It was a breath of a whisper; familiar words rolled so softly into the frigid hospital room. “Hail Mary…” And as they filled the air, her aged features softened, relaxed somehow. I remembered the song, “Jesus take the Wheel….” and then small children uttering the Guardian Angel prayer before a monstrous elementary school assessment. Much later, in the waves of quiet that late Autumn afternoons bring, it began to come together. Those prayers, those measured words and rituals, somehow dispelled the threatening storms of ordinary lives. An element of trust, of consciously facing the moment with a companion, superseded the pain, the fear, the dread. And I wondered if the power of prayer is really in the manifestation of trust in something greater than self. Can prayer be the moment of connection with the God we cannot see or touch? Can prayer bridge the chasms of anxiety and depression? Can prayer help us negotiate the dark and dangerous moments or overcome the challenges?

The term “prayer” seems to bear a connotation tinged with skepticism and tempered by social and political biases. In spite of that, what was once a staple of daily life has a foothold in the quiet practices of so many. There are those who silently offer that moment of thanks before a meal, and there are those who connect virtually through the rhythmic words of a prayer like the Our Father. And there are those whose knees find the floor waiting every night and prayer happens. Every instance is taking the time to build a relationship, to acknowledge human finitude and the vast possibilitities of Providence. Images from all over the world show human beings investing in the effort in honoring those relationships and in making this happen as communities and as persons.

To some, such a practice makes no sense. Others are quick to call out “hypocrisy” or question the rationality of so firm a belief. And yet, in the very smallness of who we are lies the vast essence of who God is: this completely other being, simply not human yet far from inhuman. Postulating that in a traditonal mode often confines understanding to parameters fenced with the barbed wire of institutional structures. Yet millenia and centuries point to the continual evolution of human understanding and purpose, the richness of deepening appreciation for the power of Providence and the inability of human beings to confine the concept of God to the strictures of religious practice. There is always more to be found, to be understood, to be developed and welcomed.

Taking a chance on believing, on deepening a relationship with God, is worth the tenor and the risk. It need not be public; God speaks in the quiet of hearts and the colors of the trees and the stillness of human gaze. Prayer is the chance to listen, to be heard, to be believed…to be loved. Finding faith is beginning to believe that there is more to what was learned in the past, that human beings are full of foibles and flaws and even so are lovable, malleable, and even trustworthy. Prayer, in the context of relationship, opens the possibility of discovering goodness, strength, trust, resilience and hope. It is more than a regimen, more than a ritual: it is daring to live a relationship.

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