My Good Friday Prayer
In my Eastern Orthodox community, church isn’t just an hour on Sunday. It’s an event. Everyone dresses to impress in neatly ironed outfits, then settles in for a two hour-long mass, followed by an hour of socializing.
But on Good Friday, things are different–like some sort of alternate universe. We arrive at church at 8 p.m., dressed in jeans and sneakers. The lights are dimmed. All you can hear is the mournful singing–really, wailing–of the choir. Even the parishioners, tired after a long day at work or school, are weary.
After the lights flicker to signify Jesus’ death, we all take turns walking underneath Jesus’ tomb–a board held up by a few young guys and overflowing with flowers. Pink carnations, red roses, baby’s breath. As you walk under the tomb, you’re supposed to pray for something special. More than any other time of year, this is the time to pray for a miracle and expect an answer. So I always pray that my family stays healthy and wealthy in the heart. Then I add a few personal requests about whatever happens to be troubling me most.
It’s such a beautiful moment, but one I tend to stress out about it. After all, it’s a quick walk underneath the tomb, maybe 15 seconds tops. I worry I won’t have enough time to cover all my requests. So as I wait in line, I go over and over what I’m going to say, committing it to memory. When it’s finally my turn, I panic. What if I forget something?
Just this week, I was talking to my parents and sisters about the upcoming Good Friday service. Curiosity got the best of me and I asked them what special things they pray for when they walked under Jesus’ tomb. Do they spaz out just like me?
“You’re at the top of my list,” my mom said, as if it were obvious. “I pray that Jesus lifts up all of your worries.”
“I never really pray for myself,” my dad admitted. “I just ask God to continue to help and heal all of you.”
“I don’t remember,” my sister Kristin said. “But I pray for you every single time.”
So did my sister Priscilla. “Well, I always pray for you specifically,” she said.
These revelations kind of floored me. I’d assumed I was just a quick mention on a laundry list of requests. In reality, they’d been using up their time underneath the tomb to really, really pray for me. I’d always been so preoccupied with getting in all of my prayers. And yet, here were four people who’d been asking God to work miracles in my life without me even realizing it.
So this Friday, I have a new plan. When it’s my turn to walk under the tomb, I’m going to focus on my loved ones instead of my own many requests. As usual, I’ll pray that we all stay healthy and happy. And also that my family experience God’s miracles wherever they go, however they need it most. Just like they’ve always prayed for me.
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A colleague experiences a miracle while at an open-air church service in Long Island