Monday, March 13, 2006

Morning Prayer

I recently came across a prayer I used to say, and had forgotten about, but one which is worth remembering and praying. I decided to pray it every morning during Lent, but maybe I should just go on praying it every day forever. It is called the Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders (Optina is a famous Russian monastery).

“O Lord, grant that I may greet with your peace all that this day is to bring. Grant me the grace to surrender myself completely to your holy will. In every hour of this day, instruct and guide me in all things. Whatever tidings I may receive during this day, teach me to accept them tranquilly in the firm belief that your holy will governs all. Govern my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When unforeseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by You. Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one. Bestow on me, O Lord, the strength to endure the fatigue of the day and to bear my part in its events. Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.”

Unlike some other prayers I have said, this one seems to be sticking with me and coming to mind during the day. I think that is because I tend to view unpleasant circumstances or unexpected trials as rude and unacceptable intrusions into the order of my day. So I have to start out by asking to be able to “greet with [God’s] peace” all these things, and whatever the day will bring, surrendering myself to God’s will. Since I don’t often know precisely what this will is to which I’m surrendering myself, I need to be instructed and guided, “every hour of this day,” and “in all things.”

The passage that keeps coming to me, because of the “tidings I may receive this day,” is the governance of God’s will. When I get sick or injured or just have a million little things go wrong, I have to keep saying: “Your holy will governs all.” Therefore my thoughts and emotions also have to be governed by that same will. One of the hardest ones is: “let me not forget that all is sent by You.” Perhaps we could say that even if not everything, especially the bad stuff, is directly sent by God, it has been permitted (which is still a divine act), and therefore it retains a place in his plan for my growth and salvation. If evil suggestions or morally-compromising situations come into our lives, however, we ought to assume that God has permitted them not that we might accept them, but that we might fight them. To accept his will doesn’t mean to roll over and play dead, but to do what his will requires in any given situation, trusting that everything is in his hands. God is the Lord—of the galaxies and of the details of my daily life, and nothing escapes his loving attention and faithful application of his divine decrees and remedies.

Thus the prayer has us look at what we have to do. It’s not only for us passively to accept what the day brings, but we are required to “behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone,” bringing “confusion and sorrow to no one.” Finally we ask for strength to bear the burdens of the day and to be able to cooperate with God’s designs therein. And if only we can do this: “to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love,” then we are surely allowing God’s will to govern all.

So try this prayer out. See if it doesn’t remind you of the active presence of God’s will in the events of your day and help you surrender thereto. If we can accept all things tranquilly in the firm belief that God’s will governs all, we’ve come a long way into the life of blessed peace and trust to which He calls us.