“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and
light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all
our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you
would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see
light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through
Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen. The Book of Common Prayer, p. 832.
I sit in St. Mark’s Chapel for the first hour of our prayer vigil for Tuesday’s election. We have just finished Morning Prayer. The leader starts reading some of the prayers for an election from the Book of Common Prayer.
Suddenly I feel a peace that I have rarely known. I feel the prayers of the hundreds of people who also have prayed in this chapel. I think of the prayers we said in this chapel as we renewed our marriage vows on our 20th wedding anniversary with our children participating. I remember our first Easter Vigil with Gordon Swope in the 1980’s that was held in this chapel. He reminds us that we do not get extra points from God for being there but are privileged to be among the first who hear about the risen Lord.
I think of the 12-step Eucharists in this chapel on the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 where people in recovery realize that the message of recovery is there in the church all along. Those in the church may realize that recovery is a spiritual program.
I think of the children’s chapels where preschoolers kneel and fold their tiny hands in a perfect V and bow their heads, which are most often hidden below the prayer desks in front of them almost touching their kneelers. I think of meditative prayers that are said in this chapel in Advent and Lent.
Finally, I feel surrounded by prayers of so many people over the years whom I do not know. I indeed feel surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
I do not want to leave the chapel. I have a meeting to attend, but I do not want to go. Finally, I must leave, partly because the experience is so overpowering.
I return to the chapel later in the day for prayers. The feeling does not return. I now have become obsessed with the problems of the day, and it has become difficult for the prayers who live in the chapel to reach me. Do the cloud of witnesses only come in the morning before we start our day? Do I need a more quiet mind to hear the cloud of witnesses?
I know this is a holy place. Usually when I cross its threshold my heart rate slows. Maybe tomorrow I will hear the prayers again.