“Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of angels, and is the nourishment of everything spiritual.” – St. John Climacus
Prayer is such an important part of life. I believe this to be true for even those who do not see themselves as overly “religious.” We all have a relationship with God who created us and we all pray in some way, shape or form. It may be true to say that we do not all have strong lives devotion and that we do not all feel deeply connected to God in dialogue. But I feel confident that at some point or another we all have that conversation, the conversation with God. Prayer is a vital part of our journey.
Sometimes that prayer is born out of frustration and pain. It comes from a deep place in our souls that is yearning to be made whole again. We in our angst and lament we may call out to God asking simply, “why?” In that case prayer is truly the daughter of our tears. When we no longer know where to turn, who to talk to, what to say, where to go, and we are immersed in pain and even weeping we go to the natural place – the God who made us and who put us here. When prayer is the “daughter of tears” it is often a lament and a petition of mercy. It is really what it needs to be. It is an honest conversation with God.
Then there is the conversation that begins in placidity and peacefulness, but turns to a place of deep emotion. This can be a very moving experience. This is when Prayer is the Mother of tears. We give birth to our weeping in knowing a deep connection with the creator. Once when I was weeping my grandmother took my hand and said “Tears are the enemy of the devil, its ok to cry.” I am certain that in those moments when I have felt connected with God so tightly that I have been moved to tears that my grandmother was right – darkness is not to be found in that place. For in those very moments the closeness to the sacred and the divine is so powerful that darkness cannot attain to it. The tears that prayer mothers in that instance are not of sadness but of awe and ecstasy. Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. Weather it is the crying that brings us to prayer or prayer that brings us to crying, we know that Winnie Whyatt was right – those tears are an affront to the powers that enslave us and we should be confident that prayer is the right place for us to be.
But alas, we know that prayer is not JUST the Mother and Daughter of tears. For you and I know when we get it wrong. We know when we make choices that are not life giving. We know simply when we have sinned. We know that at those times, those conversations with God are like a cool drink of lemonade on the most sweltering of days. Prayer is an “expiation” of our sins. We are refreshed and renewed when we speak with God to say that we have judges, hurt, failed a fellow traveler on the road. It is God who is the atonement for our failings and simply put, sometimes it is only in conversation with God that we realize that we are a forgiven people, a redeemed people and a loved people.
Sometimes prayer is about strength to get through great temptation. It is not a mistake that when Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray, part of that prayer is “lead us not into temptation.” We know and realize sometimes when we are lured and pulled into directions we do not want to follow. We all have personal demons to conquer. I know for myself I battle my own demons, I always fight them best when I pray for strength not to succumb to my natural weakness. Prayer can be a real lifesaver in times of temptation. It is a “bridge across temptation.”
To prevent erosion of the shoreline, it is not uncommon to find bulwarks or breakwaters in costal realities. In order o allow our own shoreline to stay intact, prayer can be itself that “bulwark.” We no doubt do well to protect ourselves from the impending storms that come our way. [I pause here to not that there are many who would suggest that the beauty of loving Jesus is that there is joy and love and great happiness. In fact there is a whole prosperity gospel that goes along with that as well. This is naive and unfair to Jesus of Nazareth. Living in faith and fellowship with God means having a friend even when things are downright crappy. Storms will come our way, no matter how much we love God.] In our baptism we are promised that we are signed with the sign of the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever. That assurance means that we can ask God to help us break the waters that are crashing around us. When a storm rolls in, it is NOT a sign that God has abandoned us. Life brings storm after storm. God helps us whether those storms and even provides the protection necessary that all of our faith is not eroded in the midst of those difficulties.
Sometimes prayer is the only answer to our human conflict. Sometimes prayer is the very food that feeds our souls. Sometimes when nothing else can satisfy our longing, prayer filled the hole. We are a people in need of prayer.
St. John Climacus was a neat fellow. He was wise and learned. He was also known as St. John of the Ladder. His theology was profound. In his description of we should offer our soul up to God as if on a ladder. I dare say that he would agree that we can do that in part by paying attention to our conversations with God. His description of prayer above is accurate. Think about it – we all have a need to converse with God.
I need to go pray! God is waiting for a good conversation. I must say that tonight I do feel like offering some lament and some and I do feel like praying for protection, and I do need to pray for so many who have asked me to pray for them. I pray that I might work to bring love and hope to a world in need of both. I pray for strength to forgive and heal and to model the behaviour of Jesus of Nazareth to who I owe all honour and glory.