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    Entries in prayer (32)


    George Herbert: The Call

    Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
    Such a Way, as gives us breath:
    Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
    And such a Life, as killeth death.

    Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength;
    Such a Light, as shows a feast:
    Such a Feast, as mends in length:
    Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

    Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
    Such a Joy, as none can move:
    Such a Love, as none can part:
    Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

    - George Herbert, "The Call"

    George Herbert lived from 1593 to 1633. He was a Welsh born Englishman, and an Anglican priest. He is remembered best for his poetry. His little book, The Country Parson, should be read by all ministers. If you are not familiar with his poem "Love (III)," take the time to click and read.

    As for the poem above, the first stanza uses a familiar grouping of three words. It is in John 14:6 where Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Herbert composes a progression: by being the way, we are given breath, by being truth, strife ends. With breath bestowed and strife removed, death has died, and Life remains.

    My favorite line in the poem occurs in the second stanza. Here, Light, Feast, and Strength build one upon the other. The light reveals, the feast heals, and strength binds. The word "mend," as it appears here, means both to restore to health and to repair what has been worn and broken. Christ, displaying his strength through weakness, has brought us unto himself as those invited to his table. We are his guests. I have often joked that there are too many who think, "Of course Christ died for me! Why wouldn't he? I'm such a wonderful person!" The reality, however, is that he has made us his guests because of his great love for us, "while we were yet sinners."

    Which leads us nicely to our third stanza. Joy, Love, and Heart. Joy is often understood as a changing emotion rather than as a state, but Christian joy expresses itself as thanksgiving in times of plenty, and hope in times of want. The soul of the joyful person is unmoveable, because they are bound to God in an inexhaustible love. That person's heart, then, constantly bubbles forth joy upon joy, for the love that gives birth to such joy is a wellspring unending.

    Dallas Willard was correct in saying that God is the most joyous being in the universe, for God is love.

    In Ephesians 3:14-21, it is Paul who prays that we would know "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." He then says that this love "surpasses knowledge." But in this knowledge, we are "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

    It is in that love that we are called.


    The Prayer Jesus Taught: Declined

    Widely known as the Lord's Prayer, and found in Matthew 6:9-13, this advertisement from the Church of England featuring that prayer was reportedly rejected by a number of leading cinemas in the UK due to concerns that some patrons would be offended.

    Michael Frost, an Australian missiologist, had this to say on Facebook:

    The controversy, if it may be called that, is noteworthy.

    As I have returned to this advertisement, I've done my very best to put aside my surprise, or my sadness. And I've asked myself why I was surprised and saddened in the first place, and what these reactions say about me and my assumptions about the place of Christianity in culture today.

    The Church of England was quite clever, asking that this advertisement run to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is also smack in the middle of Advent. And it is quite well done, I think, to show the diversity of people, and places, and times and seasons of life, within which this prayer might be prayed.

    Death. Marriage. Worship. Solitude. Community. Work. Nature. Crisis. Baptism. In rural lands, and in cities. For the citizens of the UK, and for the immigrant.

    And in thinking on these things, and in putting aside any feelings of rejection or surprise, or sadness, I remember that this is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It is ours, given to the church. It is a gift.

    And while I would like all people to discover the joys of praying this prayer, with Jesus, perhaps it will have to be done apart from the disembodied witness of an advertisement, and must be brought through the apostolic witness of the church. The advertisement sought to be a beginning point, not an end.

    And it can still serve that purpose. But there are others ways to invite the world into prayer.


    Would That We Might See You

    It is indeed eighteen hundred years since Jesus Christ walked here on earth, but this is certainly not an event just like other events, which once they are over pass into history and then, as the distant past, pass into oblivion. No, his presence here on earth never becomes a thing of the past, thus does not become more and more distant--that is, if faith is at all to be found upon the earth; if not, well, then in that very instant it is a long time since he lived. But as long as there is a believer, this person, in order to have become that, must have been and as a believer must be as contemporary with Christ’s presence as his contemporaries were. This contemporaneity is the condition of faith, and, more sharply defined, it is faith. Lord Jesus Christ, would that we, too, might become contemporary with you in this way, might see you in your true form and in the surroundings of actuality as you walked here on earth, not in the form in which an empty and meaningless or a thoughtless-romantic or a historical-talkative remembrance has distorted you, since it is not the form of abasement in which the believer sees you, and it cannot possibly be the form of glory in which no one as yet has seen you. Would that we might see you as you are and were and will be until your second coming in glory, as the sign of offense and the object of faith, the lowly man, yet the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, who out of love came to earth to seek the lost, to suffer and die, and yet, alas, every step you took on earth, every time you called to the straying, every time you reached out your hand to do signs and wonders, and every time you defenselessly suffered the opposition of people without raising a hand--again and again in concern you had to repeat, “Blessed is the one who is not offended at me.” Would that we might see you in this way and that we then might not be offended at you!

    - Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity XII.1 - XII.2


    Prayer, Personhood, and Possibility

    Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to him to arrange things as he knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought…Do not be distressed if you do not at once receive from God what you ask. He wishes to give you something better--to make you persevere in your prayer. For what is better than to enjoy the love of God and to be in communion with him?

    - Evagrius the Solitary, The Philokalia, vol. 1, as quoted in Tell it Slant by Eugene Peterson

    When we say the word God, we refer to a personhood, known in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As it is when we relate to persons, so it is when we relate to the Person of God. We may ask for those things we think good. And God, being the Person that God is, patiently bears with us, even when those things we ask for would not tend toward the good, either for ourselves or for all people. This God, being patient, kind, and loving beyond measure, so uses our petitions to refine our character, and to bring us nearer to the person God intends for us to be.

    The end of prayer is not the answer to our prayer, but God, which may in fact be the longing underneath all of our longings, that being, union and communion with our Creator.

    The Christian story claims that such communion has been made possible in Jesus Christ.


    Enable Us, Bless, Show, Now and Forever.

    photo credit: Queen of Heaven and the Jesuit Martyrs via photopin (license)

    Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.

    Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood. Help all orthodox pastors, heads of churches, and doctors [theologians].

    Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

    Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end.

    May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen.

    A Syriac Christmas Liturgy (late third or early fourth century)