A funny thing about prayer

A good prayer doesn’t have strings attached, unless you consider heartstrings. When I pray, I think about the answer I’d LIKE to get, sure, but I wait to accept God’s will in the matter.  I’ve recently realized that God knows what’s in my heart, because I allow my heart to be open. Most of the time I don’t know the words anyway, so an open heart simplifies prayer. Which means that it’s not easy to immediately understand if a prayer has been answered.  Sometimes the answer is clear, other times it takes years of distance and pondering to see God’s wisdom. Like Dory singing “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” I “just keep praying” for my needs, the needs of others, and especially for blessings received. I pray for answered prayers,  whether the answer was “yes,” “no” or “not yet.”

For example, as soon as I got the go-ahead to sponsor a screening of the new epic film, Mary of Nazareth on an outdoor screen at our church, I prayed for good weather. But that was my external prayer, the prayer in my thoughts. The prayer in my heart was different. Passion resides in the heart, not the mind. My heartfelt prayer was that this incredible film would lead people to a closer relationship with Jesus through His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I thought, “How could anyone watch this film and not be moved by Mary’s incredible faith in God? Her trust? Her love?”

In my opinion, actress Alissa Jung’s portrayal of Mary is a gift to mankind. She brought Mary to life in our crazy world where lots of people expect instant gratification and avoid heartache and pain. In this film, we see and feel Mary teaching by example–patience, faith and steadfast love, even through immense suffering. We see what it must have been like for her to ponder the words of Simeon, and realize she shared these thoughts and other events with the Apostles after Christ’s death. 

The morning of the  movie, November 16, dawned weakly, as if the sun didn’t even want to show up. The sky was gray with rain clouds. It rained steadily. Not our usual spate of Florida showers followed by hot sun to dry everything out. The entire day was dreary and wet. While my husband and I enjoyed a late breakfast in Titusville, I was speculating that others would expect the movie to be cancelled due to rain. I knew this from recent experience.

Smart phones are pretty convenient. I googled a patron saint for good weather while finishing breakfast, and the saint is… St. Clare. As we’re walking out of Waffle House, out loud I beseeched St. Clare, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and God to open a patch of blue sky to encourage others. Perhaps to encourage myself, as well. As we were driving home five minutes later, not one, but two patches of blue sky opened in the gray gloom above us. It was great and I thanked St. Clare, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and God in the car as we headed home. (I’m new at blogging, otherwise I would’ve snapped a quick picture of those patches of blue sky to post here.)

In retrospect, the prayers I prayed for good weather for November 16 weren’t what I thought I was praying for, because my open heart’s prayer wasn’t about weather. My heart’s prayer was for people to draw nearer to Jesus Christ through the faithful and loving example of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The night of the movie, it was still raining. (With a sponsored screening, the DVD has to be returned within 2 days to avoid hefty late fees; we had no rain date plans.) “The show must go on” was my goal, so a solution was found. About 100 people in lawn chairs crowded together under a covered breezeway at 7pm on November 16. Everyone was closer to their neighbor than they would normally sit. As event coordinator, I thought about everyone’s personal safety in the event of an emergency, but my heart and mind were reassured that all would be well. We prayed a “Hail Mary” and began watching Mary of Nazareth, enjoying the grand adventure of close quarters for 2 1/2 hours (with a unanimous vote for a 15-minute intermission).  

Special memories were made that night, and the true feeling of love for our neighbor must’ve pleased Jesus and Mary as we moved our chairs close to our brothers and sisters in Christ on that wet evening. I feel that my heart’s prayers were answered in a way that requires pondering for years to come. The influence of this great movie and the unusual viewing situation was unique. 

One more point… the location of the outdoor screen was placed in front of our parish’s Marian shrine, opposite the covered breezeway where we sat en masse. Mary’s presence behind the screen had an impact I can’t fathom yet. It’s still in the “pondering stage” for me, and perhaps others present that evening!

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