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.
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!