The Welcoming Prayer

A woman dressed for a hike sits in the middle of a clearing. She is nursing a mug of tea as a kettle warms over the campfire.

The practice of contemplative prayer has meant a lot to Eva in the past few years. It is a practice of consent to the healing presence and action of God within our hearts. As we pray a welcoming prayer, we are invited to embrace even our most painful emotional experiences in order to accept and then fully release all of ourselves into God’s grace and love. Eva wrote the prayer you’re about to experience in reflection on a conversation she’d had with a teammate who had just gone through a difficult experience.

Sister on the Way,

I see you.

Through the thick and thorny brambles, I see you there in the clearing, sore knees pulled in close as you draw near the flickering fire. You knew the journey would be long — but this long? You had heard it was hard and believed. But now your faith in yourself waivers.

I hear the night noises as daylight fails too — the crack and whistle, padded footfalls coiling ever closer. You see the eyes that watch you. Wide orbs of copper that blink on and off, ever reappearing in unexpected places.

I see your fingers tighten around a stone, ready to fling it into the darkness the moment they step into the firelight, scattering everything that looms and hovers.

But wait.

If you can, I beg you. Wait.

Drop the stone. Kneel and blow on your dying embers. Gather your courage, and if you dare …

… welcome them.

Whisper the words out loud. “Welcome.” Be still and watch them creep out of the shadows. Draw them in further with your silence. Pay attention to all that emerges. Notice the arch of the bristles. Count the rise and fall of furred ribs. See the flare of the nostrils, the flecks of yellow in the iris.

You don’t have to offer a blessing. No need to share any scraps from your pilgrim’s supper. Some things do not need to be fed. 

But shared light is a small price to pay for seeing our most elusive shadows.

Welcome. Welcome, strange beasts.

Welcome them to the fire and then let go.

Let go of your desire to survive …

… and you will live.

Release your right to be loved …

… and find yourself held.

Lie back under the moon in an open-hearted embrace of all that is and wait for morning to come.

And when it does, you will be alone again but the footprints will remain. Spoor in the sand and the ash. Heave on your pack and keep walking. Perhaps your days will pass in peace.

But don’t be surprised if you hear scuffling in the brush creeping alongside you. Don’t pay it too much mind. You have looked into the eyes of all that follows.

When night comes again, as it eventually will, you will lie down weary on this road, a stone for a pillow like those who have gone before us. And when you do, look deep into the woods. Gaze further down the trail, higher up the mountain. Look for my fire. I am somewhere near, breathing life into my own coals, welcoming all that comes to us on this journey that we make alone, together.

Eva Petross
Eva Petross is a member care provider who also serves as a literacy specialist. She and her family live in Africa.
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