Most people do not understand the true meaning of prayer. There’s a whole science behind it, actually. To pray does not mean to ask God for favors. He is not a wish-granting genie. If that were true, everyone would be praying.
Most only pray as a last resort. During easier times when they could have been expressing gratitude, they thought they didn’t need prayer. And then the world comes crashing down, and that’s when they realize that they do.
In common life, even for religious folks, prayer is a second thought. As a nun, my life revolves around prayer. We pray as soon as we wake up, before each meal, after each meal, before we fall asleep, and hours upon hours in between.
To pray means to surrender your ego — the ego believes it is in control. It helps to get down on your knees. It’s the act of admitting that there are more powerful forces in this world than yourself. It sheds arrogance.
I have really been struggling with letting go of my ego. I go online and see pictures and videos of my friends going out and having a good time. I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out. They’re going to concerts, clubs, fancy restaurants, and all that jazz. They’re getting new haircuts, new wardrobes, and new tattoos. I continue to remind myself that I chose to give this up — all for a good reason. And yet, here I am, feeling so anxious and lost. So, I keep on praying.
I detest to say that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to pray. But there are certainly “better” ways to pray. If you feel like you just need to vent to God, go for it. But a more effective way to pray is through dedication and repetition.
My favorite prayer is the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I say this prayer at least 100 times in a row, using my prayer beads to keep count. When you repeat something over and over, your mind enters a state of trance. During trance, your mind is most vulnerable to reshaping itself. Hypnotherapy, for example, uses trance as a technique for digging deep into the subconscious.
Instead of letting myself focus on what I’m missing, I make an effort to focus on what I am gaining in my new life…
The way nuns dress themselves is something that really speaks to me on a soul level. To be honest, it was one of the reasons why I was so drawn to becoming a nun. Before you make any sexist jokes about how fashion is the only way a woman would submit to this lifestyle, let me tell you… there is a purposeful reason behind it all.
We wear black because it is a color of modesty: it does not seek attention and blends in well. It is a color of repentance: we seek forgiveness for our sins. And it is a color of simplicity: we do not let the world distract us from God.
What means the most to me is how nuns cover their hair. In modern times, not just everyday-women but also nuns specifically, are no longer required to cover their hair. In 1959, The Pope declared that this was no longer necessary. Personally, I choose to cover my hair daily, because it carries great significance to me.
The Bible states (1 Corinthians 11:4-6): Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
A lot of girls my age attempt to look like Hollywood celebrities or Instagram models. But when I see artistic depictions of the Virgin Mary, that’s who I strive to be. I want to be more like her. And she is always presented with a beautiful veil.
Poor females are pit against each other, not only in the media, but in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s a movie or social media, we feel so much pressure to compete with one another. Maybe you have nice hips, but she has the perfect thighs. Or you have decent arms, but she has the perfect chest. And so on. We nitpick at all our little “imperfections” because no matter how good you try to look, there’s always going to be someone who looks better.
What a shame. Looks say absolutely nothing about character. As humans, we know this, but we don’t really know it. We let ourselves get fooled by beauty all the time. And it’s only human to let yourself feel mesmerized by someone’s looks. So why do we continue to let ourselves fall into this trap?
When you swap trendy clothes for a black robe and veil, is when you truly feel your beauty shine. Looking in the mirror, I used to pick out all my differences and fixate on them. Now, I see my eyes. I pay much more attention to my eyes. The eyes are the portal to the soul.
With all these restrictions, ironically, I feel liberated. Living in my ego was a much more restrictive life. I was a slave to social pressure, to the media, to external distractions. As I chain down my ego, my soul soars free like a bird.
I shield my hair and my body away from the world, but not from myself… and perhaps someday to a husband, if I end up going down that path… anyway, I’m proud of the beautiful body God gave me. Just because I cover it from the world, does not mean I feel shameful. My body is a temple, as The Bible states. I treat it with care and the upmost respect. I see it and appreciate it with my own eyes.
1 Peter 3:3-4: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
For the right man, my body could be a key to God’s kingdom. But for the entire world, it can bring chaos, lethal lust, and distraction from truth. So, as I get dressed and ready this morning for a new day, I shoo away thoughts of temptation. I remember how nice it felt getting a plethora of compliments after buying a new outfit or changing my hairstyle. But I also remember how empty it felt!
I look in the mirror as I cover my hair with my veil. I truly appreciate my hair and how it looks. Yet I feel this is my duty to put my looks away for the day in order to give God my full attention. All the times I wasted thinking negative thoughts about my appearance in the mirror — could have been replaced with hope, faith, and prayer.
I feel empowered to cover myself. The empty compliments are meaningless. This is something I am choosing… God gave us free-will to disobey Him any time. I choose to obey God. My ego is barely hanging on — it’s really struggling. However, I am a fighter. I’m fighting for my soul.