by Teresa Donati
The perfect prayer is surely the one given to us by Our Lord, which starts, ‘Our Father, Who Art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name.’ It adores, it pledges faith, it cedes to God the essence of our very lives: ‘Thy will be done.’ That line alone embodies the life of Jesus, and our aspiration in faith: to live according to God’s Will.
The Lord’s Prayer is often taken for granted, recited as rote, a fact that makes me sigh. We forget how much and how often the Gospels tell us that Jesus went off by Himself, to pray.
And we often forget how much of the Bible is filled with prayers, which are the poems of faith. The Song of Solomon, known as the Song of Songs, along with the Psalms, and canticles we recite, which are drawn from such beautiful scriptures as the Book of Isaiah.
All of these show us the glory of worshipping God in prayers of joy and praise – and of supplication.
Some of the most gorgeous prayers are found in The Book of Common Prayer, and in the various prayer books issued by The Forward Movement, and also found in Elizabeth Goudge’s A Diary of Prayer.
Reading them, we are often moved by the deep faith and poetic longing expressed in them. For example there is a prayer by John Wesley, who prays that, with God’s perfect grace, we may ‘Behold without a veil thy face.’ What a wondrous thought.
We can find peace in prayer, or struggle to find peace through praying. Sometimes we long for words or ways to find our path, to have God’s comfort as we deal with tangles in our lives.
Perhaps we should write out our thoughts, even trying our hand at the poetic form, our own psalms to ask for guidance. The Psalms often question God, asking why our adversaries should prosper, asking why we are being bullied, or troubled in our souls. We ask God the same questions, because they are the world’s ways, spite and discord still a mystery to us.
In such a time, I tried a psalm of my own. Imperfect though it is compared with the great prayers and psalms of the scriptures, it brought peace to write it, as I hope it brings at least some peace to anyone who reads it, as I pray that peace can begin with each of us, can begin even with me:
All around me is need and pain –
Yet You have given me so much,
Spared me so much.
My sorrows fill my eyes with tears
And Your comfort is my only hope.
Why does my life go on
When it seems so barren at its deep,
All my actions covering my heartbreak?
I am so grateful for Your Mercy,
What will You do with me,
As I try to find what to do
And I wait in hope for God’s answer in the Amen.
May there be peace in the world. Its foundation is love. May it begin with me.
Teresa Donati is Professor of Sociology (Emeritus) at Fairleigh Dickinson University, now engaged in full-time writing, including church issues, and Christian fiction.
image: Procopius the Righteous is praying of unknown navigating by Nicholas Roerich