Prayer Shared at Middle Collegiate Church, New York City, 9/10/17
Greetings of peace. Assalamu’alaikum. I begin with the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.
One of the greatest poets, mystics, jurist-philosophers of all time, a man by the name of Jalal ad Din Muhammad Rumi, who lived in the 1200s taught us: “your task is not to seek out love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Islamic spirituality also contains the idea that we can know God through 99 names, among them, Al Hayy: the Ever Living, Al Qayyum: the Self-Sustaining Sustainer of All; and al-Wadud: the Loving Kind One.
God’s Love is Ever-Present, always waiting at the doorway of our hearts. We don’t have to go looking. Rum tells us that it is our doorway that is usually closed, and the journey of love, of connecting to the Ever Living Love that is Self Sustaining and Sustains all, this journey starts with us looking at how we get in our own way, how we barricade our own hearts, double lock them, put up fortresses that are difficult to cross.
God’s Love, Ever Present, is manifest to us through the people God put into our lives. They are the mirrors of the Love God has ready for us, and they show us the walls that you and I build against God’s Love.
Many times, we see people in our lives as instruments to serve our own needs. To boost our egos, to promote our ideas, to help us get ahead, get rich, get famous, get powerful. Even when we aim to do good, we can be guilty of instrumentalizing. We forget we are mirrors of God’s love. This is our human condition, to forget that we are God’s instruments.
As we reflect today on who we are, struggling with big questions of how we understand our history as a nation, our place on this earth and in the cosmos, and our relationship to the very diverse people who God placed as our neighbors in this city and in our global village, my prayer is this:
Dear God, you are Ever Lasting, Ever Sustaining, and Ever Loving. We praise You and turn to You for nourishment and guidance. Help us to remember when we forget, that Your Love is always available to us.
Help us to see the people in our lives, our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, leaders, our earth, as mirrors and signs of Your Love, it’s magnificence and abundance.
When we encounter situations and people that bring us face to face with the barriers we create to Your Love, when we feel signs of self-righteousness, spitefulness in our hearts, help us remember we are only a doorstep away from Your Love.
Grant us the ability to find and re-find the key, the courage to unlock the door, so that we let Your Love back in, and live in this world as a faithful instrument, channel and reflection of You.
Dr. Sarah Sayeed works to promote intercultural and interfaith co-existence.