Saturday, 11 June 2011

A prayer for all seasons

A Prayer For All Seasons

The Observer, Dunkirk, NY, 05/26/11

by Daniel O’Rourke

Years back someone e-mailed me “The Best Prayer I Have Heard in a Long Time.” The author was unknown. I adopt and adapt it here.  It makes bushels of sense to me. Here’s my enhanced version.

 O God, help us to remember that that woman who cut us off in traffic last night was a single mother who worked nine hours yesterday and was rushing home to cook dinner, do the laundry, help with homework, and spend a few precious minutes with her children.

Help us remember that the pierced, tattooed, preoccupied young man at the check-our counter, who can't make change correctly, was a 19-year-old college student worried over final exams and his fear of not having student loans next semester.

Remind us that the old couple moving so slowly through the store aisles and annoying us because they are slowing down our own shopping are taking pleasure in being together.  Last week she got a biopsy report.  She has an inoperable cancer and this will be the last year she’ll be around to shop with her husband.

Remind us, O God, that the disheveled and dirty man, begging for money outside the market (whom we really think should get a job!) is a homeless veteran and mentally ill.  He is a tortured human being enslaved to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

As we move away from the supermarket, O God, help us to be patient with others no matter how outlandish their views. Help us to see the nugget of truth in their positions. Help us to look for it and affirm it. Help us as the old song teaches, “to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” Help us always to be positive and optimistic.

Help us to be patient and to take the long view. We may not see the results of our efforts, but others will. That’s the way You have ordained it.  "The seed," says the Zen master, "never sees the flower.” Or as Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”  (John 12: 24). Teach us the wisdom in that.

And closer to home, O God, help all us old-timers -- many grandparents have mentioned this to me – to forgive our children for visiting and calling home infrequently.  Help us to remember that they have their own lives, busy with their jobs and grandchildren’s music, ballet and swimming lessons, little leagues, horseback riding and soccer camps.  Help us to understand.

Help us to make our own the powerful prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi. “Let us not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”  Especially, O God, help us to love.

Remind us each day that of all the gifts You give us, the greatest gift is the ability to love. And it’s not enough to give that love merely to those we hold dear. Open our hearts not only to those bound to us by blood and friendship, but to all humanity – to all Your struggling people. Help us to be patient and compassionate. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

With apologies to our non-Christian readers, allow me to end with another word from Jesus, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6: 37-38).

Amen, Lord, amen. Alleluia!

Retired from the administration at State University of New York at Fredonia, Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga, New York.  His column appears in the Observer, Dunkirk, NY on the second and fourth Thursday each month.   A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest.  His new book, “The Living Spirit” is a collection of previous columns.  To read about “The Living Spirit” or send comments on this column visit his website

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