Q: I understand the Welcoming Prayer is about acceptance. But what about change and action? If your boss treats you bad, your doctor ignores your health, if someone threatens your loved ones? Doesn’t the Welcoming Prayer make us passive in situations?
A: The Welcoming Prayer is indeed a surrender practice, but if we think of surrender as something passive that makes us spiritual doormats, we need to think again and reflect on the evidence to the contrary. It‚Äôs not surprising that people associate surrender with passivity. In many cases through history the church has encouraged people in various ways to become passive victims, to tolerate situations that are intolerable. If we surrender to unhealthy, abusive, dysfunctional, unjust situations and people, then we are allowing ourselves to become victims. But the WP is not at all about this kind of surrender. In WP, what we surrender to is God‚Äôs presence with us in the experience, not to any person or situation. This surrender is ‚Äúthe active exercise of a receptive power.‚Äù Surrendering in this way requires courage, the huge courage of a ‚ÄúYes‚Äù in what may be extremely difficult and challenging circumstances. Two powerful examples of this kind of surrender are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who said yes to the angel, ‚ÄúLet it be done to me according to your word,‚Äù and Jesus himself when he said ‚ÄúNot my will but thine be done.‚Äù
So the WP is about surrendering to God in the moment, accepting what we experience in the moment because that is the reality of that moment. What has already happened cannot be changed, but we can make a choice in the next moment to respond differently, to make a different decision, to break the pattern we are stuck in, and to do what we can to bring about change. In fact, discerning how to act justly with love and mercy and follow in the way of Christ IS our responsibility. The WP gives us an opportunity to ‚Äúmake a fresh choice,‚Äù as the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, to respond rather than react, so that we are doing what we want instead of what we always do unconsciously. The WP frees us and empowers us to take responsibility for our part in the scheme of things. With God‚Äôs grace, it enables us to follow Christ, even to be Christ in this world — to be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth.
– Mary Dwyer, Jim McElroy, Cherry Haisten and Therese Saulnier, members of the Welcoming Prayer service team.
If you are interested in learning the Welcoming Prayer practice, you can:
- Search the online calendar for workshops and retreats;
- Take this self-guided, online course, or;
- Use this Welcoming Prayer 40-day Contemplative Life Program booklet.