Then the centre of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbours and embrace them with his love.
From the earliest days of Christianity there has been a wonderful tradition of praying for one another. There are numerous references to this practice in the writings of the Christian Scriptures and we often hear Paul for example, asking for prayers and exhorting the early church communities to pray for one another. When we pray for others we enter into communion with them. We meet them, and their lives and ours become entwined as we hold them there in prayer.
There is a beautiful film SBS television has screened a few times over the years. It is called ‘Letters to Father Jaakob’. Set in Finland, it is a glimpse into the heart and spirit of an old, blind priest, Jaakob, who receives letters from people requesting his prayers. As the film opens we see Jaakob, serene in his suffering, gentle and patient. He is a man of profound faith and his presence radiates the obvious communion between Jaakob and God.
The requests he receives range from seemingly trivial things to those we would judge to be very serious. But Jaakob makes no distinction. These are all people in need of grace and, in prayer, he takes them to God. Jaakob has also memorised great portions of the Scriptures and as he gently and serenely enters the world of each of those requesting his prayers, he places them in the heart of a text, which he brings to mind and which speaks directly to their need and situation. The film explores many aspects of this man’s faith and spirituality as his path crosses with that of Leila, a woman who has been in prison but who has been granted mercy and an early release and is offered a job working for Jaakob, reading the letters to him and writing his response to those who include an address. Leila is hardened through suffering and guilt, but slowly she is affected by Jaakob. The film also takes us into Jaakob’s own realisation that just as he believes he has been doing God’s work and carrying out God’s will in his prayer for others, so, in fact, has God been carrying him and giving him what he needed as he leads him home.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator