Wednesday 20 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.

‘And let me belong entirely to God the Father’

John 4

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

   Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth

How often I have offered God little bits of myself. ‘Lord I give you my Sunday mornings, Tuesday and Friday evenings. I would really like to give you more time but, Lord, I really do need the rest of the week for going to work, quality time with my wife and family or with friends, doing the shopping, and keeping and maintaining the house. Plus I do need just a little time for sleep and rest!’

Such a prayer offers God some parcels of my time but not a whole person – not myself. I may pray with this ‘parcels’ attitude, not out of any half-heartedness towards God but out of a real misunderstanding as to what it is that God wants – as if God only values the activities my culture might label as ‘spiritual’. Do I really believe that the only me that God is interested in is ‘me in a church group’ or ‘me at prayer’ or ‘me in a religious service’ or ‘me in a Bible study’? Such a piecemeal view of life is not the Gospel vision of things: it is the way of disintegration.

Jesus told the woman at the well that what the Father is seeking is worshippers. If we understand that word rightly we realise that God is simply seeking people. For a worshipper is a specific kind of person: a person who holds to God, a person who will fall before God and unashamedly bow to Him; a person who will serve Him and fear Him, people who acknowledge their own lowness to God’s highness. That kind of person.

If I am to do as the prayer leads me to and give God my person, then it is all of me I must dedicate to him. The me I offer to God must include the me at work, the me at the shops, the me who keeps house and attends to family and neighbours and does all those other things. That composite is the real me – the real person.

To live the way of disintegration devalues every aspect of my life. It devalues God – by giving him only bits of myself – and devalues family, friends, community, work and rest – by regarding all those things as somehow less than worthy of a holy God’s interest and care. Even a cursory reading of Scripture will quickly show me that in truth God values all those things. The God of all things doesn’t want me to offer him a week consisting only of activities that I might regard as ‘spiritual’. He does not want me to offer him a week with no rest in it, for example. The Lord of the Sabbath values my leisure time, sometimes more than I do.

In fact, taken together, the Scriptures show me that God doesn’t want me to give him weeks in which I haven’t given time to loving my wife, guarding my children’s happiness, trading fairly, settling my bills promptly, engaging compassionately with the wider community, earning my keep and sharing my home with others – especially those of the household of faith.

So, I will bring to God my whole self and all my activity. Of course the Lord may wish to change what I am offering, to fine tune or transform it, but the point is that I will have dedicated it all to Him for his good pleasure.

‘And let me belong entirely to God the Father’.