Like many city dwellers, I tend to pray on the go, especially on the subway to work in the early morning. At that hour, before six, fellow passengers are relatively subdued, either waking up or reading newspapers when I set out from my Broadway and Lafayette Street station in Lower Manhattan. The quiet atmosphere in the subway car itself is conducive to asking God’s help for those I know who struggle with life and death issues. Just seeing their names on the small pieces of paper I carry in my backpack helps lift them up to God.
But subway time can also be a time when specific prayers also come to mind, especially in times of anxiety when one longs for freedom from anxiety. The bookmark prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, found in her prayer book after her death, is a calming example: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Nothing is wanting to the one who possesses God. God alone suffices.” Shorter ones that are easily remembered, like a verse from the psalms, are useful as calming mantras, like this from Ps. 149: “In the morning fill us with your love.” Surely ideal for that early hour. Then there is the ancient and scripturally based Jesus prayer: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me a sinner”. And the wonder is that Jesus always does have mercy, no matter how many bad turns we may have taken–or even are taking--in our journey of life. This Jesus prayer is the one I use most while waiting on a bench in my subway station with others standing or sitting nearby as we wait for the next train. Their presence and these and those on my uptown car are reminders that we pray as part of a larger humanity that God watches over by day and by night.
George Anderson, S.J.