A Prayer for Encouragement
By Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director
Sometimes my heart does not know how to pray. It is one of the most difficult places I live. But it happens sometimes. It is an honest place, that land where all the prayer that helped in the past isn’t helping now. It is loss, in part because prayer is communion with God, and when I don’t know how to pray I feel the loss of this companionship too.
Instead of wishing it away, I stay here. I sit as close to the earth as I can and attempt stillness. In this place of not knowing how to pray, Rumi’s words feel right, a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture. Without trying to fix or change it, I remain here.
When others are in this place, I set this prayer beside them: I hold you in my heart. That’s a good prayer. Holding you in my heart is being held in God’s heart too. I know that prayer is prayed for me, and I try my best to receive it.
In the midst of this harsh desert, I seem always to forget that I do have a prayer that has not failed me yet. It is as if I need to travel a certain distance down this wilderness path in order to remember it. Or maybe it is simply God’s hand snatching me from the brink.
It is the prayer for encouragement. I say it plain: God, I need your encouragement. Sometimes I add the word, now, which I feel is acceptable. The word for encouragement in the Greek is paraklesis. This is the word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit that will come at Pentecost. He names it the Advocate. We are promised advocacy for our souls. Out of everything God could promise to leave us to companion us, we are promised encouragement.
This may be my favorite thing.
Only the one who is asking for encouragement knows it when it shows up. The encouragement I need may not be what you need. And what happens is that once I have prayed my prayer, my heart is at the ready. The Advocate rises in me, changing me into a watchman for the morning.
Despair begins to be met with the anticipation of discovery. What is the encouragement I need? I often do not know, but Spirit knows.
My experience has taught me that it comes in small measure, no more than a breeze, but what is needed to cool the sweating brow. Enough. It comes in great diversity of form, the whole universe at its disposal. And like the grace it is, always surprising.
Sometimes we are the encouragement God sends forth. I like to remember we are part of God’s kingdom of resources for the world. We may never know many of the errands God has sent us on.
As this season of Easter finds a new home in us, born of death and despair beyond our bearing, may we be at the ready to receive God’s promised encouragement, enough for this day.
Blessings for the Journey,