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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Drive: O God, Our Help in Ages Past

From the Book of Common Prayer:
For Guidance

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Quiet Confidence

O God of peace, you have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Protection

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is a lovely a cappella rendition, by a Mennonite choir, of the great Isaac Watts hymn, so appropriate for us now, upon the brink of we know not what:


Frank said...

I am a heathen, a sceptic, a guy who carries a bag of salt so I can sprinkle a few grains on every pronouncement and belief I encounter.

So I question how is it that liberals and conservatives (I use the words loosely) are praying to presumably the same god for more or less opposite outcomes?

Granted your prayers are, shall I say, more "passive" while theirs are, seemingly more "aggressive" --- Have you seen the "POTUS Shield" website?

...Complete with Shields, a Sword, Heavenly Clouds, Lightening Bolts, and the Heads of Creature with Fangs (a dog? a mountain lion?)...

...as well as copious explanations and scriptural verses that make them confident that their prayers will have the effect of turning this nation into (their brand of) a theocracy.

Russ Manley said...

Oh dear, what great big questions you pose, Frank, and all I meant to do was offer a few lovely sips of thought here - poetry, if you will - for anyone who might be feeling a bit thirsty at this point on the road, where it gets a bit rocky and dangerous.

As one of my longtime truckbuddies, you know that my Sunday Drive feature is the "drive-thru church" of the Blue Truck - though church is too freighted a word for it - more like a scenic turnout on the highway where one can pause for a moment to catch a glimpse of some distant, lovely vista, and then continue on. Even when I post what seem to be strictly secular songs, there is some thought or feeling that I hope will lift the soul or touch the feelings, even for a brief moment.

Because the point and purpose of Meaning of It All - if indeed there is any such thing - is surely Love: which we experience in all the multi-hued variety of the spectrum.

I totally get that the mere mention or insinuation of "religion" pushes a lot of buttons for you, Frank. In fact, the same is true of me, and I'm sure we could have a long, loud, and thoroughly agreeable conversation denouncing all the abuses and misuses perpetrated in the name of God by religionists of all stripes and shades.

One of the perennial themes of literature in every age and clime is man's inhumanity to man - which, sadly, has often been given a sharper ferocity by so-called religion. Perhaps have you have read Mark Twain's posthumous story, "The War Prayer," which touches on this point - if not, you can easily google it up. It's quite short, and quite stunning.

As I mentioned in my reply the last time you raised the subject a few weeks ago, for sundry good reasons I have not been to church in more than ten years and am an Episcopalian-on-hold; like a lapsed Catholic, a merely nominal, not active, believer. So I'm not a fit person to be an apologist for anything, and you must look elsewhere if you want that kind of sparring partner.

And unlike some mouthy fanatics, always eager to tell "what God has done for me," the sad fact is that I cannot point to much evidence that religion per se has done me much practical good in my storm-tossed life. However, there are certain useful truths I cling to, like deck chairs after a shipwreck, which at least keep my head above water, if ever so slightly.

They would make a short list, and perhaps a rather uninteresting one. But as an elderly cousin remarked to me once, some years ago, when I was on the verge of a rant against "religion" myself: It's important not to take someone's hope away.

It is our bedrock duty as human beings always to encourage our fellows, even when we despair for ourselves, is it not? No matter how hopeless the situation, even with the wolf at the door or Injuns in the house, we can never say to our fellow "It's hopeless, all right, you might as well go on and jump overboard/shoot yourself/drink the poison." No, we never can say that, can we. Always, always, even at the last extremity, is the imperative to keep hope alive, even when the fragrant jar is completely empty.

That's all I'm doing here today. At this scenic turnout, weedy and overgrown, is a small, rusted fountain from which yet trickles a cool, tiny stream. Drink, if you like, and find what refreshment you can here before you journey on into the dark vale ahead.

That's all I have to offer. Take it or not, as you will, and good luck, traveler.

Davis said...

Beautifully chosen collects for this difficult time. Thanks Russ.

Frank said...


I think I get it...

Your post just made me wonder... I was merely puzzled by the fact that there are so many divergent sects, all of whom believe they alone have the truth, all clamoring to a Supreme Being, meticulously outlining for the Divinity how they wish events to unfold, and some so filled with hubris as to believe they must out-shout all the others and so get their way, because their way is the true way.

As a "lapsed" Catholic, I feel a kinship with Episcopalians and with the prayers you posted: there is a tradition of "openness to discernment" rather than blind belief. We pray for guidance, confidence and protection while others pray for power, and for our destruction.

I perhaps don't read scriptures through the same lenses as the religionists do, but I do respect the wisdom therein and I can be somewhat gentle where the wisdom is lacking. As a heathen and sceptic, I am not without an appreciation for the poetry of scriptures and religious texts and prayers; the Prayer of St. Francis comes to mind of late.

I agree that in these trying times we need what hope and comfort we can find. And I begrudge no one their choice of what gives them hope or peace, be it meditation, prayer, or mac and cheese.

I awake some nights in a near panic, full of dread and disbelief. In the morning I make a little breakfast, put together my husband's lunch, catch up on news and take the dog for our walk. Life goes on.

You know, I think I'll make mac and cheese for dinner.

Sebastian said...

It is true that different groups of believers pray for opposing things, and even see the Divine in opposing ways. I am reminded of the aphorism: "In the beginning, God created man in his own image and likeness, and ever since, man has been trying to return the favor." But the fact that there are divergent and incompatible beliefs and hopes doesn't mean that there is not "correct faith, certain hope, understanding and knowledge" to quote St. Francis. It just means that we aren't on the same page about what that is. By analogy, different political programs and policies does not mean that there is no country. It just means that people disagree about how to serve the country best.

To ask the Lord's blessings, in my view, is proper prayer. To empty ourselves as much as possible so that God can fill our weak and earthen vessels is, in my opinion, the proper stance for prayer. To tell the Almighty what to do, as if he needs our suggestions, is blasphemous, in my view. And to announce to the world what God is doing, thinking and planning, is for the most part to take the name of the Lord in vain, in violation of the 2nd commandment.

We are all seekers; some don't admit it. We are all poor and powerless before God, whether we like to pretend otherwise or not. The Book of Common Prayer is a well tried means to articulate the best in Christianity, though as a Catholic it is not my tradition.

Russ Manley said...

Frank - I would count mac and cheese, prepared with love and received with gladness, a great comfort for both body and soul.

Davis - Glad you like; these particular collects are old favorites of mine, useful in every time and season.

Sebastian - Why hello, stranger, so nice to hear your voice again after all this time. I had wondered how you were.

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