When violence comes close, prayer is as necessary as breathing

November 10, 2014
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Edie Bird, rector of Christ Church in Cape Girardeau on a  deeply faithful response to a crisis of fear

When I arrived in Cape Girardeau, people were expressing a great deal of concern about a rise in violent crime in the city, and particularly in the neighborhoods south of Christ Church. Throughout the summer months, I heard a lot of talk about it. 

Last Saturday there was a prayerful walk through the neighborhoods lead by three historically African-American congregations. 

For two hours we walked and sang gospel music, stopping to pray at each of the sites where violence had occurred during the past few months.

This was a deeply faithful response to a crisis of fear. I was deeply blessed to participate, and to be able to walk with Breita Church, Youn and Julie Gonzales, and beautiful little Elaine who came out for the march.
It was a wonderful reminder to me that when violence comes close and we are afraid and anxious, prayer is as necessary as breathing. In fact, prayer is vital, no matter how we feel or what we are doing.

The movie Of Gods and Men also reminds me of this. This movie based upon the true story of a small community of French monks in Algiers who were faced with rising violence and fear in the 1990s, represents the faith response of unceasing prayer and continued service. In one particularly moving scene, the monks are confronted with armed terrorists at their gates on Christmas Eve. After the armed men leave, the monks go into the chapel and celebrate The Feast of the Nativity with simple reverence and grace.
Ironically, I find that my life of prayer is derailed not by truly grave matters like war, but by countless little things that claim to be urgent, but are actually not at all urgent.

The constant text-messages, emails, phone calls, and the unceasing activity of my anxious mind are the things that fool me into thinking that I should put prayer aside. 

Since ancient times, faithful people have kept regular times of prayer throughout the day and night. These times of prayer need not be lengthy or complicated. A minute or five minutes a few times a day, practiced faithfully, begins to work a change in our hearts and minds.

The relationship with God becomes firmly established through the practice of daily prayer, it deepens and it grows.

There is an ancient Christian practice (some will remember this from older prayer books) of keeping regular times of prayer at sunrise ( 6 a.m.), morning (9 a.m.), noon, 3 p.m., and sunset (6 p.m.) along with bedtime (9 p.m. or so). If one wakes in the night (as I often do), it is the loveliest time for quiet prayer. There is nothing like the vigil of prayer in the deep quiet of the night.

At the church, I am going to keep the 9 a.m. hour for Morning Prayer on the days I am in the Office and invite you to join me for this time of prayer if you wish. In addition to singing some psalms and reading a little bit of Scripture through the week, just praying that God’s good and gracious will be done in each of our lives. I’ll also be praying for peace in our homes, our neighborhoods, our city, our state, our nation, and our world. Please join me at 9 a.m. whenever you are able and wish to.

Published in the November 2014 issue of Seek.

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