A Prayer for Every Day

This last month, while venturing hither (vacationing in the Okanagan Valley) and yon (working in Sydney, Australia), I have been paging slowly through a splendid collection of the spiritual writings of Alexander Men (1935-1990), the astonishing Russian Orthodox pastor, teacher, and martyr, translated fluently by Christa Belyaeva and edited sensitively by one of our alumnae, April French.

Here is a prayer he composed for Lent (what the Orthodox call “Great Lent”), but it’s a fine prayer for any and every day:

I believe, Lord;

Establish my faith.

I hope in you, Lord;

Strengthen my hope.

I have loved you, Lord;

Purify my love and kindle it.

I am broken, Lord;

But increase my repentance.

I honour You, Lord, my Creator;

I groan for you and call on you.

Direct me by Your wisdom;

Protect me and strengthen me.

I surrender my intentions to You, my God;

May they come from You.

May my deeds be done in your name

And my desires in your will.

Enlighten my mind, strengthen my will;

Purify my body, sanctify my soul.

May I see my transgressions,

That I may not stumble in pride;

Help me to overcome temptation.

May I glorify You

All the days of this life you have given to me.

Amen.

Well, Maybe, Sister Anne…

Concerned friends have asked me about Anne Graham Lotz’s recent call to prayer that will culminate tomorrow (July 7) in a 7-hour time of prayer and fasting. So for what it’s worth, let me register here a few questions and concerns.

There is never a bad time to call God’s people to pray. There is never a time when we do not face a “day of the LORD.” And I believe in the imminent return of Jesus, so urgency should always mark the Christian’s life. Still:

1. Is this about America, or the world? (Or are the two pretty much the same thing?!) I recognize that America has a unique role to play in current world affairs, but it doesn’t follow that America is the key to the world’s welfare. So why this confusion of categories between “the world” and “the USA”?

2. Why is God telling Ann Graham Lotz about this crucial call to prayer, but not telling anyone else in prominent spiritual authority at the same time to confirm it? Like, say, her dad, or Rick Warren, or Tim Keller…or Pope Francis, for that matter? If this is a word for a wide audience, why isn’t a wide network of spiritual leadership forming around it?

3. And then there is all this (strange) specificity that issues in, well, nothing in particular except praying…

This assignment came indirectly from a Syrian pastor through a National Day of Prayer attendee.  In obedience, I am blowing the trumpet. . . sounding the alarm. . . issuing a national prayer initiative entitled 7 7 7:  An Urgent Call to Prayer.  The call is for God’s people to pray for each of the first seven days in the seventh month—July 1-7.  Then on the 7th day, July 7, we are to pray and fast for 7 hours…
…and yet it isn’t at all clear why God needs or wants everyone to urgently pray on a particular day. Biblically or theologically, what difference does it make in God’s economy for people to pray on a specific day? And what is the great judgment about to fall on the world (or the USA, or both)? And why is it about to fall now?
And why is the proper response to this a great big group prayer? Why not, in fact, actual repentance issuing in amendment of life—such as, say, tithing in a (truly) sacrificial way; or insisting that the US Government stop doing A, B, and C and start doing D, E, and F; or inviting a homeless or lonely person into your home; or adopting one or more of the millions of needy children around the world? Why is it “just” a day of prayer?
I confess that I wonder if Sister Anne isn’t possibly so exhausted from caring for her husband and trying to maintain her busy public ministry that she may be mishearing the Spirit on this one. Has she asked trusted advisors to confirm the Spirit’s word to her? She doesn’t say, and that’s more than a little troubling—for the sake of her own integrity and reputation, as well as for the sake of whatever merit this particular call might possess. I want to say this gently, but I find this dramatic call to prayer to be a dangerous example to set for other spiritual leaders when it comes to discerning highly specific commands of God….
So of course let’s pray on July 7. And every day. But as to whether something is particularly special about 7-7-7, well, I don’t see how I could be convinced of that…yet.

 

The Giveaway’s Gone…but the Launch Looms

Thanks to the good people at Goodreads and Oxford University Press, 10 of the 450+ people who signed up for the Goodreads Giveaway of “Need to Know” will be getting a free copy mailed to them soon.

Vocation as the Heart of Christian Epistemology

 

Monday night, though, there will be copies aplenty for sale and for signing following the official launch of the book at Regent College, starting at 7:30. I’ll give a talk derived from the book, fend off a few penetrating questions from the audience, and then retire to the Bookstore to meet and greet. Please come if you can.