Malankara World

Christian Prayers

The Comfort of Formal Prayers

by Susan Eapen, Thiruvananthapuram

I have often felt lazy about completing the formal prayers in Kudumbaraadhana Kramam (Family Prayers). Often I skip these and after a Kauma do a small 'Sthotram Sthothram Karthave" and a personal prayer. I have heard our prayers being criticized as empty words (Jalpanangal) and such people point to the fact that Jesus had said that we should abstain from vociferous prayers quoting "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8" as example.

Here is the Pierre Charles, a Catholic priest from his work 'Prayer for all times' about his reliance on recital of formal prayers.

'---it (formal prayers) brings to my life order, peace and equity. Tonight I am very tired, my spirit is weak and stumbling, I cannot bring myself to speculate on God's greatness-- nor read beautiful and inspiring passages. But one resource remain to me, exhausted pilgrim that I am.'

Last week when my son was about to return to his work in China, I felt very upset. China is for us an enemy territory in more ways than one and they do not issue visiting visas for a year or 10 years like the US. I always worry, what will I do if there is an emergency? I was scattered and confused and could not pray. So I sought help of our Prayer Book " Sandarbhochitha Praarthanakal" (which literally means "Prayer for all occasions".

As I do when I am confused, I went to the corner where I pray, lit a candle and read the prayer on page 111 for the occasion "AT the beginning of a journey".

It began with addressing God as Omnipresent and the controller of everything and immediately I realized that though my son would be far away, God would be there as He is here.

After quoting various verses from the Bible to strengthen the traveler and to submit him to God's divine guidance it continues

" Just as you travelled to every place where your disciples went and helped them in all the fields where they worked, be with him and help him". This sustained me and calmed my fears as I recalled to my mind the various occasions when this did happen and the various occasions in our lives when we travelled to new places and God guided us and helped us overcome many difficulties.

"Send Your holy angels to guard him from all danger. Let him reach his destination with joy and peace and let him lead his life there, according to Your will. Guard him from the oppression of evil men and the torment of the devil. Protect him from the tricks of envious people. (I personally worry about this as he is in a muti-cultural scene). May Your cross be his refuge and protection by day and by night. May Your strong arms encircle him and Your strength protect him. May he find suitable friends and helpers wherever he goes. (I used to worry about these as there are no Indians in his Company. ) Let him have the assurance of Your presence in times of solitude. Please keep him safe from illnesses and sorrows. Grant him Your mercy to do his job and earn his livelihood with happiness, health, enthusiasm and faithfulness. Bless him with the capability, knowledge and skills to execute his tasks well. May the intercession of the Angles and the saints be his defense and refuge always and may he come back to us well and happy so that we may raise our voices together in praise again."

This prayer helped me so much. I was too confused to pray and this prayer said it all better than I could. More than that, it gently reminded me that I was being unreasonable and without faith. It reminded me of earlier times when he had left home and had gone to Singapore and later to China for a job last year and how God helped him by softening the hearts of his employers towards him, giving him a place to stay and good friends to prevent his being lonely. It also made me grateful for his sense of the presence of God with him everywhere and his attitude of looking at life to see what it brings and taking the best alternative with courage and faith and faithfulness. It reminded me that this boy who was considered a poor performer academically is now a competent employee able to earn his livelihood.

He was on medication for fits upto age 13 and he had Dyslexia. I always worried about this. A mother's foolishness. Some of his teachers and we ourselves could not understand this and used to blame him for his poor performance. He never ever criticized us and was never bitter about anything, but found his own niche as in animation. He says that all experience is valuable. God was with him all along and opened doors when one closed. I think God loves my son and this prayer made me aware that my son is actually a trusteeship. God is the one to whom everyone belongs and even when I worry and dither and get confused, God is there, ever loving and ever present.

It made me aware of my own weaknesses and I read it out to my son.

Where else can we find such prayers?

Source: ICON, October 25, 2011

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