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?
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.