“Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving.” — Colossians 4:2
“When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.” — Jeremiah 29:12
I listened to a friend pray that other day. I have grown accustomed to him thanking the Lord for difficulties. He will often ask the Lord to bless those that are, from his perspective, at the root of his difficulties. When I mention to him that it I have found it unusual for someone to pray the way he does, he always gives me a rough personal translation of Matthew 5:43-46
- “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
When I hear him pray for his problems, it reminds me of a prayer ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi often referred to as the Franciscan Benediction. Growing up in my pentecostal tradition, praying someone else’s written prayer was very foreign to me. My mentors, primarily by their example, taught me to pray personal, spontaneous, Spirit-led prayers rather than a prayer that someone long dead had written as their contemplative response to God.
Yet when Jesus taught us to pray during the sermon on the mount, He said to pray “in this manner” and gave us the Lord’s prayer as our example.
While my tendency has been to shy away from “constructed prayers,” I now appreciate that prayers that have been carefully crafted can have deep meaning and often keep alive traditions and perspectives that both can challenge us today as well as link us to our historical roots and reveal the heart of those saints of God that lived centuries before us.
St. Francis of Assisi prayer reflects the heart of my friend. Read it slowly, and allow the Lord to challenge you.
- May the Lord God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
- May God bless us with anger at the injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
- May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain of rejection hunger and war, so that we may reach our our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
- May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do with others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all her children and poor.
- Peace be with you!
Problem prayers, they go good together!