Prayer of a Pastor

Teach us to care, teach us to use all these occasions of need that are the agenda of our work as access to God, as access to neighbor. Teach us to care by teaching us to pray, to pray so that human need becomes the occasion for entering into and embracing the presence and action of God in this life. Teach us to care by teaching us to pray so that those with whom we work are not less human through our caring but become more human. Teach us to care so that we do not become collaborators in self-centeredness, but rather companions in God-exploration. Teach us to use each act of caring as an act of praying so that this person in the act of being cared for experiences dignity instead of condescension, realizes the glory of being in on the salvation, and blessing and healing of God, and not driven further into neurosis and the wasteland of self.

And, not to care. Teach us to be reverential in all these occasions of need that are the agenda of our work, aware that you were long beforehand with these people, creating and loving, saving and wooing them. Teach us the humility of not caring, so that we do not use anyone's need as a workshop to cobble together makeshift, messianic work that inflates our importance and indispensability. Teach us to be in wonder and adoration before the beauties of creation and the glories of salvation, especially as they come to us in these humans who have come to think of themselves as violated and degraded and rejected. Teach us the reticence and restraint of not caring, so that in our eagerness to do good, we not ignorantly interfere in your caring. Teach us not to care so that we have time and energy and space to realize that all our work is done on holy ground and in your holy name, that people and communities in need are not a wasteland where we feverishly and faithlessly set up shop, but a garden, a rose garden in which we work contemplatively.

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood.

Teach us to care and not to care.


(from Subversive Spirituality, by Eugene Peterson, pp. 167-168).

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