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The Power of Prayer

Sister Confianza del Señor
On Prayer (March 2024)
Inward Light

When I joined Amigas del Señor Methodist-Quaker Monastery in 2006, I enjoyed the simple lifestyle. Sister Alegría and I lived in our Motherhouse on a beautiful, wooded hilltop in Honduras. Our days of physical work were framed by regular periods of shared and personal prayer. I felt so content that I thought this life of retirement was self-indulgent. Over time, though, I came to understand what monastics throughout history have taken for granted: prayer sustains the world. It holds together the universal church, adds goodness to the atmosphere, and helps specific individuals and specific situations. Most of all, prayer changes the one who prays. This I know experientially.

Because of health problems, Sister Alegría and I moved into the town of Limón two years ago. We continue to keep our basic prayer schedule, though it is often interrupted by people stopping by. It is unpleasant to have our ordered life of prayer so significantly disrupted; I miss the quiet of the Motherhouse. Yet I have come to realize that prayer – in its many forms – has brought me through this challenging time and continues to sustain me.

August, 2023. Pendle Hill Worship. Several months after we’d moved to Limón, we hired one of our new neighbors, William, to do some work for us. Early on, he asked me to pay him in advance for certain projects. He also asked for little loans here and there. It soon became clear that William doesn’t always keep his word. Projects weren’t finished and debts weren’t paid.

When I talked with him about the situation, he acknowledged his debt and began to work some of it off, but he continued to ask for advances and loans. I finally talked about it with Sister Alegría. She insisted that we should stop paying William for work he hadn’t finished yet. As an introvert, it’s hard for me to say no. I began to dread seeing William come to the door.

Almost every morning for several years, Sister Alegría and I have joined an online worship sponsored by Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania.

Almost every morning for several years, Sister Alegría and I have joined an online worship sponsored by Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Once this problem with William began, I was no longer able to enter deeply into this worship. “How should I be dealing with William?” I asked God every day. But I didn’t receive new answers, and I often spent this time of worship stewing in frustration.

September. Intercessory Prayer. Eventually, I realized that the focus of my prayers was self-centered. I was asking what I should be doing so I could feel better. I decided to stop just praying about William and to start praying for him. William had told me about his desire to grow closer to God, so I began to pray for God to work more fully in William’s life.

October. The Lord’s Prayer. One Monday in October, William asked if I had any young chickens for sale; he knew someone who wanted to buy a pair. We did have some, so I let him take a couple to his friend, trusting him to bring back the money. But he didn’t come back that day, nor the next. Oh, I was mad those two days! But by the time he finally showed up a week later, I was calm again. He admitted he’d used the chicken money for personal business. I added it to his debt.

Sister Alegría and I have a practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer twice every day, which reminds us that we all need forgiveness. This practice led me to ask myself daily, “What does forgiveness look like when William trespasses against me over and over? What does it mean to forgive when I choose to trust, and then am betrayed again and again?”

Mid-November. Lauds. William started attending Lauds, our morning prayers, joining us in reading psalms aloud and singing hymns. I was glad to have his participation and glad that we could support his spiritual quest in this way.

One day, William’s young nephew asked me, “Do you know what my Tío William does when you give him money? He comes to our house and asks for some papers. Then he goes to a store and buys something, rolls it in the paper, and smokes it.” The puzzle clicked together and began to make sense. The next day, I asked William what he smoked. A bit startled he said, “Solo yerba. Just weed.”

I told Sister Alegría.

A week later, William joined us for Lauds. Afterwards, Sister Alegría asked him, “Why do you smoke marijuana?” He answered. “Things went bad in my marriage, and I separated from my wife. Then my family rejected me. . . Yerba helps me feel less stressed, so I can concentrate on my work.” Finally, it was out in the open. Knowing about his addiction, I found it easier to be strict with William, to say “no” to his requests for loans and advances.

Advent is the season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.

Early December. Advent. Advent is the season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. At Amigas del Señor Monastery, we observe Advent with a special psalm cycle. This change in our routine usually creates a festive mood and reminds us of the messianic hope expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, this Advent, I was having a hard time feeling connected to God during our daily times of prayer and worship. Then one morning, this prayer came to me: “May God’s Spirit be birthed in me so that I may always know God’s presence and follow God’s guidance.” I continued offering up this prayer every day for rest of the month. I prayed with an urgency I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Christmas Day. Holiday celebrations. Sister Alegría and I planned for a quiet Christmas celebration. I would bake gingerbread cake, and we’d join Multnomah Monthly Meeting on Zoom for unprogrammed worship. William joined us for Lauds, and afterwards, he asked me what tasks he should focus on that day. “I wasn’t thinking about work today,” I told him, feeling annoyed. But I wasn’t going to stop William from working, so I let him clean around the plantains and sweet potatoes. Sister Alegría and I joined Pendle Hill worship as usual, but William interrupted me with a question about something he was doing. I was not kind in my response. I felt irritated for the rest of the day as he continued to consult me about his projects.

I baked the gingerbread while listening to Christmas carols, and we managed to join Multnomah’s worship (late), but I just couldn’t stop feeling upset. All I wanted was to have a nice Christmas, and here I was almost in tears! Was I just stuck on having things my way, or was my distress legitimate?

Happily, the Christmas season lasts twelve days. By the fourth day, I could truly enjoy our observances as we sang carols and made decorations. But I began to wonder if I was seeking peace through external means, instead of letting it come from the Divine Center.

Late December. Finances as a spiritual practice. Conscientious use of money is a spiritual practice. All things belong to God, and we are to be good stewards of whatever is put in our care. Sister Alegría and I carefully track our expenses and income, knowing that we are responsible to our donors as well as to God. I felt that in loaning William so much money, I hadn’t been a good steward of those donations, and I wondered how to report the debt.

During our recitation of the Lord’s Prayer one evening, I was especially struck by the line, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” I thought that my burden would be lifted if we could just forgive William’s debt and start over. When I suggested this to Sister Alegría, she answered, “No. You are partly responsible that his debt has gotten so high, so you have to keep working with him to get it repaid.” I accepted her verdict.

I found myself making a resolution: I would be kind, but firm.

Early January, 2024. Resolutions and Forgiveness. I don’t consider resolutions to be reliable means towards spiritual progress. However, this new year, I found myself making a resolution regarding William: I would be kind, but firm. I would try to treat him with respect, but I would refuse to give advances or loans. I would insist that he work off his debt, bit by bit. During the first week of my new resolution, I was still occasionally sharp with William, but each day he worked, I paid him only part of his earnings in cash. The rest went toward reducing his debt. By the end of January, he had paid off nearly a quarter of what he owed us!

Along with my resolution, I finally experienced forgiveness. I was able to forgive myself for not stewarding our money well, and I was able to forgive William for being who he is. He still asks for loans and advances, and he is inconsistent in keeping his word, but I no longer get so upset about it. The burden is finally lifted. William may not have changed, but I have. That’s the power of prayer.

Sister Confianza has been a part of Amigas del Señor Monastery since its founding in 2006. Learn more about the Sisters’ life at https://amigasdelsenor.weebly.com/ or read their book Giving Up Something Good for Something Better, available at westernfriend.org/bookstore/ Consider sojourning with them as they rebuild the Motherhouse!

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