Continuing with the idea shared by reader Mark S, I have decided it might be fun, after all, to repost some of my older pieces as I introduce myself to new readers. The following is from 2006, written after spending the anniversary of 9/11 at Adoration and praying the Office for the Dead. Today, having spent some time before the blessed sacrament for the intentions of all on my prayer list (please don’t forget Patrick O’ Hannigan’s daughter, Jane, or our friends Liz and Sarah, who are dealing with inoperable brain cancers) I recalled this post, and thought it might be worth re-sharing. I hope you like.
WEAKNESS IS SOWN; STRENGTH RISES UP
Went to adoration yesterday – not especially because of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 – simply because that’s my habit of a Monday afternoon. As I had planned to, I prayed the Office for the Dead, in remembrance of…well, of so many. Of my brothers and brother-in-law, of the victims of 9/11, our lost soldiers, the civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan – the families of all the war-dead. “All things are alive in the sight of their king…”
One of the readings was from 1 Corinthians, and this line struck me:
Part and parcel of the paradox: when I am weak, then I am strong.
Aside from praying for those lost and those who mourn, I prayed for all the folks in my “need prayers” book – so many of them, these days, seem to be young mothers with cancer, or children with cancer. I prayed for them, and for my own children, my sons, my elder son’s girlfriend, the teenagers who have come and gone over the past few years or who still frequent our house, my friends who are undertaking new jobs, my husband who could use a new one, people who do hard or dangerous jobs. I prayed for firefighters and cops and nurses and EMT responders and people without jobs, and people without family, and people without someone to love…and everyone. I prayed for the terrorists. I prayed for the people who hate our country. I prayed for the people who hate me (whose names are, seemingly, legion.)
Call me presumptuous; I brought the whole world with me, to prayer. I imaged it; cities and states, countries and continents, and prayed and prayed.
And none of this, of course, is because I am holy; far from it. Just as faith is a gift, so is prayer – it is jostled out of us (or first into us) via the Holy Spirit because, “we do not know how to pray as we ought…” The quiet before the Presence is where the Holy Spirit seductively, dangerously lurks – waiting to both soothe, then ravish us.
The prayer is long because where I can, I prayed everyone by name but even if I cannot do that, I still bring it all forward. I feel so ragged and unworthy — like a slave, or the lowliest servant — escorting one person after another, one group after another into the presence of the King, each time introducing them thusly:
“Lord, the one you love is sick…”
“Lord, the one you love is weeping…”
“Lord, the ones you love are overworked and fretful…”
“Lord, the one you love is lonely…”
“Lord, the one you love is under siege…”
“Lord, the ones you love are oppressed…”
“Lord, the ones you love are over-burdened…”
“Lord, the ones you love are slaves to hate…”
I bring everyone in and then recede into the background, bowing low, imagining my own self nose-to-the-ground, almost prostrate and dared not look up, praying,
“help them to comprehend the truth and strength and inviolability of your love, the generosity of your mercy – show to them the outpouring of your grace, gift them with your healing and let them recognize it and trust in it, for your gifts bestowed are never rescinded. You, Alpha and Omega, in whom we live and move and have our being, spread forth your peace like sweetest honey to refresh starving hearts and weary spirits. Let your Light touch us like consoling balm to soothe and warm our chilled humanity, so that we might be opened to your justice and willing to be made whole. But I am no worthy intercessor, only a faulty and broken vessel trusting in your mercy. Consider not what I deserve in your sight but only the needs of these whom you love, these I bring before you, and for whom I, the lowest servant, plead. Let my prayer rise before you like incense, to carry these forward. Forgive my sins, especially my failures in love, my sins of omission (for you know those are vast and heavy) and cast them behind your back as your prophet Isaiah has promised, and with your grace may I do better. Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner, in your name I pray…”
That prayer wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I know. Some days it wouldn’t be mine, but sometimes it flows. Prayer trumps everything.
There are things visible and invisible. A thought is a thing. A hateful thought is a thing, as is a loving one. A hateful thought offered up to an altar of the invisible is hate on a supernatural level, and it can only be confronted and overcome by love on a supernatural level.
Prayer is a force and it is real. I came away from Adoration convinced that we will not defeat the enemy (and on the most fundamental level, the enemy – both within and without – is hate) unless we are willing to use the weapon of real and loving prayer – faithfully, humbly, daily…and did I say humbly…we will not win.
And what is humble prayer? It is not the one that all-too-often tempts us, which runs along the lines of: “Destroy them O Lord, they maketh a blight…” Rather it is the one that seeks mercy and trusts God to handle the justice part – it is, “help us Lord, help us all, begin with me who am so broken and full of fault…” It is prayer that is a “sacrifice of joy” – even if the sacrifice is submitted in a groaning song of pain or illness or longing – for to suffer with purpose, if we must suffer, is real prayer, loving prayer, and it is an offering.
And who gets through life without suffering? Perhaps we all get to suffer, so that we might all make the greatest of prayers.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
With that rejoicing, then, the gift freely given is nothing less than “the sacrifice of joy.” To make an offering of your pain is to empower it, as Christ’s own suffering has power; it is to render it into something victorious and undefeatable.
Weakness is sown; strength rises up. Think about that, pray on it. Consider it in the season.
Though an army encamp against me
my heart would not fear.
Though war break out against me
even then would I trust.
There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savor the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple.
For there he keeps me safe in his tent
in the day of evil.
He hides me in the shelter of his tent,
on a rock he sets me safe.
And now my head shall be raised
above my foes who surround me
and I shall offer within his tent
a sacrifice of joy.