Thursday, April 17, 2014

Against a Closed Sky

Part of teaching at a Christian university means starting class with a prayer or devotional thought. I decided early on that I would not be busting out with an extemporaneous personal reflection each class session, so I began looking for something I could read to my class. A friend suggested using prayers from the book, Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth by Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann. Beyond helping me start class, the book has been a bright spot for my own spiritual walk this year.

These prayers/poems are cut from the same cloth as the Psalms. Like the Psalms, they are the expression of a man who is not at peace with the world, yet looking to God for its redemption. They reflect trust - that easily known but hardly experienced heart of the Christian journey.

Below is one example, very much appropriate for lent or Holy Week, those days in which the tomb is still full.

Against a closed sky
by Walter Brueggemann
God of all our times:
 We have known since the day of our birth
 that our primal task is to grow to basic trust in you,
 to rely on you in every circumstance,
 to know that you would return when you are away,
 to trust that in your absence you will soon be present,
 to be assured that your silence bespeaks attentiveness
      and not neglect,
 to know that in your abiding faithfulness,
    “all will be well and all will be well.”

We do trust in you:
                We are named by your name,
                And bonded in your service.
                We are among those who sing your praise
                and who know your deep faithfulness.

You, you, however, are not easy to trust:
 We pray against a closed sky;
our hopes reduced to auto-suggestion;
our petitions are more habit than hope;
our intercessions are kindly gestures of well-being.

Sometimes more, many times not,
                Because your silence and absence,
                Your indifference and tardiness are glaring among us.

We are drawn to find lesser gods,
easier loyalties,
many forms of self-trust …
that do not even fool us.

On this Friday of remembered pain and
 echoing deathliness,
We pray for new measures of passion,
for fresh waves of resolve,
for courage, energy, and freedom, to be our true selves …
waiting in confidence,
and while waiting, acting our life toward you
in your ways of forgiving generosity.

We pray in the name of Jesus who trusted fully, and
                                who is himself fully worthy of our trust. Amen.


Glenn Strycker said...

That is a really nice prayer, Brian. Thanks for recommending Walter Brueggemann, I hadn't heard of him before.

Brian Stipp said...

Yeah, man. You've gotta check this guy out. I know he wrote one of the Old Testament textbooks I had to read as an undergraduate. All I remember from that book is Brueggemann's name. (That may be because I was 19, and wouldn't have known literary beauty or spiritual depth if I saw it). This Awed to Heaven book is rich.

Abbye West Pates said...

Hi, Brian - I don't know how I randomly found you/your blog, but alas, I did... and happened to read this post! I have this book of prayers, and it has been so meaningful. I'm a worship leader, and I find it difficult to find thoughtful, honest songs to lead others in singing. Likewise, we often miss offering thoughtful, honest prayer, too -- this book does NOT miss it.

Good stuff.