Prayer for my theology students on the first day of classes

Joshua 24:14-15 –14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Lord, we praise you that you receive our feeble, frail, and faltering attempts at faithfulness. Like Joshua and his crew of Hebrews, we too have allied ourselves to you and more than once preferred idols. Our lives are littered with them.

We prefer a god who is predictable and safe, forgive us;

We prefer a god at our beck and call, forgive us;

we prefer a god who fits nicely into our tidy lives, forgive us.

we prefer a god who leaves our idols untouched, forgive us;

With our idols laying about, we praise you that our faithlessness is nothing like your faithfulness. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you (Hosea 11:8, 9). In those words rests our only hope.

Faithful One, may it be that we experience your faithfulness as we begin this thrilling journey:

Hold us secure as our false notions of you and ourselves fall away;

humble us when our comprehension of you turns out to be less tidy than expected;

give us faith when our idols burn and our fear threatens to derail the whole thing.

Like Joshua and his band of Hebrews, we commit ourselves to faithfulness, again. Don’t let us go, for we trust that you are not like us; we trust that you are the Holy One–the Faithful One–among us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Collect on the Incarnation

Daniel Bonnell, "Jesus Praying," pen and ink

We praise you Lord, our God, that your love for us took the strange shape of enfleshment; you made your way in this world with skin, bone, fingernails, eyelashes . . .

hungerpains, parched lips, abandonment – “made like us in all respects” but without sin.

We acknowledge our deep needs before you: our rebelliousness,  brokenness, estrangement from each other and ourselves, and our deepest need of all, to be known once and for all, inside and out, coming and going, seeking and being found.

May we make our ways in this world along the grain of your way, through Jesus Christ our Lord and according to the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer for my students on the first day of classes

I am teaching a class on 1 Peter this semester. 1 Peter is a dramatic witness to the Gospel and teaching the course is really just an excuse to read Scripture as Scripture with a group of students and  grow together in interpretive wisdom. This was my prayer with them on the first day of classes.

O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful deeds (Ps. 71:17).

Father Almighty, we praise you that the words of Scripture are living and active because through your Spirit you continue to correct and comfort the Church through them.

We read, we wrestle, we sometimes even throw up our hands in confusion when we encounter the words of this book we call “Scripture.”

At other times we struggle to read, we weep, and we risk saying that you seem no where about these pages.

Where have you gone? Why have you left us with these words? How do you expect us to make our ways with you along the grain of these words when we can barely make any way at all?

So we ask you to encounter us again that we might stand at the end of this semester and say with the Psalmist, “You have taught us since we were young.” And may we become men and women who “tell of your wonderful deeds” to each other and to the world. Help us, we pray, to read this witness to the Gospel before your face, with each other, and toward the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Prayer: In our Faithlessness

Lord God, Almighty and Everlasting Father, we praise you for your faithfulness when we have none.

In our faithlessness you have not turned your back on us, and we anchor our hope to your embodied faithfulness in Jesus Christ.

May we be quick to confess our faithlessness.

We are complacent regarding the brokenness and groaning around us and in us, and we reason away and justify our faithlessness with terms other than “sin.”

May we be quick to embody your faithfulness.

Make us ready to join you in your work, following you into the grieving and groaning spaces that fill our countries, towns, families, churches, and inner lives through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.

A prayer for my students on the opening week of classes

Giotto.1325.Stigmatisation of St. FrancisLord of our lives and our learning,

Today we embark on a journey of encounter, not primarily of our own convictions, beliefs, and opinions (although this will be the case as well), but we will encounter, no,

be encountered by You…

You who formed this world;

You would reconciles and redeems from sin;

You who will consummate your bride the Church in Christ’s returning.

And we…

We who follow after your constant encounter of us.

May we be humble in our tentative response to your initiative – wary of the sin of pride;

May we be joyful in the dance of self-discovery into which you invite us;

May we never forget that with knowledge of you comes great responsibility to follow after your initiative into the uncomfortable, incomplete spaces that live in this time between the times:

With the poor, those marginalized by our systems of financial prosperity;

With those living in broken bodies or with broken minds, whose dignity is daily stole by our definitions of “abled” and “disabled”;

With those whose lives have crumbled around them in the loss of those they love.

Some of us here today may identify with those places – either personally or by close association.

May what we do in this class propel us deeper into our knowledge of you and thus deeper into these spaces as we follow after your encounter.


And then you (a prayer)

We arrange our lives as best we can, to keep your holiness at bay,
     with our pieties,
     our doctrines,
     our liturgies,
     our moralities,
     our secret ideologies,
         Safe, virtuous, settled.

And then you –
     you and your dreams,
     you and your visions,
     you and your purposes,
     you and your commands,
     you and our neighbors.

We find your holiness not at bay,
     but probing, pervading, insisting, demanding.

And we yield, sometimes gladly, sometimes resentfully, sometimes later…          or soon.

We yield because you, beyond us, are our God. We are your creatures met by your holiness, by your holiness made our true selves

And we yield. Amen

(Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth [2003])

Prayers » François Fénelon, Archbishop of Cabrai (1651-1715)

Lord, I do not know what I ought to be asking of you. You are the only One who knows what I need. You love me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! – give your child what I do not know how to ask for myself. I do not dare ask for crosses or consolation. All I can do is present myself to you.

Lord, I open up my heart to you. Behold my needs – the ones that I am not even aware of. Look at them, and act according to your mercy. Bring suffering on me or heal me, cast me down or raise me up – I adore your will for me even when I do not know what it is.

I will remain silent, offering myself up and giving myself over completely to you. I no longer have any desire other than to accomplish your will.

Teach me to pray; may you yourself pray in me and through me [some translations, “pray thyself in me”] (Fenelon: Meditations on the Heart of God, translated by Robert Edmonson. (Paraclete Press, 1997) p. 123)