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Thu April 22, 2004
The Widow's Mite of Prayer
Celebrating a giving spirit.
By Paul Wilkes
Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Paul's commentary.]
I was talking to a group of newly minted doctors about the importance of a spiritual life, of prayer, in all our lives. And, in the back, a young intern fidgeted impatiently in her seat. And you, I asked? How?s your prayer life? It was as if I were speaking from another planet, in a foreign language. I don?t have time for anything besides my work, she blurted back as she looked at her watch.
For some reason my ADD-riddled mind leaped to the bible story about the widow?s mite. You know the rich man in the temple who gives so abundantly and congratulates his generosity so liberally ? as the widow offers her copper coin, eyes downcast. And I invited this young intern to be just like that widow. And to offer her mite.
When she got up the next morning, and looked into the mirror, I asked her to simply say, ?God this is all I got to give. Be with me today. Now I?ve got to get going.? Prayer over. Go on, brush the teeth.
For I think if we can muster it, that copper coin?s worth of prayer may count more than a lot of our pious mutterings, if offered in utter honesty and with the right intention. For who is it we are praying to? Some sort of unappeasable grouch with a stop watch? Some sort of great-bookeeper-in the sky who keeps precise records of our every failing, our inattentiveness, our unkindness, our downright stupidities? Someone who doesn?t understand the pressures of our lives?
I think sometimes we forget. This is the God who made us. This is the God who knows human nature because he is the architect of human nature. This is the God who knows the fog of our minds, who knows the glories and the weakness of our flesh. This is also the God who within all this humanity, implanted something we call a soul, the very essence of divinity. And it is this connection, soul to soul, that can never be severed. The lines are always open.
We have this image of our hands reaching out to God, grasping. And we forget that God?s hand remains extended. Always. In our shortest prayer, we join hand in hand, soul with soul. Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote a great book called ?Man?s Quest for God? and then flipped the equation around with another book, ?God in Search of Man.? For this quest is a two way street. And, as only a loving father can do, God accepts our tiniest prayer, our widow?s mite. Because that?s what we have to offer right then, that?s the best we can do. And what parent?s heart is not warmed at seeing a child do just that: the best they can.
So, as you think about your prayer life in the days ahead, you might try to ? as the Scriptures tell us ? pray always. Or, like my Trappist monk friends, go into the chapel and pray six times a day. Or, you might just be able to give your widow?s mite. No more. Don?t worry about the length or frequency of your prayer. Just do it. Give what you can. God expects only that and will allow that little copper coin to multiply in ways you may never have imagined.
And, if I might step outside my role as commentator for just a second. For, like you, I am also a backer of WHQR. If you haven?t yet given to this great station, please do. Whatever you can. Thank you.
Paul Wilkes teaches in the English Department at UNCW, and is the creator of New Beginnings, a church revitalization program.