“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Pray, It May Be The Last Thing

Pray for those
who persecute you.

Have you ever
actually
tried to do this?

I did once.

I was having
a very difficult time
with someone
who had a fair amount
of authority and control
over my life
and was causing me
all kinds of challenges.

Because this person
could influence
the outcome
of some work
I was doing
I had to tread lightly.

I wanted
to dislike this person
and rail against them,
but
that would have been
counter productive.

One day
it occurred to me
that
what I ought to be doing
was praying for this person.

Admittedly
the very thought
of holding this person
in my prayers
almost made me ill.

Prayer was my time
with God,
a time for me
to be vulnerable,
to share my grievances,
a time to be silent
and still,
to find peace.

All of that
would be disrupted
if I brought this person
into my prayers.

And so
for a time
I fought the impulse
to pray for this person.

But eventually
I decided to try praying
for this person.

My anger
was so strong
that all I could muster
was to say the persons name
while in prayer,
and nothing else.

Day after day
for months
I offered this person,
by name,
up in prayer.

Nothing else,
just their name.

And a weird thing happened.

After awhile
my anger subsided
and went away.
Somehow
I had the ability within
to no longer
allow the actions
of this person
to manage
how I felt.

Something inside me
shifted
and I was no longer held
in the grip
of that person.

True
the person continued
to be who they were,
not nice.
But their impact
on me
was diminished,
gone.

Inside
I felt a greater
ease and peace.

Praying for those
who wound us
does not mean
that we accept
abuse
or violence
or bad behavior.

We are to love self –
neither
abusing others
nor accepting
abuse of self
are acts of love.

Praying is an act
that invites transformation
because it is an invitation
for God to act
in and through us.

Joan Chittister
in her book,
Scarred by Struggle
Transformed by Hope says,
“The hard thing
to come to understand
in life
is that it is the
becoming
that counts,
not the achievements…
When despair comes
we have to dispel it
with hope,
we have to make
the effort…
holding on
when holding on
seems pointless,
brings us
to that point of
personal transformation
which is the juncture
of maturity and sagacity…
the struggles of life
may indeed shunt us
from mountain top
to mountain top
but
they will not
destroy us.” (pg 110)

Prayer has enabled me
to have hope
when I had no hope,
to take that next breath,
that next step,
prayer holds onto me
until I can take the next one,
to keep on going.

Because prayer
has enabled hope
to live within me.
And hope enables me
to trust
in the ultimate goodness
of God,
even when
all the evidence
is to the contrary.

Today
I invite us
into a week of prayer
with the hope
of transforming
the tragedy of 9-11
into a mission of unity.

This transformation
is not just my hope.

There is a movement afoot,
from the Presiding Bishop,
Katharine Jefforts Schori,
to various agencies
and houses of worship
in the Detroit metropolitan area,
seeking
this transformation
from tragedy
to hope and unity.

Prayer is an action,
a response,
we can make
to an egregious act
of senseless violence.

Prayer is as much about
transforming our hearts
as it about transforming
the hearts of others,
even those
who persecute us.

Prayer helps me
as I strive
to follow the instruction
of Paul
in his letter
to the Romans:
“for the one
who loves
another has fulfilled
the law.”

I invite you
to participate
in the prayer vigil
held here tomorrow,
beginning with a special
Labor Day Eucharist
at 10am,
followed by a prayer vigil
until 7pm.

I invite you
to also take home
and use this
book of prayers
we created for
individuals and families
for a week of prayer.

And,
I invite you
to pray with me now,
opening
the Book of Common Prayer
to page 833,
let us pray
the prayer attributed to St. Francis:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace...


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