffering (physical, emotional, spiritual), how do you fight to turn your heart to Him?


Art for this post on “How do the Suffering Pray”: Modified detail of Long Suffering, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, published in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • guest

    After an accident and surgery I did struggle to pray for a while, but I find listening to sacred music helps. I also don’t fret at all, just content with whatever I’m able to offer, knowing God can do a better job in me than I can.

  • bonggit

    What I have read on the lives of the saints & what I have been imitating, I meditate on our Lord’s suffering, His passion, knowing that what I’m suffering is just a fraction of what He went through & it will make my ‘suffering sweeter’.

  • inIpso

    When I’m suffering, I find it very easy to get upset about my prayer life being bad… which really means I find it very easy to get caught up in myself.

    So I fight by making acts of the will. I tell Jesus that even though my body fights being up early and praying… that there is no place I would rather be then with Him. (Which is more often an act of the will then a feeling.) I thank the Holy Spirit for giving me the desire to pray even though I don’t really want to.

    I offer up the pain and the struggles for my family who do not know Him. Sometimes I spend 20 minutes just to prayerfully make it through one psalm of morning prayer. I look at the cross. I clench rosary beads in my hands not to necessarily pray the rosary, but because having my hands busy somehow allows my mind to be able to better concentrate on God. I read from the saints until my heart is moved… pray for a little bit…. and then pick up the book when I start getting caught up in myself again.

    And I try to remember that God is in charge. That He could remove all the sufferings, doubts, and frustrations of prayer in an instant… but that He chooses not to. So when no pious thoughts or meditations come, I just try to be present to Him; to be a needy suffering soul who needs His help to even be able to ask for His help. And to remember that He has suffered so much… Like my dear friend St. Therese, in my suffering and fear I want to trust in Him and let Him “sleep in my boat” so to speak when all the storms are raging.

    Most of all, I try to hope no matter what. This has helped me a great deal lately:

    “Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.” – St Teresa of Avila

  • Emethav

    I have been suffering 18 yrs. ever since I got a rare illness. I have been at deaths door often. Every organ in my body,except my liver and one kidney is effected with illness and I have pinched nerves,severe arthritis and more. I am only 55yrs old.
    I pray mostly by talking with Jesus through out the day. Sharing what I am doing,watching,listening to. I read the Bible and try and get in a rosary daily. Sometimes I read spiritual books. I have tried to do the Liturgy of the hours but a few weeks or months and I stop.
    After all this time suffering,not only illnesses but family and more I think my actual suffering is a prayer,even if I do not have words to say or traditional prayers to pray.
    I ask my guardian angel to make up in prayer that I lacked.
    God Bless you and please pray for my salvation. Heidi

    • LizEst

      God bless you Emethav! Your reward is great in heaven. Always remember that the Spirit prays in us with inexpressable groans, in ways we can’t even begin to do.

      Talking to Jesus throughout the day is a great prayer, remembering the Lord always. You are very blessed. Not everyone can do this. Christ is sure with you in your suffering, a faithful companion along the way.

      I, too, struggled with the Liturgy of the Hours, until I asked a priest (a few years ago) to pray for me that I stick with it. He agreed…and I know he did as I can now stick to it, by the grace of God. Even if I have to leave it for a short while, I still come back to it readily. That priest is now a bishop. The Hours is a wonderful prayer, the prayer of the Church. And, the person who prays it prays it “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ). Perhaps you could enlist the assistance of a good priest to pray for you with this particular intention. There is much, much good fruit that comes from the Hours.

  • Ebabbish

    I rediscovered the rosary through suffering and it focused my prayer. 

  • Jeanette

    I do my best to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet (repeatedly) while suffering physical pains and discomforts. It has sustained me from the throws of complications during active child labor to simply not being able to sleep at night and everything in between.

  • LizEst

    With physical or emotional pain, I like to try to stick with my usual prayer routine, dry as it might be, difficult as it might be. It is my way of trying to be faithful to God, just as he is faithful to us always. I guess the real prayer, then, becomes the act of faithfulness to prayer life.

    I can also get very direct with God. After all, he already knows my heart and my thoughts. So, I lay it on the line, as it were, while still respecting God…just as if he were right there next to me…which, of course, he is! If I am angry, I will tell him that…even if it means I have no clue why he is permitting thus and such in my life. I might tell him how I would do it, but always say, “But you know what is best.” This often helps me to say, “Help me to conform my will to thine” or “Help me get through this, or learn to love/serve this situation or person (more)…even though it is frustrating for me. Help me to see you in this person, as I know you are! Help me to become more like you, Jesus. This is sure hard. I can’t do this of my own…but with you, anything is possible.” Whatever it is, God is the boss and respect for him must always be there. But, talking to him and opening up to him as a true friend and confidant helps me pray in a more structured way.

    When it is acute, physical pain, that pain has a way of ripping my mind off of the usual. So, my prayers tends to get very short. I pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, have mercy on me, a sinner.” “All for you, my Jesus.” “If it is your will, let this pass but not my will, but yours be done.” “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” “Thank you for allowing me to experience a small, infinitesimal part of your suffering on the cross. I’m such a coward! Help me to join my sufferings to yours. Wash me in your blood.” I may also name some intentions, in particular the conversion of the world and the holy souls in purgatory.

  • judeen

    all our pains and sorrows offered with Jesus Christ passion, suffering and death.. up to God the Father for souls… either on earth or in purgitorey( people who have gone before us..)… it is a mighty prayer… but suffering is worthless unless joined with the passion of our Lord….
      we receive purification,, understanding, compation,, humbleness, strenght, courage, endurance all through suffering.. when used to help others seek God and love it is powerful… the strong in God is the weak…

  • Robbie

    I haven’t had much “real” suffering in my life–no cancer or horrible chronic illness. But I have struggled with depression–which can be terribly deep emotional pain, and recently I went through the birth of my seventh child, and then a very difficult struggle nursing her.  So these are little pains, relatively speaking, but still quite a challenge for me, in that moment.  I have finally come to understand, at least a little, the idea of embracing the cross.  I think of the scene in The Passion when Jesus literally hugs his cross as he carries it.  I’m not sure how to describe this type of prayer, but maybe you’d call it abandonment.  I feel as though I throw my arms open wide and look up to Heaven.  I think of how small my pain is and how much suffering there is in the world…so many who suffer so much…and I say, “Mercy!”  It’s nothing more than a cry of the heart–“Mercy!”  And so this is what I do, crying to God for his mercy, letting my mind think of all those who need Him so much.  It’s not a formal prayer in any sense, just giving my pain to Him and trying say, “Thy will be done!”  Even accepting that this suffering is His will for me, at least for this moment, is a suffering in itself; I want to know Why?  For what purpose? So to abandon my own will is a trial, but very satisfying in the end.

  • Jeremystmartin

    Praying with others when possible helps. If praying without a community is difficult I take consolation in praying at all in these moments. If I fail rembering this in confession helps to go on as is the case with any sin. I seem to always to be able to really pray the memorare (sp?)

    In Christ,

    Fr. St. Martin

  • Vicky_ngujo_velasco

    Sometimes I felt bad when I can’t concentrate on my routine prayers every morning but I keep asking God to give me the strength so that I can go on..and He gives me the strength and I am happy for I feel He is with me and protect me and my family. In everything that I do I call upon Him for He is a part of me for without making Him a part of me I would be lost and be out of God’s love…saying the Holy Rosary is a miracle to me for the Blessed Mother always intercedes for us and help us in times of trouble when we ask her and no matter what happens we must stand firm in our belief that God is always with us and loves us..Thank you Jesus for saving me. Amen

  • Tim Cone

    When I have sleepless nights due to spiritual battles or
    excruciating joint pain from severe Psoriatic Arthritis, I find great solace in
    uniting my pain with the wounds of Christ. No matter how bad it gets, it is
    only a miniscule fraction of what Christ had to suffer for us. It is the least
    I can do to offer it back to Him. In St. Thomas à Kempis’
    The Imitation of Christ, he refers to how many people want to be associated
    with the Cross, but so few are willing to take up His cross. If my pain and
    suffering is able to bring healing comfort to our Lord and even for others, I
    would gladly take on more. This also
    goes beyond just the physical pain. When my prayer becomes dry and numb and I
    feel far from the love of God, I unite my struggles with His on the cross, so
    that others may be drawn ever closer to Him. During periods of such spiritual
    desolation, I also find myself just sitting in the presence of Christ, either
    in Eucharistic Adoration or just in front of the tabernacle, not having to say
    anything; only responding to God’s presence and His love for me regardless of
    whether I can feel Him or not. I hope this helps!


  • nicky678

    I suffer from chronic pain, but still manage to work. The best that I can do is to join my suffering with a moment or time in Christ’s life. I suffer from headache’s, so I join my headache with His crowning with thorns. I keep the image in my mind. I offer my suffering and all of my actions as a prayer every morning for the day. I ask for blessings and grace for all of the people I may encounter, that Jesus may show through me and be so in me. I do my best not to complain or talk about myself much in regards to my daily suffering. I try to bring all to Jesus, picture myself laying prostrate on His altar, and submit to His Holy will for me this day. And then finally, I trust in God’s grace and mercy that all will be well and good as I move into the day.

    God Bless You,

Skip to toolbar