A prayer written by Dag Hammarskjold
“Give me a pure heart–that I may see Thee, a humble heart–that I may hear Thee, a heart of love–that I may serve Thee, a heart of faith–that I may abide in Thee.”*
St. Teresa of Avila–Carrying Out God’s Work
God of Love, help us to remember that Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world. Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now. Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
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Prayer’s Two Sides: Personal and Communal: “We need both personal prayer and communal prayer. Our prayer isn’t really prayer without both.”**
Prayer is a mystery. Prayer is a matter of faith. Prayer is not for the “faint of heart”–yet it is precisely for the “faint of heart.” To me, the mystery is the connection between personal and communal prayer. One does not live and thrive without the other. It’s a matter of faith, trusting that someone is listening and acting on my personal prayers and the communal prayer of those gathered together in worship. Prayer opens us up to vulnerability, not only to ourselves and God, but to those we gather with for prayer on a regular basis.
I am reminded of what Bishop Morneau has written on prayer. “Three key qualities of personal prayer are humility, charity and honesty; and three qualities of communal prayer are objectivity, support and solidarity. . .”**
My personal prayer life is vital to my relationship with God–it is where I fully open my heart and soul and bask in God’s presence and the spirit’s direction, but if I am all there is, it can quickly turn into some self-centered diatribe of either my deplorable faults or stunning qualities. If I am all there is, I block out the myriad of people praying for me and for the entire needs of the world.
When we enter into our prayer, let us enter into it with humility, charity and honesty. God knows our every fault and failing, every fear and worry, every joy and happiness, but God wants us to open our entire selves–to be vulnerable–to be openly receptive to all of God’s abundant love and guidance.
We also enter into prayer as a community. When we gather with others at worship we join our personal prayers to the prayers of the worshiping community and to the needs of the world.
“Personal prayer has a partner, the prayer of the community. We call this ‘liturgy,’ the public expression of our faith in word, song and gesture. . . .Prayer, alone and together, is a spiritual menu that nourishes our soul, the community and the world. Three qualities underlie communal prayer, this communication with God that we do together.”**
“Henri Nouwen writes, ‘Without community, individual prayer easily degenerates into egocentric and eccentric behavior, but without individual prayer, the prayer of the community quickly becomes a meaningless routine.'”**
When we enter into the other side of prayer, we bring those qualities and add objectivity, support and solidarity. We expand our horizon to see the hurting world around us, the needs and joys of fellow believers. We have support in our journey through life. People who know what we are going through and who pray for us. We pray for each other. We belong to a global village, a community of believers. We are all members of God’s family.
This week in our journey, keep in mind who is praying for you. Remember in your prayers those around you who are in need, those you don’t even know who is in need. Pray for the needs of our country and our world. We are all connected and we need each other’s prayer and spiritual support.
When we gather for Mass, or other prayer opportunities, let us always be mindful of who and what we pray for. Let us give thanks for this mystery of prayer, let us grow in our faith and trust in God’s presence and let us grow stronger as we become more vulnerable and open to each other and God’s loving presence in every moment of prayer and worship together.
*Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966.
**Robert F. Morneau, Paths to Prayer, Cincinnati, OH, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998.