There is a wonderful prayer in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that is intended for someone struggling with illness but eloquently applies to where we are right now.
“This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen” (BCP p. 461).
I love that. For someone struggling with illness and wrestling with physical limitations, this prayer invites them to engage the little they can accomplish bravely, quietly, patiently, and gallantly. But during this time of physical distancing and office closures it is a gift to all of us. This prayer calls us to a fresh perspective on what truly matters, on what makes eternal impact.
First, it reminds us that while we may not have the power to choose what we can do, we have the power to choose how we approach the little things we can accomplish. We have the ability to choose and cultivate our attitude. We can allow ourselves to slide into fear, anxiety, self-pity and cynicism. In fact, if we allow the 24/7 news cycle to endlessly wash over us, I am certain we will fall into fear and cynicism.
Or, as this prayer invites us to consider, we can choose a different attitude. With God’s help we can engage our daily routine, as limited as it might be, with bravery, a quiet mind, patience, and a gallant heart. There is peace for all of us if we intentionally choose to cultivate it, a peace that “transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7). This takes practice and intention. In addition to this prayer, I find it helpful to sit down daily and write out a list of 10 things for which I am grateful. Then I give God thanks for each one of them. Over time, with prayer and the practice of gratitude, I find that patience flows into my consciousness more quickly, I wake up and consider the day with bravery, my mind is more at rest, and the wonderful adjective “gallantly” washes over my small activities with grace.
Secondly, this wonderful prayer from the BCP reminds us of the power of prayer. Again, we have been immersed in a culture that values measurable productivity. The idea of “doing nothing” physically and simply praying seems like a sweet, quaint consolation prize for those who can’t engage in “real” work. Rubbish! That belief is the delusion of a culture that has lost its way. While I quickly confess that I do not understand the mystery of prayer, I deeply believe in the power of prayer. One day scientist may be able to quantify the impact of prayers through quantum physics but in the meantime, I have seen the results too often to ignore or minimize its efficaciousness. As our presiding bishop curry says, “Prayer is not magic.” We are not asking for God to do our bidding. But when we engage God with our honest hearts, when we allow ourselves to send light and love to those struggling in the world, when we “do nothing” physically and simply abide in the presence of God, not only are we changed, but that transformation ripples out to the benefit and healing of the world.
So in this unique and strange time of Covid-19, let us cultivate the attitude of Christ. Let us trust in the power of prayer. And let us do nothing gallantly.