Preparing Our Hearts

June 25th, 2012

Elizabeth Delany, along with her sister Sarah, lived well past 100 years. These two sages, born the daughters of the first elected Black Episcopal bishop, were distinguished graduates of Columbia University. Bessie (Elizabeth) was the second Black woman licensed to practice dentistry in New York. Sadie was the first Black person ever to teach domestic science in a public high school in New York City.

In their book Having Our Say Bessie looks back over her life and says: “It took me a hundred years to figure out I can’t change the world. I can only change Bessie. And, honey, that ain’t easy either.”

We are faced time and again with the reality that, in the grand scheme of things, we can change very little. At best we can change ourselves, and even then our powers are limited. Yet our faith offers us the possibility of change from within that will lead us to inner peace.

Paul said: “Pray continually.” Unceasing prayer requires openness to what can only be known as a gift. We lift our minds and hearts and voices to God in prayer because of the life and love that have first been given to us.

Mother Teresa said, “There are some people who, in order not to pray, use the excuse that life is so hectic that it prevents them praying. This cannot be. Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer . . . To love with a pure heart, to love everybody, especially to love the poor, is a twenty-four-hour prayer.”

Over time prayer becomes not something we do, but who we are. One day we awaken to discover that we have changed the way we live our lives. I love the following reflection:

I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was, “Lord, give me the energy to change the world. . . .” As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to, “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me. Just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied. . . .” Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is, “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.” If I had prayed for this right from the start I would not have wasted my life.—Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird

In prayer, examine the meaning of the relationships that touch your life. Seek to become so deeply rooted in a life of prayer that not only are your relationships deepened, but the interior of your heart is also transformed.

Prayer: I would like to change, God. Transform my judgments into compassion and my hate into love. Give me the grace to open myself to your Spirit’s change. Amen.

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