It’s Christmas Eve, and here’s a prayer I’m saying, writing and thinking…. I love the thought of being with others as we all pray, reaching out to God in unison, from different lives and cultures, so will you join with me in this prayer?
If you can forgive any clumsiness, or thoughts that don’t quite chime with yours, then do please join me, thinking about God, and offering our love to Him:
Lord, I’m full of wonder today, one more amazing day in the miracle of our existence. Forgive me when I don’t see the extraordinary, focussed only on the ordinary, forgive me when I forget that every breath is a miracle of your creation, and that my life is your gift, forgive me when I am all about me.
Today a small chevron of Canada Geese, late flyers, rose from the estuary, and as they banked and dipped to come swooping across the beach, calling to each other, I stood, entranced, listening to their wings whump-whumping the still air. You were there. And I thought of the very first day, when the first birds flew in the new miracle of the sky… and I was filled with an awareness of you. Of your great kindness. Thank you for that.
And then, all around me, rising from the dunes, there was a flutter of birds, small darting, diving birds, just dazzling to watch. And I remembered that you care even about every sparrow, and without knowing it, my prayers took on a life of their own, away from my thoughts, nothing to do with me, they just happened. Thank you for that.
Everywhere I looked, I saw you, my God. It felt like this was the beginning of the world and I was there – right there – when you breathed everything into existence. As if I was in page one of Genesis, when there was nothing but nothing, not even darkness, and then there was darkness… and then there was the earth, and then light and then the sky and then land…. stars spun across the universe, and on earth the seas rose, mountains shook the earth and pushed up through the rock…. rivers appeared and above us the sun blazed for the very first time. Amazing. And I was there.
On the little scrubby beach here in West Wales, I was there, in Genesis. I turned to the land, and saw the white cottages and farms dotted in the fields, and all around them, sheep. I heard, silently spoken into my soul, these lovely words The Lord is my Shepherd.
You are my Shepherd, Lord. Thank you for your care and guidance, for your constant presence, so real and undeniable that I can say with peace and confidence, “My God never slumbers, and he watches over me for ever.”
That’s amazing, Lord. That you watch over me now and for ever. You have always watched over me, in all my mess and sin and stubbornness, you have been there, my Shepherd. Wow, I look back in a sort of bewilderment. You were there, way back when, there in Lancashire, there in the horrible times, there in the worst of times, and you were always Love. Jesus , Love personified. I wish I had known. I wish I could have told the lost and broken people all around me, in my family, in that place. Whatever was happening to me, you were always in my life. When I was blind to you, you were there. When I felt alone, you were there. You are unchanging. Blows my mind.
Just as you watch over me, so you watch over every life. Yes? Yes! That’s a thought to make me take a deep breath and concentrate… do I get that? Not quite. It’s a fabulous truth, Lord, but it’s also kind of unthinkable, millions and millions of lives….. you know I can’t grasp that, but I know it’s true. The love you have just makes me want to crow, you bring tears to my eyes… I think of all the people I love and I know that you love them even more, deeper, wiser than I can ever imagine. And you’ve given them to me. Oh, how can I ever thank you for these people? I can’t. I stutter and stumble but I can’t put into words my heartfelt gratitude, for this great great gift. I’m amazed by it.
So now I’m bringing them to you, my little army of loved ones…. family and friends, the people I know and love and care about. Sweet Jesus, you know who I have in my mind, so all I’m doing in this strange written prayer is bringing them to mind, entrusting them to you, knowing that you know my heart and the cares I have, the concerns and the hopes for each one of them. Won’t you please draw them close? Please take every one of them, as I lift them up before you, and fill them with your Holy Spirit, with the knowledge of you, with a raging desire to draw closer (ever closer), to become more Christ-like, to revel in obedience, to rejoice in wonder.
Ah, Lord, I’m old now and maybe because I haven’t many years left down here, you fill me with this need to pray, a raging need, like a great big roaring waterfall and I stand there, in it, deafened, paralysed, exhilarated by your power, dumb (do you smile at that? Do you, my Lord, say ‘If only’?) . You’ve brought the discovery of prayer to me so late in my rackety life, but I’m sort of glad because it’s urgent, undiluted, too shocking and exciting for words. Strong enough to knock me off my feet. I don’t have the years left to mete it out, to measure my prayers, I just have to jump in, reckless.
I love that word. Reckless. Not counting the cost. I have done with counting the cost of following you, Jesus. What a futile thing, to count the cost of receiving the greatest gift life can offer.
And urgent. Won’t you please help me to pray with urgency?
So anyway, sorry, here I am, Lord, jumping in. Sinking into prayer, drowning in your love and guidance, a bit bonkers in this moment, weeping with the sadness of your life and death, and yet weeping with joy at the gift of your life and your terrible death. Strange emotions. And it’s fabulous. You crowd in, Lord, filling my mind and senses with the truth of your saving grace. I need to calm, to empty , to listen.
And so, to calm. To listen. To be still and know that you are God. A moment. A quiet moment.
Tomorrow we remember that God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Sweet Lord, help us to remember and to pray for, those in need. Help us to serve their needs. The sick and the frightened, the lonely and the dying, the bereaved and the lost. I bring them all before you, and I’m so glad that you honour my intention and disregard my weakness. I find it hard to care about people I don’t know, but you know I want to. It’s scary to realise that even as I write those words, you know how shallow my desire is. Hmmm. Bother. Please help me to care, really care. Please help me to pray, really pray. I know that you’ll work in our hearts so that we begin to understand the love you felt when you wept over Jerusalem. Help us to care that truly, madly, deeply for those we don’t know.
Oh, and now Lord, that’s sent me down another path completely – into the New Year. Will you truly please make 2020, the year of the Lord? I’m seriously praying, seriously asking, stepping into this desire with intention and commitment, that this coming year will see your kingdom come, in my life, in the life of your church, on the streets of my town, in every village and hamlet and crowded city in this world.
Overcome us, Lord. Overwhelm us with your truth. Fire us with your passion for the lost. Just rip into us. Go on, Lord. Please. Please? Give me the pressing need to share the Gospel. Please?
Bring the birth of Jesus to complete fulfilment, Lord. Your reign is supreme and established, your victory is complete in eternity. Help us Lord to play our part in this tiny world, in this tiny year, in our tiny lives.
Now I have to fall silent. Silent and worshipping. Thanking you for Emmanuel, for the Cross, for the Resurrection, for Glory.
Thank you for Christ’s Mass.