Life’s Darkest Moments Call for Prayers We’d Never Choose to Pray

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When words fail, says Tish Harrison Warren, we can rely on ancient liturgy to supply them.

The first year of our marriage, I found a full pill case pushed behind some bottles of shampoo under the bathroom sink. They belonged to my husband’s first wife, Danielle, from years earlier, before her fight with cancer ended in death. My husband, Evan, apologized—not because he had done anything wrong but because he could not prevent these reminders of grief from occasionally falling out of closets and drawers. This is where they had lived together. Where she baked, laughed, and lost her hair.

Since then we have moved into a house of our own, one with high ceilings, a creaky old staircase, and lots of “character.” From time to time, I post pictures of our home and our joy—usually when Evan is wearing his tan, thrift-store blazer and I have taken the time to put on lipstick. Each time, someone inevitably comments, “You two look so happy,” or “I hope to have a love like that someday.” And we are so happy. This love is a gift, one of the kindest God has ever given me.

But what Instagram and Twitter don’t show is something that author and Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren expresses in her new book Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep: that “our bright and shining lives, our explosions of joy, good work, and love, are always silhouetted by the shadow of death.”

As she began writing, Warren couldn’t have known how much we would need her book in these pandemic times. Now, almost a year in, a nurse friend of mine tells me about performing last rites for COVID patients who would otherwise die alone. I give “air hugs” to the widows at church instead of holding them close. Christians tear one another apart on social media …

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