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Home » Blogs » Reflections » Walking Myself Back to Prayer in the Pandemic

Walking Myself Back to Prayer in the Pandemic

“...for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’’
Ephesians 5:14

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Photo: David Hofmann-Unsplash
When the pandemic required folks to isolate, it seemed a given that spiritually bent people would dig in deeper with that enforced solitude, and I think, for some, that happened. What I didn’t anticipate was that all the other business of being in the world would then encroach upon that abundance of quiet time. More bodies in the house, with varying schedules or demands on time and computer use and levels of interaction became a new challenge to manage in order to keep some silence in the day. So, the normally still, small house became a busier and louder environment for the sake of health.

As the stillness in the home shifted, so did the sense of connection in the world. With the lockdown, another factor that impacted prayer life was the underlying anxiety pouring out of everyone. Suddenly, going to visit someone was no longer an option; people were dying without clear understanding of how they contracted the virus. Caring for others came with all sorts of risks now, and hearing the various stories of loss or courage created a tension between stress and inspiration. Conflicting information was everywhere, and non-compliance became essentially a murderous act. On a moral level, the gap between those who made choices for the good of others, and those who purposely put others at risk for their own selfish desires became clear early in the pandemic. Students came to Spring Break, partied, and caught and shared whatever they caught and shared in all the places they traveled. Callous disregard for others was evident in the parties and gatherings that happened, even after warnings and protocols had been established. Political influence over health policies continued to drive distance between facts and optics, and people continued to become ill and die. Courageous people working in hospitals became the front line that bore the brunt of stupid choices made by selfish people. And we continued to watch the vulgar and vicious comments made by leaders in government go unchecked, emboldened by followers who now were encouraged to promote their own movements of discrimination and hate. The institutional white supremacy that has been imbedded in society became proudly displayed in the political machine and made more fertile in the Supreme Court.

So, yeah, prayer life spluttered under the weight of all the depravity—it came so fast and hard and without pause that I think a lot of prayerful people just crashed. God is bigger than all of this, but it’s overwhelming to focus prayer sometimes when the need is so vast. Add to this the often thin versions of online worship, and sliding out of regular practices to fortify a spiritual ground, we effectively distance ourselves from accessing the Divine. I found I had to discern where I stumbled and walk myself back to that place of connection. Since I felt my spirit was troubled from the outside world, and from a disconnect within, my query to myself became-- How do you center down with all this in your heart and head?

What came to me was a reconciliation of my taking for granted the basics that formed the groundwork of my ministry. Listening to God; building back the foundation of practice with immersion in God things—Scripture, readings, consideration, discernment, making God a partner in everything I do—acknowledging the awareness of God’s presence in every moment, finding that of God in everything, or asking for the why or what—and listening for the answer. Staying open to answers coming in unexpected ways—this way I stay attuned to the voice and breath of what is holy. Feeling the ground as holy ground, bringing God with because otherwise you do it alone, and that is stupid and impractical for a spiritual person. How did it work when it worked? I prayed all the time; I used language that supported my beliefs; I used a spiritual gaze with which to view the world and relationships; I tested my reactions to see if this was of God; I tested my sense of spirit to see if situations were that of God; I recognized what was not of God and called it out, if only to myself. In knowing that enemy, I know the antithesis—the resonance of love vs. the dissonance of chaos. Chaos is not of God, and we are in a deep mess right now in that regard. Without a spiritual anchor to hold firm, the chaos will take you. Away from worship, from center, from kindness, from joy—it will distract and disable to feed its own needs. I learned to deny the purpose of chaos and lean into the Light.

I think what has happened with our country has certainly influenced our sense of spirit. Just the constant battering of so many examples of horrible things people are doing and saying to one another is depressing and disillusioning. The knowledge that this pain and chaos is structured and deliberately placed in our institutions and social policy is unassailable. So our condition today is a huge wake up call for people to get right with all aspects of their being, including their political awareness and civic responsibility. We have watched without action for too long. We have slumbered and moved as though drunk--clumsy, foolish, unclear. We have given back our power in being comfortable and complacent. The same with our sense of spirit—holding gently with loose hands became abdication and dissolution. We gave back our spirituality, we gave back our sense of ground, we gave back our closeness to God as if we forgot how cherished a gift it really is. Entitled choices weakened us. Now we must fight. Sleeper, awake. It is past time.

Jan Dahm