Friday, March 11, 2011

Praying for the World and Playing with Mr. Potato Head

I often wonder how to pray for the world on a day like today.

I woke with my granddaughter's face against mine, my wife having brought her in to surprise me. After coming downstairs, I got news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, while playing Mr. Potato Head. I followed the news with concern off and on during the morning, and again this evening. In between I raked leaves in our yard, went to a meeting, scheduled another, then had coffee and ran errands with my wife.

The World Moves On
I remember the day of my father's death, and those which followed. As I traveled the streets of our town, I wondered why the traffic lights were switching from green to red? Why were people out and about? Why did the TV work, and radio broadcasts continue?

Didn't anyone else realize the world had come to an end?

Today felt similar. I knew in my head and heart that in Libya, there is a terrible price being paid by freedom fighters, and in Saudi Arabia protesters are being thwarted by police. I knew that in Japan untold devastation had been unleashed by nature, and Hawaii and other islands, as well as the west coasts of the Americas, could only watch and wait.

But I was playing Mr. Potato Head with my Granddaughter.

World Citizens in the Age of Satellite Communications
What does it look like to love our neighbors? How do we know when to grieve, and when to carry-on? When is my neighbor deserving of my stopping to pray for them?

In these days when the news of disaster outpaces a five-hundred-mile-per-hour wave sprinting across the ocean, it is sometimes hard to know when to act; and when to act as if nothing has happened.

Loving the World While Living in It
So today I prayed for the world. I prayed for those who face trials and suffering, and for the dying. I prayed for those who care for them. I prayed for the church--its leaders and people. I prayed my family members and theirs. I prayed for those I minister to, and those whom I have in the past. In fact this list is only beginning.

And I didn't labor over all of these people. I didn't have to define exactly how the water needed to recede, or when the shaking should stop or just how the people should flee. I spoke the names of people or locations while in the presence of my God. Then, I trusted the Mighty One with the rest.

And these prayers did not require my entire day. I simply stepped aside from people and activity in the morning, at noon and this evening and read (yes read) my prayers, scriptures and Psalms. I'll do so again at bedtime. Maybe an hour for the day. But a rhythm I can settle into and find life within.

I'm thankful to my spiritual director: Sister Mildred. She is the one who put my nose to the grindstone of prayer. She is the one who required me to have "an order." Due to her direction, I found a prayer book that fits my tradition, and now I "pray the hours."

And I pray for the world, while I continue to live in it.

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