Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Prayer

So, tell me, how is your commute? This snapshot is from a drive heading out of New Dehli on India’s national highway (OBTW, this is in the morning, going the opposite direction of most commuters ;-). In this particular photo, you cannot see the pedestrians, camel-drawn wagons, sacred cows wandering off the median strip, and occasional vehicle coming at you in your lane, but trust me, they are part of the commute too.

What’s my point? Only that everything is relative, of course. What you bemoan against, another would shout “hallelujah” for. And vice versa, of course.

And so, that leads me to this alternative “prayer”. I can't remember where I found this, and it did not come with any acknowledgement of the author. If you are tired of your usual prayers, or perhaps praying is not your thing, give this one a read and see what you think. Perhaps help open your eyes and your heart, and maybe even help you with gratitude. And that sounds like enough to me.

The Prayer
(author unknown)

Help us remember
that the jerk who cut us off in traffic
last night is a single mother who
worked nine hours that day and
is rushing home to cook dinner,
help with homework,
do the laundry and spend a
few precious moments
with her children.

Help us to remember that the
pierced, tattooed, disinterested
young man who can't make
change correctly is a worried
19-year-old college student,
balancing his apprehension
over final exams with his
fear of not getting his
student loans for next semester.

Remind us,
that the scary looking bum,
begging for money in the same
spot every day (who really ought
to get a job!) is a slave to addictions
that we can only imagine in our
worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the
old couple walking annoyingly
slow through the store aisles
and blocking our shopping
progress are savoring this
moment, knowing that,
based on the biopsy report
she got back last week, this
will be the last year that they
go shopping together.

Remind us each day that,
of all the gifts we receive,
the greatest gift is love.
It is not enough to share
that love with those
we hold dear.

Open our hearts not to
just those who are
close to us,
but to all humanity.
Let us be slow to judge
and quick to forgive,
show patience,
empathy and

Or perhaps you'd like a shorter version ...

"If the only prayer you say in your whole life is 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~~ Meister Eckhart


Anonymous said...

All those things to remember in The Prayer are small steps of love, but these small steps are all most of us can make (if that). Consider this interesting idea (by Henri Nouwen) and try to connect it with The Prayer...(hint: I think it connects!)

"How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit ... all these are little steps toward love.

Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey." (Henri Nouwen)

So pitiful that we (speaking collectively about our species) can not even take these small steps very well yet. Wonder if we are evolving toward being about to do better in this love area? After 5000 years? 50,000 years? (If we have not self-destructed that is.) Or maybe never, not even after a million more years, because our species is somehow terribly flawed? (There's a depressing idea.)

Steven Crisp said...


I like your (Nouwen's) idea about taking small steps toward Love. I mean, isn't that how we get anywhere, change anything, really -- through small, persistent action.

We may think the big acts of Love have the most potential for impact. The Christ-like love that can face-down the naysayers. Some David-victories over the hateful Goliaths. But we are just normal people, you and I, and so let us begin now with these small steps.

Now you say that we are somewhat pitiful, and will it not (hopefully) improve as we continue to evolve? You know, I'm not sure how pitiful we are. When you consider where we have come from (i.e., the law of the jungle), we have quite a different perspective on life. I think what we see as not representing Love is amplified by the stories that our media choose to report, and we choose to listent to.

Sometimes, I think we need to tune up our Lovometer -- have you turned yours on lately? A lovometer detects the small loving actions you describe. It will also quickly detect the random acts of kindness. Between two people. Within a neighborhood. Even among total strangers.

My lovometer was in a quite rundown state after watching news daily, reading the paper, listening to NPR during my hour-long commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and then fighting the "good fight" at work. It took some serious repair to get my lovometer back into working order.

But then, as Nouwen notes, after some years of these small steps toward Love, it seems to be working much better now. I see these acts of love almost all the time, and somehow, don't miss the nighly blood reports, or even the Paris Hilton tears reports any more.

Now perhaps some might think I am just closing my eyes to reality. I've thought about that quite a bit. No, I don't think so. There is a reality out there, all right. But it has NOTHING to do with what's on TV. The reality is, of course, that you and I are not separate. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us ... because that is exactly what we all are ... One.

Thanks, anon, for the comment and the insight. I think I will dust off the lovometer, and take it out again today. Lately I've been missing some of these small acts of love. Oh yeah, I might even offer a few myself.