As January inexorably moves on, I’ve been hearing inside the old spiritual “It’s-a me, it’s a-me, it’s-a me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer…” So, it’s perhaps not an accident that this week I found myself re-reading parts of Jeffry Rowthorn’s The Wideness of God’s Mercy: Litanies to Enlarge our Prayer. Rowthorn is the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Convocation of Europe; editions of the book appeared in 1985, 1995 and 2007.
I like that subtitle: Litanies to enlarge our prayer. Like the old saying “Your God is too small,” I think sometimes our prayers can be too small too.
The book does its title justice, covering a wide range of human longings and joys.
A number of the litanies are written by the author (though there is a welcome and admirable lack of ‘author-centricity’ to the volume). As the weekend when we remember Martin Luther King Jr’s non-violent, Christ-centered legacy approaches,…and the weekend to follow… here are excerpts that respond to my ‘need of prayer’ in the coming days. (The litany was written by Rowthorn; quotes are from Martin Luther King Jr.).
Let us before all else give thanks for the love of God revealed to the world in the life and death of Jesus Christ: “The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community.”
Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for peace. “One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal…”
Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of our nation: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of the Church: “In spite of being disappointed…millions of people are still knocking on the door of the Church and turning to it for the answers to the basic problems of life. The great challenge facing the Church today is to keep the bread fresh.”
Are we “keeping the bread fresh”? Are we “answering the basic problems (questions) of life”? Are we “enlarging” our prayer, our souls? I hope in the coming weeks we will consider re-committing ourselves to the costly Way of the Cross.