"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart." -- Mahatma Gandhi
For all too long I have pondered the question, "What is my purpose?" I have often raised my eyes toward Heaven and asked God, "What is it you want me to do?" I have even had the audacity to scream at the great above.
In the midst of His silence, I have wondered, "Is the Lord even listening to me?" As a result, I have become increasingly frustrated at this one-sided communication. Then yesterday as I prayed, I asked the same question. As before, I heard no response. It was not until late evening arrived when I finally received a reply -- one of the most unexpected manner and circumstance.
As I painted outside of my home, a neighbor, who had not visited in about ten years, walked up my driveway. He used to visit on occasion when my younger brother lived with me. But since that time, he only communicated through gentle waves while driving past. On this unexpected evening, I detected a sense of sadness. Before long, he shared his mounting fear over the recent diagnosis of a serious illness. The fear of what was yet to be. It was as if his spirit was crying out to be heard, not only about the present situation, but about past indignities and sorrows. Emotions still trapped inside awaited the opportunity to be released. For a moment, I felt an unknown force within me. And I wondered, was it my soul responding to the needs of his own. He spoke about his prognosis and the future unknown; I felt his emotions stir as they somehow linked to my heart in search of empathy. In what seemed like an instant, I felt the need to soothe him, our spirits connecting as one. Without thought, I inquired, "Do you believe in God and the power of prayer?"
His reply was instant. "Yes, I do."
So I guided him to my statue of the Blessed Mother. I explained how the tiny grotto had come to exist. It was built in the days and months following the events of 9/11. As I described for him my overpowering need to build a place of solace, I related my faith in God, my trust in the Mother Mary. It is in this sanctuary that I have found some peace. I also relayed the changes others have experienced after visiting -- the miraculous interventions that have occurred after praying in front of Mary's effigy.
As suggested, my good neighbor took a stroll to the back of my yard where he prayed in his own fashion. I watched him make a sign of the cross and wipe away a tear. And if indeed he asked for healing, I felt confident that the Lord would hear. As a child, I was taught not to bother the Divine; God is too busy taking care of greater issues of the world. I have however come to understand that the Creator awaits our asking. Then, He is given the opportunity to intervene in the most amazing ways.
My neighbor stood in front of the Blessed Mother's grotto. He bowed his head in reverence, whispered unheard words. There among the flowers, birds softly chirping in the background, he turned and slowly walked back toward me. His demeanor had somehow changed. The frown lines on his face had smoothed and tears now rimmed his eyes. He stood there, not speaking, his eyes conveying more than words could express.
As I bid my kind neighbor a good evening, I invited him to visit with Mary as often as desired. He smiled and thanked me for my kindness and for guiding him to pray. When he walked away, my spirit seemed to once again link with his. I was reminded of the Biblical passage, "When two or more are gathered as one." The great potential that can manifest if only we believe. In my heart, I felt an instant connection of spirit. A link to this man and to the higher power of God. In his parting grin, I sensed something had forever altered in him. Perhaps he had rekindled his faith -- a belief in the possibilities and the power of prayer.
When reflecting upon the surprise reunion, I realized that my questions to the Lord had been answered. By offering an ear to listen, a kind heart and a reminder of prayer's healing qualities, I was serving in the best interest of my fellow man -- a task which I had embraced in my former career. I no longer wear a uniform or carry a badge; but I can still serve the greater good of humanity. And, for this opportunity, I am forever grateful.