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Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving – A Reflection

March 10, 2020
Mama Elk crossing the path ❤️

Today at the Stephen Minister meeting we had a good conversation about Praise and Thanksgiving in difficult times. A story was told about a woman who is writing weekly Devotionals and loving each day despite her cancer (Glioblastoma) diagnosis. Even when the days are difficult, she still manages to see God present in the suffering. She truly is living Psalm 118:24 each day: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I have seen this sort of attitude before in hospitals and care centers. Often this attitude literally brings sunshine and hope to others and to the patient. Years ago when I was in the Air Force in Clinical Pastoral Education, I was making pastoral calls to patients on the ward I was responsible for. Two rooms were next to each other on the ward. The first room I entered was all dark and the shades were drawn. This person was acting like he was dying yet the clinical notes stated that the diagnosis was not severe or life threatening. I left the room pretty depressed from the experience of hopeless despair on the part of the patient.

As I walked into the next room I was truly amazed. The blinds were open, there were flowers in the room, and the patient was smiling and asked, “How can I help you today, Chaplain?” I said that I was here to ask her the same question. The light and love that exuded from her was a powerful tonic for the soul. She talked of life and love and faith and her grandchildren. I left her room uplifted. She had given more to me that I had given to her. It was especially amazing because she was dying of an incurable cancer. Yet she was definitely living out Psalm 118:24! She was fully living in and embracing the Present moment.

The women were fully alive and embracing the day the Lord had given them. As I read today from Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine by Susan McCaslin and JS Porter I was impressed by Merton’s prayer and praise. As they said, Prayer is at the centre of Merton’s rich interior life.

In Merton’s poem from his journal Turning Toward the World (p. 120) he said the following as he wrote about the praise offered from all the aspects of nature which he lived in the midst of. You have made us all together and you have placed me here this morning in the midst of them. And here I am.

According to McCaslin and Porter, With praise comes thanksgiving… Meister Eckhart was a big influence on Merton in his early intellectual and spiritual development… what Eckheart said truly encapsulated Merton’s prayer life: If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice. (Turning Toward the World, p. 120)

These lessons are quite important as we face the difficulties of this world. Merton did struggle mightily with the issues of Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and the Nuclear Arms Race. Yet he always returned to the joy and amazement of God’s creation. I believe there is much to learn for all of us from these individuals and how they lived (or didn’t live) in the present moment.

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