I was lead to retire as soon as I could from my job of serving children with disabilities, to begin a new vocation – praying.
Some would question the utility of prayer as a vocation. What good does it do the world for a worn out old man to sit alone and pray? I have to confess that I don’t know for sure how it helps the world. I don’t know why I was called to this task.
I don’t have to know why. I only have to know that I was.
I had a vision years ago that I was supposed to be a lantern, carrying the Light. A lantern does its work by being invisible, releasing the light within. I was to become less and work to nurture the Light in me.
On a personal level, I have seen that filling myself with the love of God can wordlessly bring blessings to others.
How do I know that? By seeing with my soul. We are used to connecting with each other by voice and sight. Body language, tone of voice or the look in someone’s eyes all tell us as much – or more – than their words. We can feel close to others both intellectually and emotionally.
We can also feel close, one soul to another. My epiphany experience opened my spiritual eyes. I understood that there was another way of knowing.
When I see someone who appears to be ill, fearful, in pain or sad; I’ve learned not to pray for them, but with them. Silently, I seek to join with them under a shower of God’s grace; for we are both in need. Sometimes this results in their glancing or smiling at me, and I ‘see’ that the God in me has touched the God in them.
Back when I was working, I found a chance to pray one morning before I had to attend an early staff meeting. The subject was going to be challenging, with a variety of opinions among attendees. I walked into the room full of a sense of God’s goodness. As I sat down and listened, I could feel the tension in the room dissipate. People seemed more accepting of one another.
After the meeting I pondered what had happened, and concluded that the Spirit I had been carrying had spilled out. I was, for that brief time, an effective lantern.
The metaphor comes to mind of tuning forks. When two of them are exactly in sync, their vibrations are amplified and the sound level increases. If two sounds vibrate in waves that are opposed, the sound is diminished. I seek to align myself with God’s will, hoping that I can be in tune with how God wants me to be. I trust that this will somehow help carry out God’s work.
A phenomenon that happened during the first year I was opened continues occasionally. While praying, I feel an energy exiting my palms. Sometimes so strongly that it hurts. I don’t know what it is, but take it as a sign that I am ‘plugged in’ to the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know what I’m to do with this energy either, but am aware that I must not misuse it. Lacking any direction, for over twenty years I’ve sat in prayer and sent the energy out into the wider world. Does it do any good? Not that I know. It would however be very wrong for me to interfere with what seems to be God’s purpose in using me as a conduit.
Prayer can be an instrument of compassion. There are prayers for others, whether individuals or groups. Solid evidence may never be developed that intercessory prayers help, but people have turned to them across all ages and cultures.
Over time, I’ve largely ceased asking for specific things for people. I may be certain that the remission of a disease or solution to a financial problem is just want a certain person needs. It may however not be what what will produce the more blessed outcome in the long run. When I pray for others now, I simply pray that God will have mercy on them.
There is an exception to this rule. I do pray for specific things when the person is close to me. I’m aware that in doing so, I’m telling God what to do. I hope that God will see my sincere concern, forgive my arrogance, and grant my wish. In a larger sense, this is foolish. It’s also human to want what we believe is important for those we love.
Any effect I might have on the wider world is more abstract. I often think of the George Fox quote, “I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that I also saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings.”
I carry an awareness of the great pain that exists in this world. My training and experience serving people with chronic health problems and the visions I’ve had showing God’s love and concern for those who are poor, hungry or oppressed tie me to that pain. This is then is the ocean of darkness I’m aware of; the one I’m immersed in.
There is a form of prayer that is amorphous and deep. In this form of prayer, I seek to sink my presence into the ocean of pain that flows through the lives of so many. I have no power or resources to ‘fix’ the circumstances of the world. I can only do what I can do – be with them. I can wordlessly offer acceptance, acknowledgement and respect.
What earthly good does it do for me to sit at home in my quiet space, silently ‘being with’ people I don’t know around the globe? They are starving, ill, terrified, imprisoned – and I, well fed and comfortable – am merely providing my soul to be with theirs.
It may well not do them any good at all. They will continue to suffer and die. What it will do is change – in a tiny way – the ground of our being. To the ocean of darkness, another drop of compassion has been added. Does it change anything in the immediate physical world? No. What is does do is contribute to the river of love that flows beneath the surface of this life.
There is a great,
great river of pain.
I will not turn my back
nor stand on the bank,
with vicarious glance.
I must not stay dry –
moaning with pity.
I am called to wade in,
Joining my drop of compassion
to dilute the flow.