Prayer Is A River
Once in a while I've run across a piece of Scripture, a prayer or a poem that just captures where I am in a particular moment... and when this happens I often sit with it for days, thinking about why it spoke to me.
Here's a poem that I recently read by the Lebanese poet Said Akl that I've been sitting with for a while:
lordi refuseto engage prayer as a weaponi wish it to be like a riverbetween two shoresfor i seek neither punishment nor gracebut new skinthat can bear this worldThis prayer/poem spoke to me on so many levels.
As read this poem, I had a vision of prayer that was so beautiful and true that it made my heart ache. I had never thought of prayer as a river before, but it made perfect sense.
But when you imagine prayer as a river it is easy to see how it truly is the flow between the "now" and the "not yet," and a moving demarcation line between heaven and earth.
The flow exists whether we acknowledge it or not, and we can enter into it if we wish... every time we choose to pray in whatever way we pray.
But for what purpose? Why enter into the river at all?
The poet offers up an idea at the end of this prayer that is hauntingly lovely and so incredibly profound. He says he prays so that he can have "new skin that can bear this world."
As I read that passage, I was reminded of the story of Na'aman from the book of 2 Kings chapter 5 in the Hebrew Scriptures. Na'aman was cured of a skin disease after trusting the prophet Elisha and dipping himself seven times in the Jordan river.
The Scripture reports this about Na'aman's new skin:
So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.I'd like to think that Akl was thinking of this story when he wrote this--picturing Na'aman submitting to the river, watching the diseased skin change color as he rose and fell under the surface of prayer... five, six, seven... [new!].
May your prayers today be given new imagination, and new purpose and may you discover new skin that is formed over the bare bones of your old longings.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.