When you look up the word, “widow” in the Bible, often the title of “widow” is all that is used. She has no name. In reading a book by Tim Keller this past spring, I discovered a story of a widow by the name of Anicia Proba. She is not found in the Bible but in the history of Christianity. Here’s the excerpt from Tim Keller’s book, “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.” (Tim Keller, 2014. Penguin Books)
Anicia Proba was a Christian Roman noblewoman and became a widow by her early 30s. She had the distinction of knowing St. Augustine, who was the greatest theologian of the first millennium. She was present when Rome was sacked in 410 and had to flee for her life with her granddaughter, Demetrias, to Africa where they met Augustine. She wrote to Augustine, concerned that she wasn’t praying effectively. He responded using the Lord’s prayer as an example of how to pray. Augustine concludes the letter by asking his friend, “Now what makes this work [of prayer] specially suitable to widows but their bereaved and desolate condition? Should a widow not commit her widowhood, so to speak, to her God as her shield in continual and most fervent prayer?” There is every reason to believe she accepted his invitation.
There’s something unique about Anicia Proba. She was teachable as she fearlessly sought out the advice of Augustine, the leading theologian and philosopher of his time. Out of her need as a young widow, she wondered if she was praying effectively. Augustine’s response is where I found a gold nugget of truth. Is it possible that we can commit our “widowhood, to God as a shield in continual and most fervent prayer?”
Psalm 3:3 (NIV) offers a picture of this, when David says, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.” The image in this verse and what Augustine is describing is one of protection and provision. A shield offers a sense of safety from storms, a secure place of being taken care of and a place of covering.
Last week, I had a sense of this covering. As I was walking toward the entrance to Home Depot to return something (I have a love-hate relationship with home improvement stores), a neighbor was coming out of the store. I was awkwardly carrying the item to be returned and he asked if he could help me. I said yes. He then walked me to the return desk and placed my item on the counter. It was a small gesture, but I was aware that I was not overlooked, but taken care of.
From this young widow’s desire to grow in prayer came the assurance and affirmation that she could commit her widowhood to God as a shield in prayer. The invitation awaits our response to prayerfully offer up our widowhood to God as a shield and covering. I have no doubt that God will faithfully answer.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Shield and Covering — Grateful, yet Grieving.