The Homeless Man's Prayer
Prayer is not personal devotion; it is personal growth. Prayer enables us to be immersed in what is fundamentally and truly divine in life right now. It is not meant to be a bridge to somewhere else because God is not somewhere else. God is here.
I was pondering these words from Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister yesterday, Ash Wednesday, and asking myself, “How am I supposed to live this out?” Making prayer a part of the everyday, the here and now, seemed like a good goal for Lent ... but how would I do it?
I headed to the gym and grunted a prayer or two while lifting some weights (can you tell that I really don’t think it’s fun to lift weights but I know we’re supposed to do it?). An email had come from a friend asking for prayers for a truly horrific substance-abuse problem in her family. A colleague told me about his wife’s cancer. Another email from a writer whose husband is recovering from pneumonia.
In between counting reps, I prayed for them. Then I headed to the showers, relieved that exercise was over, but my prayer life, well ... that still needed to go on. I got dressed, dashed outside and headed for work when I saw this white-haired elderly man standing by the subway. He’s often there begging, combed, cleanly dressed but with that forlorn look of the homeless. Maybe this was my chance to see that “God is here.”
“Excuse me,” I said to him, “would you like an energy bar?” I took one of out gym bag.
“Let me look at it.” He squinted at the ingredients on the label. “Nope. Sorry, I can’t eat it. I’m diabetic.” He handed it back.
“Oh,” I said, disappointed. “Maybe I should buy some energy bars that are for diabetics.”
“Don’t worry,” he responded. “God always takes care of me.”
Back at the office I read more of that Chittister quote on prayer. Prayer is the act of beginning the process of becoming one with the One we seek—eventually melting into God completely. I hadn’t melted at all, but I’d been blessed by a guy begging for change at the top of the subway steps. Not bad for my first day of Lent.
That's what's special about a prayer from childhood: It’s always there inside you, ready to be called to your lips when you need it.