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Simple Words

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

moving forward.

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

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