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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Holy Week Prayer: Anything Goes

One thing I like about praying: anything goes.

I didn’t always believe this. As a little girl, I thought praying was mostly something you did in church on Sundays, or something you did before eating supper, or you did kneeling beside your bed every night. I didn’t realize that anything goes meant anywhere goes. For example, you could pray in the kitchen. My mother taught me this. She had this little prayer card thumbtacked between the two windows above the kitchen sink. It said on it “My Kitchen Prayer.” I’m sure she prayed this prayer many times as she prepared those countless meals for us. Gradually, I learned we can pray in any room in the house–yes, even in the bathroom! In fact, we can really pray anywhere: in a car, in a check-out line, at the beach, in a park, while watering our house plants, in a doctor’s waiting room.

When praying, anyhow goes. We don’t have to use only nice, polite words. Nor do we pray only when everything is going well and our life is in order. We don’t have to kneel to pray. We can pray while sitting, lying down, walking, and working. We don’t have to use the words of someone else, although sometimes that can be good. But our own words are just fine in prayer. And sometimes no words are the best prayers of all. For God hears “non words” too like our laughter, our silence, and our tears.

When praying, anywhen goes. Many of us probably pray in the morning and/or evening. But the middle of the day is a fine time to pray too, to pause in our work to say a few words to God. Sometimes our most heartfelt prayer comes when storm clouds are looming on our horizon. Or we pray in the middle of the night, when we’re in pain or when we’re so worried about something or someone we cannot sleep.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we listened to the passion according to Mark. We see Jesus at prayer especially in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. In the Garden, Jesus is truly in agony. He says to his three disciples, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.” When he prays, his says to God, to Abba, “Take this cup away from me.” Jesus knows what awaits him: a horrific crucifixion. In essence, he is saying to his Father, “Anything but this!” In prayer, we can tell God exactly what we want and what we do not want–just as Jesus did. But then we must remember, Jesus adds, “but not what I will but what you will.” That’s perhaps the hardest part of praying: surrendering what we want (or what we believe we cannot live without) to the mysterious and inscrutable designs of God.

On the cross, Jesus prays those heartbreaking words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Those are the first words of Psalm 22, which is “a prayer of desolation.” (Fr. George Smiga in Living with Christ, March 2024 issue). Says Fr. Smiga, though many Christians may be shocked to hear such words coming from Jesus, such words “emphasize his true humanity.” Some commentators note that Psalm 22 ends with hope and praise of God. But Mark doesn’t include those words, perhaps because he “wanted us to see that Jesus truly experienced human pain and understands the feelings of despair that can mark our lives.” When we are facing our own pain and agony, “To pray in such a way is not a lack of faith. We are only echoing the way Jesus prayed on the cross.”

Reflection questions:

Did anything resonate with you and your experience in this reflection?

Where, when, and how do you pray?

Have you made any words from the psalms part of your personal prayer?

Fr. Smiga says, to pray prayers of desolation “is not a lack of faith.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

+++++++I wish you all a very faith-filled and joyous Easter!+++++++


Announcing: Three Upcoming Events:

Talk on Mary at the Youngstown, OH First Friday Club Luncheon, April 4. See their website for details.

Retreat in Great Bend, Kansas: April 14-19. Sponsored by the Heartland Center for Spirituality. You can attend the retreat in person or join us on zoom from your own home. The theme is “The Power and Mystery of God’s Grace.” In the two conferences each day, we will explore some of the ways God’s grace comes to us in our ordinary lives. See their website for more details:

A Zoom Afternoon Event: Sunday May 19th, 1:30 – 4:00 (Central) I will be giving a presentation entitled “Finding God in the Ordinary and Amazing” sponsored by The Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, IL. Fee: donation. Check their website for details:

I would love to meet some of you at these events!


“Jesus used the Book of Psalms as his prayerbook,” writes Fr. Smiga. The fact that Jesus chose Ps. 22 as his prayer on the cross speaks volumes about Jesus and what he was experiencing at that moment. Here is a new musical version of that psalm by Aaron Shust. Since Ps. 22 is a long psalm (32 verses), only a few of the verses are selected for the song. Beneath the lyrics, the numbers of the exact verses are indicated. The words “Lama Azavtani Eli” are the first words of Ps. 22 in Hebrew, the language in which Jesus probably actually prayed them on the cross: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

I welcome you to respond to today’s reflection below:

34 Responses

  1. A blessed Holy Week, Sr. Melannie…
    A blessed Holy week, all…

    And your blog is a perfect way to start this blessed Holy Week.

    My commute to school takes between thirty-five and forty-five minutes, and along they way there are at least twenty traffic lights, not to mention several stop signs. Yes, I want those lights to be green, but more and more I’m starting to like it when they’re red.

    Years ago I remember reading one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, and in it he says he likes America because of all the red lights. They remind him to pray. So whenever I’m stopped at a red light on the way to school, I take my hands off the wheel (but don’t close my eyes!), fold them at my waist, and breathe the Jesus prayer. They have become my sacred “stops” on the way to school.

    1. John, Your example of praying at red lights is beautiful! How you took something that potentially is an annoyance, and turned it into an opportunity for connecting intentionally with God, with Jesus. Wonderful! I do something similar when I’m waiting in a check-out line or waiting on hold to connect with a doctor’s office… Thank you for sharing Hanh’s quote and your beautiful example. We’re all enriched… Melannie

  2. Sister Melannie,
    Beautiful expressions of what prayer is all about. I am of the belief that besides verbal prayer, we as children God , can connect with Him making our every thought, word, and deed a prayer. It can be on going throughout our journey in life. We can be a tuned to the fact that we have the ability (by the grace given to us) to place ourselves in the presence of God 24/7. This special gift can aid us in times of temptation, negativity, depression and all that would separate us from our heavenly Father. May this holy week bring clear moments of how much God loves and cares for each one of us. Blessings, Carol

    1. Carol, I appreciate all you said about prayer. And I especially loved your wish for all of us: “May this Holy Week bring clear moments of how much God loves and cares for each of us!” Thank you so much! Melannie

  3. Prayer is so much more than we were always taught, I agree Sr. Melannie. Many years ago, I had a dear friend who was dealing with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, dying after about 20 years of suffering. I made a “deal” with God that every time she came to my mind it would be a prayer…..I wanted to pray constantly, but simply couldn’t with life getting in the way. I shared that with her,,,,delighting her enough to share with other friends of hers who found it a satisfying way to keep Kathy wrapped in prayer. When her dad came close to the end of his days, she shared that with him which, she said gave him great comfort.

    I believe God doesn’t need our words, be they beautiful or crude….we need to hear our words, I think, to help us believe we really are praying.

    Being a Dominican Associate, as I am, I became acquainted with the 9 postures of prayer St. Dominic found helpful….one is lifting his arms towards heaven…..I see someone reaching something out of reach for another as a prayer; bending at the waist…..bending over to tie a shoe for someone so they won’t trip as a prayer; lying prostrate on the floor……lying flat on the floor to retrieve something that has rolled under the bed for your grandchild as a prayer.

    Paul’s command to pray always seems more easily attainable when we see prayer as so much more than folding our hands and kneeling only as prayer.

    Thank you for bring this up because this is one of my missions, to help people understand prayer is so vast.

    Have a blessed Holy week, one and all,
    Mary Nausadis

    1. Mary, I liked your point about “WE need to hear our words in prayer.” So we really know what is on our minds and in our hearts… And your conclusion is a fine one: “Prayer is so vast.” Thanks for adding these insights to this reflection today! Melannie

  4. Wishing a blessed Holy Week to all. I’m grateful to have learned over the years that we can and should pray any time and anywhere. Thank you Melannie for your beautiful reflective reminder. I love the liturgy of Holy Week and all the messages of Jesus’s humanity and divinity.

    1. And a blessed Holy Week to you too, Loretta. Like you, I enjoy Holy Week’s “messages of Jesus’ humanity and divinity.” Thanks for writing! Melannie

  5. Good morning! Thank you for the reminder that prayer can be anywhere, anyhow, and any when. As a youngster I remember my mom singing while she did things around the house. Once I questioned her about it and she said she was really praying for all of us as she did her daily chores – singing is praying twice! I don’t know who said it originally but it brings back many fond memories. I used it often when teaching the little ones with them and for them. Now mostly I do the singing in my head and not out loud but this has become my way to pray when I don’t know what to pray for. “I need you Lord, I need you! Every hour I need you…” Thank you for the beautiful song to begin Holy Week. God bless

    1. Martha, Thanks for sharing the beautiful image of your mother singing her prayers while she did things around the house. Your words, “I need you, Lord, I need you” reminded me of that beautiful song (on youtube) by Matt Maher called simply, “I Need You.” I’ve used it on my blog and I often use it on the retreats I lead. That song never fails to move my heart! Thanks for adding your words to my blog, Martha! Melannie

  6. Thank you for a beautiful start to Holy Week as I make preparations for a grand Easter celebration for my family.

    1. Amy, And may your Holy Week and Easter celebration be “grand”! Thanks for writing. Melannie

  7. Wow, thank you Sister Melannie, those words so reflect what I’ve learned about prayer and it’s so wonderful to have someone tell me it’s OK to pray “ANY”
    I just heard a Lenten talk in which the speaker sort of rebuked us for praying while we’re lying down (as in waking in the night and needing to think about something positive by praying.) I was a bit put off by that as middle of the night prayer is one of my “go to” kinds of prayer. Of course, I pray other times as well, but you have reassured me that I’m doing OK even in the middle of the night. Thank you – so much to think about as we approach the Paschal Mystery joyfully. Lent flew by – I only pray I did at least a few things I should have done to help me have a blessed Easter season. Peace to you and all who follow your blog. Happy Easter.

    1. Patt, I’m so glad I could reassure you that lying-down-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-praying can be a wonderful prayer! What keeps us awake, what is on our minds, whatever is in our hearts–this is the “stuff” of prayer! Peace to you too, Patt! Thanks for gracing my blog with your words! Melannie

  8. From the play “Fiddler On the Roof” I recall the poor father’s heartfelt, genuine, spontaneous prayer to God as he sang “If I Were A Rich Man”. The setting was not a synagogue, but the animal barn. He spoke sincerely friend to Friend – true prayer can take place anyWHERE.

    1. Christine, I just happened to turn on the movie channel a few weeks ago and Tevye was just starting to sing “If I were a rich man”–and yes, in the barn! I loved the way he could converse so easily with his God! Thanks for the reminder of his example! Melannie

  9. Hi and thanks for this beautiful reflection on prayer.
    One of my favorites is “Pray as you can not as you can’t.
    That is from Abbot John Chapman in his wonderful book
    The Spiritual Letters of Dom John Chapman.
    Br. Luke OSB

  10. Br. Luke, I too love the quote you shared with us: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” And another one I like is: “When praying, start where you are!” Sometimes I begin my morning prayer by asking myself this question, “So, Melannie, where are you this morning?” The answer helps me get in touch with my worries, my joys, my tiredness, my concerns, my hopes–all of which might be a good place to start my prayer. Thanks for your addition to this reflection, Luke! Melannie

  11. sister your blog reminded me of my ironing my grandson’s shirts when he went to HS ironing his shirts was my prayer for him. Yes i do believe in many forms of prayer. thank you for your message and blessed Holy Week

    1. Mary, You’ve given us another beautiful example of prayer-in-action. Doing this task for your grandson is a very fine prayer! Thank you for sharing it! Melannie

  12. Thanks for the reminder Sister – that everyday words and actions are all prayers when offered to God in the spirit of love. I have a good friend who is a firefighter/EMT – whenever I see an ambulance or fire truck I say a prayer for the person/people who might need these professionals’ help. I also say a prayer of thanksgiving that me/mine do not need those services at the time. Makes you stop and think. Have a wonderful Easter!

    1. Barb, Saying a little prayer every time you hear/see a fire truck or ambulance is a very good habit to adopt. We may be having a very good day, but we are reminded that others might be having a very difficult day. So we support them with our prayer. Thanks for your example! Melannie

  13. Thank you Sister Melannie. For a number of years I have read/prayed many spiritual books while in the bathroom. At times it didn’t seem to be very prayerful but you have put my mind at ease. I do try to pray at various times of the day but somehow the bathroom seems to be the starting place. Again thanks

    1. Robert, Thanks for reminding us that there is NO place where prayer cannot enter… Seeing our face in the mirror (no matter how terrible we may look so early in the morning!) is an incentive to thank God for the precious gift of another day! Thank you for your comment! Melannie

  14. Dear Melannie,
    Thank you for the reminder that in prayer, anything goes, anywhere goes, and anyhow goes. I believe that prayers of desolation are not a lack of faith, because if we had a real lack of faith, we wouldn’t be praying!
    Blessings to you this Holy Week!

    1. Annie, You give us a new “twist” on those prayers of desolation. Thank you! No matter the form our prayer may take (despair… anger…), it is our attempt to converse with our God–which of itself is an act of faith! Melannie

  15. Good Morning Sr. Melannie,
    May your Holy Week & Easter be Blessed!
    Thank you for this wonderful reflection! Today I especially needed to hear this…31 years ago my so John was hit by a car & sustained a severe TB, which left him paralyzed on the left side, unable to walk, talk or eat. We went through many battles & triumphs in the 10,489 days we were Blessed with after the accident.
    Songs like “You Are Near” & “I Believe in the Sun” became my mantra. The Lord Blessed us with a 9 day pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1999, which gave both of us Peace to accept the journey we were asked to follow. The emotions come in waves, but Prayer & the songs keep me from the undertow.
    Thank you again for your weekly inspirations. I really look forward to them.

    1. Roberta, My deepest sympathy to you and all you experienced with your son. I can understand how the power of song must have helped you through some immensely difficult times. I’m so glad you have the privilege of going to Lourdes with him and received the “miracle of peace.” I was really touched by these words of yours: “The emotions come in waves, but Prayer & the songs keep me from the undertow.” I’m sure many of us who are experiencing grief resonate with your beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your story. Melannie

  16. Dear Sister Melanie,
    The daily office is filled with variety of stories and prayer sources as we draw near to Jesus’ passion and death.
    Red light prayer times are incredible!
    Vast is only one adjective that helps our human minds and souls to connect with our creator and Father of all !
    Happy and Prayer Filled Holy Week!

    1. Bert, Thank you for reminding us of the richness of the Daily Office with its “variety of stories and prayer sources.” The Daily Office is a venerable tradition of our Beloved Church…And “vast” is one word we use to begin to describe the extent of God’s creativity and God’s love. May you have a Happy and Prayer Filled Holy Week too! Thank you for writing! Melannie

  17. On desolation: I agree with Fr. Smiga. I have found that when I am feeling most desolate & vulnerable to life’s uncertainties that leaning into Christ is when I need Him most. Trusting that He hears my prayers & knows my heart is consoling. Establishing that faith relationship with Christ through prayer is vital to how I approach each day. I’ve learned to trust that He will answer my prayers & to accept when & how that response comes.

    As Easter Sunday nears, I am tankful for the sacrifice on the cross for my salvation & blessed for the opportunity of the promise of the Resurrection that ensures a place in heaven should I want it. This gift of all gifts from God is what being a Christian is all about for me.

    1. Carol, Thank you for your faith-filled response to this blog. I especially appreciated these words of yours: “Establishing that faith relationship with Christ through prayer is vital to how I approach each day.” Amen to that! Thanks again! Melannie

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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Upcoming Events

Finding God in the Ordinary and Amazing: An Afternoon with Sister Melannie

Sunday, May 19, 2024 – 1:30 – 4:00 Central – via zoom

Sponsored by the Portiuncula Center for Prayer – Frankfort, Illinois

Fee: Donation

For details visit: [email protected]

Weekend retreat at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center, Pulaski, PA
October 11-13, 2024

October 11-13, 2024

Details to follow

Retreat with the Sisters of Loretto, Nerinx, KY
September 8-13, 2024

September 8-13, 2024

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Retreat at Lial Renewal Center, Whitehouse, OH
August 11-18, 2024

August 11-18, 2024

Retreat at Heartland Center for Spirituality, Great Bend, KS
April 14-19, 2024

April 14-19, 2024

Details to follow