Thursday, July 1, 2010

Simple Surrender

As we continue in the season after Pentecost, a season during which we work to grow in Christian discipline and our Anglican tradition, I offer the following prayer for our common contemplation. Taken from the 1514 book of hours used at Clare College in Cambridge, this prayer has been set to music and whenever I read it, it is the sung version which prays in me:

"God be in my head and in my understanding; God be in my eyes and in my looking; God be in my mouth and in my speaking; God be in my heart and in my thinking; God be at my end and at my departing."

One of the things that moves me about this prayer is that it is a prayer of simple surrender. By this prayer, we invite God to come into an unguarded soul. Such an invitation requires real faith: faith in the tender mercy of God who loves us, delights in us, and desires communion with us. We have precious few opportunities in the world to safely learn or practice this kind of surrender. In prayer, however, in the presence of God, we can trust enough to let go of all fear, control, and goals - and just rest in God.

This prayer also takes us beyond our present experience and, by the words it uses, connects us to our Judeo-Christian tradition. Notice that in this prayer the head is associated with understanding and heart with thinking. In our Judeo-Christian tradition, the head is understood to be the place where compassion is found and the heart is where our will, our ability to choose, abides.

In addition, remembering that God spoke creation into being in Genesis, and that Jesus is the Word of God Incarnate, this prayer invites God to be present in our ‘mouths.’ Hearing this from our Judeo-Christian tradition, we ask God to be in all that we speak into being, that is, all that we do in our world. God speaks (acts) now in and through us. As Christians, what we are called to speak into our world is the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. We speak this Good News by living it, by proclaiming it, by being it.

That’s the other thing I love about this prayer. It asks God to BE… not to DO. So often when we pray, we have a list of things we’d like God to do – for us, for our loved ones, for the world. While intentional prayer is important and transformative, it is also important for us to make room for God to just BE in us, and us in God. It’s often harder to sit and listen, and prayerfully BE in God’s presence than it is to ‘talk at’ God; but when we do, we inevitably witness how God “does” even more than we could ever have asked or imagined.

Finally, this prayer proclaims the promise of the risen Christ: eternal life…life lived in the eternal presence of God, the lover of our souls. It is because of this promise that we can surrender, that we can trust completely and let go totally, knowing that God loves us, delights in us, and desires to BE in us.

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