Lord Christ, pour
into my heart.
Heal the wounds that are there,
that I may be a healer for others.
THIS prayer came back to me
last year, when I heard that Terry Waite was planning to go to
Beirut and meet Hezbollah, after having been held captive by them
between 1987 and 1991.
It is a simple prayer,
which has helped me to rest and enter into a time of silent
contemplation; remarkably, it also supports me in the heat of
On my own, I often use it
when I have time to sit quietly. I find it gives me a sense of
freedom that I can relax into, and, after one line, I often give
unmeasured time before I say the next. The first line, perhaps
because of the use of the verb "pour", seems to carry an optimism
and trust that only love can inspire. Even when I am feeling
depleted, it puts me in the place of the beloved, and reminds me of
the extraordinary truth that it is important to God that we receive
The words also comfort me
with a resonance of the Angelus, where my prayer is supported and
guided by Mary in the words used at the end of the collect for the
Annunciation: "We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our
hearts . . ."
In the next line of
Waite's prayer, there is a confession of the wounds in my heart,
though without any blame, and a hope for healing. It is a
confession of brokenness to someone who believes in me, and knows
that the many mistakes I make ultimately derive from my wounds.
This is someone who knows that I can be healed by entering further
into divine love.
Then, in the time that
follows for me after this line, I often find that I examine a day,
a situation, or myself with a sense of working through things with
Christ. After this, the final line swiftly moves me into giving my
love inevitably in return.
When I am at work,
however, this prayer changes into something I say at speed, in my
mind - even under my breath - when I am in the thick of things, and
need to make sure that I have a guiding vision to keep me fully
dedicated to my job. The swift reciprocation of the last line now
affirms my work as a contribution to the greater work of
Before Waite was taken
hostage, he had been involved in dangerous but rewarding work as
the envoy of Archbishop Runcie, and had negotiated the release of
hostages in Iran, Libya, and Lebanon. But he was wrongly associated
with the Irangate affair. In a bid to demonstrate his continuing
trust in the relationships that he had built and his commitment to
the remaining hostages, he took the risk and returned to Beirut to
negotiate with Hezbollah, and was taken hostage.
Although such risk is frightening, with the support of
his prayer, I have come to honour - perhaps even to understand - a
little of the dedication that his actions showed.
About his return to
Beirut last year, he wrote: "I am quite convinced that the only way
forward in that part of the world is for groups and individuals to
put the past behind them, and build a new future together.
Idealistic perhaps, but no ethnic or religious group has an
untainted history. My visit to Hezbollah was a simple gesture,
taken in the belief that reconciliation has to be made up of
thousands of such gestures.
"I have to confess that
Hezbollah were surprised to see me, but, as we talked, we got on
well enough together."
His actions in both 1987
and 2012 seem to be examples of profound symbolic gestures. One led
to his becoming a hostage; the other to a dialogue of hope. Both
showed someone in conversation with Christ, beyond the terrorism,
violence, politics, and deprivation that he was working with.
It is a realistic view of
peace, which, like his prayer, admits our wounds and our frailty,
knowing that our true hope is found only in the breadth of vision
and generous outpouring of divine love.
The Revd Marie-Elsa Bragg is a Duty Chaplain at Westminster
Abbey, and a priest in the diocese of London (www.marie-elsabragg.co.uk).