Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Thirteen

I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will.

 On a deep level, this is the truth of my life. These are the words, this is the path, leading to the reign of God here and now. I am myself most truly when I am God’s most willingly. I pray this line sincerely.

On a superficial level, this isn’t true. I have other things I want to have or do. I’d like to set the terms for what a holy life is. I’d really like the will of God to be a bigger version of my own will. I pray this line half-heartedly.

How do I reconcile my deep and superficial desires? Praying this line moves me to reframe the whole thing. I’m praying not for God’s will to be a bigger version of my own, but for my will to be a miniature version of God’s. In this time, this place, and my life, may my will be a clear reflection God’s will. I pray this line always.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Twelve

I put all my trust in thee.

 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that is really life. (I Tim 6:17-19, NRSV)

 

My parents aren’t perfect, but they are trustworthy. What they promise, they make good on. If circumstances prevent them from keeping a promise, they do their best to make it up. When they make mistakes or hurt someone, they apologize. To the best of their ability, they mean well and act well. They prayed for and with my siblings and me when we were growing up, giving us a good foundation to a life that is really life. Trusting in God and being trustworthy.

Putting all my trust in God allows me to trust my insufficient self, imperfect neighbor, and this impermanent world. With all its heartache and wretchedness, with all its joy and peace – trust in this blessed life is possible because God holds it all in holiness. I can forgive and be forgiven. I can accept reality for what it is: the God given imperfect present.

When I don’t put my trust in God, I’m reduced to the uncertainty of riches – the shifting, shaky foundation that I will for myself. It may be tempting, but my parents raised me better than that. I’ve seen how to take hold of the life that is really life:  trusting in God and being trustworthy.

 

O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me.   Amen. (From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p.24)

 About the Author of this prayer:

Metropolitan Philaret was the son of a Russian Orthodox priest who became a priest himself. He taught at St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and eventually became the Metropolitan of Moscow – a ranking somewhere between archbishop and patriarch. Not quite on par with the pope, but awfully close. He worked for offering scripture and other teachings in Russian so more people could read them. He wrote a catechism that is still in use.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Eleven

I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee.

 There’s a difference between offering myself as a sacrifice to God and masochism:

Sacrifice to God deepens the spirit, making me more human, whole, and holy. When suffering is involved, it is redemptive. It is never pointless.

Masochism cripples body, mind and spirit; it’s inhumane, shattering, and an act against God’s gift of life. Self-inflicted suffering is an exercise of self hatred, not Godly love.

God grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Ten

I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways.

 Inscrutable is the perfect word for this prayer. It means impossible to understand or interpret, and that’s just what the will of God is. Holy and inscrutable together remind me that I can trust in and accept God’s will. I don’t have to fear it because it is holy, and I can’t reduce it to my will because it’s inscrutable, beyond my comprehension. I can worship or reject God’s holy will and inscrutable ways, but why in silence? Can I pray in silence if I’m praying these words?

Silence is a rare thing these days. The world around us is so noisy, and it doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. There’s no such thing as an end to the day for television, computers, or phones. Appliances hum, leaf blowers start, and cars drive by with loud engines and louder stereo systems. Finding a place of outer silence requires intention.

Inner silence is even rarer. For most people, the mind is filled with constant chatter, distracting and exhausting. There is too much information to process, too many choices, and very few moments of peace. Inner silence requires intention and practice. It’s not easy and it can be scary, quieting the noise that drowns out God’s voice. Left alone and open to God without distraction removes the partial and false identities and reveals the true self – what God treasures most and what seems so inadequate.

Perhaps that’s why Philaret included “in silence” in this prayer. Only when I am before God, with no noise to distract me and no false identity to hide behind, can I feel God’s love for me and for all creation. Held by God, who is far beyond the small version of God I usually prefer, I can worship. When I am still, I know God is (Psalm 46:10). Not in the thunder or the storm, but in a still, small voice, I hear God (I Kings 19:11-13). In silence, inner and outer, God finds me. In silence, I am renewed.

 

O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me.   Amen. (From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p.24)

 

About the Author of this prayer:

Metropolitan Philaret was the son of a Russian Orthodox priest who became a priest himself. He taught at St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and eventually became the Metropolitan of Moscow – a ranking somewhere between archbishop and patriarch. Not quite on par with the pope, but awfully close. He worked for offering scripture and other teachings in Russian so more people could read them. He wrote a catechism that is still in use. I suspect Philaret was a very busy man who had his share of difficulties.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Nine

Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up.

 Just four lines ago, I prayed: I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. Am I now praying for both? If this line were taken alone, yes. It reads like a demand rather than a request. But it is one sentence among others, part of a larger whole – a handing over of personal agenda to the one who created me, as Jesus did before he was crucified. My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want. (Matthew 26:39). It’s the opposite of a demand, it’s a total surrender. Let it be with me what you will. I will not insist upon my own way, but I will trust that you hold me fast in hurt and relief, in humiliation and exaltation.

I’m not asking for trouble and I’m not asking for an easy life. I’m open to whatever comes because God will find me in all circumstances. In Yes, And: Daily Meditations, Richard Rohr points to the deeper truth behind this line:

Try to remember and give thanks for the good things even more than the bad, but learn from both of them. And most of all, as the prophet Baruch said, “Rejoice that you yourself are remembered by God.” (5:5)

(Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2013, p.209)

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Eight

Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake.

 I visited strangers one year at Mercer Medical Center. I sat with them, talked with them, prayed with them, listened to them. I’d refill empty water glasses and remove food trays. Some were patients, some hospital staff, some were family or friends. I had the honor of hearing many life stories and the privilege of finding the Spirit awaiting my visit, already embracing the sick and the healthy. I saw enough pain to break my heart, and found enough grace to heal it.

I know that the Spirit is always present, so I don’t really need to ask God to visit; it’s asking for what’s already been given. But I misplace this truth  when I need it most. I’m so focused on what’s bothering me that I can’t see beyond it. So when I ask for God’s help and visitation, I’m really asking for God to remove my spiritual blindness. God is merciful, patiently giving me eyes to see what I already have.

Jesus visited and helped so many people during his time among us. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and brought peace to the possessed. He restored lepers to their families and villages. He is the answer God gave to this prayer, and he comes to us today in the Spirit. This prayer is always answered.

Another wonderful thing: sometimes we are the answer to this prayer, sent by the Spirit. We have the honor of being the hands of Christ and the grace of serving the Christ we meet in those around us. We just don’t see it most of the time…

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will

O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me.   Amen. (From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p.24)

 

About the Author of this prayer:

Metropolitan Philaret was the son of a Russian Orthodox priest who became a priest himself. He taught at St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and eventually became the Metropolitan of Moscow – a ranking somewhere between archbishop and patriarch. Not quite on par with the pope, but awfully close. He worked for offering scripture and other teachings in Russian so more people could read them. He wrote a catechism that is still in use. I suspect Philaret was a very busy man who had his share of difficulties.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Seven

My heart is open to thee.

      Having a heart open to God is a major inconvenience. I can’t pursue my own ends to the exclusion of those around me, and I question the ends I would pursue. There is no way I can act as if my ends justify my means, especially when the spirits of others and the entire created world live with the consequences, always and everywhere. With an open heart, I live with the sure and complete knowledge that God’s love for others equals God’s love for me, and that God will provide a way for me to walk kindly through the places and years given to me. But it’s a lot of work and little glory, living with a heart that sees what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). So I don’t live with a heart open to God most of the time. It’s why I have to pray for it; I can’t do this without God. An open heart is a gift and a responsibility, loving world and self with every talent and shortcoming, through intentional action and purposeful inaction.

The psalmist put it in these words: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 51:10). I know enough to be careful what I pray for, because I’ll surely get it. It won’t look the way I expect it to – God is constant, but not predictable. And not hindered by my lack of imagination. Then I can’t pretend I don’t know the truth: the life God has given me isn’t just sufficient, it’s extraordinary and holy.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Six

 I can only wait on thee.

 Wait on has two meanings: 1) to stay in place, delaying action, for the convenience of someone else; and 2) to serve food and drink. The meanings are related, of course. Wait staff stays in place, tailoring their timing and action to their customers.  The busiest times for servers are dictated by the ones who are eating and drinking, breaks come when there is a lull in business, and take-home pay depends on how well the customer is served. Food and drink aren’t instant products, so servers must take kitchen timing into account. Waiting on is connecting people to nourishment; when done well, it revives the spirit as well as the body. That’s why it’s a hospitality industry.

While studying at seminary, I worked at faculty lunch, setting up the room and buffet, then serving those who came. After the professors and administrators helped themselves to food, I’d pour water, remove plates, and serve coffee. At the end, I’d strip the tables and buffet, deliver the last of the dishes to the kitchen, and sit down for my own lunch. I enjoyed the work. Finding something physical and social that provided a paycheck was a welcome break from graduate studies, and the food was great.

In the three years I spent at faculty lunch, only two professors seemed comfortable having me as their server. Most looked anywhere but directly at me, especially if I was a student in one of their classes. When I asked if they wanted coffee, they’d mumble a reply. When I refilled empty water glasses, they leaned away. It was such a weird reaction, that I asked one of my professors about it. She said, “It just seems wrong, having someone I see in class serve me.”

Her answer bothers me to this day. At a graduate institution that prepares men and women for the ministry (serving in churches, schools, prisons, and hospitals), the gift of hospitality and service shouldn’t be considered inappropriate for anyone. After all, most of the faculty and most of the students participated in a table fellowship at least once a month without considering it demeaning – the sacrament of communion. Why was serving and receiving communion a privilege but serving and receiving lunch an embarrassment?

Waiting on God is: 1) living my life in God’s good time rather than my own; and 2) offering hospitality to God’s beloved: every living thing in this universe. I can accept with grace the service of others, and I can serve others with joy. Both are blessings, sure signs of God’s love. After all, God did both for me in Jesus.

About the Author of this prayer:

Metropolitan Philaret was the son of a Russian Orthodox priest who became a priest himself. He taught at St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and eventually became the Metropolitan of Moscow – a ranking somewhere between archbishop and patriarch. Not quite on par with the pope, but awfully close. He worked for offering scripture and other teachings in Russian so more people could read them. He wrote a catechism that is still in use. I suspect Philaret was a very busy man who had his share of difficulties.

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Five

I dare not ask either a cross or consolation.

 Save us from the time of trial. That’s another translation of the Lord’s Prayer line, “Lead us not into temptation.” Both versions end the thought with “and/but deliver us from evil.” Apparently, the time of trial/temptation might very well lead to a need to be delivered from evil. It’s why we pray to be spared these times. Jesus prayed this in the hours before he was crucified(Luke 22:42), and we are wise to follow his example in this.

There is no need to chase after hardship and grief. These things will find us. Asking for a cross isn’t the same as taking up the cross that comes to us, and faith is as much about living for God and the world as it is about dying for it. Asking for a cross is borrowing trouble – an exercise in hubris more than humility. It can be an attempt to dictate the terms of our life and death rather than seeking God’s gracious presence in whatever comes.

There’s nothing wrong with receiving consolation and comfort; another name for the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and we are encouraged to seek the Spirit in our need. That’s not what seeking consolation means in this prayer. This is closer to asking someone to feel sorry for us, for the “Oh, poor you, your life is too hard,” refusing the cross that is ours to carry. Seeking consolation in this sense seems closer to self-pity, not even trying to meet life’s challenges with courage and wisdom.

When my brother was learning how to walk, he took a few spills. One day, he tripped over a toy and landed hard. I went to pick him up, but my mother stopped me. “Wait a minute, see what he does first.” Scott stayed on the floor for a few seconds, then got up and continued on his way. No tears, no drama. My mother said to me, “It’s my job to take care of him when he really hurts himself. It’s also my job to teach him that he can handle the usual bumps and falls without my help.”

Asking for a cross is throwing myself on the ground seeking injury; asking for consolation is crying a river over a minor bump. Neither will make me more faithful to God. There will be enough hurt and enough help in my life without asking God for extra helpings of either.

 

Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will

(Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow)

O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me.   Amen. (From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p.24)

Prayer for Acceptance of God’s Will: Line Four

Help me to see my real needs, which are concealed from me.

 When my son Jared was a baby, he went to sleep easily and happily. The only exception was when he was extremely tired. Past a certain point, tiredness shifted to fussiness and restlessness. What he most needed – rest – became the last thing he wanted. His nighttime routine of bath, snack, and book brought frustration rather than peace. He wanted something else, but couldn’t say what that something else might be.

On those nights, I’d take him outside for a walk around the barn. He’d say goodnight to the horses and look in on the roosting chickens. We’d walk down the gravel drive to see what the road looked like at night and we’d look at the lights of the house across the way. Sometimes, he’d pick up the tiny striped acorns of the pin oaks that lined the drive. Then I’d pick him up and take him home, fast asleep before I put him in his crib. After a good night’s sleep, Jared was himself again. Happy.

If I go past a certain point, my spiritual, physical, and emotional tiredness bring frustration and discontent. I refuse things and activities that restore me, and I can’t see anything new that might help. So I go in one direction and then another, trying to grasp the needs that hold me captive. But I can’t see them and I can’t think of where else to look. I just want to give up and cry. That’s when God holds my hand and takes me for a walk. I see my world by starlight and see others resting peacefully. Stones crunch beneath my feet and a neighbor’s lights illuminate where I stand. The seeds of mighty trees surround me, and the mystery of the world welcomes me. Most of the time, I’m at rest before I make it back home, trusting the Spirit to carry me. When I wake up, the world is new and so am I.

I’d better be careful what I pray for: If God shows me what I really need, I’ll know what is necessary and what isn’t. I won’t exhaust myself chasing things that cannot sustain life. A focus on real needs rather than popular wants won’t bring social status or vast wealth. But does bring light in darkness, companionship along the way, a vision of new life in a nutshell, and the world made new every day.

Whence cometh my help? From God alone who knows my needs.

 

Moving into God’s presence through words