Each year St Paul’s Cathedral open its doors for Disability Access Day. To mark the day in 2019 I invited people of all ages and backgrounds to write a prayer or draw a picture to hang on an olive tree.
During the day dozens of prayers, pictures and notes were added to the tree. While some people liked to stop and chat, sharing their story and what they wanted to pray about - from the personal to the global - others made a beeline to the blank cards, scribbled a few words, hung their prayer on the tree and left. Several people asked if they could write more than one prayer. Of course! Others still were interested to read the prayers people had written but didn’t want to add their own. A few people said they wanted to write a prayer but didn’t know what to write.
Half way through the afternoon, a man in his late-middle years came by. I asked, ‘Would you like to write a prayer to add to the olive tree?’
‘I’ve never said a prayer before’.
‘’Would you like to?’
‘I don’t know what to say’.
‘Well, a prayer is something you want to say to God. Like a conversation, or something that’s on your mind, however you’re feeling. Is there something you’d like to say to God?’ I didn’t feel like I’d described prayer as well I might have, but the man still looked thoughtful.
‘Hmm, I can’t think what to say. That’s silly, isn’t it?’
‘Not silly at all’ I said, impressed he was engaging with what prayer might mean, and really considering what words might be right for his first prayer.
‘I need to think about this’ he said. ‘I’m going to walk round and think about it. Is that OK? I’ll come back.’
Not knowing whether he would return, I smiled, thinking about this man walking round St Paul’s Cathedral, in search of inspiration for his first prayer. As I was tidying up, the man returned.
‘I said I’d come back. And I’ve written a prayer.’ Looking pleased as punch, the man handed across his prayer, with an encouraging nod for me to read what he’d written:
In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.
I smiled, thinking about what this might mean. It sounded potentially profound, as well as something of a riddle. I was also pretty sure the sentence was part of a song.
‘It’s a lyric from The Beatles’, he told me. ‘Part of a medley. All different bits put together. Like pot pourri’.
Medley. Different bits put together. Pot pourri.
‘Sounds like a kind of prayer to me’ I said, as the man added his words to the tree.