Two Prayers

Over and over I am made thankful again for the prayers that thousands of Christians say, thousands of times. I am thankful for their words, so meticulously chosen that you could speak of them as having been crafted. They are prayers like the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, the Lord’s Prayer and the others derived directly from Scripture. But there are others, too, that give me words when I have none, and prove deeper and of more dimensions than I can appreciate in one use. I’ve found this twice now in about a month.

At the beginning of September Mike and I had the opportunity to make a little pilgrimage of sorts back to the town where we met and the chapel where we worshiped side by side, daily, as we traveled the road from strangers to friends to lovers and eventually stood their making our marriage vows. It was such a plain moment, that Friday morning, gathering for the customary service of Morning Prayer amongst students we no longer knew, on a tight schedule and cumbered with our two children. It was surreal, though, having those children on our laps. By comparison it was as though all our life had been made already. We didn’t even see it coming, that prayer we’d prayed fiercely through the first months we knew each other. Then it was our lifeboat – the discipline of regularly acknowledging that we couldn’t see ahead except to see that God’s hand would sustain. Now it was our trophy. God was true to Himself, and here we were. We looked at each other and grinned ear to ear at the delight of speaking those words again, and the way their meaning for us had unfolded, making it a perfect summary of the road we’d walked, the road we’re still walking.

Lord God, you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tonight I was afforded the luxury of participating in the age-old Evensong liturgy at a local church. The anthem text was derived from one of the collects of the Book of Common Prayer, freshly set by the man who led the choir. I’ve known it long, but tonight three words were a siren to me. The whole prayer spoke my deepest groans, but the words “as thou wilt” were an explicit statement of submission that captured my deepest needs these days, as I am facing fresh the kind of season that brought Mike and me to pray of “ventures of which we cannot see the ending.” I, in my *ahem* infinite wisdom, want to know the ending; I want to decide it, actually. I cannot, and so I find myself cast on the mercy and wisdom of God once again, articulating a familiar prayer, one that has long summed up all I’ve ever cared for in life, but now acknowledging in a new way that none of it can be of my devising.

Almighty and eternal God,
so draw our hearts to thee,
so guide our minds,
so fill our imaginations,
so control our wills,
that we may be wholly thine,
utterly dedicated unto thee;
and then use us, we pray thee,
as thou wilt,
and always to thy glory
and the welfare of thy people;
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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