Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) from France was a small and simple man whose unusual life of great faith and sacrifice would come to inspire many Christians and non-Christians alike.
Serving in the French army in north Africa, the religious devotion of the Muslims he encountered convicted him that his life held too little faith. Upon returning to France he gave his heart completely to Christ, and eventually would return to the Sahara desert and settle in Algeria among the Tuareg people pursuing a life of prayer, service, hospitality, and Bible translation.
He was deeply moved by the “Nazareth” years of Jesus, Jesus’ hidden years, and he sought live like Jesus would have in his hometown–simply, humbly, prayerfully, hospitably, charitably, quietly, and obscurely. He wrote in a journal, “Our entire existence and being should shout the Gospel from the rooftops. Our entire person should breathe Jesus. All our actions and our entire life should proclaim that we belong to Jesus.”
To be a foreigner, and a Christian, was dangerous in Algeria and across the Sahara in those days. Charles knew the dangers and still chose to stay pursue his vocation there. And indeed, in 1916 he was shot and killed by a young nomad in a kidnapping gone wrong. It wasn’t until after Charles’ death that his deepest dream came into being, the foundation of a monastic order called The Little Brothers of Jesus, which now has small communities in over 40 countries, all of them living a life inspired by de Foucauld, who drew his inspiration from Jesus.
There’s a prayer that has meant the world to me over the years, written by Charles de Foucauld, that I still pray from time to time, and sometimes even as a daily discipline, especially when life feels hard or the task feels too great. In fact, I encountered his prayer before I knew about the man who prayed it, and it was because of this prayer that I came learn about him and read more about him. It’s come to be known as:
“The Prayer of Abandonment”
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
What I appreciate about this prayer is it’s simplicity, it’s humility, it’s faith, and it’s willingness to give oneself entirely to God and endure whatever for God’s sake and for the purposes of God. What really captures me about it is the last line, ‘for you are my Father’. This ‘abandoning oneself to God’ is based the recognition that God is our loving and good Father who we can trust.
Giving ourself entirely to God requires this knowledge, and there’s deep freedom that comes when we do it. God can use us so much when we know, really know, that he is strong and good and wise and our loving Father!