Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fearless Prayer

Every week, Tuesday through Friday, several of us gather in the church for Matins, or Morning Prayer, at 7:15 a.m.  Though some aspects of the service change according to the season, one consistent part is the use of the Song of Zechariah, also known as the Benedictus, on page 50 in the Book of Common Prayer.  This canticle from the Gospel of Luke (1:68-79) remembers the Old Testament prophecies of a messiah and announces the birth of John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Jesus.  The Benedictus works as a bridge between our reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament.      

One of my favorite lines in the Benedictus comes after we bless God for being faithful to us over time, for showing us mercy, and for delivering us from enemies.  We remind ourselves that all of this is part of God’s intention so that we might live “without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”     

God has created us to live without fear.  In a culture like ours that is so fear-based, so fear-driven, and so fear-filled, I find this daily prayer to be extremely helpful.  Because of God’s promises, I don’t need to live in fear.  Because of God’s mercy and love and saving power, I don’t need to be afraid.  Because of Christ’s victory over the grave, death doesn’t scare me.

We live in a world of natural disasters, mass murders, and random violence, but as people of faith, we can do at least three things.  First, we can pray—not in a magical way but in a way that invites God deeply into our hearts to show us how to go forward, what to say and what to do.  Second, we can do whatever good thing happens to be right in front of us.  Rather than worry ourselves overly about things and people we have no control over, faith allows us to focus our energy to love and serve those in our very midst.  And finally, we can refuse to be limited or constrained by fear—not denying it or ignoring it, but allowing God to transform fear into love.  With Christ we can cling to all that is the opposite of fear:  tenacity, growth, strength, imagination, daring, and eternal laughter. With Christ we can grow in serving God as freed and forgiven people “all the days of our life.”

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