Good Zeal

Our Prayer

Summer flowers…nothing is to be preferred to prayer (RB 43.3)

Mid-summer is the time of year when my flower garden begins to succumb to the efforts of bringing forth all those glorious blooms and outrageous colors. The oranges and reds have been vying for who can sing the loudest, while the pink velour crape myrtles are just beginning to crescendo above the minor choir below. The blues and violets quietly provide the undertone that steadies the blaring beat of the daylilies that punctuate the air with strains of starry brightness. Everyone has been doing their best but now the glare of the sun and heat begin to take their toll and signs of weariness are settling in. As many perennials are beginning to go to seed, the butterflies and finches increase in number, swooping in and clinging to seed heads, bent and ready to surrender their bounty. Everyone has been busy being their best, living into the prayer they’ve been given to pray.

My garden makes me think about prayer a lot. In the evenings I walk around the perimeter of the bed noting the individuals, remarking to myself on each plant, and noticing the various stages and statuses of growth or decline. Then I step back and take in the whole scene, seeing it as God might, a collective effort to bring forth a singular expression of praise or petition. It’s almost as if I can hear the flowers calling out, “We are so happy here!”, or “Help! We’re thirsty!”

Ever notice how a passage of scripture or some other excerpt from your daily reading refers to “our prayer”? This reference to the collective is noteworthy because it helps us remember that our prayers are not isolated utterances. The Daily Office is a good reminder of this, in that even as I may pray alone in the privacy of my room, the psalms exist in eternal time and somewhere, someplace others are praying these same words and intentions, albeit in various languages.

This collective prayer is a response to the prayer that is inherent in each of us. Who can claim to own a prayer, an original plea, or a vow—who among all creation stands alone armed only with their own thoughts and words, and feelings adequate to the collective groaning or gratitude of all creation? Our prayer comes to the ears of the One as a returning call and response. Just as first we were loved and then we come to love in response, first, we are given to prayer and so we are moved to pray.

Just as each plant in my garden was created to exude its own beauty and relevance to the grand scheme of creation, each of our prayers contributes to the ongoing call and response that grows within each soul that endeavors to pray. Let nothing be preferred to OUR prayer, brief and pure as the many blossoms offered up in any summer garden.

By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB

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