Moments of Truth
Mrs E. Herman in Creative Prayer (Pub: James Clark, London 1921) recounts the following story:
“A radiant young girl, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant of Lyons, was dancing at a fashionable ball. She was engaged to the most popular young man in her social set, and the wedding was due within a week.
“Suddenly, in the middle of a minuet, her foot faltered and her eyes grew wide and misty, as she looked past her partner into what had become to her a dull blur of filmed colours. A vision had come to her, suddenly, unaccountably, wiping out the gay scene and fixing her eyes upon Eternity.
“She had seen the vision of a dying world, dying for lack of prayer. The world was perishing for lack of man’s vital air. It was cut off from the very source of life, slowly dying the death of the asphyxiated. She seemed to hear its laboured breathing – uneven, stertorous, spasmodic. She saw creation sink into nothingness and no one there to save, no one even to recognise the peril. Around her, her friends were dancing, unaware that it was a dance of death. In a corner a smiling, debonair priest discussed the relative merits of eligible young men with a match-making mother. Ah, what chance for a dying world when the Church herself is drugged in slumber!
“But God was watching, and had of His inscrutable mercy awakened her. Why ? Why did she stand there, the only watcher among somnambulists ? With a swift, resolute motion of soul, intense as leaping flame, she there and then renounced all that life had to offer her, and vowed herself to ceaseless prayer on behalf of a dying world.
“Deaf to the entreaties of parents and lover, impregnable with the strength of those who have seen, she entered a convent, and became the pioneer of one of the great Contemplative Orders, from which the greatest of Christian mystics and reformers have always sprung.
“The nun of Lyons does not stand alone in her testimony. Through all the centuries men and women have been awakened to see that the world – yes, and the Church also – was dying for lack of prayer.”
People who ask “what is the use of prayer?” are sometimes told that asking God for something will increase the likelihood of their getting it. True, but misleading.
Rather than identifying prayer with Petition – though it is one facet – Mrs Herman describes prayer as creative energy.
Energy is a component of all the means of communication. Speech, telephone, reading, writing, radio, television or the Internet – all employ packages of energy, often minuscule, transported by wires, ether, atmosphere, or within the human brain.
Prayer-energy serves the same purpose as secret radio in wartime – with one critical difference. Whatever we pray is “blended in” with the prayers of the Saints, past and present and their transmission enhanced both God- and Us-ward by the angels.
There is no such thing as “my prayer”. The moment we turn towards God in prayer we become part of that almighty communications-network which links us to today’s fellow-Christians and the Communion of Saints throughout the ages. We are praying “with” the saints rather than “to” them.
Understanding that prayer is a unique form of creative energy encourages us to persevere with it. It complements action, rather than being its alternative as sometimes portrayed.
An expert once said, “Men of Prayer and action are the strongest in the world: this is the only unbeatable combination”.
Francis Gardom is Hon. Secretary of Cost of Conscience