Friends, it can be really fruitful to slow down and really pay attention to what the famous prayers–those that are at least many decades old and well known–are actually praying, and pray them for ourselves. This most powerful prayer of Charles de Foucauld is but one example.
I hope you got to read and ponder my reflection last Saturday on becoming luminous. It started with another powerful prayer I pray often from St. John Henry Newman. There’s another one from him I return to often. Newman (1801-1890), a leader in the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, began as an Anglican priest at age 23 and died a Roman Catholic, being one of those rare priests who was also made a Cardinal while never being a Bishop. I want to offer you another prayer by him that, because I’m currently doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I’ve prayed each morning for a week. The problem is, it’s not actually a prayer though it is often called that. The good news is, I reworked it so that it can actually be used as a prayer! You’ll find that at the end of this reflection, and I invite you to pray it with me.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”John Henry Newman
I appreciate several deep truths here.
God’s got something for me and a purpose, and it is for me, and not for any other person. And I might not know what that purpose is until after I die. In other words, mine is to be faithful to God regardless of whether I know why or what God’s greater purpose is, or whether my attempts at obedience are ever known or the fruit is ever seen in my lifetime. Because of this, if I do what God has for me to do, I’ll be an agent of both truth and peace, to be used according to God’s good and wise will, even though I may not know it.
I can trust God, regardless of my circumstances, even when I don’t like my circumstances or wouldn’t choose them. Still I can trust God in them, and trust that even my circumstances are serving God’s greater purpose in my life and through my life, even if I might not know what those purposes are on this side. There’s a tremendous amount of humility offered here. “Lord, I don’t know and I don’t have to know, because I trust YOU, and you are good, you are wise, and you love me.”
And then there’s the beautiful refrain of chosen faith, an assertion of the will in the face of those harder situations that we all face: “God knows what He is about…[regardless of what’s going on in or around me], Still, God knows what He is about. [I can trust God.]”. These words are written by one who has seen God and come to know God’s presence, power, love, and wisdom, and trusts it.
So, this is a great prayer except, in it’s original form, it’s hard to pray. To make it easier to actually pray, I made one simple change (replacing “God,” “He’s,” or “His” with “You”), in order to actually pray it. (Please feel free to print out this prayer and hang it somewhere to pray often).
Friends, I look forward to being with you on the other side, when we’ll know the Why of all the things we didn’t understand on this side, and see how God was in them, and using them for our good and the good of others. Til then, I’m going to just keep on trying to follow Jesus as best I know how, trusting him for the outcomes, hoping that somehow he’ll use my attempts to be an agent of shalom and a bearer of his light and love.
On the journey,