The Most Perfect Prayer
I've been reading the fourteenth-century Christian masterwork, The Cloud of Unknowing, and it's been blowing my mind.
There's a lot of archaic language in Unknowing, to be sure. But still, it's an odd feeling at times to be reading it, and to forget that it's seven hundred years old, and yet so incredibly relevant.
Take the passage I read today, for example. The anonymous English author of Unknowing insists that the most perfect prayer that a person can pray is made up of one, simple word: "Help!"
The author wrote this by way of an explanation:
Why do you suppose this little prayer of one syllable is so powerful enough to pierce the heavens? Well, it is because is the prayer of a person's whole being. A person who prays this does so with all the height and depth and length and breadth of their spirit.If this sounds overly simplistic, it's because it is. And yet, it is also incredibly profound and deep. To coin a phrase from one of my favorite mentors, Rob Bell, it is "the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
The simplicity of this one-word prayer comes from a complex and difficult transformation that results in our being able to finally pray with our whole being.
And the occasions we find ourselves able to pray this prayer typically come when we have exhausted all other means of finding peace, resolution, respite or restoration. In other words, when we are at the end of our rope.
At that moment, we discover that surrender is the only way forward. We realize that we cannot possibly find our way without... help. And so we pray... just one word.
If you find yourself at the end of your rope today, discover the simplicity of surrender on the other side of the complexity of your struggle. Pray your one word, and know that help is there... it always has been.
And may grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.