Jennifer Barton
Jennifer Barton
Staff Writer
September 29, 2020 // Diocese

Prayer: how women build up themselves and others

Jennifer Barton
Jennifer Barton
Staff Writer

Too fat, too short, too ugly, too unorganized, too shy, too loud, too ordinary. Satan whispers sly little lies in the ears of women, even Catholic women, who sometimes get caught up in them and begin to believe.

Mary Jo Parrish is the founder of Kingdom Builders, a ministry that encourages and builds up women as children of God. She’s heard those kinds of lies too and has worked to develop insight into ways women can combat those feelings of unworthiness. Her primary tools? Prayer and encouragement.

“I have often listened to the lies of the evil one, who whispers that I must be more pure, more perfect, more organized or have all my dishes and laundry done before I deserve to rest in the love of God. If only I work harder, if I offer up more suffering, if I can just stop falling into that sin, then I will be worthy of God’s love,” Parrish said. “All those requirements are exhausting and overwhelming.”

Through reading Neil Lozano’s book, “Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance,” Parrish learned to recognize the untruths of Satan and to renounce them. Once she began to do that, she said she experienced a peace and joy that they had stolen from her. “It was like the scales fell from my eyes and I could see the design of other women as well. The Divine Artist has created so many masterpieces.”

Building up women and creating a structure of support has become a calling for Parrish. She advises other women to first deepen their love for God and allow Him to change their hearts before they attempt to provide help to others. Only then can women love other women in the way the Lord intends, she said. “When we do this, all else falls into place.”

Prayer is the glue that binds a woman to God, said Parrish. She recommends to every woman that she find a method of prayer that works best and make it a priority, even in the busyness of daily life. Parrish personally enjoys reciting the rosary; she has friends who prefer listening to podcasts on Formed.org or attending daily Mass or adoration. One woman confided that fasting helped her turn to God as a source of comfort.

The Kingdom Builders website has a section specifically geared toward different types of prayer, because it is vital to a woman’s spiritual life.

“If prayer feels difficult, ask the Lord to reveal why. What are the barriers or lies the evil one uses to keep you from resting in God’s love? Ask God to give you the desire to pray,” she advised. “The evil one will attempt to make us feel bad about prayer. He will also tell us our prayer must be perfect and without distraction. That is a lie to keep us from prayer.”

Jodi Marlin

At Kingdom Builders meetings, Parrish reminds women that they are unique and that no two women are in the same place in their lives. She communicates, often with personal admissions, that it’s illogical to compare the cleanliness of an empty nester’s home to a house bustling with young children.

When women put God first in their lives, Parrish said, “we are no longer tempted to fall into the shame of comparison because we feel and know we are loved individually and uniquely… He designed you to be uniquely you.”

Sometimes even well-meaning women’s ministries fall into the trap of grumbling rather than complimenting. Although unburdening oneself does have some value, it can sometimes devolve into complaints and comparisons instead of seeking the will of God.

Parrish recommends that when speaking with a woman who’s sharing a difficult matter, instead of responding with a rote “I understand,” her friend could ask her to pray together, leading her to the feet of the one who can give her true rest.

Women are often encumbered by the weight of all the things they believe they need to accomplish during the day, Parrish said. During a past Kingdom Builders meeting, she used the visual image of God revealing Himself to saintly women in their homes, because women often do not have the time to traverse mountains to meet Him. She noted that Teresa of Ávila, the great Spanish mystic, is credited as saying, “God moves among the pots and pans.”

Using time in the domestic sphere is a wonderfully creative way to meet God, she continued. Medieval monks prayed at work; modern women can easily do the same by making their work into a prayer. Indeed, even exercise can be a fruitful prayer. Parrish calls this “workout and pray” rather than “work and pray.”

Kingdom Builders has a core team of five women who regularly pray first-time visitors to a Kingdom Builders event will come and “claim their inheritance of peace and joy. I think all women need this message. Women love romantic movies and books because our souls were made to be desired, cherished, fought for, embraced, loved … not just by a boyfriend or husband, but by Jesus Christ.” It does not matter where one encounters the love that God outpours on His children, she said, but it is crucial to take that time with God before trying to build others up. “The more time we spend snuggled up with our Creator, the more He builds us, and the more powerful we become.”

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