Kerry Alys Robinson

Anonymous blessing

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

At a desert monastery, I had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth made of stones surrounded by exotic flora. I was completely alone, but far from lonely, enchanted by the mysterious beauty and contradiction of uninviting, captivating cacti amidst the craggy landscape. With each step closer to the center, I offered the prayer I have prayed daily.

“Empty me of all that stands between you and me that I might be filled with your imagination, desire, love and will. Help me to be an effective instrument of all that you intend.”

At the center of the labyrinth, I took delight at the offerings other visitors had brought and left in supplication, remembrance or thanksgiving. Small gifts of stone, a pencil, a tiny seashell far from home, a fortune cookie wisp proffering, “Be unconventional, even visionary.”

From the makeshift altar I took one white stone, smooth and cool, and as I retraced the winding path I prayed for the person who had left it. Knowing nothing of the life, challenges, hopes or fears of the person for whom I was praying, I asked that he or she be granted a deep and abiding peace, experience gratitude and know great love.

I have since wondered about the value of such prayer.

It reminded me of anonymous philanthropy where the recipient receives an entirely unexpected financial gift and never learns the identity of the donor. Generous people attest that it is they who benefit the most from serving others by sharing what they have.

And so it is with prayer. Since I did not know the identity of the person who left the smooth, white stone, in a sense everyone became a candidate for my compassion and prayerful concern.

And whether the person was a kindred soul or markedly different, with opposing theological and political views, a completely different set of values or life experiences, in prayer I was invested in his or her fulfillment, peace and blessing.

The unconditional grace I asked God to lavish on my intimate stranger expanded my capacity to love and reminded me that all people, without exception, are part of the human family to which I belong, in need of care and blessing.

Praying for others feels like a small, important step to preventing my complicity in the destructive delusion that we are irreparably divided. Now I make it a habit when beginning a new day, embarking on a trip to a new part of the world or attending a conference, to pray for the people I will meet for the first time, asking God to bless their lives, provide them encouragement and surprise them with delight.

If I am sincere in my prayer, then I am already invested in blessing the lives of others, predisposed to meeting them with joyful expectation.


  • prayer