Bishop Michael Curry: The Power of Ordinary Love

00:00 00:00
00:00
Gondola Prayers

Gondola Prayers

When I was 5-years-old our family went on one of those gondolas up a mountain in British Columbia, Canada, and just as our cable car suspended over the deepest part of the valley below, it stopped moving. It swayed at first, and then all went still. Nobody spoke. Except for a little voice, (and yes it was mine), that asked my parents, “How do we know this is on tight?”

That’s the question when life gets really scary, isn’t it? When you are dangled over the abyss and there’s nothing between you and… the thing no one is saying except the little kid who says what everyone is thinking: “How do we know this is on tight?”

Of course, that’s when we really start praying it is on tight. For everyone’s sake. In the face of such uncertainty, sometimes all we can do is pray.

But what are we actually doing when we pray? And what did the Biblical writer James mean when he told his fellow Christians that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective”?

Experience tells us that prayer isn’t a secret remote control we can use to zap reality to our liking. Sometimes we pray and nothing changes. Sometimes prayers lead to miracles.

Other times we feel like we need to do something special to get God’s attention.

And for my five-year-old self hanging over a deep ravine, it would be a perverse God indeed, who said “just be a good enough little girl and pray the right way, and it will all be OK.”

What I love about history is that it anchors us in a reality we couldn’t otherwise touch. James wrote his letter to offer practical advice to newly converted Christians about a foreign concept of worship. In their world, people prayed to a chosen or local gods or goddesses: women swore by Artemis or Diana, Hercules was reigned supreme in the town of Thebes, or Zeus in Athens. James reminds them that they are not praying to fitful and bad-tempered gods who will hurl lightning bolts if they are angered. We are under the eye of the one true God who has actually come down to us as a little baby, who knows us and loves us and hears our prayers.

This fact changed everything about prayer, for first century Christians, and for us. Because since all things exist in relation to this God of love, our prayers do too.

We are praying to the God whose very sweetness has broken through to us.

So when THIS God moves to put our prayers into effect, they ARE powerful and effective. But we don’t make them so. So what are we doing when we pray?

Somehow, we are touching a reality beyond the senses.

Did you know that it isn’t the eyes that see, it’s the brain? I read an article in the New Yorker article called “Seeing with Your Tongue.” A person experiencing blindness could learn to see with a device called a Brainport.

The sense of touch takes the place of the optic nerve, transporting images to the brain. And somehow, perception is translated.

I can’t help but think that prayer works something like this.

In prayer we are brought into the presence of God, whose eternal reality translates for us. Crosses a boundary to create liminal space where transformation happens.

We sense that we were created because we are loved. Just that. We are not a means, but an end. And we are more whole, more alive, with a wellness that we didn’t create by some transactional effort on our part.

And there is some waiting necessary. To pray means we have to yield up space and time, and some of our darling preoccupations.

For one hot minute there is a self-emptying that mirrors God’s own. And as Simone Weil says, grace enters and fills the empty space wherever there is a void to receive it.

Once when Zach was little, my Mom threw a blanket over the dining room table, and the two of them crawled under to talk in whispers. His little face, so close to hers, was full of wonder that she wasn’t tall anymore, but small and enclosed with him in the semi-darkness. Their tent was a holy place where secrets were shared. It is the same for us in prayer, but God is the grown-up and we are the child.

The mystery of prayer is that we may never understand exactly how it works, just that it draws us into intimacy with a God who hears. When even in our tiniest voices we wonder, “How do we know that this is on tight?” and we can expect, somehow, that someone hears us and answers: “I know, right?”

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
26 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary Gene
Mary Gene
6 months ago

Amazing,
Thank you, Kate!

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Mary Gene

You are so welcome, Mary Gene!

Tom Nuckels
Tom Nuckels
6 months ago

Thank you, Kate, for the good reminder this morning.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Nuckels

Of course. It’s a gift to be able to support this community in this way right now!

Deena
Deena
6 months ago

This Jewish lady loves this, and LOVES YOU, Kate.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Deena

Oh my goodness this is so kind! Thank you for this encouragement.

Marian
Marian
6 months ago

Beautiful, powerful, timely; I love the reminders that no matter (how we view) the result of our prayer, God hears us and loves us, and that Grace is always the answer, if we can empty ourselves to receive it. Thank you, Kate, as always.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Marian

Yes! It’s such a good reminder for all of us, especially in this time.

David Goodridge
David Goodridge
6 months ago

Thank you you’re an amazing writer

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago

Aw! Thank you David!

Deborah Fahey
Deborah Fahey
6 months ago

Thank you for having the right questions with such peace.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Deborah Fahey

I’m so thankful to be able to ponder and write about these things amidst such a loving community. Thank you for helping make this space what it is.

Katheryn Greenberg
Katheryn Greenberg
6 months ago

Thanks Kate!! It’s so hard to figure out how to seek God when I am in fear. Or when I am being told to “enjoy every minute” I have with my 2 year old Todller in a 14 week preggo body that worked 2 years to get that way. Cause I cannot. And then I don’t know how to talk to God because I’m not always thinking what a blessing to be locked inside the house with this family and no help and I try and do the super mom thing when that’s just not me. Performing. Remembering that God… Read more »

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago

Dear Katheryn,
This is the most real thing I’ve read all day and I LOVE it. Thank you for engaging this post so honestly. Your words are sure to make all those other imperfect-feeling mamas and wives feel a little less alone today.
God hears you and loves you. God is with you. End of story. Amen.
Our team is sending you love today and an indefinite amount of days to come.

judy thornhill
judy thornhill
6 months ago

Hi Kate I love your ” little somethings” THANX 4 sharing!!!

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  judy thornhill

Judy! So glad it’s been resonating!

Josias
Josias
6 months ago

Love it, thank you!!!

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Josias

Oh you’re so welcome. Sending you our best!

John H
John H
6 months ago

Thank you Kate for your wit and wisdom. I always feel uplifted by the spirit you exhibit. You are an inspiration to all of us whose lives are limited by our illness.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  John H

John, thank you for your kind words! It’s a gift to be able to witness a supportive and encouraging community like this one. We’re in it together.

Grandma Karin
Grandma Karin
6 months ago

I don’t cry these days… haven’t much for years but I am crying. This ‘old lady’, well, this grandma says thank you Kate.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Grandma Karin

Grandma Karin! I can call you that right? Because it just works.
You are not alone in your tears. This time of uncertainty has brought up many strange and unexpected emotions in all of us. Thank you for your honesty and for reminding me that I’m not the only one feeling fragile.

Jill Paul
Jill Paul
6 months ago

Thank you. This was lovely.

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Paul

So glad you enjoyed it!

Anne Winsauer
Anne Winsauer
6 months ago

Oh, Kate, we love you. We shared your book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved” with a new friend at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. There at Mepkin as with you quiet voice, we feel the opening of that space to allow God’s sweetness to fill us with love and sometimes with understanding. Thank you!!

Mepkin friends,
Anne, John, and Sally

Team Everything Happens
Admin
Team Everything Happens
6 months ago
Reply to  Anne Winsauer

Hello! This is so great. We’ve heard lovely things about Mepkin Abbey! A holy place indeed. So good to hear from you all. Sending our best!
Team Everything Happens

26
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x