An Advent Prayer

An Advent Prayer by Dr. Richard White

From Sunday, Dec. 9th, 2018

One songwriter has written,

Lord, You seem so far away

A million miles or more, it feels today

And though I haven't lost my faith

I must confess right now

That it's hard for me to pray (Richard Mullins)

Father, this morning this is my song, I am empty – and don’t know how to pray. I am so weary of the violence, the poverty, the degradation of the environment, the physical, emotional, and spiritual attacks. We all are. 

The Psalmist wrote:

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;

In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness

My soul refused to be comforted

When I remember God then I am disturbed

When I sigh then my spirit grows faint

You have held my eyelids open;

I am so troubled I cannot speak. (Psalm 77:2-4)

We are seeking you, but are so troubled with cannot sleep, we cannot speak. So, we turn to the Bible, the songwriters and the prophets searching not only for answers, but searching for those whose prayers are we can make our prayers, whose words we can use to push back the thick darkness of the soul.

Father, the events of this week alone – in our fair city, in our nation, across the globe leave our spirits groaning. We haven’t the strength, the knowledge, the skill, to change the world in which we live. You have made us salt and light to preserve and save from destruction, but the corruption is so deep and darkness is so thick and we feel so helpless to effect meaningful change.

We are dismayed and incensed that our political leaders continue to squander precious opportunities to speak peace into chaos, choosing instead to vilify others, to misuse their power, degrade their office, to sow seeds of violence whose produce is visited on those who are innocent. And who then congratulate themselves believing they are righteous in their own eyes. 

Eliphaz the Temanite was correct when counseled Job, saying “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it” (Job 4:8)

But, like Adam’s sin, the consequences of the sins of national and world leaders, or corporations and industries, frequently fall on those who are innocent, the powerless, the children, those with diminished capacity, the sick, the poor, the minorities, and the sojourners among us.

We struggle with our own responsibility – shall we take the unhoused into our own homes? Shall we stand as shields at the doors of the synagogues and black churches? Shall we sell all our possessions and give to the poor? Divest in our insurance policies and retirement funds that are underwritten by amoral, immoral, and frequently unethical industry and commerce? How radical shall we be?

We ask, and ask, and plead with you for an answer knowing that we want you to go easy, we want you to say, “its alright, your doing fine.” We don’t want you to challenge us to radical Christian life. We don’t want you to say “take up your cross and follow me.” We don’t want to divest ourselves of ourselves. So we struggle on days like this and we don’t know how to pray.

In the words of one gospel song, “We are standing at the crossroads of confusion, deciding which way to travel.”

Again we turn to the Psalmist who wrote,

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress

My God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

We are deciding to trust you even when the way forward is not clear. And we are not only concerned with large national and global issues of violence and destruction. We are also concerned with the small things of daily life: 

  • How shall we raise our children so they will love and trust you for a lifetime, in good days and bad, in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness?

  • How shall we talk to our neighbors about their spiritual lives? How shall we help them take one step closer to you?

  • How shall we pay bills this month?

  • My health is failing, what must I do, how will I make it through?

  • How will I get through this day, this hour, this moment without out falling apart?

Again, the songwriter echoing Psalm 77 has written:

I don't know what to say

And I don't know where to start

But as You give the grace

With all that's in my heart I will sing…I will praise

Strengthen our resolve to, sing your praises in the face of all that is going wrong, in the face of our daily worries, in the face of our uncertain future. 

Give us the resolve of the prophet Habbakuk, who saw the coming destruction of the nation of Israel, who said, “I heard and my inward parts trembled” and “decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble because I must wait quietly for the day of distress” But who also said,

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation

The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet

And makes me walk on my high places  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

And Habbakuk’s prayer will be our prayer…still we will praise you,

In the name of our Hope, Jesus Christ,