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Dim Candles

By March 16, 2016 6 Comments

Where does a prayer go that has lost its light?

As I walked around the Cathedral of Notre Dame I noticed all the different candle stations for prayer. Some candles were large that lasted up to seven days if lit. Those ones were a suggested donation of five euros. Then there were smaller candles that if lit lasted about a day. They cost two euros. If you only had one euro you could purchase an even smaller candle that would last a few hours if lit. I wondered the reasoning behind people’s decision on their candle choice. Did people think the bigger the candle the more the prayer would work? Or maybe, like me, they were attracted to the images of the saints on the larger candles. The small candles were not as pretty to look at.

When I got to the Guadalupe chapel I knew that is where I wanted to pray. I often wish that in our Reformed circles we talked about and leaned on Mary more than many do. I sat in the chapel and lit my candle, the fairly large size one, five euros. I didn’t want my candle’s light to be burned out so quickly. There was a lot on my mind to pray for.

I was not alone in the Guadalupe chapel. A man, who as far as I could tell with his bags in hand did not work for the cathedral, but he took it upon himself to organize the candles. The candles that still had wax to burn, but whose light had blown out he relit. The candles that were off by themselves burning, he brought closer to the other candles. This mysterious prayer candle organizer was messing with the prayers. I was intrigued, and annoyed, I didn’t want my candle messed with.

I left the side chapel and began to follow him. At each chapel he organized the candles so that each candle did not stand-alone. He brought them closer together, amplifying the light of the prayers. The candles that had been blown out, he relit.

Have you ever talked to someone at church who said something like I’ve stopped praying for this or that? I’ve lost heart. Or maybe you have questioned what really happens in prayer and have reluctantly quieted the desire to pray? I have so many questions about prayer. How does it work? Why does Scripture say to pray without ceasing? Does prayer change God’s mind or does it change my mind, or both? Even in my questions, I find myself drawn to prayer time and time again.

Where does a prayer go that has lost its light?

I continued following the cathedral’s mysterious prayer candle organizer around the perimeter of the building. At one time I even thought if this odd man could be an angel who is relighting the hope of prayer in candles who have gone dim? Is that how the prayers that we hold so vulnerably alive in us get relit? I don’t know.

I do know that as much as I was annoyed with the mysterious candle organizer I also felt cared for by him. I didn’t want him to touch my candle, but when grouped the candles closer together the light of the prayers were amplified. It’s like the light was in conversation with each other.

Perhaps that is how prayer works. Our prayers bounce off each other to relight the hopes that have quieted down. Maybe the candle organizer was indeed a messenger from God. If I need an assistant at church to carry out the ministry of the church, surely God needs assistants to help organize the prayers. At least it makes sense to me.

Where does a prayer go that has lost its light?

At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, at least on this particular day in Paris, the prayers that had lost their light got relit by a mysterious candle prayer organizer. I wonder if he was like what Scripture talks about in Romans 8, the Spirit intercedes for us when we are not sure what to pray for. Perhaps this was the Holy Spirit relighting the prayers in need of relighting. I’d like to think God likes to relight our prayers even when we have forgotten them.

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.


  • Marilyn Norman says:

    This speaks of the image of light and the value of community in prayer.

  • Laurie Baron says:

    I sort of wish there was a “like” button, because I don’t have anything to add, except thanks, Jess, for this very fresh way to think about prayer, light, and cathedrals, to wander about in Notre Dame on a blustery Michigan afternoon.

  • This is a beautiful picture in words. Thank you for it.

  • Vic Karssen says:

    We cannot clothe our prayers in import -one from another. I wonder if in clustering, comes less ability to distinguish… large from small, beautiful from plain. The light itself is seen.

    Your story causes me to think of wafting sweet fragrances toward God. I saw the man helping send a more dense pillar of smoke skyward – as a rich cloud of tender adoration, a gift of relation to God, a communal psalm of pleading yet silent voices that together cry ‘mercy…’

  • Tshepi Seona says:

    I came across this article or a journal just as I was looking at my lit candle but wondering why is light is so dim. And this page came up. All the reason that the spiritual guides are forever hearing us. Thank you that o had to read this. Thank you

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