Because of increased public awareness of terrorist threats and actual attacks around the world, a growing number of people have sought spiritual solace, comfort, and strength from prayer vigils.
Prayer vigils, however, are nothing new, as I was reminded when I visited Wimborne, in Dorset, England, a week before the events of 9/11.
This attractive historic town is well preserved, and the jewel in its crown, standing at its center, is Wimborne Minster, a church dating back to the 12th century. The church houses a unique Chained Library and an astronomical clock, with the Quarter Jack, a colorful figure who strikes the bells every quarter hour. The minster is fascinating and full of atmosphere.
It was late in the afternoon when my friend and I went in. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time. It was so peaceful and quiet.
We took a few moments to be thoughtful and then asked if there were an Evensong. We were told there was not, but there were Evening Prayers.
These prayers were offered every evening for the benefit of all, and anyone could participate.
Down in the ancient crypt we met with a minister and a lay reader. They were most welcoming, and the prayers commenced.
I felt touched by this because it was nondenominational. No one asked what faith we were. It didn't matter because we were raising up our thoughts to the one universal God and we were all His children. I felt privileged to be a part of this reaching out in love for my fellow man. I felt so grateful that we could all pray to the one God, who blesses all impartially and is no respecter of rank or culture.
There were readings from the Psalms, and the Lord's Prayer was said. Special prayers were offered for bishops and missionaries in Africa and for the prosperity of their work. Couples recently married in the church were also remembered.
There was a prayer box in the church, and those who felt in need of special help had posted prayer requests there. These were thoughtfully read and prayers were given.
I was grateful to these humble, unselfish people, hidden away in a secluded part of England, who took time to pray each day for their brothers and sisters in their own community and around the world.
I was reminded of what Mary Baker Eddy wrote in a letter to a church: "Of this we may be sure: that thoughts winged with peace and love breathe a silent benediction over all the earth, cooperate with the divine power, and brood unconsciously o'er the work of His hand' ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," pg. 152).
As we left, my friend remarked that prayer is always beneficial. I agreed with her. It is not what is said but the motivation and love behind the words that count.
Since that time, a lot more has been heard about prayer vigils. The awful events of 9/11 and its aftermath came only a week after my visit. Then people spontaneously gathered together to offer up prayers, and prayer vigils sprang up all over the world.
I have often thought of beautiful Wimborne Minster and of what I found there. I have remembered the quietness, peace, and serenity that flowed from it and its prayer vigil, which has been continuing uninterrupted for hundreds of years.
For all the unnoticed and unheralded groups, breathing a "silent benediction over all the earth" and quietly ministering to humanity's spiritual needs in this very busy world, I am grateful.
... be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart
to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God ....