• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

The Hard Work of Prayer

Here is a lovely passage from the sprightly, charming, and ruthlessly honest testimony of English writer Jane Christmas as she considers, in her fifties, whether to become a nun, And Then There Were Nuns (Greystone, 2013). It challenges me each time I read it:

The true work of a contemplative nun is praying. I had never appreciated the power and intensity of prayer until I prayed with nuns.

On the surface, praying seems easy. Knit your eyebrows in concentrations, mutter a few words, and then get on with your day. It’s not like that in a convent. Think of the hardest job you could do—mining comes to my mind—and then imagine doing that in silence and in a dress.

Every day the sisters descended into the Pit of the Soul, picked at the seam of despair, sadness, tragedy, death, sickness, grief, destruction, and poverty, loaded it all onto a cart marked “For God,” and hauled it up from the depths of concern to the surface of mercy, where they cleaned it and polished it. It was heavy, laborious work.

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