Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Prayers for Elizabeth's Biological Mother

In my morning prayers this week I have felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for the Chinese biological mother of our granddaughter Elizabeth. Before commenting on that, I want to describe how that came about.

A variety of religious traditions from Native American to Muslim, from Wiccan to Buddhist, have prayer rituals built around the four cardinal points of the compass. Protestant Christians have generally dismissed physically directed prayers in recognition that our prayers arise from the indwelling Holy Spirit directed to Our Father in heaven (Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). Apparently the Jews in exile in Babylon faced Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10) in keeping with Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:29). In 1997 I was introduced to a distinctly Christian way of using the four cardinal points of the compass for prayer. I will describe just enough to let you see how it works.

Since I have been praying with the compass on the patio after my morning workout recently, I start facing EAST, toward the rising sun. I pray the Lord’s Prayer and take one step forward. I thank God for a new day, review what I know is coming, ask for God’s guidance and release the day to Him. I pray for people I know who are east of me. Our son Jon and his family. My nephew and nieces and their families. The folk I served in New Jersey. I pray for the people in government in Washington, for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Then I step back to the center, turn SOUTH and pray the Prayer of St. Francis. After stepping forward I pray for people I know south of me. Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries. The people I got to know in Haiti and Honduras. News events taking place in Latin America.

I step back to the center, turn WEST and pray the L’Arche Prayer. I take a step west and pray for people I know west of me. Those I grew up with in California. I pray about people and events in Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. As I was giving thanks for the people in China who cared for Elizabeth for the first 15 months of her life, I quite unexpectedly thought about her biological mother and have prayed for her for several days.

Then I step back to the center, turn NORTH and pray the invocation and memorial prayers I typically use in the funeral liturgy. Those north of me whom I pray for include my Mom, Candy’s Dad, our son David and his family, our niece and her family, the people of the churches we served in Illinois and Wisconsin, the people at the Daybreak community where we lived in Ontario. This week I have been praying for safety for people in the extreme cold north of us.

After stepping back to the center, I face east again and reflect on having traced a cross with my steps, then I lift my hands and sing a brief song of praise to Christ.

In our family we have speculated with wondrous awe at how Elizabeth will tell her story as she grows up. Of course, it will be constructed out of what Rachel, David and Sam and her Wisconsin and Texas grandparents tell her, but she will undoubtedly make it her own. But this week I became conscious of her biological mother and how she tells her story and what she thinks about the baby girl with the club foot whom she abandoned anonymously at the orphanage.

I imagine she was frightened and overwhelmed. I prayed God would give her peace. I expect she wonders from time to time what became of her baby. I prayed God would assure her that her baby is joyfully alive and well in a family who loves her. I’m certain that letting go of her baby did not resolve all of her problems. I prayed that God would lead her, even if she doesn’t know where that leading is coming from. Just as I know Elizabeth is getting to know Jesus in Rachel and David’s family and church, I prayed that someone in China might introduce Elizabeth’s biological mother to Jesus and his love.

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