At the Close of Another Year

Our great and Gracious God, 

As we come to the close of another year, we would indeed make it the prayer of our hearts that you would abide with us. 

We thank you that you have been with us through the days of this past year.

Perhaps many a day we have not felt you near,
Perhaps at times we have even felt that you have
forsaken us and forgotten us but we thank you
that it has never been so.
We thank you that you are constantly with your people, and that you have enabled us to persevere in grace,

You have comforted our hearts,
You have heard our prayers,
You have come so often to our aid.
We pray that you will go with us into this new year.

There is none of us who knows what the new year will hold, but we thank you that every moment of that year is in your hands, and you will be with your people.
We thank you that with that promise girding us, we can go forward with confidence and in your peace. We pray that you will help us to walk with you in this new year better than we have ever done before. Forgive us, Lord, for our sins and our backslidings of this past year.

Grant to us, as the days of the new year unfold, an ever closer walk with you.
Help us to put sin to death,
Help us gladly yield our lives unreservedly to Jesus Christ, our Savior, and God that we may regard ourselves entirely at his disposal to be, to go, to do, as he would wish
We pray that it may be our privilege to serve him,
to bring glory to him, to help others to know him better, and to help some, indeed, to come to know him for the first time.
Have mercy, we pray, upon those connected with us who come to the end of this year and their hearts are still closed against you, still hardening their hearts against you.

Spare them, O God, we pray; spare them! Grant that this new year would mark the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ. We are so thankful for the almighty Holy Sprit, for his limitless power
to bring conviction of sin,
to give new birth,
and to draw those who are away from you
to faith and to repentance.
We pray, Lord, that you would do that in the hearts and lives of all who are upon our hearts.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

(from Heart Cries to Heaven by David Campbell) 

Broken Lights


Our little systems have their day; 
They have their day and cease to be: 
They are but broken lights of thee, 
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

(excerpt from Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H.; photo by MemoryCatcher via pixabay.com)

Unshaken


For Ryder

Lord, hear my prayer for this young man today, 
on his tenth birthday, 
hard as it is to believe.

Thank you for him and his ebullient spirit,
his brilliant mind and tender heart, 
and his blessedly good health. 

Please continue the good, good work you began in him, 
and for which I prayed at his dedication, 
making him like Enoch, who walked with God; 
like Gideon, who though the circumstances of his birth 
were far from perfect, 
who though his family was of no reputation, 
who though he had many disadvantages in life arrayed against him, 
learned that with God even the smallest can be great;
and making him like David, the man after God's own heart, 
who knew what it was not only to walk with you 
not only to fight and win great battles on your behalf, 
but also to dance before you. 
Make it so, in this boy's life, 
on today, his birthday, and every day to come. 

Give him and his parents and his sisters
every blessing and every advantage, 
in Jesus' name, amen. 

The New Light

Almighty God,
you have poured upon us
the new light
of your incarnate Word:
Grant that this light,
enkindled in our hearts,
may shine forth in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen.

On the Feast Day of Your Birth

The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord 
Because it brings joy to all humanity. 
Old people and infants alike enjoy Your day. 
Your day is celebrated from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away, 
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse. 
But Your festival will be remembered until the end of time. 
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace. 
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled, 
Since You came from heaven to earth on that day 
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt. 
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth: 
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick; 
Spiritual light for the blind; 
The cup of salvation for the thirsty; 
The bread of life for the hungry. 
In the winter when trees are bare, 
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit. 
In the frost when the earth is barren, 
You bring new hope to our souls. 
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil, 
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb.

(a prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian; photo by Foundry via pixabay.com)

The Day of Joy


The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, 
and crowns another year with peace and good will. 

Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, 
that we may share in the song of the angels, 
the gladness of the shepherds, 
and the worship of the wisemen. 

Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world. 
Let kindness come with every gift 
 and good desires with every greeting. 
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. 

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake, amen. 

(a prayer by Henry Van Dyke, very slightly revised; photo by JillWellington via pixabay.com)

I Await You

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.

Amen.

(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, and for this blog).

Shall I Silent Be?


The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
Enriching all the place.

(a prayer by Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The Process of Your Coming


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; photo by Free-Photos via pixabay.com)

Only in Praise

Lord, I thank you for oysters and porpoises,
praise you for birdsong and sheet lightning,
see you reflected in pools of creekwater
and the eyes of stray cats.
Let me talk to yard dogs
as if they are my friends and fellow travelers
along the sun-tortured highways
intoxicated with the love of God.
Let me see the whole world
with eyes incapable of anything but wonder,
and a tongue fluent only in praise, amen.

(based on a passage from Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides, pp. 277-278).

Our Fire and Our Sweetness

Come, Lord,
stir us up
and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire
and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.

(a prayer from the Confessions of St. Augustine; photo via everystockphoto.com)

With You I Can Find My Way

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, gentleness,
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.
Amen.

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

Tiptoe

Lord Jesus,
the day of your nativity approaches,
the day on which we commemorate
your birth,
your condescension,
your humble incarnation.
Please help me and mine
to approach that day
on tiptoe,
with reverence and awe,
mindful of your holiness and beauty,
and grateful for the privilege
of finding
and approaching
and kneeling at
your manger, amen.

Sought and Bought

Jesus, how I thank you 
that you sought me 
and bought me
with your redeeming blood;
that you loved me 
before I knew you,
thus all my love is due you.
You plunged me to victory,
beneath the cleansing flood. 

(a prayer riff on the hymn, "Victory in Jesus"; photo by efraimstochter via pixabay.com)

Thy Windy Will


Grant me, O Lord, a sunny mind, 
Thy windy will to bear! 

(from a poem by Emily Dickinson, 
photo by FlorenceD-pix via pixabay.com)

Regardless

My changing moods do not control
Your covenanted aid;
You have the guarding of my soul,
And I am not afraid.

(from a hymn by John Izzard, slightly revised; photo by Dreamy_Photos via pixabay.com)