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Speaking to the Soul: Words When We Need Them

Speaking to the Soul: Words When We Need Them

Monday, December 15, 2013 — Week of Advent 3, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Isaiah 8:16-9:1

2 Peter 1:1-11

Luke 22:39-53

Many of us pray the Lord’s Prayer on a daily or weekly basis. On some days, it may feel rote or mechanical to repeat the same words yet one more time. But today’s gospel shows us that, if we inscribe special prayers on our hearts, then the words will be with us when we need them most.

Our gospel passage comes from one of the most intense moments in Jesus’ life. He has concluded his last supper with his disciples, and he is praying on the Mount of Olives the night before his death. He must have been filled with dread, certain that something awful was about to happen, but uncertain as to how it would all go down.

In that moment of certain dread but dreadful uncertainty, Jesus instructs his friends to pray that they “may not come into the time of trial.” Then, Jesus walks about a stone’s throw away for his own prayers, saying to his Father, “not my will but yours be done.”

These words include strong echoes of phrases from the Lord’s Prayer. Contemporary translations ask God to “save us from the time of trial.” And one of the earliest petitions in the prayer is, “thy will be done.” These were the prayers that Jesus and his disciples needed in one of the most desperate moments of their lives: prayers to spare themselves from trials, and prayers to surrender to God’s will.

The precise words of the Lord’s Prayer vary from gospel  to gospel (Matthew and Luke), from Biblical translation to Biblical translation, from denomination to denomination, and from Book of Common Prayer to Book of Common Prayer. My congregation currently uses the older language, which I memorized as a child. However, I have worshipped in many congregations that use the updated translation in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Whatever translation we use, we are shaping our hearts according to the words that we will need at critical times in our lives. We will need to call on God to save us from our times of trial; we will need to ask, first and foremost, for God’s will to be done, regardless of our desires and expectations. So today, we can choose a prayer and write it more deeply in our hearts, so that it will be there for us when we need it.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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