by Karen Harder
This is a story about the power of prayer and sidewalk chalk. For the past six months, I’ve followed a spiritual practice of daily prayer. What I pray to has changed with each of the UU sources we’ve studied in our Wellspring small group. But my format remains roughly the same: name the un-nameable; place myself in relationship to what I name; state the pain, the fear, the need, the worry or whatever I’m wrestling with; express gratitude; and let it go.
It sounds harder than it is, usually. But I really struggled one morning in mid-November – you remember: November, maybe you were struggling too. I was about a mile and a half into my pre-dawn power walk, which normally helps focus my thoughts, but prayer would not come. All I had was a feeble “Help me.” I tried again, the most authentic prayer I could think of. Looking up at the dark sky, I said out loud: “Help us.” At that very moment, I looked down at the sidewalk, and illuminated by the streetlight were the words: “We begin again in love.” I stopped. I looked around, and behind me, a few squares back, I’d blown right past another square that read: “Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect.”
I finished that walk feeling lighter, comforted, supported, more hopeful, more alive, held.
I know divine intervention didn’t write that message on the sidewalk. Someone in this congregation did, performing a random act of courageous love, maybe in response to a prayer of their own. They shared their faith – deciding to act as though actions matter – and in so doing, answered a prayer I had not yet even prayed.
I think this illustrates what prayer does, whatever the formula, addressed to whomever or whatever it may concern: It helps keep in front of me what I yearn for, it positions me to see where I’ve come from, what I already have, and what I just might offer others.
I light this chalice for prayer, and for this safe space in which to practice leaning into silence, listening for our authentic voice, and losing our fear of speaking truth out loud. May we continue to grow through our connections, expanding our capacity to hear more, share more, and pray more.