Wednesday 13 April: Lent 2011

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You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the good of God and of neighbour be in these feet’

Matthew 7:7-14

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Jesus Christ described his teaching as the ‘narrow way’. It is often the harder path because it calls us to live in a way that looks beyond ourselves. The Gospel stretches us beyond a life wrapped up in self; beyond what is familiar, easy and comfortable.

When the Holy Spirit nudges us onto new and unfamiliar territory our life of prayer becomes more urgent because of it. The surest way to lose any sense of urgency in prayer is simply to have no needs. It is when we are out of our depth and beyond our own resources that we tend to turn to God with the fervent prayer of total dependency.

Fursa, who wrote our prayer, left a busy and settled ministry in Ireland to come to East Anglia, to learn a different language and customs, and form a Christian community under the suspicious eye of his strange new neighbours.  This was Britain not unlike today.  A Britain empty of civilizing Roman influence, and now reverting to its pagan roots. It was a part of Britain renowned for its immersion in the darkness of the old ways, which had held all in their sway before the first Christian missionaries had arrived.

What if I, too, allow my decisions to be guided less by comfort and convenience, and more by what is needed by others, elsewhere? Then I will soon find myself scrutinised and suspected and operating at the very edge of my abilities. In such moments my prayer will become most urgent. For the words ‘to pray’, whether spoken in Greek or Hebrew, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, or English means ‘to beg’.

Today I am asking for discomfort, unease and utter dependence on the goodness of God to equip me as I ask that ‘the good of God and of neighbour be in my feet’!