Prayer

The Strong Thread That Connects us

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

I remember when Sophie, my fifteen year old, was about two. I had the closest thing to a spiritual vision I have ever had. I was a young mother, completely in love with her child. As I was putting Sophie to bed, I saw in my mind's eye a woman about my age who was putting her two-year-old son to bed as well. What I noticed most about the woman was her skin color and dress. Based on what I saw, I knew this woman was a mother from the Middle East. I still cannot say exactly what part of the Middle East she lived, Syria, Iraq, Jordan. The vision was not specific. Still, I knew she and her child were of another part of the world with different life challenges. The vision was short but powerful.

As I lay with Sophie while she fell asleep, I wondered if the woman I had seen had the luxury of cuddling her child while he slept. I wondered if she had the same hopes and desires for her son that I had for Sophie: a life full of meaning and purpose where he felt safe, fulfilled, and loved. I knew then, as I know now, that the Middle East is a place of unrest. How does a mother raise a child in such a culture? Does she worry about him? Will he ever know peace in his life? What will he do as an adult should he live that long? Does she even allow herself to think such things? Are these questions of mine even worth asking or are they shameless projections of my own American dreams onto her life? Mostly, I wondered "Why has God given me this vision, and what can do to help this woman and her son?"

I could pray for her. I began praying for this woman and her child that night and have not stopped yet.

Over the years of praying for this Middle East family I have learned something about prayer. I have learned that prayer is the strong thread that reminds us of our connection as children of God. We may not know one another's names or have visited one another in person, but we are all connected. I have also learned that when we open our hearts to the love, healing, and grace of God we become strong conduits of that love, healing and grace for others. When we spend time in our prayer allowing God to build our spiritual health and fitness, we begin to live a life whose choices actually begin to answer the prayers of those in need. Spiritual Director, Jane Wolfe, describes what I have learned most clearly in her recently March newsletter article below:

Responsibility

In God's world, we are all connected. We are called to love God who connects us, to love ourselves, to love all others. We are happy recalling this love when our view is airplane - 30,000+ feet above the earth, where all of us specks look wonderful and harmless. Love ground-level requires that we are responsible for one another. We are connected, we are family. We are called together in great celebration times, and we are called to love and be loved when things go horribly wrong, when terror reigns, when our brothers and sisters are hate-full, violent, furious and destructive.

We must love. We must understand terror and hate as response to unbearable pain, and we must do what we can to end that pain. We are bound together in love. It is our responsibility.

How do we do this? How do we love responsibly?

Step One: When our first instinct is to condemn and criticize our violent brothers and sisters, we must stop. Why are they behaving that way? We must not rest on easy answers like their religion or their politics of their culture. We must look deeper and fundamentally: are they poor? Have they enough to eat and drink, have they a safe place to sleep and live? Have they a chance for education, employment, success-in-the-world of any kind? Have they any hope for anything other than suffering and death?

Step Two: When our first instinct is to figure out how to "fix it" for our violent brothers and sisters, we must stop. What is our part in their suffering and despair? Do we support an economy that takes advantage of our brothers and sisters, making life much better for us but much worse for them? Do we eat and drink and travel and sleep at their expense? Do we say and do nothing about those who do? Do we lack respect for our brothers and sisters because they do not think as we do or believe that we are wonderful? Have we ever heard their cry for respect before their anger lit the fuse of their internal suffering and hatred? What are our sins that contribute to their situation? Individual sins, collective sins.

Step Three: We must not assume our innocence in any matter of hatred and fury. When was the last time we honored a brother or sister before he or she turned violent? When have we asked them what we can do to ease their pain? When is the last time we listened for their answer? When is the last time we sacrificed something for our violent brother or sister so maybe they didn't have to suffer so much? When have we confessed to God our sins against our hate-filled brothers and sisters, listened to God name those sins, and asked to be forgiven for each of them?

Step Four: When we have heard God name our sins, when we have allowed God to forgive us for them, we must then listen to how God would have us live our relationship with our family. God will have us BE people of healing and hope. After BE comes the DO -what God would have each of us DO. Chances are we will be a tiny part of a big effort. Perhaps each of us will take a seeming solitary action, but God will connect it with the love and actions of others.

Step Five: Do not waste time looking to see if your work is effective. If it is filled with God and driven by God's love, it will be. Whether things change tomorrow or two hundred years from now don't worry. Live fully into your forgiven life. It will be blessed, and your brothers and sisters in intense and violent pain, will bless you one day - tomorrow or two hundred years from now.

Jane Wolfe www.bogchapel.org

The face of this woman and her son has never left me. I still have them in my mind almost daily. I do not know her name nor her son's, but I know without a doubt that they are both real. I know I am called to pray for them and so I do. I know that I am called to examine what part of my life affects her life and so I do. We are all connected as children of God and the prayers we offer for one another strengthens that bond. May we commit all the more to a Lent of self-examination and reflection. May we allow God to clean our hearts, souls, and minds so that our daily lives may bring about the kingdom where all families are safe, loved and whole.

Blessings, Heath