For the Last Day of the Old Year

Good Lord,
it's the last day of 2012...

Only a few hours left in this old year
which seemed so new
oh, not-so-long ago...

Where has the old year gone, Lord?
And how did it go?

And how did I go with you,
make my way with you, Lord,
these past twelve months?

I remember the times
we walked and talked together,
side by side,
you and I...

And I remember the times
when I forgot, somehow,
that you were right there by my side,
and the times I tried to pretend
that you weren't there,
always within arm's reach...

I remember the times when you took delight
in my words and my work
and I remember the times I ignored and forgot you
- but still you loved me
and in your mercy, you forgave me...

Nothing I've done, Lord,
merits what you've given me:
all your love is grace,
an unearned gift
from your heart to mine...

In return I offer so little
and I have so little to offer...

But there comes now a new year, Lord,
and with it my prayer
to live a life more worthy
of all you so freely give me...

In this new year, Lord,
make strong my resolve to be faithful,
make deep my trust in your presence
and make sure my hope in your promise,
for without your help
I will fail...

Lord, you offer me only
what is true and pure,
good and just, strong and graced...

In this new year, help me recognize
what is false, cheap and sham...

Help me to settle for nothing less
than what comes from your heart and hand...

Nourish me, Lord:
give me a hunger for what is genuine,
a thirst for what is holy,
a wisdom for discerning your gifts...

It's the last day of the old year, Lord...

Shake from my heart what has no place there
and wake my heart
to the gift of your grace
and the dawn of a new beginning...

(swiped from my online friend Austin Fleming's A Concord Pastor Comments blog, and updated to 2012)

On Recovering from Illness

Abba, Father,
thank you that illness is such a rare thing
in my life.

And though I'm not happy that
you didn't heal me quickly,
as I asked,
you have not promised to make me happy.
But you have promised me joy.
So please use these days of sickness
and seeming waste
to heighten my gratitude,
deepen my joy,
and draw me closer to you,
in Jesus' name, amen.

Holy Baby Thing

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam'st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need--
Yea, every bygone prayer.

(a prayer of George MacDonald, from “That Holy Thing,” The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (London: Chatto & Windus, 1893), 2: 323).

Because of This Day

Great God and Father of all humanity,
thank you that because of this day,
this holy feast, in the words of Chrysostom,
the ancient slavery is ended,
the devil confounded,
the demons take to flight,
the power of death is broken,
paradise is unlocked,
the curse is taken away,
sin is removed from us,
error driven out,
truth has been brought back,
the speech of kindliness diffused,
and spreads on every side,
a heavenly way of life has been in-planted on the earth,
angels communicate with men without fear,
and men now hold speech with angels,

A Christmas Eve Prayer

(This prayer, written by a young Italian seminarian named Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in 1902 who would later become Pope John XXIII, has become a Christmas Eve tradition for me).

Night has fallen; the clear, bright stars are sparkling in the cold air; noisy, strident voices rise to my ear from the city, voices of the revelers of this world who celebrate with merrymaking the poverty of their Saviour. Around me in their rooms my companions are asleep, and I am still wakeful, thinking of the mystery of Bethlehem.

Come, come, Jesus, I await you. . . .

I am a poor shepherd; I have only a wretched stable, a small manger, some wisps of straw. I offer all these to you, be pleased to come into my poor hovel. I offer you my heart; my soul is poor and bare of virtues, the straws of so many imperfections will prick you and make you weep--but oh, my Lord, what can you expect? This little is all I have. . . . I have nothing better to offer you, Jesus, honour my soul with your presence, adorn it with your graces. Burn this straw and change it into a soft couch for your most holy body.

Jesus, I am here waiting for your coming. Wicked men have driven you out, and the wind is like ice. I am a poor man, but I will warm you as well as I can. At least be pleased that I wish to welcome you warmly, to love you and sacrifice myself for you.


O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

O King of All the Nations

O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

O Rising Sun

O Rising Sun,
splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

O Key of David

O Key of David,
O royal power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

O Flower of Jesse

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up
as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

O Adonai

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Amen.

O Wisdom

O Wisdom,
coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Behold, You Come

I’ve begun to understand something I have known for a long time: You are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance in the form of a slave was only the beginning of your coming, a beginning in which you chose to redeem men by embracing the very slavery from which you were freeing them. And you can really achieve your purpose in this paradoxical way, because the paths that you tread have a real ending, the narrow passes which you enter soon open out into broad liberty, the cross that you carry inevitably becomes a brilliant banner of triumph.

It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word again is misleading. It won’t really be “another” coming, because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us.

But still you will come again, because the fact that you have already come must continue to be revealed ever more clearly. It will become progressively more manifest to the world that the heart of all things is already transformed, because you have taken them all to your heart.

Behold, you come. And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come.

O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.

(from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas)

Peniel Prayer

Help me,
God of Peniel,
to wrestle with the strength
and will of Jacob in my prayers,
laying hold and keeping hold of you
until I am sure of your blessing and will,
and ready, though wounded, to obey.

(Image: James J. Tissot, "Jacob Wrestles with an Angel" (c. 1896-1902), gouache on board, Jewish Museum, New York)

Heartfelt Holiday Prayer

God, I thank you sincerely,
from the bottom of my heart, that
The Twelve Days of Christmas,
Little Drummer Boy,
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,
Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time,
Santa Baby,
Up on the Housetop,
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,
Santa Claus is Coming to Town,
Here Comes Santa Claus,
Jingle Bells,
All I Want for Christmas is You,
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,
Happy Christmas (War Is Over),
Jingle Bell Rock,
Blue Christmas,
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,
The Chipmunk Song,
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
are only played incessantly in public places
for a few weeks every year.

Another Psalm 3

Lord, thank you that I have no one to trouble me!
Thank you that none are rising up against me.
Thank you that (to my knowledge) people no longer have to gossip about me.

Sure, I know that it's not because people have changed,
but mainly because my role is different these days.
And I'm grateful for that.

You, Lord, are my shield in any case;
your mercy and grace to me are glorious.
You lift me up when I'm down
and show me the way to greater peace and blessing.

I cried out to you, and you answered.
I can lay down and sleep without tossing and turning;
the knots in my neck and shoulders are gone.
You've once again sustained me, revived me, and provided for me.

I'm glad to be where you've placed me.
I'm happy to leave justice in your hands.

Deliverance comes from you.
You cover me.

I Will Never Stop

I know you sometimes cure.
I know you always heal.
I know your ways are higher than my ways.
I know you are good and your plans are good.
I know you make all things beautiful in your time.
I just want you to know that I will never
for their healing.



While I have voice,
while I have thought,
while I have life,
I will pray
until the day my prayers are clearly and completely answered.

O Come

O come, O come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear:

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!

(HT: A Concord Pastor Comments)

Forbid Us to Be Satisfied

Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals. Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us and our hearts to the loveliness men hide from us because we do not try to understand them. Save us from ourselves and show us a vision of a world made new.

(a prayer of Eleanor Roosevelt)

The Prayer Perfect

Dear Lord! Kind Lord!
Gracious Lord! I pray
Thou wilt look on all I love
Tenderly today!
Weed their hearts of weariness,
Scatter every care
Down a wake of Angel-wings
Winnowing the air.

Bring unto the sorrowing
All release from pain;
Let the lips of laughter
Overflow again;
And with all the needy,
O divide, I pray,
This vast treasure of content
That is mine today!

(a prayer of James Whitcomb Riley)

A Prayer Before Worship

Come, O Incarnate Word,
Gird on your mighty sword,
Our prayer attend;
Come, and your people bless,
And give your Word success;
Spirit of holiness,
On us descend!

(anonymous, revised slightly)

Enliven Me

Gracious God, enliven me.
Make me alive to you.
Alive to my wife,
my father,
and yes, even to my enemies.

Alive to the house wren speeding to her nest with another caterpillar to feed her demanding brood.

Alive to the cricket singing outside the back door.

Alive to the cloud that is sailing overhead right now.

Alive to the spin of this planet--real, but completely undetectable to me.

Alive to chemistry and physics and philosophy and economics and even politics.

Alive to open books and folded sheets, a sleeping dog, migrating geese, frying eggs, everything. Amen.

(based on lines from Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again (The Return of the Ancient Practices), pp. 182-183).

Plath Prayer

Let me live,
and say it well in good sentences.

(a prayer by Sylvia Plath)

For Deadlines

Thank you, Lord, for the deadlines
that give structure
and impetus
to my writing life.

Help me to meet every one,
and to beat them often enough
as to be a blessing to the editors and publishers
who are foolish enough or kind enough
to give me work,
in Jesus' name, amen.

Against Bitterness

Lord, that there should be any bitterness in my heart, after all you've done for me and given to me, is a wonder and a shame. But there is, from time to time. I confess it. It rises up at odd moments, unexpectedly. I don't want it. I reject it. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from me, along with all malice. By your mercy and grace, deliver me from it, that I may follow you in complete and constant gratitude, in Jesus' name, amen.

A Shakespearean Paean of Praise

O how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
And what is but mine own when I praise thee?

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 39, lines 1-4)

A Prayer for Wisdom

Wise and Holy God,

As a new work-week begins, I seek your wisdom. Solomon could have asked you for anything, but he asked you for wisdom and a discerning heart (1 Kings 3:5-14). I want to make that same choice.

May your Holy Spirit give me a discerning heart. Grant me godly common sense in every task, every meeting, every administrative decision, every personal interaction, every financial transaction, every step I take.

Remind me that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I won’t be wise unless I put you first in my life above all else.

Remind me that true wisdom is practical and down-to-earth. It includes acts as well as facts—putting what I know into action. As I read your Word, let it provide me more than mere information; let it lead to transformation. Like clay in the hands of the potter, shape me into something useful and beautiful.

Remind me that wisdom is your gift—something I must seek regularly in prayer. Thank you for the promise of your Word that assures me, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask god, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Remind me that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

Please grant me wisdom, Father. This is my prayer in the name of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Amen.

(from the newly released book, Monday Morning Proverbs, by David Faust. Used with permission)

Advent Prayer

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you.
You are the incarnation of Divine Love,
you are the expression of God's infinite compassion,
you are the visible manifestation of the Father's holiness.
You are beauty, goodness, gentless,
forgiveness, and mercy.
In you all can be found.
Outside of you nothing can be found.
Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere?
You have the words of eternal life,
you are food and drink,
you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
You are the light that shines in the darkness,
the lamp on the lamp stand,
the house on the hilltop.
You are the perfect Icon of God.
In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father,
and with you I can find my way to him.
O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One,
be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide,
my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace.
To you I want to give all that I am.
Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant.
Let me give you all--
all I have, think, do and feel.
It is yours, O Lord.
Please accept it and make it fully your own.

(a prayer of Henri Nouwen, from A Cry for Mercy)

Here is Your Cradle

Lord, I know the Christmas story,
I’ve heard it many times:
how humbly you began your life
in human flesh like mine,
how lowly was your family
how rude your stable bed,
how beasts of burden gathered round
your small straw-haloed head;

And Joseph must have gazed on proudly
and stroked your wispy hair,
as angels broke the news nearby
while dancing in the air.
And Mary sang you lullabies
and kept you safe and warm
til shepherds came and bowed before
your ancient infant form;

I know the story, Lord, and yet
I know you’ve heard it, too.
I know you won’t be satisfied until
it becomes my story, too.
And so I’m glad it shows me there’s
no place too rude for you;
It’s not much I have to give
But all I have will have to do:
Here is your cradle,
here is your manger,
here is your bed of straw.

Make me your cradle,
My heart your manger,
My life your bed of straw.