When You Can’t Pray….

“Often the longings of prayer, are diffused and muted longings,
that one barely feels at all.” [1]

How can one pray, when there isn’t the remotest desire or longing to do so?  For that matter, how can anyone fall back on prayer when they’re painfully aware of its insufficiency?    In the face of so much unnecessary suffering, exploitation, and violence, why even suggest this practice (other than not knowing what else to do or say)?

Writes author, James Finley, “There is, it seems, a deal that [our] heart makes with itself, so as NOT to admit that it harbors a longing so deep that it can’t continue…” [2]  What I think he speaks of here, is that ironclad agreement we make with ourselves – often without being consciously aware of it.   For when the mowing down of civilians is routinized; human and civil rights systematically usurped; forests, rivers, and its creatures plundered; institutions routinely violated, and fascism lauded by those in public office – is it any wonder we’ve learned to cope by shaking our heads and doing what we can to get through another day?

Yet when you’re worn out, and you can’t pray or even want to for that matter, could recognizing this be a new beginning?    Yes, the great sages and mystics throughout the ages gifted us with meaningful and beautifully composed prayers, but their stories are incomplete if we forget their own struggles. Perhaps, as James Finley has observed, “…despite their doubt and [disheartedness], through it all they perceived that God continued to love them anyway.”[3]

Prayer: Divine Maker, who knows me better than I know myself, thank you for continuing to hold me in love, even when I don’t believe in you.   Thank you for believing in me, even when I have lost faith in myself.   We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.

 

[1, 2 & 3] James Finley, from Christian Meditation

Seeking Refuge: A Reflection & Prayer for the Peoples of Ukraine

 

“In scenes reminiscent of the Blitz, adults, children, and dogs hide from airstrikes, seeking refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations.” [2]

During World War II, an intense bombing campaign was waged against the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany.    For eight months, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other strategic cities across Britain, from September 7, 1940, through May 11, 1941.    Remembered as Black Saturday, on the first day of the Blitz alone, 430 people were killed and 1,600 were badly injured.

Wrote organizer, educator, and reformer, Saint Boniface, “O God, you have been our refuge in all generations.”  But what of those fleeing war’s aggression?  Or for those unable to take flight from the encroaching chaos and mayhem?    When wanton cruelty and its destructiveness encroach upon and violate the land, what recourse does the most vulnerable, human and creature alike, have?

Martyred in 754 by an armed group of robbers, the aged Boniface was murdered along with 54 others who accompanied him.     Still, his words attesting to God’s faithfulness in the face of aggression and terror remain: urging us to continue to demand justice and mercy for the oppressed, exercise unfailing advocacy for those distant as well as near, while praying that all of God’s children and creation itself, be afforded refuge’s blessing.

Prayer: God who dwells in places of refuge, be with the peoples of Ukraine, we pray.    Yet for those not in destruction’s path, compel us to be nothing less than fierce advocates and champions of the oppressed.   So that together with those distant and near, all may savor your refuge, under the shadow of thy wings and within the hallowed gates of sanctuary.   Amen.

[1] Image from Daily Mail Online

[2] Adapted from CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Clarrisa Ward

The Hour of New Clarity

 

You must give birth to your images, they are the future waiting to be born. [1]

 Just as the unborn child will not tarry when its time has finally arrived; nor can the artist, the writer, the poet, the musician, the mystic, or the prophet.  Speaking in the imperative, Rilke emphasizes, “You must give birth to your images.”  Not when you’re feeling like it, or when the occasion seems right.    Not when others dictate the appropriate time.

But what if the future isn’t necessarily completely out of our hands?   What if images and ideas; plans, and proposals; and even dreams and visions, are not only conceived within imagination’s interior but nourished and incubated in a process of growth and maturation?  What if our individual and collective future(s) are far more akin to pregnancy and birthing than we allow for?

With uncertainty overwhelming our capacity to cope and teetering on the point of exhaustion, Rilke counsels, “”Fear Not the strangeness you feel… Just wait for the birth, the hour of new clarity.”  When normality has fled and you find yourself submerged in darkness, hang on to the transparency that can usher in the new.   Focus instead on the impending birth.

In this Season of Advent, when obscurity clouds our thinking and fear has the upper hand, fill us with expectation, Divine Maker, as we await the hour of new clarity.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son given.  And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Amen.  [2]

[1] Rainer Maria Rilke

[2] Isaiah 9:6

 

 

 

 

All We Can Do…

“All we can really do is love people.   We can’t change them or make them do things they’re not ready to do.  But we can love them…sometimes its from afar, but we can always send love their way.”   Vienna Pharaon

Some years back, Robert Redford directed a film called, A River Runs Through It.   The setting was in Montana, in the early years of the 20th century.   It is a story about a father and his two sons.

A Presbyterian minister, the father taught his sons fly-fishing while telling them stories about Jesus and his disciples as fishermen.    As his sons grew into manhood, fishing grew to be a mutual bond and avid practice amongst all of them.  Yet the youngest son’s unwillingness to let go of dimensions of himself that were self-destructive led to his early death.

“All we can really do is love people,” ponders one.   “We can’t change them or make them do things they’re not ready to do.”    Indeed, for every grieving parent, sister, brother, husband, or wife unable to help those whom they love; for those struggling to save a beloved companion or friend from the throes of addiction; for those separated by COVID, distance or alienation; for every counselor, physician, nurse, minister or first responder striving to ease suffering; there are those whom we cannot reach, those whom we cannot help, much less retrieve from harm’s way.

“But we can love them.”  Towards the end of the movie, the father and minister was portrayed preaching before his congregation.   By all accounts, it was another Sunday service and sermon.  But for this father, his words spoke volumes.   He spoke for all of us.

“…It is true that we can seldom help those closest to us… But we can still love them… We can love—completely—even without complete understanding…. [1]

In this Season of Advent, where darkness lingers and those whom we love are out of our reach, be with us, Divine Maker, so that we can love them as you would have us do.  Amen.

[1] Dialogue from, A River Runs Through It, directed by Robert Redford, 1992

A prayer of lament

image of lament.jpeg

Holy One, you audaciously call us the “salt of the earth,” but who can hear you above the deafening roar of retaliation and mayhem?   You say that your followers are “the light of the world,” but what do you make of us, we who stumble in the darkness of despair?   You insist that “our light shines before others, so that they may see our good works and given glory to God in heaven,” but what if our efforts are insignificant when compared to the degradation and injustice that confronts us?

O Lord, in the face of suffering across our planet and this land now veiled in darkness, can you even hear the cries of your people?    Do you perceive the injustice committed in your name?   Are you aware of the cruelty committed against all your creation, but nevertheless justified by those who pervert your Word?

Yet you have promised that we are your children and will not forsake us – even to the end of our days.   You have sworn to be faithful, even when we have abandoned you.    You have suffused us with grace, so that we may set our sights on your hope once more.

Could it be when even a single voice is raised in opposition to wholesale complicity, it becomes salt for those weary of fabrication and incivility?   What if acts of kindness, however seemingly remote in the face of cruelty, become the illumination that lifts up the discouraged and disheartened?   Imagine if even the seemingly little that we strive to do becomes yeast, expanding the possibilities of what had seemed unlikely at best?

Hear our prayer, Divine Maker.   In your mercy, heed the distress of those who suffer – human and creature alike.   Hear the cry of those who despair of waiting in vain.    In these weary times, cover us with thy grace.  Come and come quickly, we pray.    Amen.

 

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