By Rev. Veronica Martinez-Gallegos, Chaplain and Assistant Director of Spiritual Care & Education at Atrium Health in Charlotte, N.C.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7
At a young age, I learned that prayer means having a conversation with God. In my personal experience, prayer has always been how I connect with God. Of course, the way I do so has changed over time. I have learned that I do not need to be in a holy place to pray. On the contrary, I have been in chaos, accompanying others in my role as chaplain. I have experienced God at work in the darkest of places, not just in the stillness and peace of a sanctuary.
The way I best connect with God is through journaling. I have a collection of diaries I have kept from my youth. When I feel sad or distressed, I read some of those diaries and remember my conversations with God. Reading those prayers is like watching a movie of my life and remembering how God has been by my side.
On occasion, I have used art to connect with God. I draw images and ideas that I capture in my diary, another way of conversing with God. For example, I remember that, for a while, I often drew a labyrinth where I could not find the exit. After several years that image changed to a path where I had options. When I see those images, it is very comforting to know that I was not alone in all that time that I felt lost. Skimming through my journals gives me a sense of peace and a desire to continue having meaningful conversations with God. However, not long ago, I discovered that this was a spiritual practice that I had been observing for many years.
I have also found other ways to let go of my worries through prayer. “Casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). As a chaplain, seeing so much suffering caused me great anguish. Realizing that I was carrying the suffering of others with me, I decided to do something about it. At the end of each clinical day, I began the practice of placing a ribbon in a glass jar. The jar represents God, and the ribbon represents each person I visited that day. Offering an interceding prayer and letting go of each person, acknowledging that God holds them, helped me feel free of burdens that are not mine. I have called this the “prayer jar.”
These are just some of my prayer practices. They are simple, but meaningful to me. As a chaplain educator, I share these practices with my students. They are free to make this a prayer practice according to their beliefs. As a result, students have experienced peace amid seeing so much pain in their daily clinical work.
I have learned from prayer that it is a conversation with God. The place is secondary and God encompasses all spaces, whether they are sacred places or dark places. Quantity time in prayer is the least important. What is essential for me is to have that meaningful conversation that gives me the peace, love and the divine accompaniment that I need.
Pray, practice, ponder:
How do you carry around your worries and anxieties? Do they show up as tension in your body? Or repetitive thought patterns? Or sleepless nights? This week, create a physical place to cast your worries to God. You can use a prayer jar, like Veronica describes above, or you can use a drawer in your home, office or vehicle. When you find yourself carrying worries, for yourself or others, write then down and put them in this place. As you release the paper physically, release your control of the situation and circumstance to God, the Good Shepherd who seeks to supply every need.
This prayer appears in the 2022-2023 edition of Prayers of the People, the annual prayer guide of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, edited by Rev. Meg Lacy Vega. Download the digital version or order free print copies of Prayers of the People at www.cbf.net/pray.