Monday, April 30, 2007

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

Madeleine L'Engle has been one of my favorite authors since I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was about nine or ten. Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage is poignant, moving, and profound. The memoir time-travels between past and present: she remembers the challenges of weaving two artistic careers into the fabric of family life--or maybe vice-versa; and she tenderly and painfully relates the last chapter of her marriage during her husband's illness. L'Engle's spiritual insights and reflections on love and life add value beyond the telling of the story of a remarkable marriage.

Here's a passage from the book that particularly spoke to me:

"Prayer. What about prayer? A friend wrote to me in genuine concern about Hugh, saying that she didn't understand much about intercessory prayer. I don't either. Perhaps the greatest saints do. Most of us don't, and that is all right. We don't have to understand to know that prayer is love, and love is never wasted.

Ellis Peters, in A Morbid Taste for Bones, one of her delightful medieval whodunits, gives a beautiful description of what I believe to be intercessory prayer: 'He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart, like broken birds in cupped hands, all those people who were in stress or grief.'

And George MacDonald asks, ' And why should the good of anyone depend on the prayer of another? I can only reply, Why should my love be powerless to help another?'

I do not believe that our love is powerless, though I am less and less specific in my prayers, simply holding out to God those for whom I am praying.

...What happens to all those prayers when not only are they not 'answered' but things get far worse than anyone ever anticipated? What about prayer?

We do not know. We will not know in this life. Some prayers are magnificently answered. More than once this has been the case in my own life, glorious miracles of prayer.

But this summer the answers have all been negative. The doctors say, 'Everything has gone wrong.' One thing after another.

What about prayer?

Surely the prayers have sustained me, are sustaining me. Perhaps there will be unexpected answers to these prayers, answers I may not even be aware of for years. But they are not wasted. They are not lost. I do not know where they have gone, but I believe that God holds them, hand outstretched to receive them like precious pearls."

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