Good Prayer Is Incarnational

Several years ago I was asked to give a talk about some of the qualities of good prayer. One quality I spoke about was this: Good prayer is incarnational.

I began with this story told to me by a Deacon in Maine. One morning his son Zachary, age 5, was sitting at the kitchen table eating his cereal and gazing out the picture window into their spacious backyard. He asked his mother, “Mommy, where is God again?”

She said, “God is everywhere, Zach. God is in the trees and the flowers and on the deck.”

He asked, “Is God under the deck?”

“Yes,” she said. “God is under the deck too. And the best part of all, God is in you and God is in me.”

Zachary thought for a moment, and then he said, “Wow! That’s a lotta God!”


(Photo by Jessica Ticozzelli – Pexels)

Good prayer celebrates the presence of that “lotta God” in our lives. As Catholics, we believe that God is present in a special way in the bread and wine at every Mass. But there’s so much God, God is also present in the proclaimed Word, the homily, the prayers, the singing, the silence, and (most importantly) in the people gathered to celebrate Mass.

But God is present beyond the Eucharistic table too. God is present in all people, the ones who delight and help us as well as the ones who annoy us and try our patience. The ones who look and think as we do, and the ones who look and think so differently from us, they scare us. God is present in creation, in our air and sunlight, our trees and squirrels, our crickets, whales, oceans and stars. And God is present in the historic events taking place right now: the global pandemic, the countless men and women serving those in need, our country’s strivings for racial equality, our efforts to curb the pollution of our planet, the current world-wide refugee crisis, and so forth.


God is present in our world, then, not merely theoretically, but concretely. God is present incarnationally. A corrolary of this fact is this: our prayer must be incarnational too. In the words of Father Ronald Rolheiser, we have “to put some skin” on our prayer. But how do we do that?


Hepburn in 1958 – Wikipedia

Recently I saw a movie about Audrey Hepburn. I was familiar with her great acting ability and her beauty, but I didn’t know about two traumatic events she suffered as a child in Europe during World War II. First, her father abandoned her when she was about 9. One day he just got up and left. She never saw or heard from him again until many years later as an adult. And second, she experienced that horrific winter of ’44 when millions of people in Europe (many of them children) had little or no food.


At the height of her fame, Hepburn left movie making for ten years. Why? Because the glamorous Hollywood life kept her apart from her children. In a way, being a “movie star” was causing her to abandon her children. So she walked away from that glamorous life. In her final years, Hepburn became the spokesperson for UNICEF, using her fame to raise millions of dollars for starving children all over the world. The movie didn’t talk about Hepburn’s prayer, but to me she is an example of someone who put skin on her deepest concern, namely, needy children.


(Photo by Ron Lach – Pexels)


We are called to pray for ourselves, our families and friends, our country, and our world. But we must put some skin on those prayers. If we pray about the health of our planet, what specific actions are we taking to help heal our planet? If we pray for the lonely, is there someone whose loneliness we can ease–perhaps through a simple phone call? If we pray for overworked parents, are there any parents we can help and support in some way? If we pray for world peace, how can we bring peace into our own little world by the way we listen, the way we speak, the way we do daily chores, and even the way we drive? If we pray for our political leaders, can we also write to them to thank them for their service or to call their attention to issues close to our hearts?


Advent is a time when we celebrate the mystery of God’s Incarnation in the person of Jesus. As such, it is a most fitting time “to put some skin” on our prayer through small acts of attention and love.


For reflection:


Did anything in this reflection speak to you today—especially any words or any of the pictures?



Can you think of some ways you are trying to put some skin on your prayer?


Would you add anything to this reflection?


PS: Dear readers all, I’m still having problems with my mailing list. It is NOT working properly, so most of my subscribers are NOT getting my blog on Monday. Our IT staff is working on the problem. For now, you might have to google my blog in order to read it. Google the address: www.melanniesvobodasnd.org OR simply google my name and “Sunflower Seeds” and it should come up. I apologize for this inconvenience.



Our song today is Bernadette Farrell’s beautiful “Love Goes On.” It reminds us that love must be incarnational too!



Please feel free to comment below. Your words can enrich my blog!

19 Comments

  1. Timothy Beddow on December 13, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Thank you for all you do by writing so well.

  2. Susan Hewitt on December 13, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    Sr. Judith Ann Sabau let me know about this blog. We bowl together. I will thank her because your words give me a moment to just breathe, to inhale your words and reflect on them in a quiet, meditative way. I find myself looking forward each week to the next one.

  3. Judith A Ketterer on December 14, 2021 at 11:00 am

    I appreciate your thoughts that you share and also the music selections. THANKS!

  4. Nancy Matras on December 14, 2021 at 11:08 am

    “Love with a towel and a basin!”

  5. Feli on December 14, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I love the 5-year old comment: “That’s a lotta God” I hope that I make “lotta God” in my lifetime.
    Thanks, Sr. Melanie.

  6. Adrienne Castellanos on December 14, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Love is a verb.

  7. Christina Keil on December 14, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    I’m grateful I get your blog whenever it comes! It’s a welcome surprise in my inbox!!!!! Thank you for all you do!

  8. Charlene Meyer on December 14, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Charlene. Just ‘found’ your site, beautiful! Thank you and God bless you!

  9. Melanie L Ebert on December 14, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you Sr.Melannie for the beautiful reminder of the need for love all around us. Your blog is so appreciated. It encourages me to look around and help where I can in any way I can.
    My husband and I volunteer with Medical Missionaries in Manassas, VA. Yesterday we took a truck of 350 new coats, food, and toys to a food bank in the poorest count in VA. We asked one girl what she wanted for Christmas, and she replied, a box of cereal. I’m still tearing up just thinking of her. Such poverty. Pray for insight to the needs of others in our community and beyond, and the Lord will show us where to begin in love.
    Thank you for our weekly guidance, insight and music.

  10. Sue Meise on December 14, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Dear Sister,
    The explanation to your internet troubles is easy. The devil doesn’t want good news to be out there.
    Just like Touched by and Angel and shows like that. If Good things came easy God would not need each of us to forward messages like yours to others. Thank you for your words and wonderful Music. Happy Holy Christmas!

  11. Shirley on December 14, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    I am thankful to get your blog, if is on Monday that’s great but the last two weeks it has been Tuesday and that is great too
    Just as long as I get it!
    Thank you Sister Melannie and God Bless you and all you do!

  12. Susan Slaninka on December 14, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    What a beautiful choice for the music this time.

  13. Keith on December 14, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Love the idea of having ‘skin in the game’ when we pray, really challenges us to be people of action based prayer. Love your blog each week, thank you for all the work you put into creating it. Keith

  14. Sister Celeste Albers on December 14, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    Sr. Melannie, I am so glad I got your blog today. Today I was thinking about what you had about our God is incarnational. As I was reading your note, I thought about how I want to send some money to the sisters in Kentucky so they can help all of the people who have absolutely nothing after the tornado on Dec. 10th.

    The sisters here in Great Bend, KS are also helping a family of six children, ages 12 to 2, whose mother just drove away and nobody knows where she is. His there oldest ones have gotten Covid and so he lost his job taking care of them. Our sisters are giving him a van so that he can take the children to school and try to find another job. One of our rich ladies told us that she gave them $500 to help the family. To me, this is what Christmas is truly about–bringing light and help to all who are in need. Sr. Melannie, you are a gift to me in so many ways! God bless you! Sr. Celeste Albers

  15. John Hopkins on December 15, 2021 at 4:24 am

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    Thank you for your words. I have been reading them for many years and they never fail to disappoint. Reading them is a prayerful experience — they are just one way you put skin in the game! In fact, sometimes your blog IS a prayer! Technology is can be so vexing! We’ll get through this!

  16. Melannie Svoboda SND on December 15, 2021 at 7:32 am

    A BIG thank you to all of you who wrote a comment. You call attention to something specific in the reflection, you add an insight, you share an experience, or you simply underscore what you liked. By doing this, you enrich my blog for me and for all our readers!
    Please feel free to continue the conversation by adding a comment below. Sr. Melannie

  17. S. Noreen Ellison, SC on December 15, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Melanie, I affirm all the comments that went before mine. Yes! We need to keep putting “skin on” in our prayers and activities that give evidence of our faith and concern. Even when your blog comes on Wednesdays, it is so welcome and is another way of connecting us who do not know one another “with skin on.” You create another experience of community for so many of us and with some of your beautiful song meditations we can even sing about it! In all of creation we are connected,and we want to help others realize that same truth! Sr. Noreen Ellison, SC

  18. Kathy Pulford on December 19, 2021 at 8:26 am

    My first time here. I was touched by the idea to put skin on your prayer. Thank you!

  19. Karen on January 11, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    As usual, not just thought provoking … challenging.

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