Prayer in time of grief

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home;Make safe the way that leads on high,And close the path to misery.Rejoice! Rejoice! EmmanuelShall come to thee, O Israel.

Hattip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.  Since the death of my son Larry I have found this prayer by Father Robert Fox to be of comfort:

God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me.  My heart is very heavy.  I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus.  I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.

O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child.  dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul.  To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.

Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection.  Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I had been fortunate in my life and avoided great tragedy, until the death of my son a month ago on May 19. My mother and father died, both too young, and their deaths saddened me greatly.  However, it is in the nature of things for parents to die before their children, and although I still miss them greatly, their passing did not overwhelm my life with grief.  My son Larry’s death is a completely different matter.  I have experienced the depths of grief at his young, and completely unexpected, death, and I miss him constantly and think about him all the time.  In my sorrow the only thing that truly makes sense to me is the thought, as Shakespeare put it in Henry V, “We are in God’s hand brother, not in theirs.”  For His purposes God took my precious boy from this world and I must trust in His goodness and mercy for my son, his mother, his brother and sister, and for me.  At Larry’s funeral mass I quoted Job:  “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Many people find that a hard message to accept but I embrace it fully.  Without God my dead son would be nothing, I would be nothing and all that I love would be nothing.  With God, this brief life is a mere doorway into splendor unimaginable and a love that surpasses understanding.  In the grief I experience now I truly understand, with my heart, as I always have with my mind, my utter and absolute dependence upon the grace, mercy and love of God.  Throughout my life God has given me a fairly easy path.  Now a harder path beckons, and my family and I must walk it with the same faith in God that we walked the easier path.  However hard the path I know the joy that await for those who walk it in faith, the same indescribable joy my Larry is now experiencing:

The more one thinks about it, the worse it becomes. He got through so easily! No gradual misgivings, no doctor’s sentence, no nursing home, no operating theatre, no false hopes of life: sheer, instantaneous liberation. One moment it seemed to be all our world; the scream of bombs, the fall of houses, the stink and taste of high explosive on the lips and in the lungs, the feet burning with weariness, the heart cold with horrors, the brain reeling, the legs aching; next moment all this was gone, gone like a bad dream, never again to be of any account. Defeated, outmaneuvered fool! Did you mark how naturally-as if he’d been born for it-the Earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottleneck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?”

The Screwtape Letters

www.the-american-catholic.com

By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

(RNS) Pastor Greg Laurie knows a thing or two about prayer in tough times.

The honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer (May 2) says prayer was the only thing that got him through his son’s death five years ago. When fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide, Laurie was the man he most wanted to hear from.

Laurie, 60, who leads the evangelical Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., talked about prayer, grief and what not to say when a friend’s loved one dies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: The prayer you wrote for the National Day of Prayer mentions “random acts of horrific violence.” How did you pray after the Boston Marathon bombings?

A: I prayed that comfort would be extended to those who had lost loved ones. I prayed for those who were injured. And I prayed for no more of these attacks to happen.

Q: Then there was an explosion at the Texas fertilizer plant. How did you pray about that?

A: Anytime there’s human suffering and anytime people have lost loved ones, I pray that God will extend comfort to them because, having had our own son die five years ago, I’ve been up close and personal with grief and I know the very real pain that it brings into a person’s life.

Q: It’s been a difficult month for the nation with these back-to-back tragedies. Do you think people should be more drawn to prayer in times like this, or is it wrong to mostly call on God when we’re in need?

A: I don’t think it’s ever wrong to call on God. Certainly it’s far better if we’re calling on him all the time. Quite frankly, sometimes crisis is what shows us a need that we had all along, which was the need to pray.

Q: Can you discuss your role in talking to Rick Warren after he lost his son to suicide?

A: I called him the day after it happened and he said, “You’re the one person I’ve been waiting to hear from.” We talked for a while about it. We prayed. I shared some things that I learned over the years after losing our own son and then I spoke just last Sunday at Saddleback Church. I brought a message of hope and encouragement to his congregation.

Q: What was your major piece of advice for them?

A: I said, I just want you to know that Rick is going to come through this. He’s going to come through this stronger but I also want you to know this is the hardest thing that can happen to a parent — to lose a child.

Q: What should people not say when a friend is grieving the loss of a child?

A: Don’t say, “I know what you’re going through” because you probably don’t.

I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I know what you’re going through. My grandmother just died.” And I pointed out that everyone’s grandmother and grandfather will die, then their parents, then them. But no one expects their child to die before them.

Or saying things like “Well, just rejoice and smile they’re in heaven.” Understand that though that is technically true, it is also true that that person is in deep pain and that can come off almost glib and uncaring.

Q: Can you talk briefly about your son’s death?

A: He was 33. He was actually working for our church as our lead designer and was on his way to work and had an automobile accident and died.

Q: Has that experience changed the way you approach prayer?

A: It has shown me how much I need to pray. When it was all said and done, being a preacher didn’t give me a leg up on this. I still was a grieving father missing a son. And in the initial moments after it happens, and the hours and the days after that, one wonders if you can even survive such a thing. I’ve found that prayer is what got me through the day. Sometimes it wasn’t so much day by day, it was even hour by hour.

Q: So what’s the message you’re going to bring to Capitol Hill on the National Day of Prayer?

A: I am going to talk about how God promises to heal a nation if we will pray. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 he says, “If my people which are called by name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I’ll forgive their sin and heal their land.”

What I find interesting about that verse is God is not pointing his finger at the White House, so to speak, but at his house. I think that it’s very easy for people in the church to point their fingers at Washington or Hollywood. In effect, God points his finger at his own people.

www.huffingtonpost.com

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