Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. 


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Day Eight

With Heaviness in My Heart

Written By Mary C. Earle

Practice Note

Meditation: <listen>

I call upon you from the ends of the earth
With heaviness in my heart.
Psalm 61:2

Living with illness leads us to pray with honesty. We learn to pray in and through the details of test results and of deep fatigue. With chronic, progressive or terminal illness we sometimes bump headlong into a passage that makes our hearts heavy. It may be one test too many. It may be a development that requires another hospitalization. It may be the sheer grind of living with the demands of a particular illness.

The psalms tell us to pray the heaviness of heart. Don’t gussy it up. Don’t try to make it pretty. Bring the heaviness of heart to speech. If you are sad, pray the sadness. If you are feeling hard pressed, pray that feeling. If you are feeling besieged by diagnostic procedures, name that sense of being besieged.

True prayer begins with this honest vulnerability. Bring your heaviness of heart to your prayer, trusting that God in Christ is meeting you there, receiving all the pain and the frustration, the fear and the anxiety. Remember that God is with you, as close as your breath, as near as your heartbeat.

Ever gentle Christ, my heart is sore and heavy with all that this illness has brought into my life. Be with me in my daily life; be with all who live with this illness. Amen.

Practice: <listen>

For this practice, you will need some space and time for quiet reflection. Read the suggestion all the way through, then do the relaxation and meditation. Afterward you may wish to write in your journal.

Begin by breathing gently in a position that is comfortable for your condition. Allow your breath to find its own gentle rhythm. As you breathe in, allow yourself to become aware of God’s gentle presence in the breath itself. As you breathe out, let go of tension. Focus gently on the breath.

Once your breath has established its rhythm, add this prayer silently to the breath:

“Heal and restore (inhalation), my heavy heart (exhalation).” 

Try initially to pray in this way for five to ten minutes. Don’t force anything. If the prayer doesn’t work for you, try creating one that names your feelings. Return to this breath prayer from time to time so that it may deepen in you.

If you wish, you may want to journal about this time of prayer, noting what comes to your attention, and how (or if) you notice changes in your own sadness, frustration or anxiety. The prayer is not magic; the prayer is a means of naming your honest feelings within the kindly encircling of God’s mercy.

Reference Note: All  psalms are taken from the psalter in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.