Associate Rector Reflects October
I am not a prize-winning contemplative, but I remember very well when I began to pray without words.
My husband of 20 years, the father of our two sons, the man who showed me what God’s unconditional love looked like, had died. He was diagnosed with lung cancer—I don’t remember hearing a stage number—on Friday, October 22, 1993, and he died exactly six months later, on Friday, April 22, 1994. After Jack died, I could not say a word to God. I had begged for Jack to be cured. I had asked dozens of friends to pray that Jack be cured. There had been a healing service, just for Jack.
But Jack died.
After his funeral, I came to the couch each early morning with a cup of coffee, but not to pray. I was bewildered about how to pray. If Jack had died, I had obviously prayed against God’s will, and I was not about to say anything to this capricious God I had thought I had known. So I sat. Silent. Morning after morning.
I cried. I remembered. I pondered. Had we done the wrong things? Should we have skipped the trial chemo which speeded up the cancer dramatically? Had I not listened to the Holy Spirit when I prayed so hard for my husband? The only thing I knew was that I would not ask God for anything, ever. I did not think I could survive another “No.”
One day I was thinking about the many kindnesses I continued to receive from friends and colleagues. Those kindnesses did not chase away the darkness, but I realized that those kindnesses were like tiny birthday candles in my darkness—they didn’t vanquish the darkness, but because of the darkness, they were more easily seen, these pinpricks of light. Still I said nothing to God.
Weeks went by. Then months.
One day I came to be aware of a Presence. Although I could see nothing, I could feel this Presence, and I knew beyond a doubt that this Presence was for me, not against me. I held my breath, hoping it would stay. It did. I came to know that Presence, without any words. I came to know that this Presence was good, benevolent, but not particularly active. I felt safe. I even felt free to cry without shame, and one day I knew that this Presence was crying with me—and of course, this presence was God. Abba.
From that time on, I looked forward to my morning prayer time. Nothing else had changed. I was still silent, still sad; but now I sat with someone who comforted me simply by being with me.
It would be even more months before I tried to speak to God, and when I did, I addressed God as Abba. But for months, over a year, I sat with God, and God sat with me. It is still one of my favorite ways to pray.