A good friend – an engaging preacher, caring pastor, and author – says (of himself), “My messy desk is a sign of my messy life!” Couldn’t have said it better myself (of myself). One of the many messy parts of my life is my approach to daily devotions and prayer. I have no doubt that many of my parishioners (thankfully) have a more disciplined devotional life than I do. And I’m not alone. Other pastor friends have confessed that, like me, they “struggle” with this part of their schedule. This has to do, no doubt, with personality types, learning styles, and whatever odd socio-psycho-spiritual things that make us who we are. (Some of you – also friends – who have read the lectionary and “prayed the hours” before I’m stumbling toward the coffee pot won’t know what I’m talking about.)
Into this mess, a few years ago, dropped a wonderful book, “For All The Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church,” with each day ordered as follows: Opening prayer, three scripture readings (pretty good chunks), a piece of writing by one of the “saints” of the church (both ancient and contemporary), and a closing prayer, also written by some ancient or modern worthy. (Why one would use pre-written prayers is another subject for another journal post.) The book also contains the entire Psalter so that one can include a daily psalm. I know that many books use a similar outline, but this one has grabbed me as others haven’t, and – although with many a lapse – has brought order to my prayer life partly because I so look forward to it each morning.
All this by way of introducing a prayer – the closing prayer of a few days ago. I found myself reading this out loud, and it took on a kind of rhythm. It spoke to me, deeply, and “prayed” for me. I’m using it – for the time being – as a daily prayer. (I don’t speak with thees and thous, and I don’t usually pray with them, but in this case they’re part of the package.) If I can just find the book, here… Ah, there it is….
O Thou who art not only my God, but also my Father, I thank Thee that Thou dost encourage me to draw near as Thy child. O give me a Father’s blessing.
Thou art acquainted with all my wants. Every trial, every sorrow, every craving of my heart is known to Thee. I am weak; do Thou strengthen me. I am poor; do Thou enrich me. I come to Thee in all my emptiness; do Thou fill me out of Thy fullness. Give me all that I need, and more than I dare to ask. Give me, not according to my unworthiness, but according to my necessity, and according to the abounding riches of Thy grace.
And, O God, Thou knowest likewise all my sins. Make me to know them also, and to feel their greatness. Call to remembrance all that is past. Show me where I have been wrong. Bring to light my hidden iniquities. I acknowledge the guilt of my evil thoughts, my unholy desires, my secret transgressions. Pardon me, O my Father, for Jesus’ sake. Blot out my sins in that precious blood which was shed for me on the cross. Take away this heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh—a tender, believing, loving heart.
O Lord, help me to live nearer to Thee day by day. Keep me under the blessed influence of Thy Holy Spirit. Make me to be ever growing in grace. Forgetting those things which are behind, may I be ever pressing towards the prize of my high calling. Give me grace to crucify self, and to bring my thoughts and desires and will into subjection to Thee.
Bless, O Lord, those who are near and dear to me. Give unto them all that I have asked for myself. If any of them are at this time in sorrow, do Thou comfort them. If in doubt or difficulty, do Thou guide them. Those of them who are still afar off from Thee, do Thou bring near. And to those who know and love Thee, give more and more of Thy grace.
Hear me, O my Father, and give me an answer of peace to these my prayers for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen
~ Ashton Oxendon (1808 – 1902)
from, "For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church," Vol III, The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 1995.