PrayerIt’s a huge topic to write about but it’s one that’s been occupying my mind lately in one way or another.

Last Saturday night we had dinner with friends and their delightful friends. One of the women Jane* told me the most extraordinary story. She and her husband John* live down at the sea but were up here on the highveld to help their family.

Their son-in-law Peter*, was out running midmorning on a public holiday towards the end of September in a lovely suburb half way between Johannesburg and Pretoria. He suddenly crashed. A woman who had been with a group on a walk and talk tour on the topic of the meaning of this public holiday – Heritage Day – in this historic area, broke free from the  group and wandered off on her own. Some way off, she saw this very disoriented man on the ground surrounded by people who thought he was drunk and disorderly and they were about to call the police to remove him. She recognised him – she’s a Canadian I gather and was here in this country for business purposes and the man on the ground was one of her associates. She immediately dialled for an ambulance recognising the symptoms of a stroke and went with them. She was able to phone his wife Diana* to say what had happened and at what hospital they were in Pretoria.

It was a brain aneurism. 3 visiting Israeli neurosurgeons were at the hospital to perform a particular operation on a patient and provide teaching to other resident surgeons – that patient did not pitch up. So the operation was performed on Peter. A very tricky one in the Circle of Willis in the brain.

For the last several years he and his wife Diana have hosted a street party in their suburb on Heritage Day, 27th September, a public holiday. This time round, Diana messaged the group from the hospital to say what had happened and that they would not be there. But to continue with the street party regardless.

When she finally got home that evening she found all their neighbours in their garden with lighted candles, praying for her husband’s recovery. Which they continued to do over the weeks and sent out messages all over to pray for Peter. He’s been in recovery for the last month in hospital. He is still recovering in hospital and being rehabilitated. He’s been at home once or twice for short stretches and even doing a little photography further afield. He has clearly beaten the odds.

There is much more to this story I could tell – one miracle followed another. Friends, acquaintances and his business have been so kind. All have contributed in large measure in his ongoing recovery. His very good medical insurance ran out after a few days – his place of business told him they would cover all the very expensive costs. There has been and continues to be a huge rallying around … I am so struck by this story and have no doubt that prayer has played a huge role.

I saw this tiny praying mantis yesterday morning on my key ring on the dining room table. Barely visible, off centre on the top part of the blue of remote. Its tiny feelers were in prayer mode. Thank you Mantis I said to it.

Watering the garden last evening, I thought how the plants and flowers are so resilient in spite of the crushing heat we’ve been experiencing. I was reflecting also on the ‘faded’ state I’ve been feeling, fast fading into oblivion, in danger of becoming invisible to myself this last while. Enervated, listless. The world is just too much, here and elsewhere. I’ve been wondering whether we carry the wounds of past generations in our genes and how on earth can they be healed and knowing they must. Elsewise it seems to me that those wounds will keep on presenting themselves in the generations that follow. Why, when we’re better off in so many ways, so say the statistics, do we feel more stressed, more disconsolate, disillusioned?

I remind myself that disillusionment is of value. It is not easy to give up previously held attitudes or ways of being. Being disillusioned means a stripping away of illusions as a way of discerning reality. It’s a painful process – truth often is. This can happen when for example when we realise that a friend is not really a friend, or is just a fair weather friend. Or we realise the colleague who subtly stabs you in the back while smiling. Or our so-called leaders, those who work for us and whose salaries we pay by way of our hard earned taxes do not fulfil the function for which they were elected. Is it our human task, to become stressed because we care about for example the planet and the creatures in threat of becoming extinct? Are we numb to our country lifting the ban of exporting elephant tusks and rhino horn to China? These magnificent animals will be farmed for those precise appendages as they believe they have aphrodisiacal and medicinal qualities. We start to realise that much of the world operates on the principle ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’.

I read somewhere that ‘Nazi’ is the abbreviated form of ‘nationalism’ whose rise across the world is frightening. What vacuum is being fuelled and filled by this? What emptiness is there and yet a longing to belong which currently takes on a badly corrupted manifestation?

Adrienne Rich

My heart is moved by all I cannot save

So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those, who, age after age,

Perversely, with no extraordinary

Power, reconstitute the world.

Prayer takes so many forms – prayers for help when in sorrow and grief for ourselves or those suffering; simple and complex prayers; prayers for travelling mercies; for rain; for sun; for food; for housing; for safe passage; for birth; for death. We pray for those caught in conflict and who very sadly are often the most vulnerable. We pray for those who try to end the conflict and those who bring vital resources. We pray for those who are in deep depression and most times cannot crawl out of that deep hole. We can pray when we’re walking, on waking, before sleeping, lighting a candle, any quiet time when we’re on our own or with family and friends; and when there is a need for communion with our souls and a universal power. We pray when we give thanks for moments of joy –

The grief we feel for those caught in that barbaric shooting in the synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday and for those who are victims of race shootings because of the colour of their skin, is also a form of prayer.

Is there any value in looking back to the home of the ancients? Maybe from them, our ancestors, by giving birth to the old, there can be a renewal. Maybe there can be an enchantment again with the world and its peoples. And to go back even further to an Old Testament proverb – We build bridges, not walls.

I’ve added this below – I found it interesting. It’s not long.

Edward F. Edinger: The psychological implications of Prayer

I know that next week’s mid-term election looms large in the U.S. and that this is a highly stressful time. Who knows how the chips may fall. We also are going through extraordinary times, mostly very alarming. 

Thank you for reading. May the light be ever present, along with the dark.


46 Comments on Prayer

  1. Maybe we feel more stressed and disillusioned because we expect more and also know more. Maybe in order to have the better lives the stats are speaking to we have to give up so much of ourselves and our family time. How many mothers can afford to stay at home and look after their babies now? I had to leave my children for 7 hours a day when they were babies and it broke my heart. It caused me massive guilt and stress.

    • Thanks Robbie for coming by – my heart goes out to you. Maintaining a decent standard of living and wanting the best for our children by way of a good education and other often means that the mother has to also go out to work and she feels the compromise in a heart breaking way, leaving her little ones in the care of another no matter how good the caretaker may be. This goes for the single mother – or father – as well. Guilt can nudge us to turn guilt into something creative and constructive.

  2. Susan, thank you for this wonderful reflection.

    Never underestimate the power of prayer and positivity!
    I must add that I never thought of disillusionment as being ‘of value’. Thank you for drawing attention to it. Something to ponder…

    When I read your comment: “The world is just too much, here and elsewhere”, it resonated…reminded me of the melancholic Wordsworth sonnet “The World Is Too Much With Us”, which I studied in matric, and this poem has stayed with me ever since. I’m not sure if you know the poem but the central complaint of the poem is that people are so consumed by consumerism that they are no longer moved by nature. Wordsworth criticizes what he saw as the decadent material cynicism of THAT time… but it’s relevant NOW in the 21st century! The more things change, the more they stay the same…
    It’s a timeless poem – one that always tugs at my heartstrings.
    Take care!

    P.S. You should join us at the Insecure Writers Support Group. It’s a lovely platform to meet other writers and get inspiration as you move forward on your authorly journey! 🙂

    • Hi Michelle, thanks so much for coming by! Yes, the Wordsworth sonnet must have been the one I was remembering at the edge of it all .. and thank you for the reminder of what it was/is all about it. Amazing, that he was born towards the end of the 18th C and that this was his concern even then. ‘Getting and spending we lay waste our hours …” I confess I just looked it up 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement re IWSG …

      Have a lovely weekend –

  3. We each are part of everything that is and, everything that is, is part of us. Some call it ‘karma’. Everything affects everything else and always has and will, and so, yes, we carry the sins of past generations “even unto the third and fourth generation…” as the Bible tells us. Of course, we also benefit from all the good that has been done by so many people, both now and before us, and how we each live our lives will affect future generations. “It’s a small world, after all.” Yes, prayer is important, if it is sincere. It can help us resolve to make a difference for good.

    • Thanks Jean for coming by. I like what you say about prayer if sincere to be used as a resolution to making a difference for good. And your reminder of sins being carried forward into the 3rd or 4th generation .. the sins of the fathers, from the Bible. And more recently – Newton? – each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction .. something like that?

      • Perhaps ‘equal’ can be misleading. Thoughts and deeds can snowball out of control. WW1 began, history tells us, with the assasination of a high Duke, or somebody. But, that may only have been the match that lit the fire, a fire that had been prepared for. We never get the full and clear story of past events. History is written by the winners and survivors, and then edited for public consumption.

  4. “I’ve been wondering whether we carry the wounds of past generations in our genes and how on earth can they be healed and knowing they must.” — There’s so much I could say about this entire post, the power of prayer and positive thinking, of manifesting form into matter from a place of deep desire, but it is this one sentence more than all of it which, I think, holds us back. Our preconceived notions, entrenched in us from birth to age 7, all the tribalism from ancestors past, these things keep us from entering a more enlightened and peaceful age lived in balance and harmony. I once read something Carolyn Myss said about the Tibetan monks meditating, about how their energy and focus on love and peace was probably holding the world together and lo to us if they ever stopped. I also read something Greg Braden said about how it only takes about 11% of the population to shift consciousness. It’s an attainable goal if we can leave the past behind and concentrate on a more verdant future. Thanks for your as always beautiful post, Susan. You are definitely part of the 11%. oxo

    • Thanks Pam for your thoughtful and beautiful comment about how we hold ourselves back – imagine if we could do the responsible thing and hold ourselves accountable. Yesterday I saw 2 friends for a quick bite at lunchtime … they were both saying how they’ve paid traffic cops to look the other way (greased their palms ie) when they’ve been stopped in the road and made to breath into a breath analyser to check whether over the limit in terms of allowed % alcohol while driving. Though they were by no means drunk, they knew they were over the limit. In all honesty I cannot say what my response would be should I find myself guilty and facing being placed in a cell, or paying a bribe. I hope this never happens. But, the choice is fundamentally between being part of the problem or part of the solution.

      Yes, I’ve heard that meditation holds the world together – an experiment in Israel many years ago found that 1% (ONE percent) of the population practising TM lowered the conflict. (I packed a Greg Braden book earlier – my task today to pack books and in fact my study). ‘Verdant’ – such a lovely rich word 🙂

      I packed Adelle Davis “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit” earlier – that could be one of the ways in looking BACK to retrieve earlier healthy eating habits (not that I’m a good example, I’m not!) But it’s the way we were brought up, my sons too.

      You too are part of the 1 or 11% xx (nice prime numbers!)

      • Personal responsibility is sorely lacking these days. I also don’t know what I would do, but I don’t know I’d even think to grease a palm. And one percent is an achievable number!

        I think often about your secret garden — can’t remember if I read about it on your blog or in your book (which I am reading slowly along with 6 or 7 other books!) — and whether simply sitting in such a divine place is enough to shift things. Could be why things are devolving. As we destroy nature, there are fewer places of refuge left.

        Thanks for all your wisdom, Susan. :0)

  5. What a topic for the post susan; I have always believed in prayers – as a child my father would make all of us sit together and pray the rosary, I used to feel so bored and angry with this repetitive prayers and would find excuse to avoid this prayer by faking pain or homework:) The scenario evoked a kind of godly fear, wherein candles were lit brightly and incense sticks spreading fragrance of its own. Being the traditional catholic and a devotee of our lady, this was the regular practice at home and at the end of the rosary, there would be litany of st Anthony followed by the petitions – praying for leaders, government, church, community, sick, youth, children, families etc… I have learnt it so well as a child that I could say these learnt prayers any time…. later on as I grew up and started rationalising every thing and found my own style of making up my own prayers.

    I still pray not what I was taught, neither do I rely on written prayers – but I just pray from my heart after I do all the yogic stretches and few breathing techniques I sit still every day and in silence offer my prayers with a small little candle… I bring to my mind all the concerns I have of various people whom I come across during the day – specially I pray for my students, the organisations I am associated with, family members and extended family members, friends and anyone requests I offer all of them hoping that everything is resolved … I practice affirmations of peace for myself, and those around, my family, friends, world. I am impressed with the incident you shared about Peter and how the neighbours too prayed, very inspiring…

    I do believe prayer can work miracles and can change anything if we believe; with so much happening all around us..I feel despite everything we can still pray for the world for peace and harmony. I send you my prayers of peace and harmony susan. I am so glad that the link you sent in my inbox worked and here I am reading your post and commenting. Love and hugs.

    • Thank you Genevive so much. I will take a lesson from this and find some quiet moments and sit still and light and candle and offer my prayers from my heart. I do do that – but I need to get into a regular practice of this. I do it mostly when I’m ‘active’ like watering the garden or out walking … but sitting still and lighting a candle and then offering up. I may do this even now – I have a few moments. Love to you, and thank you again. Susan

  6. I too have found myself feeling despair. And when I do I love to find the kind of stories you’ve shared here. Those of people coming together in mutual support, the synchronicity of so many good things coming together to save one young life, and the symbol of the praying mantis. I’ve recently learned a song, a round, in a harmony group I’m in, that seems pertinent: One by one everyone comes to remember we’re healing the world one heart at a time.

    I wish I could convey the tune. I no longer pray, in the classical meaning of the word. I sing. And I believe The Universe is a force for good.

    I need only to remember these things when despair creeps in.

    Thank you for your honesty in this post.

    • Thanks for coming by Janet. I love to sing, when I remember. I’ve thought before of joining some sort of choir or singing group – maybe I’ll start one in the new year 🙂 Or I’ll just carry on humming which is very pleasant for me. Or play hymns like How Great Thou Art in my car and sing along – while the music is audible only to my ears. I thought of that last night and had a private giggle.

      I love how you say healing the world one heart at at time ..

  7. Prayer is powerful and bring positive change, even miracles as you describe in your stories here. I pray every day, using a prayer card with names of people with special needs.

    Thank you for sharing so much light here, including the Edinger article I clicked on. Your post brought to mind a song in the Mennonite hymnbook: “Come, ye disconsolate, where e’re you languish. Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel; here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish, Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.”

    Praying for renewal of body, soul, and spirit, dear Susan!

    • Thank you Marian so much! I have a note book in which I write out prayers for those ‘in need’ .. I’ve been a bit slack lately I have to say, though I keep them in mind and send a prayer outwards often! I also have a prayer book that I was going to give to my brother but I kept it for myself and read it every now and then. They’re very meditative ..

      I love that Mennonite hymn .. rich in words and tempo. A week or so ago I wanted to listen to ‘How Great Thou Art’ – such a rich hymn and the different renditions are so pleasing. One day I’ll send you the link (which I’ve tried before to do). Neil & I were in Europe in June. We went to this beautiful church which we just made before closing at 5.00 and as we were leaving a choir came up on stage. This was a Mennonite choir which we stayed to listen to – I asked if I could video it and was given permission. My socks were nearly blown off … 🙂 I don’t know why I’ve had such difficulty in sending it to you but I will ..

      Thank you for your prayers for renewal Marian – I pray the same for you and all of us!

  8. Dear Susan, What an epic post! I love reading your longer posts when you feel inclined to write and share in depth a topic that motivates you, prayer being one of those. The stories you’ve shared are not only a treat to read but filled with deep karmic wisdom … and oh, how the image of a garden full of friends and neighbours praying in candlelight struck a note with this poet … one for me to carry in my heart all day. The power of prayer is often underestimated and forgotten in times of crisis … we simply forget to pray, myself included! So thank you for reminding me that miracles follow when we send out prayers … and when communities, families and congregations pray together, I believe we are heard en masse.

    Like the plants, we all have our seasons and cycles of growth, blossom, death and rebirth. For myself, when I’m at the “burn out” stage it feels as though the deepest, harshest winter is upon me and outwardly all you see is a tired, exhausted mind and body yet (I know, but often forget!) underneath there’s an invisible rebirth happening unseen. So, into the garden I will go to look for those signs that the inner work is taking place and there I find tiny buds or shoots together with chirpy birdsong despite the desolate landscape I am standing in. As above, so below! I search for faith and pray that the season and cycle will turn until one day, I find myself quite suddenly, standing in joy. Each season offers such great joys don’t they!

    I agree with Elaine, your article is filled with rays of light in these dark, confusing times! I love Rich’s poetry lines, they’re so apt. Thank you for helping to spread more love and light throughout our beautiful world in these challenging times with this beautiful post! Sending you warm autumnal (spring) blessings and prayers, Deborah.

    • Dear Deborah, what a warm-hearted response thank you so much! I also keep that image in my mind of those people in *Diana’s garden keeping the flame going. I’ve been remembering Davey our younger son praying over me when I had a terrible car accident the day before we moved from our old home to the townhouse 5 1/2 years ago and I was laying on the ground, my car turned upside down when a truck smashed into me… more of what followed I don’t remember but that image of Davey praying will always stay with me! Faith & Doubt are my companions much of the time; but I suspect that doubt can help strengthen faith …

      Thank you for the reminder that there is always an invisible rebirth happening when all seems desolate. My garden is a reminder of that or when I go walking.

      Thank you again dear Deborah – there’s a light in my heart on reading your response. Summer love to you and raindrops also! We had a lovely shower yesterday, thunder, lightning, the full works! Susan

  9. This is an absolutely beautiful blog, Susan, full of synchronicity given I have Lise Weil here for a visit. She is the editor of Dark Matter/Women Witnessing. I read this article to her last night… More to share at another time. For now, just deep gratitude for this powerful story of collective healing and the power of prayer. We need such stories in these times!

    • Thank you so much Andrea! Again, I’ll say what I have before – from the micro to the macro, from the individual outwards to the collective. How lovely to have synchronicity alive and well!

  10. Nice post ma. Ya, funny time with the world. Glad I found the praying mantis on the pic, heh. So tiny! Also saw one recently. I always take it as good luck.

    • Thanks Mike for coming by. I remember the one time when you were here there was one on your arm 🙂 I also take it as a sign of good luck. Ladybirds too …

  11. Susan:
    When she finally got home that evening she found all their neighbours in their garden with lighted candles, praying for her husband’s recovery.
    This brought tears to my eyes… the grace of others in our lives.
    Thanks for sharing

  12. I hear your jaded state with the too muchness of the world.. what struck me in this evocative heart felt piece is ‘disillusionment is of value” – yes I must remember this also and I do believe the ancestors/ancients have teachings for us and perhaps a bit more out there I think they are barracking for us to get things right to pick up where they left off and renew revision as charles would say a more beautiful world possible.
    We are together in this Susan – that is all I can offer – our hearts are seeing feeling and you are not alone…

    • You offer much Sandra thank you. And yes our ancestors have much to offer – I love the thought that they are ‘barracking us’. I’m looking to a long road trip to listen again to Charles Eisenstein’s A More Beautiful World is Possible…

  13. How traumatic for all. And so good Peter* looks to be recovering. I tend toward religion when I can’t explain what’s happening, what to do, or why I should accept something. This definitely qualifies. Someone knows more than me. I am praying for them.

    • Thanks Jacqui – I reckon religion is an attitude towards all that is, sacred and mundane. An attitude towards all that seems to be inexplicable and greater than we are. Thank you for adding your prayers!

  14. Your piece is filled with rays of hope, even in terrible situations. The man who was miraculously saved. The resilient plants. The praying mantis. The community coming together for one man or for many as has happened in Pittsburgh. I have to hang on to these things. Yes, they feel like prayer as they remind me of my humanity and vulnerability at this harsh inhumane time. The image of neighbors in the garden with candles praying for Peter reminds me how we need to lean into each other and hold each other up to face the storms. I love the Adrienne Rich poem and didn’t know it. Thank you for the poem and so much more. I haven’t read the Edinger piece, but plan to do that next. Thanks again, Susan. May we all hang on to hope–and in the United States, voting is an act of prayer and hope.

    • Thanks Elaine – I love how you say that voting is a prayer too. It’s using one’s voice and an expression of hope for the best is what comes to mind. And you articulate so well about how we need to lean into each other and hold each other up to face the storms. I see your work with the monarchs as prayerful – letting them go when their time has come.

  15. WOW!! What a story about your friend’s husband. Today, at the museum a man talked about a similar situation where a man fell in a busy town and people only stepped over him. They did NOT make an effort to help him up. The man I was talking to did go over to the man and gave him a hand-up. It is fabulous when we care for others and help one another. I like hearing these lovely stories as like you, I feel like my motivation got up and left. Plus, listening to stories about murder, anger, and lies, I feel a bit depressed. It breaks my heart to see what is happening to the world. We desperately need some GOOD changes. I spend a great deal of time praying. My prayers for small things are answered, but I sure wish something big and wonderful would happen to me. there are times, I want to run-away and go hide. I am PRAYING for this world. We do need some positivity in our lives.

    • Thanks Gwynn for coming by. So many just pass by as if the other was invisible – how excellent and affirming that the man you were talking to showed his humanity and helped. Yes, the world is too much with us and pretty dark. Small prayers add to the ripples going outwards. Big prayers as well. Somehow the veil is at least partly penetrated methinks.

    • Thanks Donna – power of prayer makes me think of pop, also recognisable as proof of payment. An exchange of energy for services rendered …

  16. Happy for Peter and his family; hope he continues to recover.
    The power of positive thinking and prayer toward another being is amazing, isn’t it? Amazing for both giver and taker.
    We all need to keep the light in one way or another. Negativity abounds — more so lately, it seems — so any bright light makes a difference.
    Thank you for the positive post, Susan.

    • Thanks Silvia! It’s such a complicated thing – but maybe it’s very simple and someone like me just makes it complicated for myself. Nevertheless I agree that sometimes it is all that one can do – to make that connection with one’s self and the other in sending out a prayer for their well-being and then let it go.

      I guess light is not possible without the dark. Like the shadow we cast when we’re standing outside in the sunlight. Who knows, maybe the blue will overshadow the red in the upcoming week.

  17. I’m so happy that things worked out for your friend, and that so many people were so good and kind. I’m not a religious person, so I wouldn’t attribute it to prayer, but at the same how can positive energy flowing out into the world not be a good thing. And I’m sure for people who do believe, prayer makes them feel better and more at peace.
    I agree with you about needing and keeping the light. Our world needs it.

    • Thanks Merril for coming by. I see all of this as a dialogue with our higher Self that people feel when they send out a ‘prayer’ as a way of re-membering – or any kind of creating, whether writing, painting inter alia is a connection or communion with one’s higher Self. Of course, what the higher Self is, is a subject all on its own!

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