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Prayer Changes Us

There is an old saying: be careful what you wish for. In a similar vein we might also be careful how we pray and what we pray for. As we practice contemplative prayer things change and that change is mostly in ourselves. Our ways of seeing and acting in the world become transfigured by divine grace. Richard Rohr reminds us that “contemplation is a radical opening to God’s loving presence. In this vulnerable place grace humbles us and moves us to fight for justice and mercy.”

As contemplative prayer opens us to God’s loving presence, our habitual way of looking becomes a way of seeing, and then a way of awakening and realizing. Our hearts grow awakened, open, and responsive, not cynical and defended. As we have eyes to see, more of reality becomes unveiled for us. In my experience, this means that I may see what I don’t want to see, become aware of what I might want to deny, and feel feelings that I’d rather defend against. As Episcopal priest Suzanne Guthrie writes, “the hardest sacrifice of Lent is giving up illusion: illusions about God, the world, safety, ourselves.”

As we pray we radiate and circulate God’s pervasive love for the world, just as it is, so that it can be healed and made whole, just as God intends it to be. Even when what is happening all around us is so horrible, contemplative awareness helps us to glimpse God’s goodness, grace, and desire for wholeness in the midst of terrible brokenness.

But first we need to see what’s broken and in need of our contemplation and action; brokenness such as:

  • The racial and economic disparities in our country in terms of the pandemic’s devastation on lives, life expectancy, access to health care, access to vaccines, and those whose jobs have been revealed as “essential” but who are the lowest paid workers, often without health care benefits.
  • The virus deaths in our country, far surpassing any other country on earth, disproportionately affecting Americans along racial lines. Covid-19 deaths among Brown and Black populations being more than double what they are for White people in our country.
  • Efforts to suppress the right to vote in the United States which in some states have targeted Black and Brown people with “surgical precision,” in the words of a court which struck down a disenfranchising law in one state. Efforts to make it harder for various groups of people to vote only increasing since the 2020 election.

Richard Rohr advises us that contemplative prayer changes us; it changes how we think, how we vote, how we spend our money and our time, and it changes how we act on behalf of justice and mercy in our world. Let us open our hearts to these areas of brokenness and situations like them across the globe. Let us pray: Holy One, what is your prayer for the world? How are you moving us to act in the world in order to bring about the wholeness that is your shalom? Equip and strengthen us to join your prayer for the world. Amen.

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Anita Davidson
Anita Davidson
4 months ago

Thanks, Barb…such soulful questions to ponder, especially during Lent. Grateful.

Barb
Barb
4 months ago
Reply to  Anita Davidson

Thank you, Anita.