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 missed something when I copied this prayer. Not a word, but a space. Here it is:
Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen.
In my prayer manual, there is a three letter space separating the Amen from the rest of the prayer. I missed the presence of this absence when I began writing this prayer, paying no attention whatsoever to what wasn’t there. I might chalk it up as a printer’s mistake if there weren’t three spaces separating every writing in the prayer book from its concluding amen. Not an accident, then, but an intentional separation. If this were a book of prayers created for communal worship, I might think the space was added to remind the priest that the “amen” wasn’t his or her line – it’s the response of the congregation. But this is a book created for private devotional use. The one who says the prayer also says the amen, so why include a space?
Amen can be translated many ways: so be it, let it be, or make is so (the Star Trek: Next Generation version). It’s more than agreeing with a prayer, it’s asking God to make real what has been said. The gap between a prayer and an amen is there for a very good reason: to give me time to decide if I really want to commit the words to God. Do I really, truly want these words to be made real? Am I willing to be transformed by them – and work for the reality they bring? It’s one thing to mouth words about wanting the holiness of God to transform my life, it’s another to commit myself to it. Words are powerful, and prayers can change the world. Am I really ready to see the face of God in everything and everyone, even in myself? Words of prayer are a door into God’s love: the amen is taking hold of the Spirit’s hand and going through it.
With every amen, I cross a threshold. Once I move from the prayer to the amen, there’s no going back. Only God knows what adventures will follow. Chances are, I’ll be changed each and every time. The space tells me to be aware. This is a doorway to eternal love: enter at God’s own risk.