The unexpected prayers of the angel-messenger

This evening,  we wandered up to Kigali Cathedral to sit on the steps, look over the vast expanse of the lights of the city,  and reflect.

As we drew closer,  unexpectedly, we heard voices inside.

Then a familiar voice called up to us, “try the other door: join us to pray!”

The bible is full of stories of angels who bring God’s message to his people. Often, the same word is used whether for human or spiritual messengers. Tonight, our angel was our sister Pastor Annette. Human… but sent by God none the less!

We didn’t know until today that twice a week people gather in the cathedral for whole nights of prayer.  This is such an ordinary thing,  no one had mentioned it (!)

But tonight,  it was there,  just when we needed it.

Pastor Annette welcomed us in.  In the half light,  men and women gathered barefoot on  carpet at the front of church,  kneeling and praying aloud is a beautiful cascade of voices.

Unable to understand the specific words,  I turned to Compline (night prayer) on my phone, weaving my own prayers into the words of God’s ancient people in the Psalm, and our African siblings’ prayers.

When a natural break came,  we were welcomed to introduce ourselves by name “Nitwa…”. And then to share our needs for prayers. We sang a Rwandan song (faltering attempting the pronunciation of words we’d just heard translated). Then knelt as our sister-in-Christ led her community praying beautifully, personally, and powerfully for each of us. And for the Church of England,  honoring our church as their spiritual ancestor, and so their privilege to now support us in prayer.

We then offered prayers for our siblings in Christ herein Rwanda.  There,  in the half light,  the collect from Compline seemed appropriate, before we turned to extempory prayer:

There,  in the cathedral,  we felt the presence of God. We shared stories of his power; and our expectation that prayer changes things.

Imana ni nziza.

God is good

Unlike the cathedral’s humble dedicated pray-ers, we hadn’t planned to spend the night. So we slipped away.

Outside, we looked up at the brightness of the moon. Of the sparkling city.

And there, on the steps of the cathedral, three sisters-in-christ, pastors so used to pastoring others, stood arm in arm in silent prayer and solidarity, pastoring each other. Human messenger-angels, sharing God’s message of peace, love, and belonging – with no need for words.

And committing our loved ones, far away, to the care of God’s angels in those places.

Keep watch, dear Lord,

with those who wake, or watch, or weep this night,

and give your angels charge over those who sleep.

Tend the sick,

give rest to the weary,

sustain the dying,

calm the suffering,

and pity the distressed;

all for your love’s sake, O Christ our Redeemer.

From Night Prayer, Common Worship, Church of England

Even as we stood praying by moonlight, our church family back in Northstowe were also praying. Tonight, the North Stowe deanery had a key meeting, which we had all committed to cover in prayer.

And, using this week’s prayer card, we are also praying for one of our local schools: Martin Bacon Academy.

Back at the guest house, safely ensconced in the mosquito netting, I prepare to finish praying night prayer. Heartened and humbled by the unexpected evening. Aware, at such a deep level, that we are not alone.

In peace we will lie down and sleep;

All for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.

Abide with us, Lord Jesus,

All for the night is at hand and the day is now past.

As the night watch looks for the morning,

All so do we look for you, O Christ.

The Lord bless us and watch over us;

the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;

the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace.

All Amen

Conclusion of Night Prayer, Common Worship

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