Evelyn Underhill writes ‘What, then, is Prayer? In a most general sense, it is the intercourse of our little human souls with God. Therefore, it includes all the work done by God Himself through, in, and with souls which are self-given to Him in prayer…. Prayer is a purely spiritual activity; and its real doer is God Himself, the one inciter and mover of our souls.’

On June 12, 23 days ago, the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando shocked and saddened the world.  I had just read Jason’s June 8 post about prayer a couple days before.  I had been thinking about what he said about praying for others and when the Orlando shootings happened it came to me: that is what we can do, we can pray for others and mean it. Jason wrote: The past few years, after nearly every tragedy, public and private figures alike often express that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families….I truly hope they are following through with that statement, but I’m worried that sometimes it extends no longer than the time that it takes to type the words out on Facebook. He goes on to bravely say: ‘Well, I’d like to stop this trend. Whenever I tell someone that they are in my prayers, I mean it. I truly pray for them.’ Praying for the 49 victims and the 1 perpetrator; the 43 dead from the bombing in Istanbul; those dead from the bombings in Baghdad, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Thailand, makes me feel as if the world is imploding. 

Then Sunday, July 3we learned that our beloved friend Patrice Hall’s son, Saquan Hall, was shot and killed early that morning down the street from Christ Church. Patrice has worked with the Christ Child Project for many years and is employed by the Boys and Girls Club in Alexandria. She has worked her entire career to help families in Alexandria. I spoke with Patrice today by phone and she said, "I give God all glory through my suffering and pain." She also said she feels closer to God now than before her son’s death. It’s been 3 days; I think to myself - how?  She said, "faith and prayer are the answer." 

I believe they are the only answer.

To witness her strength and faith is humbling, and I can feel her years of prayer have led her to this place of strength those of us on the outside cannot begin to imagine. I asked her what Christ Church can do for her right now because there are many wanting to help. She said to have them "ask God what needs to be done" and to let her know. She believes that through our prayer for her God will let us know what she needs. What an unexpected and faithful response. The clergy of Christ Church, three parishioners, and I are praying for her today, asking God what needs to be done for Patrice and her family.

St. Paul believed that intercessory prayer is one of the most important aspects of faith and praying for others is a recurring theme in his letters and epistles. Intercessory prayer acts as a way for him to acknowledge God’s power in the world he lived in allowing him to "share in… the Father’s redemptive love." Paul believed that prayer transformed the person doing the praying, as much as the one being prayed for, which creates a stronger bond between him/her and God.

Like Jason’s friend, I keep a list of people I pray for in my Book of Common Prayer.  The power of lighting a candle, saying the person’s name out loud and pausing with heart open to them and God is a practice that has changed me. It has opened my heart to more love, it has widened my capacity to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."  I have come to see it as a form of unity and surrender to the other and God.  St. Francis de Sales writes, "We seldom do well what we only do seldom." This is true with prayer as well. It may take practice and repetition, but like soft drops of water on a stone, over time it will make a mark on your soul that will grow until a permanent hole, or what I like to think of as a portal, is made. The portal is the conduit for the strength we need to face tomorrow and the days after that, come what may.

 

Peace, Melanie+

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