People of prayer are, in the final analysis, people who are able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah. –Henri Nouwen
I am not there yet. I can see the Messiah in the faces of the oppressed. I can see it in the faces of families seeking asylum. I can see it in the faces of those who struggle between following orders and following conscience, knowing that following orders brings stability of paycheck—even though it is at the expense of their own well-being—while following conscience may lead to poverty.
Sometimes I see the Messiah’s face in people so consumed by fear that they hurt others directly or indirectly. This fear can take many forms: fear of those who are different, fear of losing some of one’s possessions, fear of change, even fear of God. When I can see their fear, I can find a measure of compassion for them, even when their fear causes them to reject, label, judge and demean others. It at least helps me to understand what motivates their hurtful behavior. It is still very hard for me to see the Messiah in such people. The only way I can even glimpse it is by looking at their fear.
I want to be a person of prayer, and yet this struggle to see the Messiah in others continues to challenge me. It reminds me that the faith journey is, in fact, a journey, and often a difficult one. It also reminds me that prayer is more than simply talking to God. It is opening myself up to be changed by God. Prayer is the willingness to be pliable and changeable. Prayer is the willingness to have my beliefs challenged.
When I engage in prayer as listening to God in silence and solitude, my seeing changes. Unlike our physical lives, where vision often declines with age, the spiritual life offers us the invitation to improve our vision as we grow.