Friday, January 1, 2010

a prayer of joy for 2010

In September, I began tweeting daily prayers as a way of focusing my mind and heart each day on a simple thought I could bring to God throughout the day. Change is always on the horizon, so I decided that, among the change, I would choose to fix my mind and heart on something that I knew could be unchanging: prayer. Of course, God could also be regarded as the “unchanging” one, but I do not presume to include him as unchanging because, though objectively he is always the same--faithful and true--subjectively my experience of God is always changing (hopefully “ever-growing”). So, I experience God personally in new and different ways all the time (that is, he appears to me as ever-changing, ever-moving--and, quite honestly, that’s as it should be, since only a moving God can truly be “followed”). This is why it is so important that the practice of simple prayer permeate the hours of my days and the days of my weeks, because it is only through prayer in its many forms that I consciously encounter the moving God. And, as I persevere in prayer, my understanding of the God who is the Source-of-all-life changes. This adventure, this “following” of a moving God, this growth in understanding that God is forever-mysterious, creates joy. It is what makes life worth living, knowing there is always something more to be discovered on the horizon, that we are “not there” yet.

Whenever we leap out of ourselves into another, we experience ecstasy (that’s what the word “ecstasy” literally means—ek + stasis = “out of oneself”). Biblically speaking, to leap out of oneself into God is joy. In terms of my relationship with God, what this means is that I cannot experience true joy without true prayer, for prayer is the way in which I leap out of myself into God. (Maybe this year, you could join me in practicing prayer as “leaping into God”???)

Because of this, I decided that this year would be dubbed “the year of joy” for me. In the past, Heather and I have given different titles to our respective years. We’ve had “the year of freedom” and “the year of grace” and, most recently, “the year of hope”. These were years in which we felt particularly drawn time and time again to those kinds of themes, times when we would reflect more deeply on those themes and be more conscious of the practice of those themes. Well, this year is “the year of joy.”

Yesterday, I ran across a prayer that is about 900 years old. It was written by St. Anselm and it speaks to this theme of joy. I like this prayer because…

1. …it asks for joy to be granted in this life while also realizing that fullness of joy can only be encountered in the next life.

2. …it asks that the experience of knowing God, loving God and finding joy in God grow steadily with each passing year until we see him face to face in the next life.

3. …it reminds me that God desires joy for me, that God is for me, not against me. It reminds me that we worship a God of desire, a God that wishes to fulfill our true God-given desires, not to extinguish them.

4. …it reminds me that it is okay to ask God to grant me greater joy, the fulfillment of desire, that I need not approach his throne of grace timidly, but that I can ask great things from God with boldness and freedom because of his grace.

5. …it reminds me that there will come a day when I will truly “enter into” the joy of my Lord. God’s joy is my hope, it keeps me going.

6. …it reminds me that nothing in this world can provide joy that lasts because everything passes away. It reminds me that God himself is my joy. It reminds me that God, being triune, provides the definition of joy since the triune God is a forever “leaping” being, embodying joy itself.

7. …It reminds me not to pin my joy and hope on things that make me happy and comfortable for a time, but to depend on God and God alone as my hope and joy. It reminds me to always strive to know more and more the Giver of joy. It reminds me that finding joy in God is rooted in “knowing him and loving him.”

I hope to pray this prayer at least once a week, committing it to memory so that I can pray it over and over again this year. Come what may, this prayer shall be my tether for the coming year. Perhaps you’d like to join me. Here it is:

My God,
I pray that I may so know you and love you
that I may rejoice in you.
And if I may not do so fully in this life,
let me go steadily on
to the day when I come to that fullness.
Let the knowledge of you increase in me here,
and there let it come to its fullness.
Let your love grow in me here,
and there let it be fulfilled,
so that here my joy may be in a great hope,
and there in full reality.
Lord, you have commanded, or rather advised us,
to ask by your Son,
and you have promised that we shall receive,
‘that our joy may be full’.
That which you counsel
through our ‘wonderful counsellor’
is what I am asking for, Lord.
Let me receive
that which you promised through your truth,
‘that my joy may be full’.
God of truth,
I ask that I may receive,
so that my joy may be full.
Meanwhile, let my mind meditate on it,
let my tongue speak of it,
let my heart love it,
let my mouth preach it,
let my soul hunger for it,
my flesh thirst for it,
and my whole being desire it,
until I enter into the joy of my Lord,
who is God one and triune, blessed forever. Amen.

(Text by St. Anselm, The Proslogion, chapter 26, lines 791-825)

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