A litany for joyful surrender

Until recently, I’d never had a prayer call me out on anything. Yes, I’ve had prayers change my mind and open my heart, but it wasn’t until I began consistently praying the Litany of Trust, written by the Sisters of Life, that I experienced a prayer teaching me something.

Maybe you’ve seen this powerful prayer in its humble, deep red package stacked on a table of prayer resources at your church. Or maybe you have one stowed in a pile of cards gathered from various retreats and memorials. If you’re like some of my friends, you have more than a couple in different places in your home, purse or car, but you haven’t yet delved into what’s inside.

A year ago, that was me. I wasn’t sure how, but somehow I’d ended up with several copies. I also can’t recall what finally made me pick one up and prayerfully read through it. But once I did, I realized I had come across a prayer that spoke to me where I was and pointed me in the direction I needed to go.

This prayer has become so important to me because of the tender but firm way it recognizes my fears and acknowledges my doubts. These are a few lines from the first part:

“From the fear that trusting you will leave me more destitute,

Deliver me, Jesus.”

“From the rebellion against childlike dependency on you,

Deliver me, Jesus.”

“From the fear of being asked to give more than I have,

Deliver me, Jesus.”

Within these lines, my limitations — some I couldn’t have articulated, since I wasn’t fully aware of them — are honest realities, but they’re not posed as obstacles. Rather, they are the reasons, powerfully expressed, that I ought to have recourse to Jesus’s generous mercy. This freeing revelation has allowed me to give myself permission to surrender to him.

When I do, he gently shuts down any hesitations I have about how I can live my vocation each day. Even more specifically, he teaches me where I need to let go of my own ideas and where I can confidently lean on him. It’s in the second half of the prayer that I am learning how Jesus’ mercy makes the impossible possible.

“That your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me,

Jesus, I trust in you.”

“That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on you,

Jesus, I trust in you.”

Now, I say this prayer at the start of each day, often before I even get out of bed. Sometimes I return to it before I fall asleep as well. It’s become a way of both preparing myself spiritually for the day ahead and reflecting on the day that’s just come to an end. Day after day, it’s challenging me to ask myself, in concrete situations, whether or not I live out the trust I claim to profess in Jesus Christ.

Before I discovered the Litany of Trust, I’d been relying on the simpler prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you,” as a daily antiphon since my daughter was baptized on the feast of Divine Mercy five years ago. That alone is powerful, but I’m so grateful to have found the litany, which makes that profession more real and more accessible to me.

If you’re reading it for the first time, it can be somewhat overwhelming. Complete surrender to Jesus and his mercy is a radical step, especially in a society like ours that prides itself on philosophies like “you do you.”

But believing in Christ and living the Faith means knowing that you’re not doing this life on your own. You admit and rejoice in the fact that Jesus wants to be beside you, with you, holding you every step of the way.

If offering this prayer feels like too much, take some advice from a friend in my faith-sharing group. She started by praying four or five lines each day, rather than the whole thing, in order to reflect more deeply on the insights therein — baby steps, if you will. Or, if music is more your thing, try listening to this sung version, composed by another of the Sisters of Life.

These days, I believe we need this prayer more than ever. The news cycle is both repetitive and contradictory. The medium-term future of our professional lives and social interactions is unclear. The sacraments are being celebrated in ways that are troubling for some. But Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He’s been right here with us the whole time.

Now, more than ever, I invite you to put your trust in him, and see what his mercy might teach you.

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