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Praying to see everyday miracles

Lynne Baab • Wednesday May 15 2024

Praying to see everyday miracles

My beloved artist husband, Dave, and I both have had a pretty bad case of covid. The blog post I planned for this week, the lowering of the paralytic through the roof, will have to wait until next week. I've combined sections of two past posts about seeing daily miracles.

I used a Jewish Sabbath prayer in my book, Sabbath Keeping: “Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.” The prayer speaks to me about a common experience of humans. We simply don’t see the miracles around us.

As the prayer continues, the significance of seeing is stressed:

“Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness, and exclaim in wonder: How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it!” [1]

Looking back on the day, week, or year, trying to see where God was active, helps us see how filled with awe our lives are. My favorite prayer for looking back is the ancient prayer of examen, developed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556). The first part of the prayer encourages us to ask God to help us look at a specific time period in order to identify the times and places where God was present. Then we respond to God in gratitude in some way, in words or perhaps in a smile. In the second part of the prayer we look for times we experienced the absence of God or resisted God’s work in our lives. In response to identifying those moments, we might ask for God’s forgiveness or simply say “help” or “Lord have mercy.”

You might use this prayer pattern on your own while journaling or reflecting on a walk or in bed at night. You might consider doing a prayer of examen with a spouse, family members, friends, a small group, or in another setting. Others may help you remember a time of God’s blessing, guidance, or presence during whatever time period you're looking at. Loved ones may also have noticed the hard times.

Noticing moments of God’s presence or absence is only part of examen. We complete the process of examen by turning to God, approaching God, in response to what we have noticed. After writing about wordless prayer, I particularly like the idea of exploring how we might respond wordlessly to God after identifying significant moments: a smile, imagining ourselves holding Jesus’ hand, picturing ourselves as a child on Jesus’ lap, or imagining placing our sins at the foot of the cross or in the vast river of God’s love.

Sometimes we see God's miracles because we take the time to look, perhaps using the prayer of examen. Sometimes everyday events motivate us to pay attention. Here's an amusing example:

About ten years ago, while we were living in Dunedin, New Zealand, I ran my car into a post in a parking lot. The wheel well collapsed into the wheel. After calls to our insurance company and a body shop, I found myself in the cab of a tow truck.

I asked the driver, a man about 40 years old, where he was from, and learned he had been born and raised in the same suburb of Dunedin where he now lives. I asked him if he had lived anywhere else, and he said he had spent a few years in Brisbane, Australia, where the consistently sunny weather drove him crazy.

He said he likes the rapid changes in weather so common in Dunedin. “Just look at that sky,” he enthused. “It’s gorgeous. All those clouds. That’s what I missed in Brisbane.”

I glanced at the sky. “All those clouds” were, from my point of view, gray and drab. Admittedly, I was probably a bit shell-shocked from hitting the post and hearing that awful crunch of breaking plastic, but it was not the sort of sky that I could imagine getting enthusiastic about.

The driver dropped me, and my beleaguered car, at the body shop. I picked up a loaner car and made my way home. At the first stop light, I looked at the sky again. I noticed the variations in the shades of gray within the towering clouds, and the small peeks of blue sky and yellow light around the clouds. The tow truck driver was right. The clouds were beautiful. In order to see the beauty, I needed to be motivated to look closely. 

Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness, and exclaim in wonder: How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it.

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Next week: Healing of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof by his friends. Illustration by Dave Baab.

My current series on praying about Jesus's miracles begins with a post about the wedding at Cana (John 3). 

[1] Chaim Stern, Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book (Weekends, Sabbaths, and Festivals), 1975.



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