They caressed her body and gently bathed her with water and lotion. It was one of the most intimate acts I had ever seen at the time of death. She was not yet 50 and had only been diagnosed with the brain tumor a few weeks prior. And now, she was lying in the bed at her home and we were waiting for the funeral home to come and pick up her body. I paced in the hall, unsure of what to do. Family members wept and some pounded on the table. One even broke his hand. But her friends, all nursing colleagues of hers, went into her room and lovingly and tenderly took care of her. It was hauntingly beautiful. And it was Holy Week. Decades later, I still remember it.

Life presents us with moments that are full of brokenness when we do not know what to do. Sometimes we don’t even know how to pray. During Lent we try to remember how to practice our faith. Prayer requires practice. It takes discipline. Maybe you have your own ritual where you light a candle and read a Psalm or spiritual book. Some folks pray best while quietly journaling and others pray with their bodies through yoga and running. But who among us ever feels like we have mastered the art of prayer? I suspect that you, like me, sometimes feel your prayer life is anemic. I sometimes wonder, “Am I really connected to the Spirit when I pray or is a part of me still walled off from God’s holy enlivening presence?”

When I am unsure what to pray or how, I remember what Paul wrote to the early Christians about prayer:

‘for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) 

We practice the ritual of conversation with God so that when words fail us, we still find a raw and genuine connection with the Creator of all of life. Sometimes prayer is what we live out. And I think that is what I saw when my friend died and the nurses anointed her body. They were caring for her as God’s sacred gift. It was a prayer, a revelation of God’s unfolding presence as she transitioned into the eternal realm.

As we continue our journey through Lent, we remember the death of Jesus but also the life of God’s eternal love still unfolding here on earth.

Grace and Peace,