I’ve often struggled with prayer – at least the kind of prayer that consists of talking to something that I can’t see. Add to that this crazy idea that something is listening to me and I can ask for things?? I don’t know about that… Sounds pretty weird, right?
I’ve preferred to engage with that which is greater than I am in ways that are more active and less focused on me and my silly human needs. Singing, conversation, service, even meditative silence that doesn’t require my heart to be exposed feels more comfortable.
But there’s something about having time to give sacred space to that which grieves or troubles us without anyone jumping in with advice or a political deconstruction about why that conflict is happening. Prayer is a time to release a feeling of expectation or burden of control. Prayer is a handing off to something greater than ourselves, to that Mystery that holds everything.
A couple of weeks ago, One Spirit in Action hosted a prayer vigil for Syrian refugees. On the way home, some friends who had attended and I talked about how it was really great to have a safe space to talk about the atrocities we’ve witnessed through the media. Sure, in our peer group, we might talk about what’s happening in Syria. We might try to analyze the situation from a political viewpoint or trade horrifying statistics that we’ll all “hmm” and “ahh” over. We might even awkwardly commiserate over how awful the crisis is. But, where is the space to talk about our sorrows or even our fears related to this conflict? Could I tell my friends that I’m secretly a teeny bit afraid of ISIS or that I wept over photos of Aylan washing up onshore? Would other 20-somethings be able to hold space for me who deeply, sometimes achingly, feels the pain of my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world? That’s the sort of thing I might reserve for therapy, but certainly wouldn’t bring into my public sphere.
I am all for action and definitely don’t want to see prayer used as a scapegoat, an excuse to not admit a role in responding to what’s happening in the world. Yes, I have responsibility, but not sole responsibility. So, maybe for a few moments a day, I can release the burden that sometimes weighs so heavily on my shoulders by handing it over to Something Else…