A method of prayer in which we abandon all of the control that we try to hold over our lives by welcoming all of the feelings and sensations we are experiencing in the present moment with complete trust in God’s loving providence.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Souls who can recognize God in the most trivial, the most grievous, and the most mortifying things that happen to them in their lives honor everything equally with delight and rejoicing, and welcome with open arms what others dread and avoid.
— Jean-Pierre de Caussade
The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams.
— Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Introducing the Practice
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ (1675-1751) was a French Jesuit priest and spiritual director. In his classic spiritual work Abandonment to Divine Providence, Caussade teaches the value of completely abandoning oneself to God. Throughout his spiritual writings, Caussade emphasized trust and reliance upon divine providence. “Providence” is the theological term that encompasses God’s will, control, and power in our lives. We know that God is pure Love, Goodness, and Wisdom, and when we trust in God’s providence we are asserting that God, in his infinite love and wisdom, can lead us to a better life than we can by our own will and efforts. Caussade taught that attention to the present moment could reveal the providence and presence of God. We should surrender our attempts to control life and accept everything that we experience in our lives with complete trust and reliance upon the goodness of God.
There is an old Chinese fable about a farmer who had a beautiful horse. One day the horse ran away. Everyone in the village told the farmer, “What bad luck!” but the farmer responded, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” The next week the horse returned to the farmer with 12 wild horses accompanying it. The villagers said, “What good luck!” but the farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” A few days later, the farmer’s son was attempting to train one of the wild horses, and he fell off and broke his leg. Everyone thought this was very bad luck, but the farmer once again said, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” A week later the army came through to recruit young men for their war. When they came across the farmer’s son, they left him alone because of his broken leg. Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?
When we trust in the goodness of God’s providence, we are able to face all of the ups and downs of life with confidence and strength. Our prayer practice today is an exercise in this form of total acceptance and trust. In this practice, we follow Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s teaching that attention to the present moment can reveal God’s providence and presence, so we welcome and accept everything in the present moment – even the feelings and sensations that we individually do not like. We trust in God’s loving sovereignty and surrender our control to God, for we do not know how the feelings and experiences in our present life will unfold the future.
Preparing for the Practice
Have everyone spread out to find a comfortable place to sit where they can still hear the voice of the person guiding the practice.
The Spiritual Practice
Find a comfortable place to sit. Gently close your eyes and open your heart as you settle into the present moment. (1-2 min silence)
Become aware of each feeling or sensation that you are experiencing at this moment. Notice all the complicated emotions, all the various physical sensations, and pay attention to how you experience them. How do they make you feel? (2-3 min silence)
As you notice each emotional and physical sensation, welcome each one. No matter what the sensation is, say a welcome to it. “Welcome pain.” “Welcome stress.” “Welcome sadness.” “Welcome joy.” “Welcome peace.” (3-5 min silence)
Now let go of everything that you attach to these sensations. Release all wants, needs, frustrations, and desires that you associate with them. Abandon yourself to the providence and presence of God in this moment. Surrender the control that you are trying to hold onto and accept all that is present, not trying to change or interpret any of it. If you have trouble letting go of a specific emotion or feeling, confront it with a silent statement, “I trust in God’s loving providence.” (3-5 min silence)
Continue to slowly go through these three steps at your own pace – focusing on the sensations, welcoming them, and then surrendering control to God with the statement, “I trust in God’s loving providence.” (3-5 min silence)
God is present in each moment, and God knows our path better than we do. Welcoming each feeling and sensation that we experience encourages us to remain open to the hidden blessings of each moment, and surrendering control of our lives to God allows us to walk through the ups and downs of life with trust and confidence. Let us continue to maintain this attitude of welcoming the present and trusting in God’s loving providence as we go forth.
Duration: 15-20 minutes
1. Was it hard to welcome all of your feelings? Was there anything that you didn’t want to welcome?
2. What do you think it means to surrender control of our lives to God? What does that look like?
3. How do you think we can practice this method of prayer in our active lives?