Considering Prayer

Not long ago, I sat down to a tall stack of correspondence, manuscripts, email, and other things that have piled up over the time I took away from work to enjoy the holidays with my family. As I was flipping through and sorting my mail, my cell phone rang. On the other end of the connection was my older son, Paul. He had recently relocated to Philadelphia and was about to go to an important job interview. "Please pray for me," he asked. "I know that if you and my friend, John, are praying for me during that interview, it will go as well as possible." I was deeply touched. And of course I kept him in my prayers even more actively than usual that afternoon.

Paul and I are no strangers to prayer together. His life has been a very challenging one, and in more recent times, we’ve bowed our heads together before his surgery for cancer, at family meals where we once thought he’d never be able to join us, and for strength and guidance to face each day. In our little family of five, we’ve experienced the miraculous—the gift of life when hope was gone—and the amazing power of prayer, when one yields one’s will and trust to God. I long ago came to believe there is nothing more powerful that we can do than to pray—with open heart, without guile or self-interest, and with constancy.

Prayer leaps out at me, as I consider the contents of this issue, as a thread that appears in two of the articles. Mariellen Gilpin, in "Advice for Clerks" (p.18), mentions it as the very foremost thing she recommends that a clerk do for her or his meeting.What a gift to the meeting! And her suggestion that we "keep a pen and paper handy during prayer," because we are often given a task to do, is a wonderfully useful one.Writing it down releases us to continue with our prayers. How important to hold our meeting and its members, attenders, and visitors firmly in the Light on a regular, ongoing basis.

In "My Year of Cancer" (p.6), Paul Hamell speaks movingly of his spiritual challenge when diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. He shares about his confusion and uncertainty about how to pray, a sleepless night full of fear—and prayer, and then the dawning clarity that he had been heard by God. His long hours and days of prayer came down to an experiential awareness that "the only reason I exist is to love, and the real reason I want to continue living in this world is that I have more loving to do in this life." Our lives have "only one purpose," he writes, "and that is to love."

Paul Hamell speaks my mind.Whatever good we accomplish in this life has its origin in love—not that hackneyed emotion promoted by romance novels—but love that is far deeper, more unconditional, both very specific and very universal, that revels in the tiniest sunbeam on a mote of dust or the huge complexity of the human heart, and all else that is—embracing it all with joy and affirmation. It is our connection, our lifeline, to the Divine.

As a new year unfolds before us, with so many issues and concerns to address, so many challenges to face and problems to solve, I believe the most important thing we can offer, before we roll up our sleeves and dig into finding the solutions ahead of us, is prayers—for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our enemies, for our leaders, for our nation, and for the whole of humankind and this immensely beautiful planet we inhabit.