O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the wake of the horrifying week in which we celebrated our national birthday, Michael Curry, our presiding bishop, calls us to prayer. What, how shall we pray? Michael offered our Prayer for the Human Family (BCP 815). And what, how, if at all, is the prayer to be efficacious? Or do we just simply put it out there optatively?
There are “action verbs” aren’t there, action verbs in the prayer. Look, take away, break down, and work through. Just as in Jesus’ high priestly prayer (John 17), the verbs lay a command upon the Father. To be clear, were the prayer in koine, the mood would not be optative, wimpily expressing a tentative hope, hint that how great it would be if only God would do this; but imperative, a command. Aorist, imperative, active, confident the demanded action is already underway and ongoing. How can this be? Only a child or the simplest idioto thinks that now, having prayed, one goes on with life having “turned it over to God” and the Divine Will. It doesn't work that way. We crown ourselves. In the prayer, the imperative turns upon us: we take it upon ourselves to be the human agent of the divine will. The divine will, as well as the satanic, works through us. God has no hands but our hands. No feet, no tongue, no help. Praying -- if praying faithfully and not as fools -- we accept the commission: not saving souls, but becoming Christ.
Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in word and deed;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongue is speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him or welcome His return?
—Annie Johnston Flint