May 24, 2013 admin

Touched and blessed

I’ve never forgotten the moment, over ten years ago now, when I entered the ward and they stopped me at the desk. ‘They’re waiting for you, rabbi. The young man is dying and wants you to say a prayer.’ I’d never even met him before: what prayer should I be saying? In the event, I didn’t have to decide. The man was weak, but smiled warmly first at me then at his wife: ‘Say a prayer about life’s beauty because we’ve loved it together’.
Tomorrow we read how Moses prays for his sister’s health. It’s the shortest recorded prayer in Judaism, ‘God, please, heal her, please’. In a week of violence, when in America a hurricane has crushed the lives of young children, when here murderous hands still covered in a young man’s blood have been held up with no shame, that prayer marks the opposite intention, the desire to make whole again, to bring goodness and restoration to the world.
How many have spoken or lived this prayer since! Who is the ‘her’ of our prayers? It is someone we love, our parent, partner, child; it is our friend, neighbour, colleague. To the mystics it is also our own troubled heart, longing for peace and God. It is our society, the very world itself, in its need for wholeness and repair, and the prayer becomes the expression of an inner longing that needless hurt and cruelty should not exist, but only respect and compassion for all our fellow creatures on our journey across this earth, and for the earth itself. That is the heart of religion, and acting accordingly is the body of the faithful life.
What does it mean to pray for a person who is ill? In the first instance it is to be mindful, to not forget. That sounds like a small matter: who, after all, would forget? Yet we do. There’s much which generally escapes our sensitivity when we take our health for granted. Time itself is different when the phases of the day are marked not by meetings and meals, but by when one has to take one’s next medication. Prayer makes us pause; it restores our awareness of the wholeness of life and invites us into a deeper bond of solidarity. Conscious then of each other’s journeys and travails, in illness or in health, we think of one another with greater fellowship, humility and compassion.
Perhaps this is what Rabbi Lionel Blue meant when he wrote that ‘prayer boomerangs’. The supplication to God as healer returns to us as a question: ‘What am I doing to be faithful to life?’ and we sense more acutely not only our responsibilities towards one another, but our opportunities to share, in kindness and thoughtfulness, the privileges and challenges of being.
We may pray for one another, thinking of the other person, asking for windows of blessing to open both for them and within them. Perhaps it isn’t so different, but we may also pray with one another, allowing our consciousnesses to be companions, and inviting the presence of all living being into this fellowship, this bond with God and loving-kindness, which leaves us, if only for a moment, touched and blessed.

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