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Prayer Without End

By Catherine Arveseth

I was sitting in sharing time last Sunday, surrounded by my class of nine year old girls, when a member of our primary presidency brought out this painting.

 

It’s by Nicolaes Maes. A Dutch painter from the Golden Age who studied in Rembrandt’s studio. In his best period, from 1655 to 1665, he devoted himself to capturing the domestic. He painted life-size figures with deep, glowing color schemes and some of his art now hangs in Buckingham Palace.

This piece is called Prayer Without End.

I studied it as this thoughtful sister taught. And the more I looked, the more I found to love. The more I wanted to know this woman in prayer.

I loved…

The lines in her forehead, the tiny creases between her eyes, the translucent color of her skin. All depicting age without resistance. Graceful, acquiescent.

The way her head is bowed and her hands touch each other in symbol of communion. Postures grown out of habit and years.

Her meal for one, on that small square of table. Was it always this size, this lonely? Or is she remembering those who used to share her bread?

The cat, claws caught on linen, vying for part of her bounty, while her devotions continue undistracted, unconcerned. Expressions of gratitude floating upward, uninterrupted.

Her open bible, read and read again.

The keys that keep her there, protect her things, secure her space. Maybe symbolic of keys to another place. A kingdom where no one goes hungry and all are welcomed, encircled, found.

And then there is the title. Prayer Without End.

Could this be the last meal she will eat alone, her own last supper? Could this prayer, born of lips and heart, soon transfigure into face to face communion? Where her hands will separate in warm embrace for her maker? He who knows the holiest of people. The quiet ones, who do not preach sermons from pulpits or pound truth into pages. They who walk the earth connected to him, living out their sermons in deed and way, wholly holy, perfectly in line with his will.

Dear woman, I wish I could sit at your table, hear your words.

Today, our extended Arveseth family will fill not just one table, but two. We will be thinking of those not with us. Of those gone on. Of those yet to join us.

I will hold each of my children’s hands, squeeze their palms in mine, and say thank you. I will put my arms around my husband’s waist and lean my head onto his chest and whisper thank you. And I will kneel as long as it takes to sincerely give thanks for my bounty, my life, God’s light, His love, and His forgiveness.

“Sincerely giving thanks.. unlocks the doors of heaven.” – Thomas S. Monson

That is what I want. Prayer that unlocks. Prayer that transfigures. Prayer without end.

Happy Thanksgiving friends.

About Catherine Arveseth

Catherine Arveseth is mother to five children, including two sets of twins. She is an exercise physiologist by profession, writer by passion, loves hiking with her family, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and the edge of an ocean. She and her husband, Doug, began their family in Virginia but now live in Salt Lake City, Utah. She blogs at wildnprecious.com.

7 thoughts on “Prayer Without End”

  1. I like that the place my eyes begins* on the painting is the loaf of bread and a pitcher. I imagine the pitcher has water: the bread of life and the living water.

    I also like the placement of a knife indicates there maybe someone else at the table. Perhaps the painter himself. Perhaps the woman is waiting for someone. Perhaps the One who will serve her the bread.

    * Or perhaps the second place the picture leads after the woman's face. It kinda depends on how the image is place on my screen.

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  2. Thank you Catherine. Your words are as beautiful as you insights. I thought first of our 24 temple missionaries-common people, quietly doing uncommon things. Then I thought of the local Guatemalan temple workers who so faithfully enter the House of the Lord multiple times. And then I think of the temple patrons who extract themselves from the world to visit the temple and their make covenants to live a life that is not of worldliness but of light and service.

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  3. Thank you Catherine. Your words are as beautiful as your insights. I thought first of our 24 temple missionaries-common people, quietly doing uncommon things. Then I thought of the local Guatemalan temple workers who so faithfully enter the House of the Lord multiple times. And then I think of the temple patrons who extract themselves from the world to visit the temple and there make covenants to live a life that is not of worldliness but of light and service.

    Reply
  4. Oh, Catherine. This is lovely. You captured so much that I would overlook because I get caught up in so many unimportant things. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful observations and helping this anxious soul to stop and meander a bit with you. Have a wonderful day 🙂

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  5. Yes, thank you for helping me slow down a minute and really look. You helped me see all kinds of things I hadn't noticed on my own. The light and the lines all draw my eye back and forth between her face and the bread and water, in a gentle, sacred rhythm, like breathing.

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  6. Your words are as ways beautiful! I love this painting I have never seen it before but it shouts quietly the act of gratitude and thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing your gift to write!

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