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Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: The lifeline of welcoming prayer

Lynne Baab • Thursday May 14 2020

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: The lifeline of welcoming prayer

I am a planner. The inability to plan is one of the frustrations of sheltering in place without a sense of when this will end. Last week a friend asked me what I would plan if I could. Definitely a trip to see our granddaughter. And definitely a painter to change the color on the walls of our living room and dining room while we are away. This trip and painting were planned for early April, and like so many people who had to change travel plans, I was really frustrated that two things I had planned didn’t happen.

Last week I came across a form of prayer that is helping me address my frustrated love of planning: Welcoming Prayer. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes its purpose: “Welcoming Jesus into every part of my life, body, circumstances and relationships.” And she gives this definition: “Welcoming prayer is a way to detach from my need to be secure, liked and in control, and attach to the presence of Jesus instead.” [1]

Calhoun and her co-authors describe four movements of welcoming prayer:

  • I let go of my desire for security and survival. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.
  • I let go of my need for approval and affection. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.
  • I let go of my need for control and power. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.
  • I let go of my desire to change this reality. Welcome, Jesus, welcome. [2]

Several friends have told me that my love of planning fits under the desire for control. I respectfully disagree with that. Yes, control plays a role in my love of planning, no doubt about it, but planning for me is not only related to control. My love for planning comes from an enjoyment of time and how it can be used wisely and strategically to build relationships, bring joy, and help me and others draw near to God. I truly believe I usually, mostly use my ability to plan in a way that serves God’s values.

And while I admit there’s a component of control in my love of planning, I have to admit a component of security as well. I feel secure when I have good plans in place.

However, in this pandemic, I simply cannot plan in the same way I’m used to. I need to let go of the drive and desire to plan. In this past week, I’ve been trying to do that. And I’ve been saying, “Welcome, Jesus, welcome” more often, inviting Jesus into my strange, new, often unplanned patterns of life.

Here’s more of what Calhoun and her co-authors says about welcoming prayer. These words are so relevant in these unsettling days:

“We can only find God in what is – not in what is not. The last movement of the welcome prayer surrenders to God and reality. The prayer is, ‘I let go of my need to change reality, and I receive reality as it is right now. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.’

“When we are resistant to what is happening in the moment, we try to force it to become something else. Welcoming prayer works with our resistances as well as with the anger, shame, anxiety, and fear that surfaces throughout the day. If you are resisting letting go, pray, ‘Welcome into my resistance. Welcome, Jesus, come set me free.’ Welcoming prayer . . . opens a space for being with Jesus and what is in the moment.” [3]

Lord Jesus, help us to find you in what is. Help us to stop looking for you in what is not. Help us to lean into our daily reality and look for you there. Help us to stop resisting this strange reality we are living in. We welcome you, Jesus, and we ask for your help in welcoming you more deeply each day.

(Next week: another lifeline. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Some articles and blog posts on related topics:

[1] Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us, Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015, 287.
[2] Adele and Doug Calhoun, Clare and Scott Loughrige, Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram: A Handbook for Harmony and Transformation, Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2019, 209.
[3] Spiritual Rhythms of the Enneagram, 210.

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