Patio Prayer

By Elizabeth Else of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

Advertisements constantly bombard us: Buy this, achieve that, travel here, or do this and you will find happiness. We aspire for, focus on, and become addicted to the pursuit of happiness.

There are times of achievement, gain, or experience that do produce a measure of happiness, but then the moments, like the objects, pass.

I, too, wish to be happy. I remember those fleeting moments when “all’s right with the world.” However it was during illness, professional uncertainty, and great personal pain that I understood deep joy.

In the summer of 2002, I was at a crossroads. I experienced painful betrayal and devastating losses. I had just recovered from an illness. My career was uncertain. Although moving was a certainty, the destination was unknown.

Late one Sunday evening after my English students had left our tea party, I went out to the patio. I was drawn into the beauty of the night—the sound of crickets, the smell of flowers, and the sight of a full moon shining on the garden.

I began to pray. As I praised God in my usual way, I entered a state of praise as never before. I thanked God for the opportunity to meet new friends and to serve overseas. Joy bubbled up from somewhere deep inside. An hour later, I said, “Amen.”

Life continues with its ups and downs—momentary happiness and challenges. I live, as many do, in the valleys of each day rather than on the mountaintops of exquisite experiences. However, the joy of that summer night’s prayer remains to sustain me in trials, support me in my serving, and to pull me back to the center when caught in the pursuit of something less.

Prayer for Peace:

Guard our hearts, God, against shallow desires. Challenge us to want what you want for us—that which provides deep, lasting joy for our soul. With this deep joy to carry us, we are able to be at peace with the ebb and flow of pleasure and pain.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Connecting with God as Center

Each day this week connect with God through journal writing. Use a notebook, journal, computer, or any available paper. Prayerfully center on your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind.

Your “letter to God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, and scriptures, or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. Try to write at least five minutes each day.

What do you experience? Is this an effective way to connect with God? What surprises you? What new images or questions from God emerge? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant:

I will forget my temporal aspirations, God, and drink deeply of your living and everlasting waters.

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