Lord, I Am Forgiven

This past Sunday, I heard a wonderful sermon on the parable of the prodigal son and thirty-second Psalm. This prayer is a result of reflections thereafter:

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Heavenly Father,

I wear so many hats: husband, brother, son, and uncle(!). Most days I am an employee, a coworker, a colleague and a subordinate. Some know me as a reader or a blogger, a runner and a skier, a crazy person who enjoys winter, a lover of pastries, a laugher and a crier. These are the roles by which I identify myself in relation to others. And I tend to do the same with you.

I will not tell you I am a sinner God, for this you already know. But I will tell you my confession: I am sorry for my stubbornness and pride, particularly within my marriage. I am sorry for my obsession and idolization: books and writing have the thrown of my heart, as do skiing and whatever dose of fame or reputation I could possibly procure.

I am sorry for my gossip. (I think I need the most forgiveness here.) For I would rather talk about someone than with them. The latter takes social courage, which I readily shun.

In saying these things God I know that I do not earn your forgiveness but rather I accept my identity as one who has been forgiven; I realize that my condition before you is that of the prodigal son who has squandered your grace on tiny pleasures and vices. I manage to hide these indulgences from others, but never from you.

Of all the identities I claim, make this my first and foremost: that I am a sinner who has been forgiven.

For which I thank you.

Amen.

A Prayer From A Harlot’s Heart And Sailor’s Tongue

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God,

Are you bothered by my profanity? If you hear all, then you must hear the curses I say under my breath (let alone those I shout). You are a God of beauty and I am a harlot’s heart with a sailor’s mouth. But sailors watch the sunset imploding into the western horizon. They know the feeling of the earth’s inhale and exhale as they rise and fall with each and every wave. And surely the harlot knows some love, even if it be diluted, stolen or suffocated within their wounded heart. So you’ll still hear me, God. Won’t you?

I confess that I would not listen to me, if I were you. The prayers I pray to you would annoy the hell out of me, if not produce a very righteous anger. I guess it’s a really good thing that you are God, and I am not.

At the same time, you are justified, oh God, should you look on me with contempt.

And yet you have called me your own. My mouth you have cleansed, delighted in fact, with your body and blood; my heart you are transforming in spite of every beat and lunge toward the siren’s call. Who are you God, if not Transcendent Grace?

There is no grace apart from you, but from within you comes nothing else. Righteousness and love mix; despite all I might think, they have never and will never exist apart from one another. They are inseparable, just like the cross and empty tomb and, consequently, death and resurrection.

And thus you assure me- potty-mouth and idolater that I am- that I shall never be taken from you.

So…yeah. Thanks for that.

Amen.

A Prayer: So Damn Inclusive

I want to pray honestly, transparently. This is an attempt. Also, here’s the article by Volf I reference in the prayer below:

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Lord, why is heaven so damn inclusive? Being honest here: this tends to piss me off.

I just read a book about Vietnam. What a horror. The book depicted a massacre of one village that US soldiers believed sheltered VC. One scene is scared in my memory: an old man, member of the village, is dragged out of his hut and beaten by two soldiers. Then they light him on fire and throw him down a well.

Are you really going to tell me there’s room in heaven for those two soldiers?

(The irony, oh God, is that I often pray with equal indignation: “you say you are a good God! And yet you would damn a person to hell?!” How inconsistently self-righteous I am!)

I recall, oh God, an article I just read by your servant Miroslav Volf. He reminded me that I am believer in your redemptive grace so I must prepare myself to see my enemies in heaven. And not just to see them but to be reconciled to them.

Which is all fine and dandy for me, a white male living in America. I have few enemies beyond the jerk in a Jaguar who just cut me off in traffic. But you’re telling me that I might see that old Vietnamese man hugging those two soldiers, his murderers?

Karl Barth said that we must study theology in one hand and hold a newspaper in the other. How can I possibly do this and fall in love with your grace? How contrary to my gut desire for retributive justice. If I were to create heaven, if I were standing at the pearly gates, then I would be sure to keep out the bigots, killers, the hateful, molesters, rapists, and certainly those two soldiers (and certainly the self-righteous, white males!).

And so, Lord, I confess today that I have no real grace. I have only theoretical grace, but no real, practical, living grace, outside my indignation in critiquing your theoretical lack of grace when you tell us that the journey to salvation follows a narrow road.

Drown me in your grace, that I may be risen in the baptismal waters to a creature who is merciful because he has been shown mercy. Offend me, the same way you pissed off Jonah, with the inconceivable depth of your love. Allow me to rejoice dear God, in the news that heaven is so inclusive that it might include a prideful (indignant, self-involved, self-righteous) wretch like me.

Amen.