A Prayer at Daybreak

A word:
I am amazed at the exquisite tradition of prayer that is ours in the Body of Christ. It is good to continue to be surprised by the Spirit of God. The deeper into the Holy Tradition I journey, the more I realize that I need not “have a prayer of my own” to “have a prayer that expresses the fullness of my real life.” Does that make sense to you? It means I DO have a prayer that is very much “mine” because it has been, is, and will ever more be “ours.”
 

Here is one of THOSE prayers. It is the Prayer at Daybreak by Archimandrite Sophrony.

Perhaps you will join me in knowing it to be “my” perfect prayer and “your” perfect prayer because it is “our” perfect prayer.

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A Prayer at Daybreak

O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who of Thine inscrutable goodness didst call me to this life;
Who didst bestow on me the grace of Baptism
and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who hast imbued me with the desire to seek Thee,
the one true God: hear my prayer.

I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom;
no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou didst say to Thy disciples,
‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive’
and ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do’.
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.

Bless this day which Thou dost give unto me,
Thine unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing
enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory
with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love,
gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom:
aware always of Thy presence.

Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, shew me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.

O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thou knowest what things I have need of.
Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thou knowest my infirmity and my soul’s corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.

Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer
and by Thy Holy Spirit teach me the way wherein I should walk;
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths
spare me not, O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight
and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causeth neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law of my being,
on this earth and in all eternity.

Yea, Lord, I pray Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in mine affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.

In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence because of my presumption.
Do Thou rather increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thou hast commanded,
with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength:
with my whole being.

Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit,
teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance.
Take me not away in the midst of my days,
nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour
and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse Thou me from secret faults,
from all iniquity that is hid in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat.

Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy
and immeasurable love for mankind,

Hear my prayer.

Source: His Life is Mine, pg. 52-54, by Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York, 2001.

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Theophany: The Edgy Centered Life – The Scarred Witness

Today is the Feast of Epiphany – Theophany.

The meaning of the feast and the season is clear and simple – “manifestation.” Manifestation of the Incarnate Christ Jesus in and through my life.

Manifestation is about maturation. The unfolding or showing forth of the fullness of being in the fullness of time. Showing forth what already is by degrees.

I love growing things. I am not, however, a gardener. But, I still love growing things.

What has always attracted me about things that grow is the paradox. They are simultaneously, completely centered and completely on the edge.

Apple trees are centered in their apple-tree-ness. They are not insecure about their identity. Because that is the case, they are able to live on the edge of their identity where the “stretching forth,” the “extension of their being” takes place.

This is the place of simultaneous security and risk. The place of complete centeredness and edginess.

It is free to grow. It is “courageous.” It welcomes the weather and the weathering that are its allies not its enemy.

The mature tree is the one that has stood the weather that touches it on the edge of its being and makes a deep impact on it not killing it but strengthening it, albeit with scars and gnarling.

The way to fullness of identity is via this journey of maturation. A mature tree is not untwisted, without gnarls, or scar-less.

In the Christian lexicon, “scars” are what happens to “wounds” when they “heal.” They are not signs – manifestations of defeat but of victory.

That captivates me and it frightens me. I desire that place/condition of peace and contentment. Help thou my non-desire. The resurrected life bears the scars of redemption. I know it all too seldom and fleetingly. Perhaps the desire for ease lives too much within me still. Perhaps it is the remnants of a desire for “happiness” instead of “joy.” Ah, yes. The easy way. The way of formula that bypasses the “weather and wounding of life in relationship.” (Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner, that I might embrace the edge more often and truly grow instead of pretend to grow.)

“…the best way out is always through…” (“A Servant to Servants,” by Robert Frost)

The best way for God to answer my prayer, to exit the pretense of Christian life, is “through.” It will never be otherwise no matter how I word the prayer.

The “way through” requires trust, abandonment into the hands of the living God. The way is not known in advance. It is known “in the midst.” We accumulate victorious wounding in that context. Wounds that become “manifesting” scars.

Without the scars that Jesus/I bear, who will know He is risen?! Manifestation – Epiphany – Theophany is the showing forth of the beauty and victory of a salvation that is perfect as testified to by its scars.

Life-giving scars.

Am I alone in this?! Am I the only one who trembles at the threshold of centered-edginess?! The threshold of more abundant life?! Am I the only one who is working out his salvation with real fear and trembling and not some token (lip service) form of it?! Perhaps, my friend, this is, to some degree, true for you too?! We pilgrimage together, then. Companions on and in the Way. Members one of another in all of these things.

I am not “better” or “wiser” or “stronger” than Peter. I too, in my own ways, deny Christ by desiring the Way that is other than “the way through.” I must acknowledge that I am Peter if I am going to proclaim that I live the Christ Life by grace.

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.” Meet me as I am meagerly able to meet and abide in you and have you not only abide but manifest Yourself through me. Have mercy on me too, just like you had mercy on Peter.

I must identify with Peter by nature if I am to identify with Christ Jesus by grace. I must be all that Peter is by nature to be all that Christ Jesus is by grace. And, the reverse is true. I must be all that Christ Jesus is by grace to have the courage to acknowledge and embrace that I am all that Peter is by nature. Both are two together, as one. Paradox that saves.

This is the transformative power of the Jesus Prayer?!

  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God – my identification with Christ Jesus by grace
  • Have mercy on me a sinner – my identification with Peter by nature

The way of repentance is the way of salvation. The way of salvation is the way of repentance.

If I say I have no sin we deceive myself. If I say I have no righteousness, I deceive myself. I will identify myself with Peter and the thief on the cross in prayer as a preparation AND I will eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ, identifying myself with Him.

Oh, blessed message!! Oh blessed Mystery!!

Our life is to be a living witness of the crucified and risen Christ Jesus. We are to bear the wounds of Christ Jesus as a flesh and blood testimony that the gospel is true.

The only Way that is True and offers Life – Jesus Himself. The life of absolute identification by grace. The life of living witness that is life-giving.

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“When thou passest through the waters… they shall not overflow thee.” (Isaiah 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God’s hand is stretched out.

Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not “dying grace.” Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life’s duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die.
–J. R. M.

“When thou passest through the waters”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
“When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH.”
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, “Thou passest THROUGH.”

–Annie Johnson Flint
Streams in the Desert, January 6th, by L.B. Cowman

Morning Consecration

We share with the Lord Jesus in a sacramental paradigm of reality. Time, space, and things matter.  The doing of things with a particular intentionality or attitude of heart is crucial. There is a dynamic movement, an interrelatedness of all things, inherent in the God’s creation and the order of the universe: “Spirit matters and matter spirits.” As Christians, we are sensitive and responsive to the Logos of reality. All things are coming from God, all things manifest the glory of God – find their meaning in God, and all things are moving (tending) toward God (Isaiah 55.6-11)

This is the underlying presupposition – given – of the Scriptures. It is taken for granted even though it is actually articulated on a number of occasions in Scripture. (See the account of Jesus sharing the Passover meal with His apostles and St. Paul’s take on that event in his epistles.)

It is the Holy Tradition.

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35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he [Jesus] rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1.35 – RSV)

3 O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch. (Psalm 5.3 – RSV)

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

8  Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn! (Psalm 57.7-8 – RSV)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to thy name, O Most High;
2 to declare thy steadfast love in the morning,
and thy faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For thou, O Lord, hast made me glad by thy work;
at the works of thy hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92.1-4 – RSV)

16 But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me    lovingkindness (Psalm 59.16-17 – RSV)

Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism:

“In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. “

This exhortation by the initiator of the Protestant Reformation is consistent with the practice of morning consecration in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox expressions of the faith.

In short, it is universally incumbent upon the disciple who desires to live a Scriptural – traditional life – to engage in such the practice of “intentional consecration” at the beginning of the day. While there are a variety of ways of doing this, the intention of the discipline remains the same. It is our way of saying “yes” to the realization: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism:

“In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. “

This exhortation by the initiator of the Protestant Reformation is consistent with the practice of morning consecration in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox expressions of the faith.

In short, it is universally incumbent upon the disciple to engage in such the practice of “intentional consecration” at the beginning of the day. While there are a variety of ways of doing this, the intention of the discipline remains the same. It is our way of saying “yes” to the realization: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Here is a consecration from the Protestant expression of the faith:


Take My Life, and Let It Be

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874

Here is another from the non-Protestant expression:

Act of Consecration

God of my heart, my whole desire is in loving you. I give myself to you without reserve.

I consecrate to you my heart. Receive it as an offering of love and unite it to your heart. I desire to dwell with you all my days.

I consecrate to you my will. May it be joined to yours in all things. May my deepest desire be to do what is pleasing to you. May your Spirit guide me in the way of obedience and may selfish desires not find a home in me.

I consecrate to you my understanding. May I see with your eyes and choose what is life-giving. May I forego all that is false and passing that I may embrace what is true and enduring. Let me desire the good and all that brings the good to birth. May your grace bring my desire to realization.

I consecrate to you my memory. Let me always remember your goodness and beauty. I shall take delight in remembering your favors – the love and mercy you have shown to me. May my heart be forever grateful.

I consecrate to you my body. Make me a worthy dwelling for your Spirit, Jesus. I give you all that I am and I accept whatever limitations, sickness, sorrows and death will be mine. Let me desire what you desire. No matter how painful the cross that is mine to carry, I receive it with confidence in your strength and grace. May I accept it with lively gratitude and carry it with joy and constancy. May the words of St. Paul strengthen me; “With Christ I am nailed to the cross.”

I consecrate to you all that I may ever possess in goods, influence or status. All is yours. Do with me what you will. I consecrate to you all that I can – joys, sorrows, life and death – to offer you my love and to witness to others the joy of loving you. May I serve you with devotion, relying on the help of your grace. May I be yours without reserve until the last moment of my life. Amen.
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

We not only “awaken” or “greet” the dawn. We consecrate ourselves at that time and place call “the dawn.” But, we do more. We not only “offer our selves our souls and bodies as a living sacrifice;” we also join God in the concertation of the day itself. We consecrate the dawn. We make the sign of the cross over ourselves AND it. Thus, by grace, we take our place as humans and share in His work.

Whether you are Protestant or not, morning consecration of ourselves and of the day itself is essential.