A Further Discussion on Prayer
Each attendee was asked to bring something that inspired them in prayer.
Each section below is a contribution from a different individual.
From Siddur Lev Chadash - the Liberal Jewish prayer book, in the section on ‘Prayer’ P 308
‘We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to banish war,
for You have filled the world
with paths to peace
if only we would take them.
We cannot merely pray
for prejudice to cease,
for we might see the good in all
that lies before our eyes,
if only we would use them.
We cannot merely pray to You
to end starvation:
for there is food enough for all,
if only we would share it.
We cannot merely pray to You:
‘Root out despair’,
for the spark of hope
already waits within the human heart,
for us to fan it into a flame.
(at this point, I would end by saying: Therefore we pray, O God, for faith and hope, for love and courage, to act and to become the answers to our prayers.)
However, Jack Riemer continues:
We must not ask of You, O God,
to take the task that You have given us.
We cannot shirk,
we cannot flee away,
avoiding obligation for ever.
Therefore we pray, O God,
for wisdom and will, for courage
to do and to become
not only to gaze
with helpless yearning
as though we had no strength.
“I pray God to rid me of God”
We often make God over into our image, and this is the “God” that Eckhart wants removed
Eckhart often prays to God for forgiveness and help moving beyond human projections of God to the real thing.
Have you prayed God to rid you of God?
Are there human projections you need to let go of; perhaps an all-male God, a God of Judgement and Condemnation?
A God that spreads division, class oppression, homophobia, sexism, excessive nationalism?
If God is Love this rebuts homophobia. The words are not “God is heterosexual love” but God is love
All love is a taste of the Divine, and love comes in many flavours and styles and preferences.
A TRUE HYMN
Joy, my Life, my Crown !
My heart was meaning all the day,
Somewhat it fain would say,
And still it runneth muttering up and down
With only this, My Joy, my Life, my Crown !
Yet slight not those few words ;
If truly said, they may take part
Among the best in art :
The fineness which a hymn or psalm affords
Is, when the soul unto the lines accord.
He who craves all the mind,
And all the soul, and strength, and time,
If the words only rhyme,
Justly complains that somewhat is behind
To make His verse, or write a hymn in kind.
Whereas if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want ;
As when the heart says, sighing to be approved,
“O, could I love !” and stops, God writeth, “Loved.”
Herbert, George. The Poems of George Herbert. Ernest Rhys, ed. London: Walter Scott, 1886. 175.
Chosen because it implies communication through prayer, the futility or inadequacy of words in this, the dependence on God to “supply the want”. Does it undervalue the act of writing verse or to “write a hymn in kind” as opposed to “crave all the mind, and soul and strength and time”?. Movement of the heart valued as paramount.
A version of the Lord’s Prayer
We bless you within and without and around us;
May we work for justice and harmony in this world;
May we have today sufficient bread to nourish body and soul;
When we stray from your way, may we remember you and turn back,
And love our neighbour as ourselves;
May we not be tested, but kept safe from harm.
I mentioned the prayer of Saint Chrysostom, which seems to have disappeared (or perhaps, I just don’t go to the right services), and, had I thought a bit more, I would have given George Herbert’s “The Elixer”.
Teach me (us), good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labour, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that I (we) do your will.
This well-known prayer attributed to Ignatius Loyola is a sort of default for me having learnt it at school and still having meaning for me. Its probably the only published prayer that I can recite completely without squirming. I don’t regard it as praying to a theistic God but as a reminder that as Christians we endeavour to follow the teachings of Jesus.
I shook hands with my friend, Lord,
And suddenly when I saw his sad and anxious face,
I feared that you were not in his heart.
I am troubled as I am before a closed tabernacle
when there is no light to show that you are there.
If you were not there, my friend and I would
For his hand in mine would be only flesh in flesh
And his love for me that of man for man.
I want your life for him as well as for me.
Adapted from Michel Quoist’s Prayers of Life, a book many may remember from the ‘60s. I like the intimacy of it, the temporary questioning and the confidence of response.
This was the short prayer I brought to the meeting. It’s translated from Swedish.
God, you who light the holy fire
and turn the winds
You who enable our going where we have never gone,
and bring us where our thoughts never reached
Thank you for kindling the light which we see in the eyes of others.
I was equally briefly commenting on language which I don’t think is just related to what seems rational but also has deep emotional significance.
Being invited to say The Lord’s Prayer in my mother tongue feels like a ‘gift’. I suppose it also has to do with identity in my case.
Symbols are important for me. They are often more meaningful than words and able to engage the ‘non-heady’ parts. The elements are also important to me, so I brought symbols of fire and earth (they normally live on a coffee table in my living room amongst others of their kind). Sometimes these are just the backcloth to prayer. Sometimes they are central and focussing on them will generate and shape any prayer/encounter/awareness of something other that emerges.
First, a candle signifying light and warmth, as well as life. I’ve often said to folk in distress ‘I’ll light a candle for you’.
Second a small stone. I first started collecting stones when studying Geology. At the end of the year I came to throw out my specimens but for the first time really looked at them in their entirety and realised that some were wonderful to hold and others were startlingly beautiful to look at. They were certainly not a pile of any old rubble. In the Bible stones are frequently referred to - cornerstone etc. Holding one can be very grounding and it’s incredible to think that they are millions of years old.
Third a small scallop shell - a symbol of the Camino way to Compostella. Life is a journey, a pilgrimage if you like. I notice the shape and its beauty of the shell, and how it feels. I remember that once it was home to a living being.