by Robin Hoig
Saturday, February 20 – Psalms 55, 138, 139; Gen. 41:1–13; 1 Cor. 4:1–7; Mark 2:23–3:6
(BCP Readings for today)
What a wealth of wisdom is available to me through the experiences of other believers! How comforting it is to find words to express my inmost feelings when my own mind is not able to generate the right expression or sometimes even to know what it is I most need to say. Whether I am distracted or distressed, I often can’t find the mental stability I need in order to settle into prayer…that familiar communion with God my soul needs, so I have found that the written prayers of others are vitally important to me.
I thrive on moments of prayer when I feel intimately close to God and so open to Him that I’m able to pour out the depths of my very heart in praise and adoration, or in pleas and intercession, sometimes in grief and distress. But, often have I experienced a deep longing to pray, an awareness of my need to connect with Him, but I have acutely lacked the ability to do so. I might feel burdened or preoccupied with daily tasks, I might be soul-sick and weary, I might feel utterly alone, in the middle of a desert silence. During any of those times, the written prayers of other believers have been invaluable resources to me.
One source of written prayers to which I turn is the Book of Common Prayer. I am most familiar with the Episcopal version, and one of my favorite sections is titled, Prayers for use by a sick person. When I’m feeling sick–physically, or emotionally–I can especially use the help to pray. Here is one prayer I’ve called upon many times, For Trust in God:
“O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Another source I’ve recently discovered is a book called The Prayers of Kierkegaard, it is a collection of prayers found throughout the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. Here is one, For Courage:
“My Lord God, give me once more the courage to hope; merciful God, let me hope once again, fructify my barren and infertile mind.“
Perhaps the best and richest source of written prayers available to me is, of course, the biblical book of The Psalms. There are psalms of praise and joy, psalms of frustration and anger, psalms of deepest grief…and psalms which cover all of those feelings in one! Here is one of my favorites, from Psalm 62:1-2 & 7-8
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people; Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
One of our corporate Lenten practices for this year is to pray together from The Psalms, morning, noon and evening. What a blessing that has been! What a good habit to develop.
Here’s a little bit of help from our psalm for today, Psalm 55:1-4 & 16-17:
“Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
Because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.”
For me there is such comfort in finding words to express what I otherwise am unable to say. The words of others give expression to the feelings my own heart. When I find and pray those fitting words, I am reminded that I am not alone, and my experiences are not unique. What I am, at that moment, going through is common to the human condition…many others have been there before me. This realization gives me comfort and consolation, and more than that, it binds me into the one, ancient-and-future Body of Christ, where I am united with all other believers. We are all in the same boat, some are navigating, some are rowing, some are resting; all are focused heavenward, and all are moving together in the same direction.
Image by Jonas Smith (used by permission via Creative Commons).