From the depths of my cowl

Sep 27, 2019 | INSIGHTS

The more we know about the needs and the evils in the world, the more we need to pray. But to do this effectively we don’t necessarily need to know every detail. So I wrote this prayer-poem especially to encourage  those who are eager to to pray about Brexit, and other ‘wider’ matters, but who hold back because they feel they are not very clear about all the details.

One of the sources I had in mind when I came to write this prayer-poem was an episode from Sister Kirsty’s book, ‘The Choice,’ (p134-5) in which she tells of the effect it had on her when she spoke with a saintly old monk about the agony of spirit she so often felt in prayer, especially when she heard tales of cruelty to children.

The monk surprised her greatly by withdrawing deep into his cowl and remaining silent for a long time. The advice he gave her wasn’t in the least what she had been expecting: it was to stop reading newspapers and watching the news for a whole year. This shrewd and prayerful man knew that we do not necessary to be aware of every horrible detail of what is happening in the world in order to pray for it effectively. From deep within the depths of his cowl, he could bring it all to the Lord, confident that this would move His hand to act – rather as when I go on retreat I do so as it were with my friends and on behalf of those in special need of prayer.

All of us can pray, ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth – and in Britain – as it is in Heaven. I can repent for the abuse that is going on, the failure to adhere to God’s word. I can declare His Lordship over the earth and all that it contains – and so on. We don’t have to know and understand all the details to be able to pray in accordance with His will. His word teaches us how to pray.

The reference I have made in this prayer to a ‘template’ concerns my long standing hope that as we pray for one specific person or situation, the Lord take these prayers and use them as a ‘template’ to minister to many others in similar situations.

On a completely different level I was also inspired by two Old Irish poems. The first that describes the ideal abode of a hermit set apart to seek the Lord, while the second celebrates the close affinity between a hermit scholar and his cat, both remain intent on their work!

I hope this very brief prayer poem will inspire you to carry your own petitions to the Lord where the words and music leave off . . . The ‘still-fully’ passionate music that accompanies this prayer-poem is Sergei Rachmaninov’s Great Ektenia. ‘Ektenia’ simply means Litany: that is, a series of petitions in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine church.

From deep within my cowl

Hooded by Your hand,
hidden deep within my cowl,
travelling far in spirit
from my regular routine ways,
in prayer, O God, I seek to move Your hand.

In the depths of my cowl
I have no need to hear the full-blown tale
of the awfulness that snares and befouls.
This I trust, that in these heart-felt pleas,
that stem from bended knees –
You will discern the tenor of Your own petition
for blocked and beleaguered souls.

Offered on the altar of my heart, in the temple of my soul,
make of these cries from one enclosed within,
Incense that rises before Your throne,a wider template
that tips the bowl to pour afar Your presence and Your aid.


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