Wednesday, October 04, 2017

A few thoughts and prayers

Near is the LORD to the broken-hearted
and the crushed in spirit He rescues. Ps 34:19

Listening to Donald Trump quote the psalms in his remarks to the nation after the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday made me gasp aloud, it was such a switch from his usual nondescript religious language: "God bless America!" and "thoughts and prayers."  And though he attributed it only to "scripture," after decades praying the psalter I had no trouble recognizing the source:  Psalm 34.

It drove me to pick up Walter Brueggemann's short and pointed book, Praying the Psalms, last night. In it, Brueggemann points out that the psalms as prayers are direct, perhaps uncomfortably so.  The images are concrete and familiar.   Mud and bees.  Waters frozen, hoarfrost scattered like ashes. Tears. Vengeance.  There is an unfiltered immediacy to them.  A trust so deep we feel we can say anything?  Or a world so shaken, there is nothing left to lose?

We pray, and in doing so presume to entangle ourselves with the transcendent, all-powerful, ever-living God.  How can we imagine such an encounter will not leave us untouched, unshaken, unmoved?  What are we thinking?  "I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me." (C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands) Are we willing to pray to be changed?

Beg so that your continuing prayer of petition appears to be a pledge of your faith in the light of God in the darkness of the world, for your hope for life in this constant dying, for your loyalty of love that loves without reward. — Karl Rahner, S.J., “The Prayer of Need” in The Need and the Blessing of Prayer

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