Prayer for Lovingkindness

Clasping hands 2God of steadfast love and mercy, whose lovingkindness gives us life and fills the world with beauty and goodness: From the fountain of  your steadfast love flows forgiveness, patience, and forbearance toward us. We have drifted far from the boundless mercy and kindness which spring forth from the depths of your very being. Cruelty and crudeness, disrespectful and demeaning rhetoric dominate our public discourse; and we disregard the humanity of those with whom we disagree. Tame our vile tongues, soften our calloused hearts, open our closed minds, humble our arrogant spirits, and fill our whole lives with your lovingkindness. Create in us the mind and spirit that were in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen

Prayer for God’s Dream

Prayer ImageRighteous and compassionate God, whose goodness and truth are unwavering and whose compassion remains steadfast: We cringe today before private and public corruption and blantant cruelty that threaten our nation and world. Dishonesty, greed, and hate are applauded while personal integrity, generosity, and compassion are viewed as weakness. Disturb our consciences, purge our greediness, and melt the hardness of our hearts. Grant us a renewed vision of your dream for the world:

• Where all people are treated with inherent worth and dignity as your beloved children
• Where all barriers among us are removed and the human family is one
• Where integrity and honesty prevail in private and public life
• Where creation is healed and enabled to flourish as you intend
• Where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a cascading stream and all are welcomed at your table of abundance
• Where your kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven!

Through your grace, O God, empower us to live now in the light of your dream brought near in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen

Prayer for Humility

humble_prayer

Wondrous God, who brings this ever-expanding universe into existence and imbues it with unfathomable mystery and boundless goodness: We stand in awe that you have created us from the dust of the earth, stamped your image upon us, and breathed into us your spirit. We marvel that you number the hairs of our head and mark a sparrow’s fall. “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” May the vision of your glory and majesty dissolve our pride and arrogance. Free us from a closed mind and a grudging spirit which blind us to mystery and poison our spirits. Grant us the humility to acknowledge that our perceptions fall short of the fullness of your truth and goodness. Give us openness of mind and generosity of spirit, so  we can see you more clearly, love you more fully, and serve you more faithfully.  Through your Holy Spirit, create in us the mind and magnanimity that were in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen

Early Morning Prayer

Sovereign and ever-present God, whose love is steadfast, whose truth is inexhaustible, whose beauty is boundless, and whose goodness is without blemish: You have called us into a new day filled with occasions to share love, to explore truth, to delight in beauty, and to embody goodness. Open us to your redeeming presence so that your love, truth, beauty, and goodness will flow freely and untarnished through us. May we not restrict the flow of your love with hate and malice. May our narrowness of mind not confine your infinite truth to our limited intellectual grasp. May our busyness and self-preoccupation not blind us to the inestimable beauty that surrounds us. And, may our sin and brokenness not distort the purity of your goodness. Through your grace enable us to be beacons of love, truth, beauty, and goodness in a world filled with hatred, deceitfulness, ugliness, and evil. We offer our prayer in the name of the One who is the incarnation of boundless love, infinite truth, limitless beauty, and perfect goodness–Jesus the Christ. Amen

A Prayer That Changed My Life

It was the weekend of July 5-7, 2002. Six weeks earlier I had cardiac by-pass surgery and had gone to our home at Lake Junaluska for an expected routine recuperation. On July 5th crushing chest pains developed. Linda rushed me to the nearby Haywood County Hospital. I was then transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville.

All attempts to open the blocked Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery failed. Doctors had warned that the surgery was necessary since the LAD was “the widow maker.” Now, it was totally blocked. Finally, the cardiologist was able to stent a small vein at the bottom of my heart and the pain ceased.

The weekend was spent in ICU with constant monitoring and tests. The future was uncertain. Would I survive? How much has the heart muscle been damaged? Will I be able to continue as an active bishop? More definitive prognosis had to wait.

With family and some friends keeping vigil, I spent the weekend contemplating an uncertain future, even the prospect of another attack and death. Unexpectedly, all assumptions and plans were called into question. Life hit a brick wall!

Sunday morning I was surrounded by family. We were mostly silent. No words seemed appropriate. Sadness prevailed. The grief of a lost preferred future had already set in. The gravity of the situation weighed heavily.

Suddenly, a knock came to the door. In walked my friend, David Lowes Watson! He was carrying a loaf of bread and a chalice! He had made his way from Nashville and through the corridors of Mission Hospital bearing Communion. What a welcomed sight!

With our permission, he proceeded with the familiar liturgy and the serving of the bread and juice. Then, this Wesley scholar and valued friend and colleague caught me surprise. He invited us to pray. And, in his distinctive British accent he prayed from memory the Wesley Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or trodden under foot for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

I began to feel very uncomfortable and almost wanted to ask David to stop. I wanted only half of the prayer answered:

“Put me to doing,” YES! “put me to suffering!” NO!
“Let me be employed for thee!” YES! “laid aside for thee!” NO!
“Exalted for thee!” YES! “trampled underfoot for thee.” NO!
“Let me be full!” YES!   “let me be empty.” NO!
“Let me have all things” at least life! YES!   “let me have nothing!” NO!

My discomfort exposed the limitations of my own commitment. I wanted a covenant on my terms. I wasn’t ready to pray:

“I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.”

But I wanted to be able to do so! With David’s encouragement, I decided to make the prayer part of my daily devotions. Maybe I would come to embrace the whole prayer.

The news came Monday that there had been significant damage to the heart muscle. I would need longer recuperation and rehab. So, I was granted six months of medical leave from my episcopal duties.

Every day began with the Covenant Prayer, along with reading Psalms, primarily the laments. Ever so gradually, my discomfort was replaced with acceptance.

Uncertainty continued about the future.  It became evident that the pace and stress of the active episcopacy was too much for my weakened heart. Being laid aside from that position was necessary.

But new doors opened. I joined the faculty at Duke Divinity School and was “ranked” with a marvelous community of students and scholars. For seven years, I relished my new vocation!

Then we hit another brick wall. Linda was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, a progressively debilitating disease.The Covenant Prayer again came to the forefront of my daily prayers. This petition was repeated several times daily:

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.”

Being laid aside from the full time faculty position followed. A move to South Carolina “ranked” us with family and subsequently with some of society’s most vulnerable citizens, those with dementia diseases.

Wesley’s Covenant Prayer continues to challenge and enrich my life. The future remains uncertain. Amid the uncertainty is the confidence that whatever circumstances emerge, I will be able to more faithfully affirm

“I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.”