Tuesday, January 13, 2009

blurring sacred/secular lines - studying prayers

i have a ever-growing desire to bridge the "spiritual world," and "real world," and see jesus' presence in every area of my existence. (i put those word-categories in parenthesis because i've come to doubt their helpfulness.) i've wrestled with what this means when most of my days are about reading a multitude of books, gazing at the glowing screen and listening to many words.

if you're a student and an apprentice of jesus, you probably can relate with me.

if you're a human and trying follow jesus, you might be able to relate too....how does christian spirituality relate with our work day, raising our kids, our days off and "free" time?

as i've lived a student life in grad school, i've found two prayers from past jesus-followers that have helped blur the lines. i don't think that just praying certain words before an activity is the point. but i'm all about anything that helps me on the journey. (i'm slightly pragmatic.)

the first is from thomas aquinas...the great medieval theologian/philosopher. i relate to this guy. his peers called him a "dumb ox." (read "quiet and stubborn." :) i like to pray the themes of this prayer before a time of studying. i get chills thinking what could happen in the world if students of sociology, language, philosophy, natural sciences, psychology, theology, business, economics and political science all saw our Creator as the source of knowledge, and more importantly, wisdom.

Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, 
true source of light and fountain of wisdom! 
Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, 
dissipate the darkness which covers me, 
that of sin and of ignorance. 
Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, 
a retentive memory, 
method and ease in learning, 
the lucidity to comprehend, 
and abundant grace in expressing myself. 
Guide the beginning of my work, 
direct its progress, 
and bring it to successful completion. 
This I ask through Jesus Christ, 
true God and true man, 
living and reigning with You 
and the Father, forever and ever.


the second is from the coptic prayer book. the coptic christian community in egypt is one of the oldest christian communities in the world. i like to pray with the themes in this prayer at the end of a studying time. it helps me see my studying in a framework of relationships and action.

I thank You, Lord our God, 
that again on this occasion You have opened my eyes to the light of Your wisdom
You have gladdened my heart with the knowledge of truth. 
I entreat You, Lord, help me always to do Your will.
Bless my soul and body, my words and deeds. 
Enable me to grow in grace, virtue and good habits, 
that Your name may be glorified, 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. 


a side note- the problem with written prayers is that they become redundant and impersonal. i've found that the problem with extemporaneous prayer is that prayer becomes locked in a person's preconceived themes and the same words. a middle way might be to pray extemporaneously from written prayers and psalms. over the past five years, i've found this a very helpful practice using the psalms and have recently found the same richness and depth from written prayers.