Posted by: watchman | June 28, 2009

Illusionist Prayer

Note: I posted this last July on another blog. But, it has been on my mind of late.

Most pastors are illusionists of some variety. It is one of our most necessary gifts. We are just as helpless as everyone else, and just as lacking in the answers. But, from time to time, people need an illusionist.

Today, I was summoned to our village’s nursing home. There, a member of our church had moved with an undeniable inertia toward the end of a long life. When I arrived I found a man surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They were all waiting, waiting for the end.

What was I doing here? Why was I summoned? I have no special powers. I have never healed anybody. I have no special knowledge. I have never been to the other side of life’s great pause, and I can give no navigational tips about the trip to come. There is no wand powerful enough that I could wield and make a real difference in the midst of a grieving, waiting family.

Never fear, however, for I am an illusionist. I held hands with a soon to be widow. I listened to a daughter who was losing a father. I touched a dying man and spoke of the honor of a life lived well. Then, I asked the family to gather around and pray. We clasped our hands in a circle and I intoned the most irrelevant prayer possible. I was careful not to mention death, but instead I spoke of peace and hope and comfort. Then, I prayed as Christ taught us to pray and recited the Lord’s Prayer. Everybody joined, including the dying man.

Now, the Lord’s Prayer has little to nothing to do with death. However, it was something we all knew. It was something ancient and spiritual we could all speak reverently together. When we finished, we wiped our tears and hugged and descended from the high plane that the prayer had taken us to.

I am no wizard. I can only touch and pray, and offer some pittance of help. Before, realities so intense and so vast, I am just like everybody else. But, I can help you feel the warmth of God’s grace, the peace of his promises, and the assurance of his hope. How? By holding a hand and reciting an ancient prayer.

The prayer did not heal anyone, nor did it push death farther away. But, it also did everything. It helped us feel like there is something more happening around us than just these beating hearts and noisy nursing homes. The prayer can help us say goodbye, and embrace the ground and ashes, unto which we return… if only for a little while.


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