Light Will Dawn in the Land of Darkness: A Call to Pray for Syria


Violence against Christians has grown increasingly fierce in Syria as reports about priests and pastors being kidnapped or killed by extremists and stories of churches, monasteries, and health clinics being ransacked or bombed abound.  Some instances of considerable note include the kidnap (and presumed murder) of two archbishops, the recent murder of a Franciscan friar, and the detonation of a bomb outside of a Greek Orthodox cathedral.  Reports of violence against Christians continue to pour in on a daily basis.

In view of this, I implore you to join me for the next three days (7/01/13-7/3/13) in a time of prayer and fasting.  We shall be praying for the following things:

  1. For the protection and safety of Christian leaders and their families (who have been especially targeted by the attackers) and lay people who continue to live and work in Syria.
  2. For an end to all violence in the region and for justice and peace to prevail.
  3. For the Lord to turn the hearts of the jihadists away from violence and to have mercy upon them.   

I’d like to draw special attention on the third item of prayer.  Many people will think I’ve lost my mind for adding this.  Why on earth should we pray for the evil men perpetrating these heinous crimes against humanity?  Shouldn’t we hope for their destruction?  Why would we care what happens to them?  . . . Because they are made in the image of God and it is God’s desire for them to repent from their evil deeds and to embrace the Way of peace and love.  Only the power of the gospel – the message of God’s love and sacrifice on behalf of His creation – can conquer the darkness which is sweeping over Syria.  Peace and life will be restored when the jihadists are transformed from messengers of hate and death into emissaries of God’s peace and love.  It’s only through our love as Christians, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that the light of Christ will outshine the blackness of mans hatred.

Our Lord set the perfect example for us – both in His teaching and in one of His last recorded acts on the cross.  In His famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the unthinkable, He taught us to love even those who hate us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.‘  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”  (Matt. 5:43-45).  

He exemplified this teaching as he hung, suffering an excruciating death on the cross, praying for the very people who were murdering Him:  “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).  

May we long for peace and justice but let our hearts not become hardened and filled with the same hate fueling the jihadists.  Let us join hands with the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives out of love and pray for salvation and life to flow into Syria.  Let the prophecy of Isaiah be fulfilled once again, as it was when Jesus first came, through the blood of the martyrs and the prayers of the saints:

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and the shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).  

A Prayer on Why Christ Came Into the World (with apologies to St. Augustine)


nativity iconO Father, forgive me, a sinner, for the words I am about to speak to you. For I am a fallen and finite creature, who am I to address the Holy and Infinite one? I am ashamed that the impure should address He who alone is pure. Please forgive me for the inadequacy of my words, the limitedness of what I have to say, and for my ignorance.

I confess that you alone are love, O Lord.[1] There are those who say that you created primarily or solely for your glory, but I know that you created out of love. For what can you do that does not display your glory or love? You had no need of creation, no need of us as humans. Your glory was eternally recognized by yourself; you did not need creatures to recognize your glory for you. You, being the only perfect being that is without limit and lacks in nothing, but is infinite, had no need to gain glory for you are glory. You had no need of us for fellowship, for you have eternally existed as one God in three Persons. Love has existed within yourself for all eternity, for you are love and this love has been displayed in your Triune nature.

Oh what beautiful sacrifice to create us! For you had no need and thus the mere act of creation was an act of sacrifice. Who can add to you, O God? Is there anything you can create that can make reality better? No, because you are Reality. Thus, you plus nothing is ultimate reality, absolute perfection, but in creation something lesser than you has been added, something to which you must divert your attention. Were you to turn your attention away from any aspect of creation, were you to forget about this tree, or that planet, or that galaxy, or the electron in an atom, then it would cease to exist. It is through your attention that creation continues on, for all things have their beginning and sustainment in you.[2] As your Word stated, you are concerned over even the birds and do not turn your attention away from them.[3] You even know the hairs on our heads.[4] You have counted and named all the stars.[5] All of this is done and known through your love.

You created man in your image and likeness[6], calling him to be holy as you are holy.[7] To man alone you bestowed your reason and love, both of which we were to use to glorify you and unite with you. We were created to enjoy your love and grow in you. You, God, are our purpose for living, you are the reason we exist, you are our goal, our happiness, our everything. Continue reading

A Prayer for the Broken Heart of Connecticut (12/14/2012)


IMG_0261Lord, please have mercy

Our world is so dissonant

What do we make of atrocity

The insane claims the life of the innocent

 

Into Your hands we commit their tiny souls

As we are left and our tears swell

And their lives we extol

Accept them Father for they have endured Hell

 

For those left behind we give to Thee

Show grace to those with empty rooms

They face unopened presents under a cold tree

Let their pain be what You assume

 

Lives snuffed out at a madman’s whim

A debate over the gun will tear us apart

We can pass laws against a weapon so grim

But can we interdict the hate of our heart

 

A mother and father cry over their loss

We can only wonder if Thou cares

Yet, for a promise made on a cross

We await our swords to be ploughshares

 

A last plea bring them to Your embrace

Let them run in the fields of love

Allow us not to fight but live in grace

And give us peace from above

 

Lives cut so short on this December day

Futures removed from mankind’s fraternity

But in hope we can always pray

That they remain in your memory for eternity

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A Confessional Prayer


This was previously posted in 2010, but it feels appropriate to post it again:

What among your creation is like you, O God? What in your creation can be compared to you? Shall we point to the tallest peaks in order to match your majesty? Yet your majesty towers over them. Shall we look to the furthest galaxies and the vast expanse of space to find something as big as you? Yet you contain it all within your hands.

All is contingent upon you, O God. A dove does not fly, a drop of rain does not fall, a wave does not churn, an atom does not move without your constant reflection upon their being. Were you to ever turn your gaze from your creation it would disappear. Nothing in your creation can ever compare to you for you are infinitely above it.

I confess that you are not weak. Your piercing gaze tames the untamable lion. When the storm rages and the seas refuse to cease and yield their might to no one, they are calmed by your whisper. What man can bring down the planets or the various galaxies? What man can ever hope to travel light years, to traverse billions of miles within a human lifetime, to visit these distance lands? And yet with your mere word they came into existence. You are above your creation and control your creation.

You are not limited to any space. We do not need to climb a mountain to find you or travel to a distant land to seek your wisdom. You are eternally present in all your creation, though your creation remains distinct from you and is not in you. For as the Psalmist says, if I should make my bed in the deepest valley, you shall be there. I cannot escape the presence of my God for my God is beyond all of creation.

You are ignorant of nothing O Lord! Nothing escapes your knowledge; you are infinitely wise, so much so that you know what could have happened even if it has not happened. What is man’s knowledge compared to you, O God? We are but foolish children in your presence, but this still does not display our knowledge to yours. We are ants to you, but an ant’s knowledge is closer to a man’s knowledge than a man’s knowledge is to you. You are far above us, O God. You know the placement of every electron in the universe and you know where they will be located tomorrow, the next day, or the day after. Nothing escapes your knowledge or foreknowledge.

I know that you are not evil and are held to no standard but your own. In all that you do, O Lord, you are good. It is in your goodness that you chose to create and it is your goodness that prevented you from eradicating your creation when we turned against you. No evil is to be found in you and no judge can condemn you, for you are the standard of good. We know what is good because you are good.

In all, you are love, but a love that we humans cannot fathom. Who would dare to put your love into words? This is why you did not sent a poet to sing of your love, a philosopher to explain in intricate detail how you love us, or a skilled rhetorician to sooth us with the knowledge of your love. Instead, you sent your Son to die on our behalf so that you might display your love, but even so we shall never comprehend your love.

Who are we to you O God? We are but infinitely small and insignificant rats who rebel against your glory!  Have mercy upon us, O Lord! But in your love for us, you have stayed your perfect judgment – for no judge is as just as you, you give to all what they deserve and require due penance from those who should pay – in your love you created us.

What is greater than you, O God? There is nothing greater than you. When you created, something other than you existed and imperfection existed. Only you are truly perfect; we met your standard of goodness, for we were as perfect as a created being can be. The creation of us was a sacrifice, to have to deal with that which is lesser than yourself, but you chose to do it anyway! When men see the darkness of this life they curse you for the gift you have given them! Job cursed the day he was born, but did not take into consideration that his mere existence was an act of love on your behalf. O Holy God, have mercy upon us sinners!

What was before us? What was before you spoke into the black void of nothingness? You existed in perfect harmony with yourself, in three persons sharing in one essence. Father, Son, and Spirit existing in perfect harmony and love.

I know that you are Trinity, O God, for how could you love if you were anything else? If you were one person, how could you love when no one else existed? I confess through your example and through your words that the greatest love is sacrificial, for only one who loves would lay down his life for his friends. But if you were one person then to whom did you sacrifice? To whom did you give your love?

In this we know that there were three; the Father loved the Son and both loved the Spirit. For you are perfect in your love and perfect love shares. The love between Father and Son would have been selfish and so, in your nature, you loved the Spirit as well. O Holy Trinity, forgive me for being so inadequate in my language about you. Please have mercy upon me on the Day of Judgment if I have offended you with my simple words!

You have revealed to us that the Father has eternally begotten the Son, not in the carnal begetting that we experience, but in a begetting we cannot understand. But I confess that you did this without changing and that the Word had no beginning. Lord, you are begotten, but not created. Just as the rays of the sun are begotten from the sun, but co-exist with the age of the sun so too is the Word to the Father, begotten by the Father, but co-eternal with Him.

And what of your most Holy Spirit? We praise you Spirit, for you are God and proceed from the Father. You have revealed that your procession did not begin within time, but that you are co-equal with the Father. Just as the heat from the sun’s rays proceed from the sun, but co-exist with the age of the sun, so too do you proceed from the Father, but co-exist with him.

Who am I to even understand this much about you, O Lord? How have I, a sinful man, been found worthy of your grace for you to allow me to understand this portion about you? May my mind never seek to go beyond what you have revealed. Who am I to understand the mysteries of you, O God? Should I ever attempt to understand you who are unbegotten and begotten, who proceeds and causes the procession? Shall I ever attempt to define you, you who escape all definition? May it never be Lord! May you strip me of my rationality should I ever say that I comprehend you! May you block my path and eradicate me from all existence should I ever attempt to go beyond what you have revealed!

Who is man that he might elevate himself over you? Who am I that I might take pride in my knowledge when you are the giver of that knowledge? What can I claim on my own behalf? That I can turn a page and read the words on it? You can move a mountain with no effort. Nothing is hidden from you and you know all things; I confess that I know nothing unless revealed to me, so what pride am I to take in that?

May I ever take refuge in you O Lord. May I have an eternal vigil in your presence. I am not worthy to know who you are, but you have allowed me to know. O glorious God, I worship you and thank you for who you are. Have mercy upon me, a sinner.

Reflections on the Trinity – The Spirit


Who am I to be so bold as to declare to you who you are? I offer this prayer up humbly to you my Lord, knowing that you are the Alpha and Omega. You are beyond me. It is in your mystery that I find clarity. It is in your hidden nature that I find you. I take sweet rest in your grace. I am weary O Spirit, but my rest is in you.

Eternally proceeding from the Father, but uncreated, you comfort us my God. You proceed as the heat proceeds from the sun, though distinct you are unified to the Father, though uncreated you find your existence in him. Such a mystery I shall never comprehend or understand, but in my finite nature I worship you.

Never let me blaspheme you, O Spirit. Should I ever blaspheme you, may you make my thoughts and actions cease! May you restrict me like an unruly child. Should I ignore your discipline, which is your love, then may you cast me into oblivion. May I never experience your presence or find comfort in you should I rebel against you!

But in all, please show patience with me Lord. I am a sinner, lowly in heart and low in mind. I need you to guide my path and to give me the strength to follow your path. It is through you, O Spirit, that I am defied, not in my identity and being, but in all other things I become like you. What a humbling thought that you would step down from heaven to dwell with me so that I might become like you. I do not deserve this for I have soiled your name. I have cursed you in word and deed. I have been your enemy. Yet you live within me and guide me to what you desire; your love I shall never comprehend.

You are the gift given by the Word to us mere mortals. You are the strength behind the martyrs. You are the power that raised Christ from the dead. You are the one that resides within those who follow and proclaim Jesus as the Christ. It is only through you that we know anything. But you are not a force, an inanimate object that permeates all of creation. You are a person unified with the Father and Son in identity and being, a living person who thinks and feels and I worship you.

How amazing it is that I could not worship were it not for you. It is only through you that I can worship you. I am so finite and so sinful that I am not even capable of uttering your name in a worthy fashion without your power. But you do not withhold this joy from me. You do not abandon me to live a life absent of worshiping you, which is Hell. Instead, you indwell me and open my mind. You enlighten me in every aspect of my being to prepare me to worship you and to wholly worship you. Such a beautiful mystery.

Christ called you the Comforter, the one who would walk with us and dwell within us in our darkest moments. What glory there is in such a thought! To know that there is no pain too great that you cannot overcome it, for what is our temporary pain in comparison to the infinite God of the universe? There is no sadness that can quench the joy you instill in us. There is no harm that can capture the soul that belongs to you.

You have been breathed into man twice, at our creation and at our re-creation. When created you are the one who crafted us into the image of God. When we are redeemed by the Word you are the one who is breathed into us again to craft us into the image of Christ, to make us holy, to make us more than we ought to be.

O Spirit, I pray that you sustain me tonight and for all the days of my life and once you have called for my mortal life to end that you will embrace my soul and bring me to your bosom. I pray that you will welcome me as a faithful servant and not a rebellious child. Continue to live within my life so that I may disappear and you may appear. Have mercy upon me O Spirit, a sinner.

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This was a scheduled post. I am currently out of town and subsequently have turned comments off since I cannot moderate or interact with commenters. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this post, please feel free to contact me.