I was just one of many pilgrims on the Mount of Beatitudes by the Sea of Galilee, looking for a private place to pray. We all wanted the same thing: shade from the sun, a good view of the water, and a flat rock to sit on. I finally found a spot on a lonely slope — lonely because the ground was rough and the big rocks hard to get to. Thank goodness I’d worn sneakers and not sandals! I scrambled up and claimed my seat.
“The earth is full of the glory of God!” It was easy to praise God in that setting. “Let all that has life and breath praise the Lord!” The water danced in the sun. I took out my prayer list and began lifting the intentions of my friends and family to God. One request in particular caught at my heart, a young man and his wife who long for a child. I thought of all the births in Scripture that came only after much prayer. Isaac. Jacob and Esau. Joseph and Benjamin. Samson. Samuel. John.
“God, you delight in bringing life!” I called to God. Unexpected life; life from death; impossible life. “Bring life into their lives!” I prayed for this couple, feeling their pain. I looked out over the sea, sensing all my prayers rising to heaven and wanting them to stay there too somehow, to mark the place and have it remembered.
Suddenly I saw, half-hidden by vines at my feet, a little nest. The site was well-chosen, hidden from hawks and jays yet close to hunting grounds for food. The bowl bore witness to the mother who had woven twigs and strong grass into a cradle and then shaped it with her breast, lining it with softer grass and down. A single, perfect emptiness, ready to receive.
I remembered a Jewish prayer I once learned for leaving prayers in cracks at the Western Wall:
“God, make me a messenger for those I love. Let me carry their prayers as if they were my own, and leave them there, softly, like birds’ eggs, nesting in the cracks of a wall, awaiting the time for all they contain to break out into joyous birth. […] In some small way, let this, my journey, awaken hope in those I love and those I barely know, the people among whom I walk in the days ahead” (by Lawrence Hoffman).
I thought of the words of Saint Bernadette, written in her personal notebook:
“O my mother, in your heart I placed all my anguish of my heart and it is there that I gain strength and courage” (p 28).
I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the couple’s intention; then I rolled the paper up like a small egg and placed it in the heart of the nest with another prayer.
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Draw near God in confidence, that you may find grace and help in your time of need (see Hebrews 4:16). Look up in your Bible and meditate on one or more of these passages and allow it to form your prayer:
- Philippians 4:6-7 – In anxiety, prayer brings peace “which passes all understanding.”
- Jeremiah 29:11-12 – God knows the plans he has for you.
- Romans 12:12 – Don’t stop praying!
- Psalm 145:18 – God is near those who call on him.
© 2015 Sarah Christmyer.