Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Flying Prayers at Pentecost

I saw something recently I’ve never seen before.

Before the sun had settled below the horizon there was a pinkened glow on the cloud cover and hanging from it was a rainbow. I’ve never seen a hanging rainbow the rest of its usual arch completely out of view. It looked like a colorful waterfall. I thanked the Creator Godde for this sight, marveled at such beauty, and circled the car for another turn of the harbor road so I could see it again—and again.

I imagined I knew exactly how old Noah in the Bible story must have felt gazing out from the famed ark of his making, an ark to save Creation as the story goes. I was only in my Honda saving nothing but just as grateful—and oddly happy for no reason. I felt suddenly like the young child I was, happy simply with life on its own terms, replete with tragedies, horrors and hanging rainbows. The invisible divine spirit connected me through beauty to my inner beauty.

I understood why children know how to appreciate mystery, how to take holiness for granted, and how to pray with fearless integrity. I understood why Jesus designated a little child as the ideal candidate for Godde’s kingdom.

At St. John’s in Gloucester, the parish where I’ve been Priest Associate for thirteen years, we do a rainbow-like array to celebrate the Holy spirit, Person # 3 of the Trinity, Godde’s helper and the one I call the Great Connector. Every one is invited to write a prayer on a colored dove. The doves of many colors are cut out and strung up on invisible wires to hang in the sanctuary over the altar. The sight astonishes.

All our prayers are flying, a visible recognition of the traveling power of the Spirit—and of prayer.

The best ones belong to children, not for their humor or cuteness but for the raw power of their authenticity and for the themes of love, gratitude, desire, concern for others as well as self, and for their honest recognition of pain and fear without making it the center of the prayer. Here are a few examples from children ages 2 to 14.

God, please don’t let Teddy collapse he’s my best friend. (six year old boy re. his beloved childhood bear that has been mauled by love like the Velveteen Rabbit)

I hope/pray that Piper has a happy life in heaven. (boy, 6 about the dog the family had to euthanize.)
I pray for Piper to let her know I miss her and I love her. (sister, 3, of the above)
That all people of Haiti have food and homes. (girl, 10)
I pray my Daddy’s shoulder gets better so he can play golf with me. (boy 7)
That nobody gets huuuurt. (boy 2 1/2)
I pray that Maggie always stays safe. (girl, 5 about another beloved dog)
I thank God because I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Amen. (girl, 10)
I pray that everyone is happy and that the people in war get home safely. Amen. (girl, 14)

These prayers represent the substance of spiritual truth—the ordinary stuff of life for its own sake encased in hope. They will fly well.