"Prayer changes us." Mother Teresa

Some of you may know that we help support a small, diverse group of UVa women who live intentionally on the blurred borders of where the UVa world meets the broader community. This particularly diverse neighborhood, which is feeling the pressure of increased gentrification, has a rich history that the Perkins House has sought to honor. Knowing that prayer is in part listening, they formed a friendship with a local neighbor and are partnering to restore a historic church to create a space for building bridges between the past and present, between black and white, between UVa and the community. They are beginning with a Neighborhood Concert on March 30th.

Mother Teresa once said, "I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things." How might God be leading you to love your neighbor in a radical new way this month? 


New friendships with students and community folks.

UVa Sisters, Noelle McDonald and Norah McDonald, as their father was just diagnosed with a serious illness.

A friend just diagnosed with cancer.

Alison - for work on her dissertation.

Molly's dad as he struggles with a long term illness.

MacKenzie's dad as he fights a serious illness.

Our dear friend Ginny as she fights cancer.

Share your own petition  


For our Spring Vintage lunch series on Sheroes & Heroes.

For the recruitment of our Horizons & Perkins Fellows for 2019-20. More here.

Safety over spring break.

-Christy Yates, Associate Director

November Prayers | "Prayers are tools...for being and becoming." Eugene Peterson

Greetings, friends.

Like many of you, the words and life of Eugene Peterson have helped expand my imagination of a life lived well through faith. Peterson, who died last month, taught us to 'live eucharist,' to embody in our fleshly, daily lives the love and artistry of Jesus. He wrote that "prayers are tools not for doing or getting but for being and becoming." And within those words is the call to indwell our prayers, to listen to the still voice of God. He had a habit of memorizing the psalms and poetry, to literally hold the words within his imagination. 

How could our prayers transform us more into the likeness of the resurrected Christ? What habits might cultiviate a posture of listening and becoming, more than doing and getting?

Watch this short film with Eugene and Jan Peterson at their home in Montana.


Our Capps Lecture with Jonathan Merritt. 

A successful board retreat.


A dear friend whose father just committed suicide.

Jerry Capps, for physical healing and health.

Alison - for work on her dissertation.

Molly's dad as he struggles with a long term illness.

Our dear friend Ginny as she fights cancer.

Unspoken prayer requests

Share your own petition  

What Does Every College Kid Need? Good Friends. - Jodie Berndt

We are doing a book give away of Jodie's new book, Praying the Scriptures for your Adult Children! Email us your name and mailing address by midnight, Friday, January 12th and we'll announce the winners early next week!

I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer:  I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.

Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.

God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps: 



The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow. Hillary had a great roommate and her life swirled with classes and social activities, but she had not yet discovered “her people.” There was friendship space that had yet to be filled.

Our kids need good friends. We can’t make them for them, but we can certainly ask God to provide. And as we pray for this need—as we partner with God to accomplish his good purposes in our kids’ lives—let’s look to the Scriptures for insight on what matters most. There are, obviously, all sorts of ways we might pray; here are three of my top friendship requests:

Constancy. The Bible offers several portraits of friendships marked by loyalty, dependability, and faithfulness:  Jonathan and David. Ruth and Naomi. And of course Jesus, the one who promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let’s ask God to give our kids faithful friends and to draw them into a life-giving relationship with Jesus, the one who gave up his life “for his friends” (John 15:13).

Next, Transparency. When I was a student at U.Va., I had two roommates (Susan and Barbie), and we gave each other permission to be what we called “brutally honest.” It didn’t matter if we were critiquing an iffy outfit or confronting each other about a questionable behavior; we spoke the truth. We tried to do so with love, but even the gentlest rebukes sometimes hurt. “Faithful,” Proverbs 27:6 says, “are the wound of a friend.” Let’s ask God to give our college kids friends like that—friends with whom they can admit their mistakes and find restoration, forgiveness, and genuine love.

And finally, let’s pray that our kids will enjoy friendship with other believers, the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 13:14, the kind that fosters connection, not just on the natural level, but also in the deepest recesses of the soul. Friendships forged around common interests (sports teams, Greek life, good books) are wonderful, but when the common ground of eternity comes into play, the most satisfying relationships—the kind that transcend things like race, age, and socioeconomic background—can take root. Let’s ask God to surround our children with friends who will “spur them on toward love and good deeds” and run alongside them as they “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (Hebrews 10:24, 2 Timothy 2:22)

If you like praying this way—taking the words we find in the Bible, and using them to give shape to our prayers—you’ll find hundreds of prayer prompts in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. In addition to the prayers about friendship, the book covers grown-up needs like getting a job, resisting the party culture, and making the transition to adulthood with wisdom, purpose, and grace.

It doesn’t matter how old our kids are, or how far away they may go. We never stop loving them. We never stop wanting God’s best for their lives. We might not be able to pick their friends (or anything else they might choose), but we can pray. We can slip our hand into God’s—the One who loves them enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ask or imagine—and trust him to do what he promised.

It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)


Jodie Berndt is a 1984 graduate of The University of Virginia and a former co-chair of the U.Va. Parents Fund Committee. The author of nine books (including the popular Praying the Scriptures series), Jodie is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher. Find her writing at, or connect with her on Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes), Instagram (@jodie_berndt), and Twitter (@jodieberndt).

Jodie and her husband, Robbie (Class of 1985), have four Wahoo children and two Hokie sons-in-law. Which, except during football season, is not such a bad thing.



Interview with Erin Zoutendam for the Goodwin Prize

What inspired you to pursue an advanced degree in theology?  

I started my master’s degree in theological studies for very pragmatic reasons: I thought I might like to go into academic editing, and a master’s degree seemed like it would help. But I very quickly fell in love with what I was studying, and I had some excellent professors along the way who encouraged me in what I was doing.

I’m now on my third theological degree, and I kept going for the same reason that I think a lot of people keep going: I still had (and have) questions about God.  I’m especially interested in historical theology and retrieving wisdom from the historical church. A lot of my research has focused on women’s theological writing, on the theology of contemplation and prayer, and on how people have historically read and interpreted the Bible. All of those areas touch on my own life; indeed, the questions I have in my own faith have tended to drive and shape my research.

What do you hope to do with your degree? 

I hope to teach someday, particularly at a seminary or divinity school. When I was pursuing my MTS and ThM degrees, I loved being in class with people who were going to be ministers. I’d never been around so many people who love the church and who are so committed to it. My classmates were really a gift, and it gives me great hope to know that someday the church will be in their hands. I would love to teach people like them in the future.

Where do you see connections between your personal faith, your intellectual work and the other aspects of your life? 

In a beautiful essay called “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God,” twentieth-century mystic Simone Weil writes that the heart of prayer is attention: focused and unwavering attention to God. School studies, as she calls them, train and develop our faculty of attention. When I first read this essay, it made sense of why I have always loved my studies. Even when I was young, I found myself able to be interested in almost any subject. Part of this was because my parents, who are both very faithful people, did a wonderful job encouraging curiosity, wonder, and age-appropriate kinds of reading and research when I was young.

What my love of learning taught me was a disposition of attentive wonder. I have always had a sense that there is something new to learn just around the bend. That disposition is something that I try to bring to my personal faith. Of course, there is always a danger, at least for me, that study will come to eclipse spiritual practices: it is easy to spend all day reading about prayer and still forget to actually pray. So while I am by no means an “expert” at prayer or faith—and in fact I’m pretty poor at those things—I do try to worship and pray in a state of attentive wonder.

This disposition of wonder, which was nurtured by my studies as a young child and integrated into my faith as an adult, feeds right back into my intellectual work. Sometimes “’academic” theology is stereotyped as dry or abstract, but I find God everywhere in my work. I’m particularly drawn to theological writers whose lives and theology are one, and one place I find that is in medieval female mystics, although certainly it exists among many other theologians.

How would you summarize your paper for someone without a theological background? 

Crying is something that everyone does—in fact, it is the very first thing you do when you’re born. And yet, scientifically speaking, we don’t know that much about tears. But historically, tears have been understood to possess great power: the power to communicate, the power to persuade, the power to heal, the power to redeem. This was never more the case than in the Middle Ages, when weeping was a common devotional practice. The question underlying my paper is how we might reclaim a theological understanding of tears. I explore this question through the lens of Catherine of Siena’s writing on tears in The Dialogue. Catherine was a fourteenth-century Italian mystic, theologian, and activist.

In my paper, I propose that Catherine viewed tears as an embodiment of individual desires. In other words, tears are a way for what is going on in your soul to become manifest in your body. I also argue that Catherine saw desire not as something bad to be eliminated but rather as something to be redirected. In other words, there is bad desire—greed, envy, the desire for vengeance—but there is also good desire—namely, the love of God. The goal is to convert bad desire into good desire, which is a lifelong process. I think that for Catherine, tears, as an embodiment of desire, could be ordered toward an end: self-knowledge and spiritual formation. I hope that by exploring the spiritual dimension of tears we can better understand how to learn from and be formed by our own tears.

How might this award make a difference in your life? 

First of all, it is affirming on a personal level to know that my work resonates with other people.  This particular paper has been near to my heart since I began writing it, and while I had a few affirming conversations with friends as I was researching it, it is encouraging to know that the work is of interest to others.

From a financial perspective, I hope to use the prize to further my studies. A lot of the research I am interested in is in German (as are some of the primary sources), and my German simply isn’t very strong yet. I hope to use the prize to take a German course in Germany and become much more confident in my language abilities.

How do you spend your time when you are not studying? 

I’ve recently taken up birdwatching. My husband jokes that I like birdwatching because of the “taxonomical potential”—that is, because I’ve always been a sorter, a list-maker, and a bit obsessive. All of those things really pay off in birding! Learning the field markings for different species of sparrows is very exciting to me, which I know sounds odd. So my husband is not wrong, but I also think birdwatching is—like prayer, like studies—fundamentally about attention and expectation. You can’t summon birds, although you can try to put yourself in the right place at the right time.

When I’m not studying or birding, I like to read literary fiction. I enjoyed gardening before we moved to our apartment this year, and I also like traveling with my husband and spending time with our two cats.

Any other comments? 

I would like to thank the professors who helped with this paper. I originally wrote it for an independent study supervised by Dr. Han-luen Kantzer Komline, whose careful reading and sharp eye for argumentation made the paper significantly stronger. And I first read Catherine of Siena’s work with Dr. Frans van Liere, who  took a semester to read through the works of eight medieval women with me—a semester that has profoundly shaped my academic career. It was he who first suggested to me that there might be something of interest in Catherine’s chapter on tears.


To learn more about the Goodwin Prize in Theological Writing, click here.