Many years ago I had the the opportunity to be in Jerusalem. I remember visiting the “wailing wall”. This wall of prayer for Jew, Muslim, and Christian has stood silently hearing prayers and receiving written prayers scribbled and pushed into the smallest of cracks in the stones. Prayers upon prayers, generation after generation. Some no doubt were “wailing” in grief and seeking peace. Others, I am sure were joyful and full of praise for the goodness of life. Some with perfect punctuation, and some full of misspelling! The “wailing wall” is a strange sight for sure. As hands squeeze prayers between the rocks, the surface of fingers are often scratched, and the prayers which are deposited in their own way begin to scratch the surface of the mystery of a Holy, Omnipotent, and Eternal God!
Offering prayer, can be intimidating. We often gravitate to the great prayers of the church such as St. Francis prayer “Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love,..” or to St. Patrick “I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me…” The prayer of confession from the Common Prayer Book offers us comfort, safety and guidance in its words ” Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves….”
Yet prayer does not have to be grand, to do its work! Prayer does not need fancy words. Prayer is a conversation with the Almighty, who is eager to embrace us. The poet, Mary Oliver, says it well in the following short poem from her book Thirst.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
May you pause and ponder today, giving yourself the time and space to patch a few words together and to pause in the silence in which another voice may speak. What is that voice saying to you this day? Can you feel the embrace of a love which casts out all fear and the grace and warmth which rubs hope into all your wounds? May it be so. Hear the words of Julian of Norwich, 1343-1416 “All shall be well, and all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”
I offer to you, O Lord,
this my prayer.
Pay no attention to the length of my words,
nor to my spelling or punctuation.
Behind these words, around these word, despite these words,
hear my soul speak
and in my speaking and writing
I seek to love you and rejoice in your grace.
My words try to express the heart’s desire
that the world would be welcoming to all people,
that peace might be a reality for all people,
that forgiveness among all people
will give birth to hope
and hope give birth
to love for self and neighbor.
This is my prayer and
now I listen for your grace and guidance. Amen.