By Barb Arland-Fye
Prayer shapes people’s lives and what a gift to witness the results! God reminded me of the power of prayer in my encounters with a human rights activist, while editing a story about seminarians, during conversations with my mom and my younger son and through cards and thoughtful gestures.
Last week’s encounter with human rights activist Widad Akreyi impacted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I met Widad at a luncheon before she received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport. She greeted everyone in the dining room like a longtime friend, including me. Persecuted and blacklisted for her human rights activism, she conveys a sense of love for all.
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport provided Widad with a place to stay. She marveled at how the sisters prayed for her; they felt blessed by her presence. Over lunch with a small group at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., Widad shared stories of injustice she and others experienced, beginning in school in northern Iraq. “How do you make peace with that?” a student asked. Widad begins in prayer. “I give thanks to God for all of the things he has given me and for all of the things he hasn’t given me,” she said. “God has helped me through.”
In this week’s issue we profile the seminarians of the Diocese of Davenport to commemorate Vocations Awareness Week. Prayer clearly influences the lives of these men as they discern a vocation to the priesthood. Seminarian Scott Foley observed: “The thought of priesthood kept coming up, and eventually I responded to the invitation by repeatedly asking God in prayer about it.” Seminarian Andrew Rauenbuehler said his family prayed together, which provided an early influence. Later, working in a career he enjoyed, he sensed something was missing and sought guidance in prayer “where God made it more clear.” Seminarian Ben Snyder said participating in eucharistic adoration, serving at Mass and praying together as a family guided his discernment process. Seminarian Isaac Doucette sensed his calling by praying a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots. These and the other seminarians demonstrate a powerful witness to the value of prayer in a person’s life.
Childhood memories of my mom gathering our family together for prayer before bed impacted me for life. The traditional, formal prayers of the church became a springboard for my personal relationship with God. Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours and conversational prayer heighten my awareness of God’s presence in my life and in the world around me. I followed my mom’s example by praying nightly with my husband and sons.
Patrick, our younger son, admits that he didn’t always understand why we prayed nightly. He realizes now that prayer sustains us, in good times and in bad. He watched a video in a theology class at St. Ambrose University two years ago that explored people’s positive and negative opinions about God. “God isn’t there to be a genie, responding to our wishes,” Patrick said. “You can still think, ‘Why can’t more be done?’ But you don’t have control. You have to remember that God works in mysterious ways and that’s what we have to believe.”
Personally, I have been the beneficiary of many prayers and thoughtful gestures as I deal with follicular lymphoma. Other people’s prayers guide my own, shaping a greater sense of gratitude and trust in God.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)