Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NRSV)
Thoughts about prayer
I recently had the occasion to pray for a dying person. It caused me to reflect on prayer. It’s not just in death, but in many transitions along the way in life – which can often be small deaths – prayer helps us let go of what has been, and begin to trust that God is waiting on the other side, to welcome us into that next life, or that next phase of this life. Prayer helps us muster that trust. It may be prayer alone, prayer with others, or someone praying for us. But putting into words the hope that is in us begins to make that hope real in the present. That’s what faith is – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Prayer begins to form that substance of faith in us.
We so easily cycle around in worry about situations in our lives. We so easily become fixated by our desire for what we don’t have. We so easily retreat into wishful thinking that clouds our minds about how things really are. These mind-states keep us from the purity of heart that knows and wills the right thing to do. Prayer helps us break these powerful spells. Prayer articulates to God what’s bedeviling our minds, and asks for help. Prayer offers it up. Prayer turns it over. When we release our concerns to God’s good will, God’s infinite wisdom, God’s endless love, we break the spell and begin to see ourselves and our situation more clearly. And with sustained prayer, we also start to recognize what God is doing to answer our prayers. It may be things that happen around us, things that change with other people, or it may be simply change that happens in us, that opens us to love, to forgiveness, to new possibilities.
But we don’t pray just for ourselves. We also pray for others and for our world. Prayer for others helps us grow in true compassion. True compassion is not just agonizing over the sufferings of others. It’s the ability to speak a word of comfort to a friend, to speak a word of truth to power, to act peacefully for justice. The media report the woes of the world in a way that agitates our minds and fills our hearts with outrage and resentment. Prayer transmutes those all-too-human reactions into Spirit-led responses.