Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 14, 2015
All the Saints—in Prayer
When I say the word “saints,” what do you think of? What immediately pops into your head?
When I think of “saints,” two things come to mind, more or less interchangeably. First—coming from a Protestant background and upbringing, regarding my theology—I think of all believers. The Apostle Paul calls us all “saints.” It was not a special designation for him.
However, the second strong impression entering my mind is that of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, where “saints” are particularly revered, especially-holy believers in Christ.
Either way, these ideas of saints can help me as I pray.
The verse for the day, heading today’s reading in my prayer guide, comes from Hebrews 12:1-2. Yes, that great cloud of witnesses helps me as I pray. And as I live my life. As I stand (or fall on my face, which is sometimes the case) before God.
I have many Catholic relatives in my extended family. My parents were both baptized Catholic as babies. I feel an affinity, some familiarity with Catholic believers, and I was born in one of the largest Catholic archdioceses in the country. This has aided me in my work and calling as a chaplain in hospitals and care centers in the Chicago area. Thus—I have been able to come alongside Catholic believers in difficult or traumatic situations, and walk with them. Pray with them. Cry to the Lord with them. Some of them have requested assistance from a favorite saint, several have asked me to pray the Rosary with them, and I agree with them in prayer before God.
I can also think of several Protestant “saints,” who have helped me so much as I have learned about prayer, over the years. Dear Miss Rose, now in God’s presence. A woman of immense faith and prayer if ever there was one. Several more dear ones, who have inspired me and nurtured me along the way. I am grateful beyond measure for their examples and lessons.
As I understand from the words of Rev. Howell, we are not supposed to come to God as extra-holy super pray-ers. Instead, what we bring to God “is brokenness and profound need, a virtually desperate desire to be loved, held, and swept up into the very heart of God.” This, then, is what I bring to God. This, then, is where the saints can gather round me, and cheer me on. Sometimes console me and sit with me, as I sit or stand or kneel before God.
Regardless, I am not alone. God is with me. And so are the company of saints. That great cloud of beneficent, loving witnesses, cheering me on as I journey with God through this life. That cloud of saints is with you, too. Praise God, they are right at our sides.
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 James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 50.