Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of Your way.
Fr. Mychal Judge
I first heard of Fr. Mychal and his prayer many years ago, I believe, in a story about him published in the Liguorian magazine. That article was my first knowledge and introduction to Fr. Mychal Judge. It was written within the first year after terrorists flew airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, toppling them to the ground and killing 2996 people.
Fr, Mychal was a Franciscan priest who also served as chaplain to one of the New York Fire Department units. When he heard of the first plane flying into the north tower, he rushed there to do whatever he could do to help. As he prayed over fallen victims, he was heard to pray over and over, “Jesus, please end this right now. God, please end this.” As the south tower collapsed, debris flew through the lobby of the north tower, and Fr. Mychal, along with many others, was killed.
Shortly after his death, an NYPD lieutenant found Fr. Judge’s body, and he was carried out of the building by him and several others. A photographer photographed Judge’s body being carried out of the rubble by the five men. This photograph became one of the most famous images related to 9/11, and has been called “an American Pietà.” Fr. Mychal Judge was designated as “Victim 0001” and thereby recognized as the first official victim of the attacks.
I was so taken by Fr. Mychal’s prayer, that I clipped it out of that article and pinned it to the bulletin board above my desk at work. I found myself praying each morning before I started my day in the office seeing patients. It reminded me to trust God to take me where I was to be each moment of that day. It reminded me that the people I encountered that day were meant to be part of my life in those moments. It reminded me to sit quietly and listen, so as to speak in the way that would be most helpful to those I met. And it reminded me that nothing in life is under our control, and that to surrender to what IS in each moment, and not get in God’s way, is a path worthy of travelling.
I say this prayer before facilitating grief groups and on each morning of the weekend retreats at St. Anthony’s that I helped facilitate over the years. There have many other occasions where praying this prayer has helped me to be more centered in the day, duty, service, or activity that was in front of me.
The most powerful line of the prayer for me is, “and keep me out of Your way.” As I ponder this line, it reminds me how often I get in the way of God. We have the idea that we are independent, singular, autonomous beings. We think we know what is best for ourselves or others. We forget that ‘our ways are not necessarily God’s ways.’ We get in God’s way by pushing our own agendas and opinions upon others, telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing, thinking, or speaking. Our egos are big, and get in the way. We do and say what WE think is right for ourselves and others, but what do we really know? How do we know we are right? How do we know we are not getting in God’s way?
Unless we take time each day to quiet our minds and listen to what God is speaking in the depth of our hearts, unless we earnestly listen for God’s small still voice whispering lovingly to us, we will not be able to let all that we worry about and strive for fall into God’s arms. We will not be able to stay out of God’s way. It really does boil down to “let go and let God.” Until we can trust enough to do that, we are only fighting against ourselves and others.
I had forgotten about Fr. Judge’s prayer for a while, but now it has come back to me so powerfully that I don’t think I will forget it again. When I sincerely pray this at the beginning of the day, or before participating in an event such as a retreat or grief group, I trust that my meager efforts will be led by the Spirit. It may not go exactly as I would have planned, but I trust that each person gets what the Spirit intended for them at that moment, whether they recognize it or not. I trust that God has led me where I was to go, let me meet those I was to meet, helped me speak as He wished me to speak, and kept me out of His way.
May you find this a powerful prayer in your lives!
A lovely devotional using Fr. Mychal’s prayer: Mychal’s Prayer: Praying with Father Mychal Judge, by Salvatore Sapienza, published by Tregatti Press, www.mychalsprayer.com or on Amazon.