In my commentary post last week
, I discussed how my senses were opened to the new surroundings and customs (such as greetings) during my summer immersion trip to South Africa.
Not only was my brain busy processing every one of the sensory interactions that I encountered, but I was also busy reflecting, praying, analyzing, and meditating with the experiences before me. This is, after all, part of the intention of such a trip. What I came to realize is how God was active through the opening of my heart and the engagement of my mind.
I found myself constantly checking my emotional response to the enormous variety of contexts I observed. I recall visiting a family in Alicedale who had been assisted with care and education by one of the parishioners of St. Barnabas’ Parish. I entered their home hoping to remain guarded in some way, to hold on to the non-anxious presence I have been taught to be. I wonder, though, if what was needed more in this moment of visiting a four-year old boy who could not walk or talk because of HIV transmission at birth, was to just feel the emotion at its rawest place. Perhaps only then could my heart bow to the immeasurable volume of grace filling this great pit of despair.
As I reflected on this moment, I thought about the nature and efficacy of prayer. What if prayer is a justice issue connected with power? What if God’s acting on and through us is realized differently for a family whose only sense of hope is prayer for their child? How truly unimaginable would that power be, over and against our sometimes half-hearted, in and out of focus prayers for the sick who have access to skilled physicians and abundant healthcare resources?
There are holes to be poked and thoughts to be re-examined as I consider this reflection from my experience. I find Christ’s peace remembering that I come from a tradition that has been praying for this child from the very moment his vitality and energy challenged the rhythm of his mother’s heartbeat (just as he challenged mine in our brief time together). Still, I wonder how it is that we can more deeply connect what it means to be praying on behalf of the world for the Christians in the global north who may never know the fullness of their prayer’s meaning as it adds to the volume of God’s grace in the world. This wondering is now mine and yours to ruminate about as we share together in our practice of presence and prayer with those who God puts before us along the way.