Mother Teresa on prayer, the poor, and spreading the presence of Jesus

I am a huge Mother Teresa fan because she was able to combine a deep spirituality with untiring service to the poor. Here is a snippet from her on prayer:
Be full of prayer. It is a beautiful gift. Pray for our poor to make use of their poverty to grow in holiness -- so pray with them and for them and pray always for yourself that you may grow in that holiness for which Our Lord has created you. It is now necessary to make it our own so that we really, really love prayer, so that we may spread His love, His compassion, His presence wherever we go.
Some things I notice in these comments:

  • We commonly hear two approaches with regard to the poor. First is the "spiritual" approach: we should strive to save people's souls, as the soul is more important than one's socioeconomic status. Western missions has often taken on this strategy. Second is the economic approach: more recently Western missions has focused increased energy on the alleviation of poverty and breaking cycles of poverty. Much good is being done in missions. And yet I don't find people asking, "How can the poor make use of their poverty to grow in holiness?" I recall Jesus teaching that it is easier for the poor to surrender to God than for the rich. Certainly Mother Teresa did not condone poverty, but she did recognize that God wants to commune with the poor in the midst of their poverty rather than ignoring it or working one-dimensionally for its elimination.
  • If the poor can make use of their poverty to grow in holiness, how can you make use of the circumstances in your life to grow in holiness?
  • All Mother Teresa says culminates in the final "so that": "so that we may spread His love, His compassion, His presence wherever we go." The Christian life isn't just about being like Jesus. It is about spreading his very presence! And that can only happen through prayer.


  1. I loved this blogpost and subject matter. It struck right at the heart of some of the things I've been struggling with lately and helped put some things in perspective as I continue to work through it. Thanks for that.


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