I’d like to share with you a simple practice that I’ve been using for some time. When driving, you will sometimes see crosses on the side of the road. These mark the sites where there was a fatal accident. Friends and families of the victims will erect these monuments, and will often revisit them to add flowers and to remember the loved ones they lost. While these memorials are often controversial, we can all certainly understand the impulse. Losing a loved one unexpectedly is truly a tragedy.
I have a practice that I use when I pass one of these memorials on the road. When I see the memorial I make the sign of the cross and say a short prayer. Most often this is the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), but sometimes it’s something spontaneous. I take a moment to contemplate my own mortality, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my work here on Earth. There’s still a lot of things I hope to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
For me, this accomplishes several things at once. I am honoring the dead, though not usually the specific person for whom that memorial was erected, because it’s unlikely that I would know, at 65 MPH, who it is for. I honor the people I have known who have died, the people in my tradition who have gone before, people who have influenced my life in a substantial way, and more.
I’m reminded that someday I will also die, and as a Gnostic I know I have work to do before that time. Some Gnostics believe in reincarnation, others don’t. To paraphrase Msgr. Stratford, I’m not willing to wait around and find out. I hope to achieve the Resurrection in this life so that I can inherit the Kingdom. Practice is the way to ensure that, I believe.
Having cues as I go about my day that remind me to pray are a vital part of my practice. This is just one of them. This is a great technique to serve as a reminder, and you can use it, and many other things, to remind you to pray. You may think it is inappropriate to build a spiritual practice off of the suffering of others, but this is not what I’m doing at all. I am grateful to the victim and their friends and family every time I pray at a roadside memorial, and I think that if they knew I was doing it, they would be pleased that they continue to make a difference in the world in some small way.
Do you have any “prayer triggers” in your life?
(Photo: Roadside Memorial by Richard Croft – http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/792998)