I am excited to share my first podcast! As part of their Lent 180 series, Old St. Patrick’s Church invited me to share my thoughts on prayer. Prayer is many things to many people, all of which moves us closer to the divine. I offer my reflection toward the same end. Blessings!
I never used to pray for people in my younger days. I might have offered to pray, but I rarely delivered on my promise. I didn’t exactly see the point. In the face of adversity, my resilient and independent twenty-year old self believed that I could do more than just pray. I could mend what was broken. I could fix what needed to be solved. I could outsmart the odds.
Then my brother got cancer. He was 26 years old.
I told him he had one option: Option A. He’d remind me that the word option implies more than one possibility. But I was steadfast. I started calling him every day just to talk. And when that didn’t feel like enough, which it never did, I began to pray that my brother would feel surrounded by love.
Miles kept us apart, but I wanted my love and the love of my family to be with him when he walked into the oncology ward, when his baldhead stared back at him in the mirror, when an overzealous infection took him to intensive care.
For the first time in my adult life, prayer became a companion, sitting with me on the train ride into work, following me down grocery store aisles, lingering in my thoughts as I drifted off to sleep. I started paying attention to the mystery of things and less on the rules of my faith and the misguided belief that if I did the right things and said the right prayers my brother would be okay.
More than twenty years later, my brother is still with us. And I found myself once again praying at a fever pitch. My son and I adopted each other when he was three years old. Unlike me, my son was not a fan of falling asleep. He was not a fan of staying asleep either. Given his earlier life experiences, he did not believe that everything would be the same when he woke up.
Night after night, I prayed desperately for sleep and I grew quite angry at God for not honoring such a basic request. Adoption experts told me that my son’s night-wakings are trauma-related. Specialists projected that he might outgrow them over the next five year. Trauma, I learned, is not so easily fixed. It is experienced and endured, and prayerfully transformed over time.
Faced with our new shared reality, I began to pray differently. Sitting in the dark, rocking my son, I started to pray for anyone who might be up and feeling alone at such unreasonable hours.
I prayed for the homeless teenager, cowering in a darkened corner of the bus terminal, hoping to go unseen. I prayed for the men and women who empty trashcans and vacuum floor after empty floor in the cavernous skyscrapers downtown. I prayed for the children who survived Sandy Hook and the nightmares their families must endure. I prayed for families in Chicago who live with constant gunfire. And I prayed for the solitary security guard who stands watch so others can sleep.
Night after night, I offered up this litany of prayers. I don’t know if they changed anything, if they made the nightmares go away or the solitude give comfort. But I felt calmer inside. Perhaps that is the gift of prayer. That it honors our pain and somehow frees us from it too.
Prayer leads us back into communion with those around us and with the deeper parts of ourselves where the sacred dwells.
Follow the Old St. Pat’s Podcast for more form the Lent 180 Series here: https://old-st-pats-podcast.simplecast.com/