It's no surprise that a lot of people ask me to pray for them, or that I hear about prayer requests at church. I'm a pastor's daughter and have spent (hold on while I do some quick math) upwards of 12,000 hours at church over the course of my lifetime. Some people might assume I'm an expert pray-er.
Those people might be surprised to learn that I'm actually a stumbling, bumbling pray-er most of the time. Oh, sure, I have intimate conversations with God on a regular basis but when people ask me to pray for them, I freeze. I probably say the right things to them and produce the right facial expressions to show I care, but inside I'm scrambling for the kind of empathy that makes other people drop to their knees and send impassioned prayers up to heaven.
The weird thing is, I think of myself as a sensitive, compassionate person. But when my friend texts me to say her sister (whom I'm acquainted with) has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, or when my father describes the unimaginably desperate circumstances of families we love in Armenia, I sometimes don't know how to react. I think it's because (a) I can't draw from my own life experiences to comprehend the gravity of these situations and (b) I haven't truly learned what compassion (or its Greek counterpart sympathy) really means: feeling or suffering with someone. It's more than pity. It's more than wanting to help. It's more than saying kind words. It's opening your heart to understand and experience the pain another human being is dealing with.
So when I found myself struggling to pray for my friend with lung cancer, I stopped and imagined I was in her place... the physical pain she will endure, the treatments, the fear, the concern for her teenage daughter and her husband. I tried to imagine what the days ahead will be like for her. And then something twisted in my heart. With tears I began to really pray for her.
There's a prayer, found in an old English church and attributed to a 17th century nun, that I'd love to make my own until my heart is soft enough to instinctively respond to others with compassion. I've shared a variation of it below and hope it inspires you, too.
MOVIE / MUSIC: Wild Mountain Thyme is a gorgeous love story set in gorgeous Ireland. Emily Blunt and Christopher Walken deliver wonderful performances. The soundtrack is gorgeous, too, so I've been listening to that for a few days. I'm also listening to MercyMe's latest album inhale(exhale), depending on what kind of music my activities call for.