Abouna Mikhail Ibrahim (+1975):
Sometimes the most profound and sublime of lessons can be learned from the simplest of acts and gestures:
Abouna Mikhail Ibrahim was a man of very little words. As far as words/sayings of wisdom are concerned, he, as with quite a few other contemporary Saints (e.g. Abouna Youstos El-Antony) was known for the persistence and consistency with which he resorted to a very simple one-liner. In Abouna Mikhail's case, that simple one-liner was, "let us pray." He seldom gave any advice whatsoever when confronted by others in regard to their problems. Having absolute trust that in the silence of prayer God would resolve any difficulty, he would deliver the almost automated response, "let us pray."
The Lord's positive response to Abouna's simple faith was clearly evident to all who dealt with him. H.H. Pope Shenouda III, being one personal witness amongst many of Abouna's holiness, thus had no hesitation in appointing him to the Clerical Council to assist with family difficulties, even though one would presume that only a clergy member with effective communication skills would be suitable for such a delicate position.
On one occasion he sat in the presence of a Bishop, the head of the Council, and some priests to discuss a flaring dispute between a married couple which threatened to separate them. Those who were present tiresomely discussed the issue with the couple, seeking by any and all means to find a suitable solution, but to no avail. The presiding Bishop then asked Abouna Mikhail what his opinion on the matter was since he had remained silent throughout the entire ordeal. Abouna Mikhail delivered his stock response: "let us pray." The Bishop responded, "we already prayed prior to this meeting as we always do", to which Abouna Mikhail "yes, but we did not pray for this specific problem." They all therefore accepted Abouna's suggestion and stood up to pray; the Bishop asked Abouna Mikhail to lead the prayer. Once they had completed prayer, the spirit of peace immediately filled the couple and all of the sudden, after what seemed to be a failed desparate last-minute attempt to solve their issues, they were found embracing eachother and without hesitation dropped their complaints. Amazed at what he saw before his eyes, one of those present looked to Abouna Mikhail and light-heartedly commented: "Abouna, why did you remain silent until now? Why didn't you just save all of us the headache and offer your suggestion before anyone opened their mouth?!"
I'm sure many of us pray in regard to the difficulties we face, and for the difficulties faced by others, but how many times do we postpone prayer until after we have sought to resolve it ourselves either through discussion, action, or even mere thought? How many times has our immediate response been, "let us pray"? I know I myself am a miserable failure in this regard; I sometimes tend to overthink things at first, and only think of praying once I begin to feel the burden such thoughts have on my mind. May the Grace of God give us the faith and wisdom of Abouna Mikhail, so that our immediate impulse may always be to pray before we even have a chance to think of a solution to a problem or advice to give to others. May Abouna's prayers and blessings be with us all, and glory be to God forever, Amen.