A few days ago I went to a church and listened to some heavenly music. You know the type, Psalm 151, Symphony 97, Laudate Jehovum, Agnus Dei. For me, music is music is music. And churches here have to let concerts happen or else their cash boxes run dry.
But in the middle of the very first 10 minutes, I was distracted. By the sight of someone praying. Now you may say, this is not unusual in a church and you would be right, but this was not someone doing the usual thing. The hands clasped, the forehead bent, the cushion beneath the knees, kind of praying thing. This person was sitting on a chair, in front of me, barely ten feet away and yes he was praying. His eyes were focused on the face of a man standing in front of him and he was not being quiet at all. His right hand held a violin bow and his tongue protruded slightly as he concentrated all his attention on moving his hand. And the music that flowed…the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift, they were all there.
And when the music stopped, it became clear that he had prayed really well. For the hand that had coaxed such music from the violin strings, now lay loosely by his side, shaking and jerking with a mind of its own. I stared in amazement as he shook his hand vigorously a number of times, while the conductor got ready for the next piece. He then lifted his bow again, the tip quivering a series of squiggles in the air as he laid it across the strings. And then the music started and his hand moved in unison with the others playing around him.
Afterwards I thought about how much his music must keep his disability at bay. How often do we give up and stop trying simply because it is easier? Parkinson’s disease is something that defeats many because their bodies do not listen to their commands any more. And yet, here was this man, not sitting back in resignation but making the disease see who was master, even if it is for a couple of years.
This for me is true prayer.