The Welcoming Prayer
(Gently become aware of your body and your interior state.)
Welcome, welcome, welcome
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions. I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to your love and presence, Lord, and your healing action and grace within.
April 28, 2021
Anne Kubr, Certified Spiritual Director
“Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!”
There is a children’s book entitled We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, written by Michael Rosen. It has repeated phrasing that helps give the book both a delightful, rhythmic pattern and a profound message. The first two pages use that phrasing:
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day. We’re not scared.
Oh-oh A river! A deep, cold river.
We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.
Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!”
Who among us does not feel at times “Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!” Even with the knowledge that unless we go through “it” there is no way to get to the other side, “Oh, no!” is a human reaction.
The Welcoming Prayer is a prayer in which we welcome our “Oh, no!” That may seem counterintuitive, welcoming something you would rather ignore or pass over altogether. Welcoming the challenges of our days, our weeks, our lives is actually the only way to get to the other side of each of those challenges. That helps explain the strength of this prayer.
The Welcoming Prayer helps us with challenges
This prayer is a way of welcoming God’s presence into our reactions to life’s daily events and situations.
There is a biological as well as a spiritual component behind the reason this prayer moves us from reaction to response over the upsets within the challenging moments in our day.
In the book Welcoming Prayer, Consent on the Go published by Contemplative Outreach there is a discussion of the biological and spiritual components of this prayer:
“We’re all born with at least three fundamental or biological needs:
1. The need for security & survival
2. The need for affection & esteem
3. The need for power & control”
Our needs for security, affection, and control are within us at birth. Then, our excessive demand for each of these needs develops in our early years. Our subconscious reacts to a sense of insecurity, disapproval, or a sense of loss of control in a situation. It gets amplified because experiences in our early childhood cause our need for security, esteem, or control to increase exponentially.
If you have ever become . . .
- excessively impatient with a teller in a store who is having trouble ringing up the customer ahead of you,
- incensed at a driver who grabs a parking spot you had your eye on,
- or simply overreacted to any of a number of events or situations in everyday life,
you have a sense of the strength of these unconscious motivations.
The Welcoming Prayer is designed to short-circuit our negative subconscious reactions. In praying it repeatedly, the subconscious begins to yield to God’s presence within us and to the loving response guided by that presence. In essence, each aspect of the Welcoming Prayer allows God to guide our hearts. In time, it results in the reprogramming of our subconscious.
Thus, our reactions to those everyday challenges more often become responses guided by love rather than negative emotional reactions we wish we could take back. The writer of the original Welcoming Prayer, Mary Mrozowski, explains that while Centering Prayer teaches consent in stillness, the Welcoming Prayer teaches us consent in activity.
How to pray the Welcoming Prayer
The following is one suggested way of making the Welcoming Prayer a part of your daily walk with God. This is certainly not the only path, but it is one path that may be helpful to integrate this powerful prayer into your life.
Begin by praying it every day. Make it a time toward the beginning of the day This allows your head and heart to feel the challenges that may be weighing on you. Welcome them. Let go of them as you open to God’s work and presence in your day.
There are resources for holding to the daily praying of the Welcoming Prayer. The book mentioned earlier, Welcoming Prayer Consent on the Go has a 40-day accompanying daily explanation and practice which supports this prayer.
This is one possible resource for setting up your prayer pattern of saying and sinking into the Welcoming Prayer. If this sounds helpful, it can be downloaded from the Contemplative Outreach bookstore at www.contemplativeoutreach.org.
As mentioned earlier, the Welcoming Prayer is ultimately meant to be used in activity. That means, in time, we are meant to “catch” the moments of reaction to challenges during our day and use this prayer to move that reaction to response.
When this next step begins for you truly depends on you and on God’s grace working within you. It may be a day, a week, a month, or any number of days after you have begun praying this prayer daily. There is no “right” amount of time for integrating the Welcoming Prayer into your daily events and situations.
A short form of the Welcoming Prayer
Typically, when using this prayer practice in a moment of challenge in your day, a shorter version works well. Perhaps, “I let go of my desire for security, approval, and control and open to your presence, Lord.”
Another way to shorten the prayer is to be guided by the essence of the prayer, “Feel and Sink into, Welcome, Let Go.”
To summarize, the praying of the Welcoming Prayer in our daily moments of challenge each day, has essentially three steps.
1. Note your body’s feeling of challenge
2. Welcome the challenge
3. Say or experience a shorter version of this prayer to move you to respond in that moment
Some of the gifts of the Welcoming Prayer
In time, we no longer have to “catch” ourselves so often in our daily emotional response to challenges. We come to have loving responses without the mental work.
Words attributed to Thomas Keating sum up for me the ultimate aim of the Welcoming Prayer, “The less you do, the more God does.” We pray the Welcoming Prayer in order to consent to our loving God’s action within us. God is the one who can take our human reaction and move it to a loving response. This prayer is one way to move toward doing less, allowing our God to do more within us.
The Welcoming Prayer supports the realization of these words from 1 Philippians 9-11 “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight…so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
Anne Kubr, Certified Spiritual Director