2018-07_LT-PrayerChangedLife

My Prayer

The Prayer that Changed my Life

It was a hot day in the summer before my freshman year of high school. My mom and I had just left Sunday 4 p.m. Mass. When we got home, my mom told me that she was going to take me swimming at my grandma’s house. On a hot summer day like this, that sounded great! I put my swim trunks on and we got in the car.

Then, to my surprise, we turned off the main road and into the church parking lot.

“Mom, we already went to Mass today…” I said, confused.

“I know we did, Nick,” my mom replied.

I continued my questioning, “So what’s going on? I know grandma loves church and all, but she can’t just move here and live here all the time… And I know for sure she can’t transport her pool here!”

My mom chuckled, “I know, I know. Look, I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you might not come, but you’re going to youth group right now, not grandma’s for swimming. I’m sorry but I think this will be good for you, you’ll probably love it!”

I was not happy. I wanted to go swimming, not to youth group. Several thoughts crossed my mind: What was this youth group? Why did teens want to be at church more than the normal hour we spent there on Sundays? Why was my mom sending me here now, late and in my swim trunks?

At that time in my life, church wasn’t very important to me. Up to that point, my mom’s custom was to bring us to Mass once a week. This more than once a week thing wasn’t something I had ever thought about trying out, especially not at a youth group where I might see another person my age I might know…

If I saw someone I knew at the youth group, would they spread the word around school that I was becoming a “church kid”? I didn’t want that label. I was a skateboarding, football playing, wrestling kid — those labels were labels I was OK with. This potential new label scared me a bit and I definitely made me feel uncomfortable.

I put aside my frustrations and went into the youth group — mainly to make my mom happy. The youth group was called Life Teen and I walked in — late and in swim trunks — right as they were doing a welcoming prayer ceremony for all the incoming freshman class teens, which included myself. I felt extremely out of place, but I decided to stay and give it a try.

My mom asked me how it went and I told her I thought it was crazy. I didn’t understand it at all and didn’t want to go back. Then she told me something that frustrated me even more. Later that week, I was going to have to wake up at five in the morning to go on a four day retreat with the people I just met at youth group.

There I was again — not terribly excited or happy — knowing my mom was sending me on this trip, whether I liked it or not. Thursday came and I loaded the bus, bright and early, at 5 a.m.

When I got on the bus, I sat by myself and didn’t talk to anyone. I remember tapping my knee out of nervousness when a kid I knew from school, named Dave, came over and sat with me. He told me that I might experience something I never had before. He said when he went on his first retreat, he felt like I was now — nervous, out of place, and completely closed to what God had in store for his life. He told me that the retreat changed his life for the better and encouraged me to simply be open to the experience and the possibility that God could change my life on this retreat, too.

As the retreat went on, Dave introduced me to some of his friends. We played ultimate frisbee, laughed, and rode rides at the theme park — this retreat wasn’t turning out to be that bad after all. I definitely felt more welcomed by the other teens. We were all getting to know each other and I was quite shocked at how not so bad this was all going.

But when was this God guy going to show up? When was I going to have this life changing moment Dave told me to be open to?

Just before we were about to enter a time of prayer and Adoration, I was talking with one of my small group leaders about my life and how I was struggling at home to have a strong relationship with my father. He encouraged me to have hope and pray to God to bless my relationship with my dad.

Then he told me something I will never forget: “Never forget that God is your Father, too. No matter what, you always have Him.”

My eyes widened and my heart opened in that moment. I realized God was my Father. I heard religious education teachers and my mom talk about “God, the Father” growing up, but no one ever talked to me about God, my Father.

That retreat was the first time I experienced prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was nervous, but after that conversation with my small group leader, my heart was open. I remember feeling like I didn’t know how to pray, but I did know that God was my Father, so I started there.

I prayed, “You’re my Father, God. You’re my Father, God. You’re my Father. Thank you.”

I was so joyful, so thankful, and so at peace in that prayer. I broke down in tears in that moment, totally and completely accepting God as my Father.

Since that prayer, my life is so much more peaceful, even when I experience struggles. I trust that I have a Relentless Father who is always guiding me, seeking a deeper relationship with me, and desiring that I open my heart to Him.

That prayer taught me to rely on God and discern His guidance and will in everything, which caused me to seek more time with the Lord in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Remember how at the beginning of this story I said I would have never accepted the label of “church kid”? Well, that changed completely. I became proud of my heavenly Father. I began to claim Him as my own and allowed Him to have my heart.
The prayer, “your will be done,” was no longer just a nice line from the Our Father, but my new personal mission statement.

So that’s the story of the prayer that changed my life and I hope that you can learn a few things from it:

  1. God is your Father, too.
  2. Open your heart of to God as your Father and get to know Him personally in prayer. Ask Him questions, tell Him what’s happening in your life, or just simply be still and know that He is always with you.
  3. Meditate on how amazing it is that you are a child of God!

Have hope in your Relentless Father. “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” (Matthew 6:9)

About the Author

Nick Longo

Nick Longo is a youth minister and recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest from Syracuse, New York (go Orange!). On those rare occasions when he's not hanging out with his wife, Christina, or trading his Vineyard Vines for vintage flannel, Nick is running This Catholic Life, a ministry on a mission to evangelize the world through the power of social media. Connect with Nick on Twitter and Instagram @nick_j_longo.