Praying beyond our Windows

The Talmud says, “Never pray in a room without windows.” I don’t think we have to take this injunction literally. But I do think we must follow the deeper implication of these words and always pray expansively, that is, with the larger world in mind.

In her book, The Breadth of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, writes: “We do not pray in order to escape the world around us. We pray with one eye on the world so that we can come to understand what is really being asked of us here and now, at times like this, as co-creators of the universe.”

This is precisely what we do at our prayers of petition at Mass. Yes, we may begin by praying for the particular needs of our parish community: for blessings on our parish festival, for those making their First Communion, for the sick of the parish. But we always make our prayer more expansive by praying for the wider needs of our nation and our world: for our Holy Father, for those suffering from natural disasters, for those working to end human trafficking, for blessings on our upcoming elections, for world peace.

By doing this we are reminded that we are part of that greater world. We are all connected. As such, God is urging us to do something, that is, to find ways—no matter how small or large—to incarnate the Gospel in our time and place. Good prayer eventually moves us to action. That’s why, at the end of our personal prayer, it is good to ask ourselves, “Now what?” or “So what?” or “What might God be inviting me to do today?”

Good windows let us see beyond the walls of our room, our home, our own little world. They also let in sunlight and fresh air and sometimes cold and rain. At the same time, windows frame what we see. They can help us to focus. But we must remember that what we see out a window is always a limited view, a view shielded from the outside sounds and natural elements. Sooner or later we must risk stepping out beyond our windows.

(All pictures by Pexels)

What helps you to keep the larger world in mind when you pray?

Do you ever feel like “co-creators of the universe” with God?

Pay attention to the prayers of petition at Mass this week. Were any needs of the larger world included?

Another way to pray is with a daily newspaper or with a news website. Do you ever use these in your personal prayer?

Our song today is “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.” The words were penned by Frederick W. Faber (1814-1863) an Anglican who converted to Catholicism in 1845 under the influence of his good friend, John Henry Newman. After his conversion, he composed 150 hymns for the Catholic Church. The music for this version was written by a contemporary American composer of the Baptist tradition, Mary McDonald. This video contains the sheet music with the words. I enjoyed following along and singing along. Yes, windows can expand our vision; hopefully they can also lead us to an ever-widening love and mercy “in the likeness of our Lord.”

Please add a response below–to the reflection, the pictures, or the song. We’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Kathleen Magiera on February 3, 2020 at 4:39 am

    Good Morning Sr. Melannie!

    I got to say the prayers of petition at Communion Service at a nearby nursing home and hear the same prayers of petition at Mass afterwards last. The prayers of petition are written by one of our deacons at our parish and are always so beautiful and expansive. Last weekend, one petition started “For the Light of Justice. . .”

    What a great insight for the week!


  2. John E Hopkins on February 3, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…..

    One of the great blessings with being able to teach at a Catholic school is that we begin each class with a prayer. Before the prayer, I will ask if a student has an intention she wants lifted up, and — the last couple of weeks especially — several have opened the windows of their prayers to include the people (and animals) of Australia and the people of Wuhan, China.

    I love this window image! Evidently, the Carthusian monks eat all their meals while looking out a window. I wonder if it’s to remind them to include the world in their perpetual, daily prayer? If so, isn’t that a beautiful thing!

    And speaking of beautiful, this morning’s song!

    Thank you, Sr. Melannie!

  3. Sharron Kenney on February 3, 2020 at 6:19 am

    Hello on this Beautiful Morning!

    I was struck by the quiet beauty of the image of the country chapel, and was immediately struck with the thought that I would like to render it in pastels. If you would permit this, would you please send me via email the image?

    Many thanks,

    Sharron Kenney

  4. Thomas DeFreitas on February 3, 2020 at 6:31 am

    I am friends forever with anyone who loves “There’s A Wideness” as much as I do! Thank you so much, Sr Melannie!

    I feel like a co-creator with God when I write.

    What helps me to keep the larger world in mind during prayer is (among other things!) the list of intercessions with Morning and Evening Prayer each day in the Give Us This Day booklet. They’re marvellously alert to the world’s most pressing needs. And of course, I add my own intercessions to the three routinely listed.

    At Mass this week, I was actually (culpably?) too overwhelmed by the magnificence of the music to notice much else! I am currently haunted by “Christus Paradox,” a composition by Alfred Fedak, which I heard at Mass yesterday and at least once before. (I believe the words are by the late Sylvia Dunstan.) It is poignant and beautiful.

    Peace and light to all reading! Have a great week! Mine is beginning with (what else?) coffee.

  5. Thomas DeFreitas on February 3, 2020 at 6:34 am

    My apologies for the “double comment” — but other aids to prayer for the larger world include the Facebook pages of Ignatian Spirituality and Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston. Bishop Charleston’s Saturday prayer intentions, as one reads through the petitions offered by everyone who comments, are quite “universal”! (And I love Ignatian Spirituality asking every Sunday, “Where have you found God this weekend?”)

  6. Ed Johnson on February 3, 2020 at 6:34 am

    Sister Melannie,
    Your posts cause one to ponder, and today’s is no exception. I begin my day reading several news sites; to remain informed and aware of the world around me. And there are always important matters to include in “global prayer and intercession” during morning prayer. I am reminded daily that I am a citizen of our world, and that I have a responsibility to pray for all of my fellow citizens, especially those in present need. The song is beautiful, especially the title phrase “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.” Peace and Blessings to All.
    Ed J.

  7. Mary Therese on February 3, 2020 at 8:24 am

    The window I often pray out of is my car’s windshield. Years ago I had to commute through several busy intersections with long waits. To keep my impatience under control I began to pray for each car passing through. “God Bless that person today.” or “Ease what ever burden that person is carrying.” I went from being impatient to almost feeling sorry when the light changed and I moved on. Thanks for a beautiful reflection today.

    • Ed Johnson on February 3, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      Mary Therese,
      What a terrific thing to do. Thanks for sharing…..think I’ll have to give this a try.
      Ed J.

  8. Jean Canatsey on February 3, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    My husband and I start each morning either at our breakfast bar watching birds feed outside our kitchen window or, weather permitting, eating breakfast and praying on our back porch.
    I tried to send you a picture of the window behind the altar at San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park, FL where my husband and I pray every Sunday. However, it wouldn’t let me copy and paste it to this website. As I sit at the piano and see the woods beyond the altar, I cannot help but pray in Thanksgiving for the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.Thank you, Lord, for windows.

  9. Mary P on February 3, 2020 at 10:39 am

    In my younger years, I lived in a basement apartment in my parents’ home. The only way I could see out a window is if I stood on a chair! When my parents died, and I moved to the 1st floor, I made one room a sitting/prayer room with a recliner facing a window. One day I saw a cardinal land on the tree outside the window. It brought tears to my eyes as I witnessed one of God’s beautiful creations and realized how much I missed seeing outside a window each day when I was living “underground”.

  10. debcarlin on February 16, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Dear Melanie,
    I love this. Thank you so very much.

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