It was some years ago, and spiritually a galaxy away, but there was a night I thought I might never be seen again. Every getaway was blocked until morning. My only way out was to get through the night silently, drawing no attention to myself.
Providence found a prayer. My father’s funeral card had the serenity prayer on it, which was a favorite of his because of his work with addicts. It was the prayer that came to my mind as I hid in plain site, lying motionless, praying it over and over. Taking a break from praying allowed panic to creep back; my one prayer continued. Perhaps this was the first time that I ever approached God as a beggar. He heard and protected me.
Was this prayer transformative? It depends on how you look at it. In a sense, the deep prayer of that night seemed to offer nothing further. Once safe, prayer was seemingly unneeded. My own pride wanted autonomy, not dependence on the Almighty. Instead, by not submitting to his authority, pride held me in a sort of spiritual anarchy. The abyss beckoned; sometimes I stumbled on the descent, while other times I marched toward the nothing.
Again, was the prayer transformative? Again, it depends on how you look at it. In the darkest places, there were slivers of light. They included the few prayers I had prayed, and somehow the many prayers others had prayed — except they were seen only as the slightest moments of illumination. There I was, crouched in the nearly complete darkness. In the past, God heard me, even through that one terrible night when he spared me. So, I approached him as a beggar again; he responded.
We are all beggars before God, realizing it can be one of the greatest gifts. We are similar to children pleading, “Please, please, pretty please.” The perfect prayer, the holy Mass, is full of a sort of begging. We repeat, “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Later, there is the repetition to the Lamb of God, “Have mercy on us, have mercy on us, grant us peace.” In these prayers, and many others, we implore, we beseech, we beg.
It is as if at the end of every prayer we add, from the depth of our souls, “Please!” Imagine ending each prayer with this request. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Please!” Or, “Deliver us from evil. Please!” Or even adding it right in the middle, “St. Michael . . . Please, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”
Transformative prayer has everything to do with the gorgeous humility of a beggar. Each prayer contains that simple, deep, “Please!” On that far away night, the greatest transformation was the movement from the pride to humility. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Please!”
Bormes, a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, is the author of the book “The Catechism of Hockey.”