Line Four

Bless my dealings with all who surround me.

O God who hears my prayer, I’m not alone in your world. I am surrounded by your beloved children. The five year old boy next door, the widow across the street, and the youth walking to the middle school past my house. The drivers in line before and behind me, the smiling teen who gives me my Dunkin’ coffee. This morning, I seek your blessing as I encounter them all.

In my dealings, help me pay attention to those around me. Bless me with the presence of self to make eye contact. Remind me to express gratitude. Create in me a clean heart that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Help me to take no offense, whether offense is intended or not.

Bless my dealings with all who surround me, not just some. I will never see some people again, and this is my one chance to show kindness. I will see others often, and it is my ongoing honor to bless them with honesty and high regard. They are not means to my own ends. Bless me with the good sense to remember this!

Third Line

In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me.

Long before I took my first breath, God’s creation existed; after I die, creation will continue. My mind and heart are too limited to grasp the enormity of this, and I can’t understand God’s will from my small corner of creation. The cosmos doesn’t stay still long enough for me to figure out my part in it. The universe continues to expand and contract, changing every second of every day. Every breath and heartbeat change my body, but I don’t usually notice them. The very cells that keep me alive move in mysterious ways, and I remain unaware of God’s will in them. Whether it’s cells too small for me to see or galaxies too large, creation is beyond me (even the part that is me!). I want to participate in God’s creation, to reflect God’s holy love and will in my life – I just can’t figure out how on my own.

Prayer is asking for God to show me what I cannot see on my own. God’s revelation isn’t like taking a peek at the universe’s answer sheet – nothing stays the same long enough for a static answer to suffice. Every hour the universe is made new, and God’s will grounds it all. To remember that God holds me in holiness requires constant and creative revelation. Surrounded by creation, held by God, is there anything in this world that isn’t holy? From my first hour to my last, I pray for the hourly revelation of this most gracious truth.

Line Two

Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. 

My calendar holds a month of days, and I write into each day the times and places that require my attention.  Appointments, birthdays, and deadlines crop up in pen and pencil variety. Then there are the things that don’t appear – activities so much a part of my life that I need no reminder. Things seen and unseen fill my days and require my willing attention. Some of them I enjoy, some not so much, but my will moves them from intentions to actions. My will is part of every act and activity. I do not control the universe, but I am responsible for how I act in my little corner of it.

Self reliance is something I value, but if I’m honest, I can do very few things without relying on others. I don’t produce food, clothing, and shelter for myself and my family – those things necessary for life. Every day is dependent on the good willing of others, some known and many unknown to me, for more things than I can name. My will is integral to living responsibly in this place and time, and it’s limited.

Holy will is the unlimited source of creation. God willed existence for every single atom in the cosmos. Nothing is outside God’s holy will: it is the foundation for all that is. I can’t grasp this will, and I can’t see its parameters. When I pray these words, I’m not asking for God’s intervention in my activities, I’m asking for God to hold me fast in the vastness of space and time. The universe is so big, and I am so small. Knowing that creation is God’s holy will, and that I can rely upon it, is not a loss of control. It’s the gift of life without despair.

Line One

Prayer at the Beginning of the Day

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.

The day begins. When my feet find slippers, my body and mind are busy: turning up the heat, waking children, feeding cats, and making lunches. I move from one activity to another, keeping an eye on the clock to make sure everyone gets out the door on time. My first hour passes without much thought at all about how I have already begun the day. I’m not in turmoil or particularly peaceful, I’m just doing what needs to be done. Reflection and prayer are in my second hour – a sacred and important part of my day, but not its very beginning.

The problem isn’t really about an hour’s delay, it’s with my assumption that I don’t really need to acknowledge the beginning of the day as a gift. Without greeting the day directly, any peace I find will depend upon an external circumstance – or be delayed until I finally do greet the day with intention. I may be very grateful for what the day brings without ever being aware of the day itself – like being thankful for a drink of water without considering the glass it comes in. When I pray these words, I become aware of the day that God has given me.

 I ask God for peace because I cannot create it. While my actions and thoughts can reveal the peace God gives, they cannot produce it. Only God can grant me to greet the coming day in peace. When I ask to begin my day this way, I trust the coming hours to a graciousness far beyond my own limited peace and kindness. I can get through the tasks of the first hour, or I can live in peace in the midst of them. God’s gift, and my choice.

Beginning Prayer

O Lord, Grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with firm conviction that thy will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by thee. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen. (Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, d. 1867. From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 20) 

I came across this prayer twenty years ago; It’s called “Prayer at the beginning of the day,” but I think it could as easily be Prayer at the Beginning of the Blog. It’s my choice for starting A Pen and a Prayer because sacred truths cannot be written or read outside prayer – something that will be an ongoing theme in my writings.

Over the next few days, I will build this prayer sentence by sentence. Starting with the first and ending with Amen, each line will come with reflection. When the Amen arrives, thoughts on the whole prayer will come. Please add your thoughts and questions. Prayer is always said before God and in the company of faithful seekers, and I welcome your company.

Moving into God’s presence through words