Meditation on Prayer, Given to People in In-Patient Addiction and Mental Health Treatment
University of Minnesota Medical Center Christian Chapel Sunday Service
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.
Beauty is before me, and Beauty is behind me, Above me and below me hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by it, I am immersed in it. In my youth, I am aware of it, and, in old age, I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail. In beauty it is begun. In beauty, it is ended. -Navajo Blessing
Meditation on Prayer
Prayer can be a powerful tool for our healing. Our text says to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks for all circumstances.” The more time we spend articulating our hopes and dreams the more time we spend giving words to the plea we make to our Gods; the more clear our love for ourselves will seem; the more pure the embracing love of the universe will be. When we pray, it’s like a little golden nugget of boundless love forms in our hearts, and gives us strength to go on.
But, what happens when we can’t feel that “in beauty it is begun”? You might be thinking “easier said than done!” you might be reading this and thinking: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks for all circumstances?! Yeah right! This passage seems to be really happy, and joyful, and I’m depressed.” When we are in a state of crisis, or a deep, perhaps unremitting addiction or depression, it can feel a little bit frustrating to be told that there is beauty and possibility all around, when we would see love it see it, if only we could.
But, I have a special story that I want to share with you all. I was at a Lung Transplant support group. This was a place for people to gather who either have had lung transplants, or are going to have a lung transplant. The people were gathered and going around the circle speaking about their situation. The circle slowly wound around to a newcomer. It came her time to speak and she just said “I need new lungs.” And everyone said, “Well what’s wrong with them?” They were expecting her to describe her diagnosis in technical, medical terms as most of them did. But she said, “They don’t work!” Rather than making fun of her for not knowing the medical terminology, they all surrounded her and one person said, “just wait until you feel that first breath!” And another person said, “Oh! That first breath! It’s like nothing you can imagine!” And everyone began exclaiming how wonderful and amazing that first breath was.
Just that breath. Just that first breath. These are people who have been fighting to breathe for years, and were hoping with ever fiber of hope in their bodies to one day have the joy and beauty of being able to breathe.
There is always something to be utterly and totally in awe of.
Even when people are telling you that beauty is all around you, and you can’t see it, perhaps, perhaps, you can start at the most basic, and take a deep breath, and remember how incredibly personal and beautiful your body is, how incredibly precious and unique your lungs are. To just focus on your heart and lungs, and feel all the life and turmoil that happens right here, just paying attention to it is the first step. And when you draw attention to your chest, feel the pain that is arising. Ask yourself, what is on my heart? And ask yourself, what is your plea? These people in the lung transplant group know what they need, because they are struggling. And that is where you find your prayer: you find it in your struggle. You settle right down into the place that hurts, the place that needs: the place that needs forgiveness, the place that needs to be told that someone is there, the place that’s bleeding, and you feel that struggle in your heart, and you make that plea. You make that plea, you let your heart pour out. You just say please, please, please. And then, slowly, slowly, your heart will warm, and you will see some beauty in yourself. For, when we go inward, we find not only pain and suffering, but also we find our hearts, which purely want love and goodness.
And this is how we are redeemed, this is how we turn ourselves around. By getting connected to the love and boundless golden warmth that radiates in our bodies when we reach out to God.
It is said that any word directed towards God is a prayer, so praying is a way to get connected to God, a way to be in a purer state of being. Praying can give us strength, praying can cleanse us, praying can heal us.
So, in Thessalonians, we are told to pray continually. And I encourage you to pray whenever you are feeling particularly hopeless: whenever you feel like you need to reach out, do reach out. I encourage you to pray continuously, reach out to God from your heart and make you suffering known. Raise up your worries and your fears and your desire to be free from struggle! For that is where we all begin to heal.