Forward Today: Practicing prayer, finding hope

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from the Rev. Cara Spaccarelli, Rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Carmel, Indiana, and member of the Forward Movement Board. 

Hanging on my wall in my office is a framed cross-stitch. It was the final product of my best Lent ever.

My best Lent came after my worst Advent/Christmas. It was a time when I felt caught in the malaise of things beyond my control, mainly in the news headlines of our nation. Though I’m typically one to decorate big time for the holiday, this year I had barely managed to put up a tree. The hope of the season was nowhere to be found, and Christmas came and went without me sensing God being born among us.

As Lent approached, the news-driven hopelessness continued. If I couldn’t muster hope at Christmas, it wasn’t going to magically happen in the season of Lent. That’s when I got the idea to cross-stitch a mandala. Mandalas come from the art of Eastern religions; they have long been used as instruments of meditation and prayer, similar to how labyrinths are used in the Christian faith. I thought of cross-stitching the mandala design like I was walking a labyrinth with my fingers moving me to the center to meet with God.

Most nights of Lent I spent on the couch cross-stitching for half an hour. No big epiphanies came, but I enjoyed the time being stiller than I normally am. Then that Holy Week I found myself experiencing the services in a way I had never before. I felt the joy of Palm Sunday, the camaraderie and foreboding of Maundy Thursday, the fear and grief of Good Friday, and the hope of Easter. The hope unstuck me from the general malaise of the previous months, even though there wasn’t much change in the headlines.

When I look at the cross-stitch hanging in my office, I think of the power of a practice to ground me in God. The Lenten practice calmed my body, mind, and spirit in a way that freed me to move me beyond the malaise. God holds all of life—the grief, the fear, the joy, the discouragement, the malaise, the hope. My Lenten practice that year helped me to expand what I could hold too, so that I am never without hope.

How does your own practice of prayer foster hope or resilience?

The Rev. Cara Spaccarelli
Forward Movement Board Member

More from our ministry:

From Grow Christians: Praying Compline amid disruption

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