I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention.
* * *
Twenty-five years ago something went awry with my vision while I was reading (of all things!) Hopeful Realism, by the liberal theologian Doug Ottati, during a conference at Princeton Seminary. Words squiggled on the page.
I covered my right eye. Everything looked fine through my left eye. I covered my left eye. Everything looked blurry. Rapid blinking didn’t help. Nor did eyedrops.
A scratch on the cornea, I surmised.
My optometrist took one look and referred me to an ophthalmologist in Winchester. He took one look and said, “Histoplasmosis. Blood is seeping on your retina. Not uncommon. But the bleeding won’t stop. It must be cauterized.
Now. It will only take a second.
What will that do?
It will make you blind in the right eye.
For how long?
And you will do it right now before I go home?
And I will be blind in that eye for the rest of my life?
Sorry, but I’d like to ponder this a bit. I’d like to tell my family and congregation. I’d like to ask for prayers.
Go ahead, he said. But it won’t make a difference.
On Sunday I told my congregation. One after another each took my hand and said, I’ll be praying for you.
On Monday I returned to Winchester. I sat in a chair, head braced, eyes wide open.
Flash. Zap. Lights out.
I still have peripheral vision. But otherwise I’m legally blind in my right eye. I see things differently now.
I can’t thread a needle, but I can do most everything else I’ve ever done. I can read, drive, bike, play racquetball, split wood, type, walk, chew gum, and think.
I think about prayer.
No, prayer didn’t make a difference. I didn’t expect it to. I know prayer is no substitute for intelligence, ingenuity, and work.
There’s no empirical evidence to prove prayer works. I know that. You know that.
And yet we still pray.
Even when we know better or don’t mean to, we pray.
And the more we pray the more we see it’s not so much about speaking, asking, and getting as it is about listening, accepting, and belonging.
It’s about paying attention to wild geese and all our other kindred in the family of things.
See Paula’s “Cone of Silk & Spools-Lonaconing, MD” on the home page. Posted Jan. 22, 2023