Archie Smith on Pastoral Prayer

The message that comes across is that prayer is private and limited to satisfying immediate needs or personal wants. Very seldom do such prayers include a quest for love of neighbor and care for the perceived enemy. Only rarely do such prayers include justice in community. Only infrequently do present-day personal prayers include an embracing of mystery, self-examination, facing our illusions, or an earnest search for God’s will (and not our own) to be done in our inner and social or public lives.4 It is even more rare to pray on behalf of those who scheme to entrap or have already have wronged us. Prayers that are all about “me,” self-maintenance, and personal or private fulfillment typically neglect care for the world. The private and self-focused prayer is seldom about interpersonal responsibility, social and mental illness, or practices of forgiveness and wider justice. It seldom concerns all sorts and conditions of life. A wider sense of justice would include care for the natural environment and the strength to build up the beloved community (which includes the perceived enemy). Such is part of an ancient and ongoing conversation.

From Smith, A. (2018). Thoughts Concerning the Pastoral Prayer. Pastoral Psychology, 67(1), 85-97.

Participating in Mystery

I was re-reading Emmanuel Lartey the other day as he described classical pieces of pastoral care, and he wrote this about healing:

“The mystery is that we do not know God’s intention or the form in which God’s presence will take. This calls for openness and attentiveness.”

Being a part of God’s healing work as a caregiver–and care is a broad word admittedly–means seeing oneself as a participant in mystery. That means, in part, that every act can’t be specifically defined. Perhaps every act can’t even be described. There’s inherent humility in healing, isn’t it? At least, if you take the view that God is involved.

You live knowing that your behavior isn’t always translatable. You may rub against the ineffable, the indescribable. When you do, it helps to be humble. It helps to accept that “I can’t describe it” nature of what happened. It helps to pause, to feel the striking nature of care.

Real care leaves you thankful. It leaves you aware that you’ve been blessed and that you’ve benefited from something you may not be able to put into words.