April 1, 2022
“Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers.” Ephesians 6:18 CEB
Go figure! I followed the retreat schedule from afar, sitting in prayer for the participants during their gathering times. Some I know well, some I barely know, and some I know only by name. I really didn’t know how to pray except to pray they would be open to what Spirit might be doing in, around, and through them during the retreat. But I do know the setting, the long driveway that invite a sense of peace and calm, the sculpture of St. Francis and the Leper that catches the eye as you arrive at the retreat house, the reception area that smells faintly of wood smoke, and the hallway to the meeting room lined with painting of the life of St. Francis. I could picture the gathering room with windows on three sides and chairs gathered into circle. I could imagine walking the labyrinth, the stations of the cross along a quiet brook, the trail through the woods, my favorite statue of Mary cuddling baby Jesus at the gazebo.
So, in my imaginative prayer, I walked in all those places, stopping to rest along the way and breathe peace, openness, love, Spirit. I walked around the circle of participants, pausing 13 times to pray wholeness, shalom, grace. I had no idea about the efficacy of those prayers, except for the fact that the very act of such praying affected me. I experienced a quiet deep inside.
About 30 minutes before the retreat ended, my co-leader texted and asked if I would like to FaceTime for the closing liturgy. I did! Seeing the laughter and tears, hearing the sharing as they went around the circle one last time, smelling the bit of bread and wine as I participated in communion was profound. I felt a shift inside myself, a desire to continue to pray in this way.
My prayers for situations in the world often feel anemic. I pray because I know I should, because I want to, but I don’t know how exactly to pray, when the needs are so immense and beyond my comprehension. In Ephesians 6:18, Paul encourages us to “Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers.” In the Spirit, such prayers matter.
Hang in there! ~ Anne