This Tuesday, we are reading Chapter 11 “Pity the Afflicted: Restlessness and Revelation” of the Rev. Tish Harrison Warren’s book Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep. If possible, please read this chapter slowly and take the time to think through her message.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
1979 BCP 134
In the last chapter, Rev. Warren defined “suffering” as “an acute time of pain.” p.125. Suffering are those moments that are difficult but which work a change within us and which generally resolve. On the other hand, in her reading of the Prayer, “the afflicted” are “those who walk through prolonged, even lifelong anguish.” p.138. She writes about dementia patients, the chronically depressed, or the chronically homeless. For those who live with an affliction, the night is a time when the affliction gets worse. Think of your chronic conditions or the chronic conditions of those close to you. This is for whom we specifically pray.
Particularly for those of us who live in the modern world, with modern technology, modern medicine, and advanced economies, affliction is difficult for us to deal with. What we want, and what we usually get with any malady, is a resolution, performance, and results. p.142. Suffering is a problem that can be solved with the right treatment. But the lives of the afflicted serve to remind us that (most) suffering simply cannot be solved or cured. And we can only wonder where is God in the affliction.
No one wants to be “pitied.” In contemporary English, the word pity has a slightly contemptuous connotation. To pity someone is almost to look down on someone with sorrow. The underlying meaning of the word “pity” however, is “compassion” or “a feeling of sympathy and compassion aroused by the sorrow or suffering of another.” Compassion is a compound word meaning “together” (com-) + “to suffer” (pati from “passion” or “suffer”). Sympathy also means “together” (syn-) + “to suffer (pathy). To pity someone simply means to suffer together with them.
There is no solution or resolution to being afflicted. Rather, all that can be requested, is that the afflicted have someone to suffer with them. Therefore, the Prayer is to ask God to come beside the afflicted and to share in their suffering. “We ask that God might feel what we feel, to enter into the dark room in which we find ourselves and sit with us in our pain and vulnerability.” p.140.
Questions and Practices:
Rev. Warren’s suggested questions and practices for chapter 11 are:
l. The author writes, “We often don’t know how to walk with people when the road is long and there will likely be no happy ending.” How have you seen the church care for the afflicted well or fail to do so? How might your own church or community care well for people with chronic and long-term pain or need?
2. The author quotes her friend Steven saying that he wants people to “seek Jesus where he promises to be found,” and she adds that it is often among the poor, the needy, and the afflicted. How have you encountered Jesus in your own affliction or among the afflicted? Can you share what that experience has been like for you?
3. The author discusses how the gospel itself brings affliction to us. Have you seen this firsthand in your own life or someone close to you? How do you or the person you love trust God or struggle with trust in the midst of affliction?
4. The author writes, “Often the most foundational and shaping spiritual practices of our lives are things we’d never have chosen.” Have you found a kind of spiritual formation in parts of your life that were unchosen? How have these unchosen things shaped and formed you, your community, or your view of God?
1. Choose an ascetic practice of some sort. This should be a practice that gives up some kind of comfort or pleasure. You could try fasting, partial fasting (giving up just one item, like meat), getting up extra early, or something else. Try this for a day, a few days, or a week. Journal about or share with your group anything you notice about this time. Are you more attuned to spiritual things? Are you more grumpy or short tempered, more tired or hungry, more sad or anxious?
2. Take stock over a week or a month what things you go to habitually to cheer you up or soothe pain. Write these down and ask yourself what you enjoy, gain from, or get out of these things or experiences. Consider fasting from one for a time (even just for a day) and then coming back to it. How did time away from your creature comfort change how you think about it or interact with it?
3. Spend time with an individual, or volunteer to be with a community, that faces ongoing suffering or affliction. How do you encounter Jesus in this person or people?
4. Commit to praying for an extended season-a month, a quarter, or a year-for a particular community that experiences affliction. Pray that God would pity them, and ask God how he would have you aid the afflicted.
March 28: Final week with “Prayer in the Night.”
April 4: Seder Meal. Reservations are required.
April 11: Begin The Way of Love by Forward Movement.
May 30: Begin 1 Peter.
July 11: Begin 2 Peter.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is beef barley vegetable soup. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8.
But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.Luke 10:33-34