In a corner apartment on the eighth floor is a lean man bowing low as he faces northeast and quietly beseeches Allah to protect his family living in the Sudan. His hands are rough, his nails unevenly bitten. The grey-haired woman in the flat above him deftly pulls her legs into the lotus position, closes her eyes and tries to drive out the painful memories of childhood.
Both of them hear the squeal of tyres as an orange convertible careers into a street-side parking spot below. Inside the car is a woman in a pencil skirt suit and there is a briefcase on the passenger seat. The woman quickly unhooks her rosary from the rear-view mirror and begins to hurriedly recite words she memorised as a girl. She then pulls the car back out onto the street and floors it, almost running over the toes of the not-quite-grown woman waving her hand at an approaching taxi.
The young woman is tilted a little to one side, and her book bag slaps against her hip as she runs to get into the taxi. She plops into the backseat, asks the driver to take her to the university, and then squeezes her eyes shut. She crosses her fingers and sends a plea into the cosmos, hoping that the energy binding everything together will work to ensure she pass the exam.
I wrote this tableau several years ago. It was intended as the entry point into a discussion about prayer. I quickly forgot about it, because I never did figure out a clever way to take it further and work in what I really wanted to express: that almost everyone knows and wants to cry out for help to someone or something bigger, but what I really wish for them is that they could have the assurance of knowing that their prayers are heard.
I pray to a person I know. I am luckier than lucky should be, but the great thing is that you can be this lucky too if you want. I pray to the God of the Bible, whose son is Jesus. I do not have a set time, place or manner in which I pray – I merely pray as though talking to someone sitting across from me. And I talk to Him all the time, whenever I want. Because I know the personal name and character of my God, I know that He hears me, listens to me, and cares. I wish that same comfort and confidence for everyone.