I start my day these days with prayer, sitting quietly with three certainties:
· I don’t face the world alone.
· Should things go amiss, strength and help are only a prayer away.
· I am at peace.
Two significant occurrences influencing my prayer life happened twenty-four years apart—in 1977 and 2001.
My best friend’s widow told me Psalm 139, which I hadn’t read before, was a great source of comfort and peace for her. It became my favourite. 2001
During the final night of a group study on four expressions of prayer (Benedictine, Franciscan, Ignacian, and Taize), we discussed and practiced private prayer. To help us “centre down,” the instructor encouraged us to visualize a favourite spot or scene, settle our minds there, and then invite Jesus to be with us. Even with the visual aids provided, I couldn’t do it. No matter how I tried, for a few years I couldn’t picture such a spot because it seemed that none were quiet and secluded. However beautiful, they were all crowded with people. I struggled for quite a while and finally “invented” such a place. I pictured our yard at the time—a very large, heavily treed lot, with many shrubs, adjoining a cemetery. I began picturing that yard, and the image soon morphed into a shaded path through a forest to a spot with a small creek. In my mind, I could sit there in peace and quiet, invite Jesus to be present, and pray. Now I can envisage other spots, even some with other people in the distance. I can visualize walking barefoot beside Jesus along a beach bordered by a lush green forest with small ocean waves quietly lapping onto the sand. I can see my daughter, not too far away, quietly walking along the beach and splashing the water as she strolls. In that peaceful beauty, thankful prayer comes easily. Where does Psalm 139 fit in? Verses 1-18, 22, 23 declare there’s no place, no time, no circumstance in our lives in which we are separated from the presence and love of God. He has searched and known each and every one of us from the moment of conception. He knows the words of our mouths before they form on our tongues. Nothing about us is unknown to him.
On the strength of that Psalm, I don’t have to “invite” Jesus to join me. I’m always in his presence. I have only to open myself up, throw off all those worries and distractions, and willingly enter into his presence.
By Bob Holloway (front and centre in the photo)