I don’t pray it nearly as often as I should.

*******

Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.

O Master, Lord, God the Almighty, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank You for every condition, concerning every condition, and in every condition, for You have covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto You, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.

Therefore, we ask and entreat Your goodness, O Lover of mankind, to grant us to complete this holy day, and all the days of our life, in all peace with Your fear. All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take them away from us, and from all Your people, and from this holy place that is Yours.

But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us; for it is You Who have given us the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, by the grace, compassion and love of mankind, of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, through Whom the glory, the honor, the dominion, and the adoration are due unto You, with Him, and the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, Who is of one essence with You, now and at all times, and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.

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How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

– Psalm 13

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to
  be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is is pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

- St. Francis of Assisi

The Lord’s prayer is probably one of the most well-known and most frequently recited prayers world over, which makes it the prayer most likely to fall into the trap of vain and empty repetition. I will be the first to admit that after a long and tiring day when all I want to do is just crawl into bed I cave in to the ache and fatigue and simply rattle it off in order to have done my “prayer duty” for the day. But my laziness and the sham concept of “prayer duty” (prayer is a privilege, not a duty) will have to wait for another day because I am quite taken by something else within the Lord’s prayer at the moment.

“Thy will be done” is probably the most comforting yet terrifying phrase in the Lord’s prayer, perhaps the entire Bible. There is comfort beyond measure when you pause to think of what you are truly saying to the Lord when you pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I imagine in heaven God doesn’t even have to command or ask for something to be done, He just thinks it or says the word and it happens (but then again this is an image limited by my human mind that needs to conceptualize things within the boundaries of thoughts and words.) And so when we pray for His will to be done on earth just as it is done in heaven we really are asking for what we would see as one miraculous happening after the other, things happening with ease, doors opening without any resistance, pure harmony of being and existence.

“Thy will be done” terrifies precisely because it is Thy will and not my will. God gave us free will to do as we please and that free will led to the fall of man. But we still like to be in control. We want things to go our way because we know best. But the truth stands to the contrary. We don’t know best. If we did then Eve would not listened to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. She had a choice and with her free will she made the wrong one. Yet, we are not lost. Where man’s will goes wrong, God’s will is there to make things right. It was His will that we be saved, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And it is from the Son that we learn to submit our will to His. As Christ prayed on the mountain just before he was arrested and tried and then crucified, He prayed that the cup before Him may be taken away but also prayed and said “Thy will be done.” He knew of the oncoming suffering yet still submitted His will to His Father’s will. God does not ask of us anything remotely close to the most ultimate sacrifice given on the cross, so why be scared to submit? All that will be done will be good just as He is good. If His will entailed sacrificing His own Son for us, there is no limit to the goodness He will bestow on us. All we have to do is mean four simple little words from the very bottom of our hearts.

Entry written on Sunday, April 20, 2008…

“On my Knees”

On a most ridiculous trip up and down the turnpike with my honorary roommate (we kept missing our exit somehow and drove up and down the state of New Jersey for a good 2 hours) I became very well acquainted with Carrie Underwood’s new CD. Now, she’s not an artist I’d go out of my way to listen to but that was the CD in the car so I had very little say in the matter. I discovered a few things. I actually kind of like her music, her lyrics are hilarious (see the song “Last Name”) and she’s actually got some profound phrases mixed in with all the country verve.

In the song “Flat on the Floor” she belts about a heartbreak and tells the man that he can’t live without her and so on and so forth, but in between the “baby, baby, baby, baby tell me why you gotta make me, make me, make me, make me cry?” and “baby, baby, baby, baby tell me how you think you’re gonna live without my love now?” she does say one thing that sticks with me…

“You can’t knock me off my feet when I’m already on my knees…”

It’s an expression of something most people have felt before in one way or another–the feeling that nothing worse can be done to you because the worst has already happened. It is simultaneously a cry of pain and a challenge to the oncoming aggressor. At once she tells him “look at how much you’ve hurt me, I’m on my knees in pain” and challenges him to do his worst because she’s in a position of utmost stability and security. She puts it simply, the easiest way to thwart a foe coming to knock you off your feet is to get on your knees and pray.

The image of the broken woman on her knees reads as a vision of prayer. And once it becomes a vision of prayer, the broken woman becomes harder than a diamond and more resilient than steel. The position of sorrow and submission transforms into that of joy and power all because prayer can move mountains, part seas, and it might just be the only thing that can mend a broken heart.

*******

It is when we finally learn to kneel in prayer, when we have come to the understanding of the fact that we are weak, we cannot mend our own aches and pains, we cannot move mountains or change the world on our own, we cannot live with our pride that keeps us stiff and upright before men, that we can truly lift up our hearts to the Lord and call upon His name. When I mention kneeling in prayer, I do not mean it figuratively only, but the literal act of kneeling before the Lord when we pray. Bring yourself lower to the ground when praying, lift up your heart to the heavens, and soon you will find your whole being transported upward to the heavens, close enough for you to kiss the sky.

                                            

P.S. – Ok, so Carrie Underwood doesn’t actually say anything about prayer in her song, but I still see it that way…

i love you much(most beautiful darling)

more than anyone on the earth and i
like you better than everything in the sky

-sunlight and singing welcome your coming

although winter may be everywhere
with such a silence and such a darkness
noone can quite begin to guess

(except my life)the true time of year-

and if what calls itself a world should have
the luck to hear such singing(or glimpse such
sunlight as will leap higher than high
through gayer than gayest someone’s heart at your each

nearness)everyone certainly would(my
most beautiful darling)believe in nothing but love

– e.e. cummings

*******

I first posted this poem on my blog on Good Friday of this year. I could not find the words to express just how I felt in the face of God’s limitless love, compassion and mercy. I did not possess the grace of expression David the prophet and the king did, and although e.e. cummings has an exceptionally unique style, he captured just what I wanted to say to our Savior. I like sharing this poem because to me it reads like a prayer of praise and love. Sometimes, “I love You” just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Why do I love You? How do I love You? It’s all up there in that poem. If you didn’t see it on the first read, I urge you to go back and read it over again.

Disappointment and dashed hopes are inevitable in this world. Not everything is perfect. Not everything will go “according to plan.” Sorrow will follow; that is a given.

As crazy as it may sound, it those moments of sorrow and grief, sadness deep enough for me to cry off my waterproof mascara, that I ultimately cherish the most. Yes, the feelings are awful but if it were not for the moments of sorrow that put my waterproof Diorshow to shame, I would not be able to lift up my heart to the Lord and cry out with David the prophet and the king when he said,

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eyes waste away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away…
…I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psalm 31:9-10, 12-14)

It is moments like these that make me determined to shake the ground and the earth with my prayers–to make it resonate with the sound of my cries. It is moments like these that bring to light my shortcomings and my faults. Why must my prayers be earth-shaking only when I feel sorrow? When all is well, why am I content to simply throw up my dues to my Creator and Savior without the same focus or fire?

I cling to God in times of adversity, I literally place Him in a death grip and refuse to let go. So why does my grasp loosen when the storm has passed overheard and the sun starts to emerge?

It is safe for you dear reader to assume that I am going through a bit of a rough time at the moment. Today, just a few hours ago, I was having it out with God and asking Him why He didn’t answer the prayers I had sent up to Him months ago asking Him to not allow anything to begin that would ultimately end in sorrow. I have had much loss and grief in my life over the past two years and my frail heart could not stand anymore. So I prayed and pleaded, asking to be spared from any more situations that would bring about more sadness. But I do not have His wisdom, and I trust it far more than I would even dream of trusting my own. I stand here, months after I had made that request, with fresh tears in my eyes, and yet I thank Him from the very core of my being.

If it were not for this sorrow, would I be lifting up heart to Him as much as I am now? Would I know the depth of His comfort and how He can ease a soul in despair? Would I have become aware of my shortcomings in the manner I hold onto Him everyday?

You see, the point is for me to cry out and lift my heart up to Him in the same manner as I do now in sorrow when I am happy, content, ecstatic, ambivalent, ordinary, tired, energetic, lackadaisical, at a loss for words, entirely verbose, when nothing is happening and when everything is happening–at every moment of every day until the last moment of my very last day.

And that is how I am refined. This is how we are all refined.

“I will bring [them] through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is my people,’ And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:9)

If He places me in the fire, my soul will rejoice. I will emerge a finer grade of gold, more worthy to be called His daughter, more worthy of His salvation. Far more worthy to lift up my eyes and heart to the heavens and say “The Lord is my God.”