Simple, powerful, honest
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.This prayer just seemed so right, today...and so much in touch with what we've been reading on prayer. I thought of people in transition, people praying for direction, people in doubt...and this prayer just came to mind.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
(Thomas Merton, from "Thoughts in Solitude")
It's estimated that two million people are on the road, fleeing yet another hurricane - and many of them were already refugees from the first hurricane. Hearing their stories on the radio - and of all the emergency personnel, who have been working flat out for weeks, now having to face yet another impending disaster - gave me a great deal of gratitude for dry land and clear skies today.
Two friends from Chicago, mother and son, are mourning the loss of a father and grandfather. The mother, especially, had been involved in 24-hour a day care
for her father for years, and is now facing not only her grief, but a profound change in the direction of her life. Another friend is facing sentencing on a drunk-driving charge. Though the arrest sobered him up a year ago, his life could still change dramatically in the next twenty-four hours.
My own life is in a state of flux - opportunities closing, others opening. On the one hand, my job is likely ending at the end of the month. On the other hand, my boss wants me to work through the weekend to meet an almost-impossible deadline. Yet I want to attend my friends' grandfather's viewing tonight, even though I've already got two committments I need to make, and there's two full days of tasks I need to get done at the same time. And so it was easy to hear this prayer, and the plaintive cry, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going."
But the reason that I love this prayer is its bare-naked honesty. I give thanks to God for the gift of a person who, though deeply spiritual, was willing to admit that "the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually
doing so." The AA text talks about honesty, too - saying that "there are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest." So this idea of being willing to be honest in my prayer life seems to be pretty central.
Rev. Jane Henderson, who in 1995 was the assistant to the Episcopal bishop for the diocese of Trenton, NJ, once said in a talk that she understood the word "confession" to mean "to bring my whole self to God." I like that image - the prayer that says, "OK, Lord, here I am - all of me. Sins, warts, shames, embarrassments, blessings, skills, talents - everything I am, everything I love or hate about me. This beautiful, horrible mess is what You claim to love - what You claim to have sent Your son to save. And today, I'm going to take You at Your word." That level of honesty is critical to prayer, I think.
My friend Ed in Kansas often would start prayers at our morning bible study with the words, "Good morning, God..." I adopted that in my own prayer life, because it ties in with my understanding of Jesus as Emmanuel ("God-with-us"). I'd much rather have an understanding of God as one who would be willing to hear "Good morning" from a poor soul like me. I think having a clear idea of Who I'm praying to is important to my attitude toward prayer.
Today, every one of us have challenges - though, thank God, today mine do not involve abandoning my home and my possessions and fleeing destruction. But every one of us has some uncertainty or struggle that could easily cause fear - I know that I sure do. So praying a prayer that includes the words "I will not fear" is exactly what I needed to do today.
I once heard a recovering alcoholic's prayer, and it too is one I identify with - one worthy of praying today:
"God, I've got to get outta here, and just hit-it-an'-git-it - though I really don't wanna, very much. So I need Your guidance and Your strength today - to go out and do my very best to help others, and to not hurt anyone or anything if I can help it. I'm
gonna trust that You're there, and that Your will is for me to do this. Sure do thank You for all You've given me. Amen."