My Kind of Prayer

As regular readers are aware, I’m committed to radical inclusiveness.  I don’t deny friendship to people because they hold different political or religious views than mine.  I don’t think any belief system except a forgiving orientation toward service can encompass the entire truth of life.  But I’m a complicated person.  Most of my understanding has come from trying to adapt to sources of unhappiness in my youth.  Since I am generally very happy now, I consider these difficulties to have been great blessings.

My favorite prayers and written meditations reflect this attitude.  Here’s one composed in 1985 by Sister Ruth Fox, the recently retired Prioress of a Benedictine Abbey near Richardton, South Dakota.  I’ve seen it incorrectly titled “Franciscan” sometimes, and not credited to her.  It’s an easy confusion to make.  Francis of Assisi often celebrated poverty and hardship as paths to wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.  That’s why he’s one of my heroes.  Sister Ruth would probably say someone else wrote it through her anyway.

A Fourfold Benedictine Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort

at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger

at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears

to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them

and to turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

to believe that you can make a difference in the world,

so that you can do what others claim cannot be done,

to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Best Wishes in all your own struggles.

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30 Comments

Filed under Ethics and Morality, Metaphysics

30 responses to “My Kind of Prayer

  1. Amen buddy..amen. I have a deep appreciation for people, like you, who make the time and effort to examine their lives and those around us in search of answers that might help us better understand all people, so that we can help them..and ourselves in the process.

    It took me a long time to appreciate my hard times. Resentment and hate are powerful tools in successful self destruction. At least they were my favorite tools. When I finally embraced (and not just said I did) the good, bad and ugly of my world, well, life just got better. Life ain’t always great, but it’s still grand. We all have a personal responsibility to “raise up” those around us so that they can see the same.

    • Thanks so much, Maria. I know how hard you’ve worked to earn everything you have, your wonderful family, and now a degree! You truly understand the difference between riches and having money. I still get angry quite often, and sad too, but I’m much better at re-directing it into doing something good with the energy than I used to be.

  2. It’s interesting that the prayer includes anger. I have had several very interesting group discussions in recent weeks about righteous anger. I’m going to quote the most interesting comment.

    “Last fall, I had the opportunity to be with the His Holiness the Lama Kharma of Bhutan, to whom I asked this very question, about whether or not anger, for the good of others, was the “correct” path/response. He said that the response of compassion was appropriate, even to the person who harms an innocent child! And the other compassionate response, is to put ourselves between the innocent victim and the person who would harm. A tall order, on both counts! The trap I see with righteous anger is that it separates us from the other. It easily can become self-righteousness.”

    I agree with this perspective even though I can’t always live it. I think we can be just as motivated to “do good” by compassion as we can by righteous anger. The difference is that compassion keeps our hearts open to all while anger often involves judgment and separation into “us” and “others.”

    My favorite prayer? “Thank you.”

    • I do agree with the Lama about the correctness of the response. However, as I have not yet defeated anger in myself, and I am living, acting and reacting now, I require a temporary adaptation, a better place to direct its use. I will continue to work on it, hoping to increase the consistency of my inner peace. I don’t personally see an incompatibility between feeling anger over evil comitted against an innocent, and compassion toward one taking an evil action. I would be hurt and angry if someone murdered my wife, but it would still be my obligation to not only forgive them, but also to testify for clemency on their behalf. I always appreciate the subtlety and quality of your contributions, Galen.

  3. Invisible Mikey: That was beautiful! We need discomfort or else some people in this world will run right over us without thinking twice about it. This is a crazy world and most people only think about themselves. I am glad that I was blessed to feel enough discomfort to speak up for myself when the time is right.
    We need our emotions and sometimes anger has been what has driven me. Besides from my parents, I get angry when I am told what, how and when to do anything. Days like today, I sit back and ponder on how good it would feel to be free and live my life the way I want.
    Anyways, I know I will enter into the matrix and travel through hell in order to reach my destiny on the otherside.

  4. Thank you, Mikey. You always get me thinking :)

  5. I have not read the prayer before. Thank you for sharing it. I can certainly relate to all of it….discomfort, anger, tears, foolishness. Been there. Done that.

    It is only once we get on the other side of all of it that we can see them as blessings. To say that they are blessings to someone who is still trapped in all the muck will make no sense to them.. I know that it did not to me and only made me angrier when people would suggest such a silly notion to me.

    It really is nice to be on the other side. Now, with this perspective, everything that comes my way is a blessing. It is all in how I use it.

    • There is an interesting element in the ritual behavior of praying that stimulates the unconscious mind beyond what the conscious mind is entertaining. When I first heard this one, in 1985, when I was still in the muck, it caused me to entertain the POSSIBILITY that my troubles might be re-framed as blessings. So, in spite of not understanding it consciously, it worked – over time. Thanks for your lovely presence, Debbie.

  6. This is lovely, and although I am not a religous person in any sense of the word, her words are beautiful and applicable on a very human level, even without the mention of God. The part about foolishness is genuinely moving, I wish I were a little more foolish sometimes.

    • It’s true that prayer as a practice does not require belief in God. Prayer is a meditative practice, an intent to focus and center yourself. Most people believe in some source of superior power, but it may be thought of as love, music, or the force of nature in exactly the same way. And what you point out so well, Anna, is that in this case the prayer is about ethical behavior and taking correct actions without regard to the likelihood of complete success. Do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.

  7. Our struggles, and how we respond to them, define us more so than our successes. Being a mean, twisted, old bastard, you know how I came out.
    Your current struggle is with that cute, green mushroom-headed thingy that “likes” you.

  8. You know I’m still struggling with the pain, tears, frustration and discomfort of my foolishness of a year and a half ago.
    I have (and still am) learning a lot about compassion, anger and how the struggle affects the smallest of things in every day life.
    I have indeed gained a new-found respect for people who suffer permanent disabilities and learned a lot about both the brilliant and not so brilliant sides of people who did (or conspicuously didn’t) step in to help us when we really did seriously need a hand.
    It’s easy to run alongside someone when the going is easy, but a very different story when the going gets tough.
    I’m learning a lot too about the reality of how I *thought* I might handle this kind of situation in life and how (some days) I really don’t measure up to my expectations but on the other hand I’ve also surprised myself a lot of times when I found that my limits were a lot further out than I imagined them to be.
    Truly this IS a prayer for me… Thank you!

  9. The sentence, “May God comfort you with discomfort….superficial relationships,” really stands out in the prayer (to me).
    Thank you for the positive words for the day.

  10. Hello Mikey, as I already commented on this post, but I wanted to ask a favor of you. Would you mind dropping by and letting me know your thoughts on my latest post and comments. They are in regards to the healthcare field. Am I breaking any HIPPA laws? Hope not. I changed the names of the post. The comments are about oxygen levels etc. I would love to know your opinion as it is relative to the healthcare field.

    You are now on my blogroll at a rating of (9), to stay.

    I also listed your name on my WordPress post. I hope this is ok, if not I will change the post.

    Let me know if the wording of the WordPress post is ok with you.

    Best Regards,

    Liz

    • I don’t believe you are in danger of any HIPAA violation, Liz, since you are talking about your experiences with a co-worker and not identifying patients too specifically.

      You can mention me in any context you like in posts, even if you disliked something I wrote. There’s no such thing as bad publicity :) I do appreciate you asking.

  11. If we put our live through the analysing wringer we would really get out all the lessons it has to teach us. I’m glad that you said that youre happy now, as a result of the tough times of the past. The unhappiness can stalk you throughout life unless you understand it for what it is. Then it becomes a pet. That poem/prayer was beautiful and inspiring as much of your work is! Great combo!

  12. I enjoyed the prayer. I truly believe that the only limitations that we put upon ourselves are indeed, the limitations we put upon ourselves! Specifically, if we limit our ability to forgive others then we also may be limiting the necessity of doing the same with respect to forgiving self. The burden of an unforgiving heart always cankers and destroys the soul from within, often unbeknownst to the one for whom we have denied forgiveness.

  13. Amen. Thx for sharing. And I love your opening stattement about radical inclusiveness as well. That’s very phrase I’ve been searching for :)

    Bless you and thanks again for sharing.

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