Three Steps to Turn Suffering into Prayer
by Katie Warner
“Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.” –St. Teresa of Avila
- Remember the words of the Morning Offering throughout your day, and give to God those moments of strength and weakness, those moments of joys and sufferings, so that He can use them.
- Many saints asked that God would use their suffering for a particular reason; St. Bernadette asked that God would use her suffering for the conversion of sinners, for example. Maybe it might help to choose a particular cause you would like to pray for, and ask God to use what you give to Him that day, for your cause.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote that suffering was one way that God can use as a means of trying to reach us, to speak to us, and bring us closer to Him. The next time you are suffering, ask yourself, “Where is God trying to lead me through this suffering?”
Morning Offering Prayer to the Sacred Heart
“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father for this month.”
More Resources on Suffering & Prayer
“For Friends in Crisis” (Grace Urbanski, Praying with Grace)
Katie (Peterson) Warner of Cat
One of the things I love about being Catholic is how deeply we believe in God’s
ability to bring good out of our suffering. As christians we believe that suffering has
meaning and that God does not let our sufferings go to waste. He allows us to share
in it’s redemptive value when we offer up our sufferings and unite our cross with
His cross for the building up of the body of Christ.
The way we take advantage of this “offering up” of the small and heavy crosses in
our lives is through prayer. Here are a few ides on how to turn your suffering into
First, begin the day with The Morning Offering.
My family recites this prayer every day before my husband heads to work and we
begin our day. And it’s amazing how now that it is a habit I find myself referring
back to the words about suffering in this prayer as I encounter suffering in whatever
form it comes in throughout the day.
If you aren’t familiar with it, the prayer goes like this:
The Morning Offering
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the word,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
If you don’t have this prayer memorized, I recommend you print it out (again, it’s
called The Morning Offering) and start reciting it every morning. Really focusing
on offering all that you go through that day to God so He can use it for good.
Second, informally ask God throughout the day to use your sufferings as they occur
So, if you start your day with The Morning Offering it really helps to keep that
mentality of offering up suffering as a prayer throughout the day by continual
shorter informal prayers as you encounter those hiccups.
You could say something as simple as, “Lord, I offer up this frustration I’m feeling
for the consolation of my friend Jackie who has cancer”. Or, “I offer the annoyance
of this flu for the strengthening of my marriage”.
In addition to asking God to apply the merits of that suffering to an intention close
to your heart, you can also pray that He will use them as He or His mother sees fit
for the good of the Church. Your moment of frustration, your sickness, your pain:
all of that can have tangible benefit in the lives of others. Some of whom you may
never meet. All because you offered those sufferings to our Lord to use for a greater
Third, follow St. Therese of Lisieux’s practice of using sacrifice beads.
Sacrifice beads can be made or purchased and are made up of a string of ten beads
with a crucifix at one end (reminding us to follow our call to take up our cross and
follow Christ) and a medal of St. Terese at the other end. That reminds us of the
importance of following her “little way” of spirituality in which she let no small
suffering go to waste.
Keep the beads in your pocket and when you mentally and prayerfully offer up
something to God, in union with Christ’s sufferings on the cross, slide one of the
beads towards the crucifix. This is a great way to have something physical
associated with this prayer practice. So you can see how those moments of suffering
you are experiencing are one-by-one being handed over to our Lord.
Since I love so much of what St. Teresa of Avila has written about prayer, I’ll
conclude with one of these thoughts from her writings on prayer and suffering she
“One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up
his sufferings to God and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who
goes away by himself and meditates his head off.”
So, take comfort in the fact that your suffering is never wasted and that it may be
one of the greatest forms of prayer that you have to offer to God.