A prayer to guide my speech
A Reflection for Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.
Minutes before I step out onto the stage, I do what I always do before I speak in public or give an interview to another journalist: I pray a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide my words. After that, I trust that things will go well. And they almost always do.
Despite having delivered dozens of talks over the past few years, I still get nervous in the quiet moments before each one. I’m afraid I won’t remember the stories I want to tell. Will the punch line land? What if I forget the key details? Or maybe the crowd will be hostile (they never are) or bored (sometimes they are)? I want to make sure that I’m giving those who are curious about what I have to say something valuable to walk away with. But I can’t do that if I’m racked with anxiety.
So I prepare as best I can. I think about what I want to say. I practice. And finally, I pray.
I don’t have a strict formulation I follow and I’m not even sure that there are words I use each time. At Loyola Press, the author Chris Smith explains that this is not unusual.
I prepare as best I can. I think about what I want to say. I practice. And finally, I pray.
“Sometimes our prayer is beyond being captured by any words. This is when the prayer of our hearts can be made by the Spirit in a language beyond our understanding,” she writes.
For me, I take a deep breath and spend a moment—maybe just a second or two—asking the Holy Spirit to guide my speech and infuse my words with wisdom, kindness and mercy.
Underlying my prayer is trust, a belief that is affirmed in the passage from today’s Gospel: “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”