Are you still wondering what you want to do for lent? May I offer you an idea?
I am returning to a prayer practice called, “praying the news.” It is the perfect antidote for the feelings of helplessness that many of us are experiencing each day as we watch or read the news.
The practice is best understood by reading my journal entry from 2003, when the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle was filled with images of the devastating fires that were happening in Southern California. Here is what I wrote:
“I began my prayer by bringing myself into God’s presence. After some silence, I reached for the morning newspaper and fixed my eyes on the picture of a distraught woman sitting on the ground surrounded by the rubble that was all that was left of her house. I couldn’t see the woman’s face because her hair fell down over it. The devastation was so complete that I couldn’t tell if she had lived in a mansion or a shack. It really didn’t matter. She had lost everything. She had no identification, no baby pictures, no pets, no favorite recipes…nothing but the jeans and blouse that she had on.
In my prayer, I put myself into the picture with her. I smelled the smoke-filled air and the noxious fumes from melted plastics. My clothes had absorbed charred aromas. As I prayed for her, I found myself sitting with her, holding her hand. She looked up at me at first stunned and then grateful. Nothing was said – everything was said. We sat there for the longest time. It was like we had suddenly removed ourselves from the horror. We grieved silently together and a peace settled on us.”
It is unlikely that I will ever meet this woman face to face but I believe that she was touched by God’s peace. When I reflect back on that experience, I get an inkling of what Jesus wanted when he asked his disciples to wait and watch with him.
Over the years, when I have invited people to pray in this fashion, they report back to me how transformative this type of prayer is. One woman reported how her anger for a Taliban soldier softened as she prayed with his image and she was able to see him as if her were her son and a beloved human being.
I invite you to this deeply connected practice of praying the news by prayerfully opening your heart to the people and places in need, to the people you are inclined to love and the people that you have no patience for. I have no doubt that God will hear your prayer and that you will become an instrument of peace.