I used a prayer at our Harvest Service yesterday that struck a deep chord with many there. It’s a brilliant prayer. Not mine, of course. I stumbled across it on my sabbatical and wrote it down in my prayer journal. I wasn’t organised enough (too chilled, probably) to record where I found it, though it was on a Thursday in July!
Here’s the prayer:
enlighten what’s dark in me,
strengthen what’s weak in me,
mend what’s broken in me,
bind what’s bruised in me
heal what’s sick in me.
Revive whatever peace and love has died in me. Amen.
So why did I write it down and why did it strike a chord yesterday?
It has a simplicity and beauty of structure, an economy, that makes it memorable and immediately striking. No liturgical flourishes or verbal fireworks.
It’s deeply personal. I wanted to pray it a second and third time because it allows me to say openly to God ‘There is dark in me, I am weak, I am broken, bruised, need healing.’ Of course there are many prayers that say this, hymns and songs too, all of them fine. But this particular one seems to get to the point quickly, not sentimentally, nor parading a false piety or fake humility.
It resonates with so much we know and love in the Scriptures. Each line calls to mind Jesus saying or doing something, something beautiful, something striking, something to do with making people whole.
It feels like – as I said I don’t know anything about who wrote it or when – it feels like a prayer written by someone who like me has been a Christian for a while. I think it’s the way it ends. This is a Christian who’s been in the fight for a while, and on to whom has settled a degree of weariness. The final confession of the prayer is that peace and love; gifts of God that we treasure and have been in the past hallmarks of our experience, have died within us. Smothered perhaps by disappointment, personal failing, institutional inertia, the cold water of discouragement. It is an effort for the pray-er to say this; they don’t want to, but it is the truest thing, they thing they’ve kept to last.
There’s nearly Christian respectability in saying Lord, mend what’s broken. We Christians are never fooled for very long into thinking that we are over or past praying that kind of prayer. There’s a innocent integrity in looking up at God at the end of this heartfelt prayer of renewal and saying, ‘Actually, it’s worse than I first thought. I do need renewal, but more than that, I need resurrection!’