If you’ve been around the Christian community for long you may have noticed the propensity for theology to mask our vulnerabilities and to keep life and God at a safe distance. This has been a reoccurring struggle for me. A few years back I wrote a short reflection in Reformed Worship titled, “How Theology Can Ruin Your Prayer life: How The Psalms Can Help.” In it I discussed the ways that dishonest prayers, even if they are shrouded in “good” theology, can undermine our faith.
Eugene Peterson is a personal hero of mine. I find his writings inspiring and often prophetic, especially for those of us who struggle with prayer. From Peterson I learned to apprentice myself to the Psalms and allow their honest speech about anger, pain and disillusionment to form my prayers.
It is also from Peterson that I learned that this manner of prayer is part of my vocation in my neighborhood. Christians are called not only to voice creation’s praise but also its pains, its hurts as well as its hallelujahs. Peterson’s work has left an imprint on me and how I go about using the psalms as part of pastoral ministry.
The following is a pastoral prayer by my friend, professor Sarah Schrieber, written for the 2015 Missional Living of Scripture conference at Calvin Seminary.
What I find compelling about her prayer is that it provides a practical example of living missionally by bringing the praises, laments and petitions of our community and world into corporate worship. This is a way in which we cultivate a “praying imagination” as we bring all aspects of life–the beautiful, the broken and the painful–in honest speech before God.
A Pastoral Prayer by Sarah Schrieber
All glorious God, we give you thanks: in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. You chose us, before the world was made, to be your holy people, without fault in your sight.
You adopted us as your children in Christ. You have set us free by his blood; you have forgiven our sins. You have made known to us your secret purpose, to bring heaven and earth into unity in Christ.
You have given us your Holy Spirit, the seal and pledge of our inheritance.
All praise and glory be yours, O God, for the richness of your grace, for the splendor of your gifts, for the wonder of your love.
Father, you do as you please with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. We praise you for marshaling the powers of heaven for the salvation of ill-deserving rebels, like us, and for securing the ultimate transformation of the cosmos.
We sang our prayer: be thou my vision. Open our eyes, Lord. Help us to be expectant people. Bend our thoughts and aspirations beyond the moment, beyond what we can see in front of us at any given time.
It is easy, O God, for us to see why this world needs saving, but sometimes it is not so easy to believe that in Christ it has already been saved.
We make petition this morning for your needy world. We see a world of war and rumors of war, a world of violence and injustice. We pray for those people who are holding the guns. We pray for those people who are nervously waiting for news of loved ones. We pray for those people who are displaced, who don’t know what to tell children who ask when they can go home.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. There is trouble far away and trouble right here, even in our own hearts. You alone see us as we are, dear Savior, and so we beg for you to nurture us according to our needs, to minister to us according to our hurts, to heal us in all those places where you see that we are broken or sick.
O God of majesty and power, above the clamor of our violence, your Word of truth resounds. Over nations enshrouded in despair, your justice dawns.
Grant your household a discerning spirit and a watchful eye to perceive the hour in which we live. Hasten the advent of that day when the weapons of war shall be banished, our deeds of darkness cast off, and all your scattered children gathered into one.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Sarah Schrieber is an Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary.
- Bono and Peterson discuss the Psalms: Video.
- Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer.
- Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination.