In Joceline’s account of the Life of Saint Kentigern (a.k.a. Mungo) there is a story of the visit paid to the court of Kentigern’s king, Rederech, by a Jester from the court of an Irish king.
This jester appears to have been sent, ostensibly as a favour, but in reality to gather information surreptitiously about Rederech and his kingdom.
The visit goes well. The jester is highly skilled in song and music and his tales and jokes greatly amuse the court during the Christmas holidays.
As the jester prepares his departure after a few weeks, Rederech wishes to express his thanks and appreciation and offers to give him a parting gift.
The jester takes advantage of the situation to play a subtle political game.
When Rederech offers him gold, he replies, “But we already have that in Ireland”.
Silver gets the same response.
As does the offer of fine jewels.
Finally Rederech falls into the trap and asks the jester to suggest his own gift.
To which the jester replies that if Rederech really wants to honour him and to express his appreciation, then he would like a bowl of fresh mulberries.
To which the assembled courtiers burst out laughing, this being a fine joke, as mulberries are a summer fruit and it was the middle of winter.
But the jester insists, no he is serious, he would like to be given a bowl of fresh mulberries.
As the court is dumbfounded and the king at a loss, the jester then walks out.
The king is in a delicate situation, if he is unable to grant the gift then he will lose of face. You can imagine the jokes the jester will tell, “I only asked him for a bowl of mulberries and yet this powerful king was unable to grant my request!”
The king’s honour is at stake and politically this is serious situation.
The king goes to visit Saint Kentigern and explains to him the problem.
Kentigern is uncomfortable about praying for such a trivial thing, yet he senses that somehow it is important to do so.
“The man of God, although he thought that his prayer would not be fitly offered for such trifles as these, knew that the king had a great devotion to God and Holy Church, yet though his eyes beheld his substance which was imperfect, in this case the holy bishop made up his mind to condescend to his petition, hoping that thereby in the future he might advance in virtue.”
Kentigern therefore prays for mulberries and God gives him directions to a place where the king can find a bush that still has fruit on it that is fresh enough to eat.
The outcome of this miracle is, however, very significant.
The king proffers the bowl of mulberries to the jester, giving glory to God who has enabled him to meet the jester’s request.
The jester is shocked, stunned and in awe of this ‘impossible’ fruit and commits himself to Rederech as long as the king wants him to stay.
However, this is not the end of the story. For after serving as court jester for ‘many days’ the jester,
“…renounced the trade of actor, and entering the ways of a better life, gave himself up to the service of God”.
Which all goes to shows us that sometimes it is important to pray ‘silly’ prayers.
In scripture we see prayers prayed for such silly things as that a metal axe head to float on water, that jars of oil and flour would not run out, that sticks might turn into snakes, that handkerchiefs might be able to heal.
All rather bizarre and silly stuff, and yet somehow God uses these requests to bring about some seriously important results.
Rederech’s ‘silly’ prayer led to his own faith and commitment to God being strengthened, to his honour being defended, to the salvation of a court jester and finally to his taking holy orders.
Don’t be afraid, therefore, of praying ‘silly’ prayers.