Throughout my lifetime, when I have faced difficult times, I have found that my prayer
gets distilled down to very simple words. I am not sure why exactly this is, though I
could hypothesize that it’s due to my brain and heart already being such a jumble of
thoughts and feelings that simplicity is the only manner of prayer I have energy for.
When I think about it, keeping things simple when life seems overwhelming is a good
strategy for everything, not just prayer. It is the only coping mechanism that keeps life
I discovered one example of this simple way of praying during the time 17 years ago
when my mom was dying of ovarian cancer. She had been battling it off and on (mostly
on) for eight years, which is a long time to stay alive with a late stage ovarian cancer
diagnosis. When it reached the point where she and her doctors agreed that there were
no more viable options of treatment and she was flat out tired of the battle, her care
turned to palliative comfort and I took a leave of absence from my work to take care of
I cannot say the exact moment that the words entered my heart during my prayer, as it
seemed I was in some kind of constant prayer with Jesus, like an on-going text thread
with my BFF, just one liners followed by long rambling missives, with both of us
constantly seeing the pulsating three dots that the other was texting back. The words
were “I thank you, I love you, I trust you.” Not sure if Jesus actually replied to that per
se, but in my heart I knew he heard my prayer.
Sometimes I changed the order of the phrases, just depending on what popped into my
mind or which seemed the most pressing/appropriate for the moment. I also
interchanged “you” with Jesus, God or Holy Spirit. The effect was the same no matter
what and sometimes, even now, it gets distilled down even further to: I thank, I trust, I
Why these three verbs? Well, in my last blog post I wrote about love and it’s probably
obvious that love is the greatest verb of all time. If we are engaged in prayer of any
type at all, it’s most likely because we have a love of Jesus.
To thank Jesus, especially in trying and painful times, may seem a little odd or better
yet, just downright difficult if not nearly impossible. Yet I found that despite the horribly
sad, emotionally wrought and stressful period of my mom’s dying, there were so many
silver linings and astounding gestures of generosity, love and kindness that gratitude
and thanksgiving were the only natural and sensible responses. Despite my grief, I was
so thankful for the support that I was compelled to respond with “I thank you, Jesus.”
Lastly, trust is quite possibly one of the hardest acts of faith in our spiritual life. Why?
Why is trusting so darn tricky and difficult? LIkely because it necessitates us, as human
beings, relinquishing our beloved, though never real, supposed control over our lives to
a higher power, to God, to our faith. Yes, we must let go of the reigns we think we use to
order our lives and give them to the one whose hands they belonged to all along. We
surrender our present and future to God and in doing so we trust. Phew! Trust requires
such a letting go that it only seems natural we breathe a long exhale in the process of
trusting. It’s never easy to trust yet there is such freedom in doing so.
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, with life or just in need of a simple boost in
your prayer periods, try these simple words:
I trust you, Jesus.
I thank you, Jesus.
I love you, Jesus.
I pray that you find some peace and comfort in the simplicity of the words and more
importantly you listen and hear Jesus eagerly communicating back to you. Always
remember to listen, for indeed our prayer is the best form of 2-way communication there
Ellen Kelly is a spiritual director. She earned a MTS from The Jesuit School of Theology