Hold us together, God, now in this hour when we need each other the most. Save us from self-preservation and accusation, and grow empathy and compassion among us, that, even when we can’t be with each other, we could really see each other, bearing each other’s burdens, carrying each other’s sorrows, sharing each other’s joys, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I’ve really connected with this prayer from Edward Pusey, one of the leading figures of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century. I’ve begun to use it as a gateway into contemplative prayer.
Let me not seek out of Thee what I can only find in Thee; peace and rest and joy and bliss, which abide only in Thy abiding joy. Lift up my soul above the weary round of harassing thoughts to Thy Eternal Presence. Lift up my soul to the pure, bright, clear, serene, radiant atmosphere of Thy Presence, that there I may breathe freely, there repose in Thy love, there be at rest from myself and from all things that weary me; and thence return, arrayed in Thy peace, to do and bear what shall please Thee.Edward Pusey, from Private Prayers, 12th ed., p. 39
Today is the feast day for St. James, the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom for Christ. We need to recover this kind of self-emptying, sacrificial leadership in the church today. Too often we mimic the self-serving, exploitative, power-hoarding practices of what typically passes for “leadership” in the world today.
Here’s a prayer to pray toward this end (from the Book of Common Prayer):
O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Do you struggle with prayer? I sure do. I remember in high school reading Paul’s instructions to the church in Thessalonica:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16-18).
I could get my head around rejoicing always and giving thanks in all circumstances (these seemed like attitudes I could carry with me), but what in the world would it mean to pray continually? Some translations say “pray without ceasing.” Huh?
On a huddle call a few weeks ago we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer, talking about how to use it as a tool to help those we lead connect with God in more substantial ways. One person asked an interesting question:
“Why isn’t thanksgiving a part of the Lord’s Prayer?”
Scripture seems to present thanksgiving as a fundamental pattern of interaction with God, so why doesn’t Jesus teach his disciples to pray their thanksgivings? It’s a fascinating question.