I know a lot of fancy words. I tear them from my heart and my tongue. Then I pray. Mary Oliver, section 1 of “Six Recognitions of the Lord”
Episcopalians know a lot of fancy words, especially in the many beautiful prayers we use from The Book of Common Prayer. “We humbly beseech thee, O Heavenly Father, so to assist us with Thy grace,” we pray after communion in our Rite 1 service. Yes, with humility we ask God to help us serve God in this world. On our own, absent grace, it is much harder to love our neighbors as ourselves, let alone our enemies.
If one wants to set off debate or disturb people in worship, suggest another version of the Lord’s Prayer. Shift “trespasses” to “debts” or to “sins” or use our alternative which begins: Our Father in heaven. The words of this prayer are dear to our hearts and learned when we were very young.
The fancy words on our tongues and the prayers we know by heart are gifts in our life with God, but these can become shields over our hearts and selves which prevent us from a deeper relationship with God.
Prayer is creating space for God in our lives as a flower opens to the sun. Setting aside – or as Oliver puts it – tearing our fancy words from heart and tongue offers the opportunity to expose our full selves to God intentionally. Yes, God knows us, but we come to know God and ourselves when we allow both God and ourselves an unobstructed path to the soul, or our trues selves.
During this season after Epiphany and before Lent, I will explore Mary Oliver’s “Six Recognitions of the Lord”. This week I invite each one of us to rip off, set aside the fancy words and prayers we know and offer up at least one desire or pain which we hold right now, today. Share it with God. Wait. Listen.