March 9, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Several years ago, I received a precious gift from my dear friend and lifelong mentor Rev. Dr. Jack Stroman, the senior pastor who nurtured my call into ministry when I was a youth at Pasadena Community Church in St. Petersburg. He gave me a book called A Diary of Private Prayer by the great preacher and author John Baillie, a minister in the Church of Scotland who lived from 1886-1960.
Every once in a while, when I need to sharpen my own liturgical language and pay as much attention to the beauty and shape of my words as I do to their content and meaning, I turn to Baillie’s book. In both my life and my ministry, his prayers have set the gold standard, artistically and accurately capturing both the longing of the human soul and the extravagant grace of God.
Whenever I take the time to write out my pastoral prayers, I try to strike the rare balance of beauty and truth that Baillie seemed to achieve every time. You might agree that many preachers (and public speakers in general, for that matter) have drifted so far into their pursuit of the vernacular in the name of “relevance” that they have sacrificed the power of well-crafted, efficiently constructed words. It’s a caution I often give to myself.
I offer these two of Baillie’s prayers to you now, in the hopes that they speak to you. You might choose to incorporate them into your own life, praying them in the morning and the evening throughout these days of Lent.
O God my creator and redeemer, I may not go forth today except You accompany me with your blessing. Let not the vigor and freshness of the morning, or the glow of good health, or the present prosperity of my undertakings, deceive me into a false reliance upon my own strength. All the good gifts have come to me from you. They were yours to give and they are yours also to curtail. They are not mine to keep; I do but hold them in trust; and only in continued dependence upon you, the giver, can they be worthily enjoyed.
Let me then put back into Your hand all that you have given me, rededicating to your service all the powers of my mind and body, all my worldly goods, all my influence with others. All these, O Father, are Yours to use as you will. All these are Yours, O Christ. All these are Yours, O Holy Spirit. Speak in my words today, think in my thoughts today and work in all my deeds. And seeing that it is Your gracious will to make even of such weak human instruments in the fulfillment of Your mighty purpose in the world, let my life today be the channel through which some little portion of your divine love and pity may reach the lives that are nearest to my own.
In Your solemn presence, O God, I remember all my friends and neighbors, my fellow townsfolk and especially the poor within our gates beseeching You that You would give me grace, so far as in me lies, to serve them in Your name. Amen.
O Thou who art from everlasting to everlasting, I would turn my thoughts to Thee as the hours of darkness and of sleep begin. O Son of my soul, I rejoice to know that all night I shall be under the unsleeping eye of One who dwells in eternal light.
To thy care, O Father, I would now commend my body and my soul. All day Thou has watched over me and Thy companionship has filled my heart with peace. Let me not go through any part of this night unaccompanied by Thee.
Give me sound and refreshing sleep.
Give me safety from all perils.
Give me in my sleep freedom from restless dreams.
Give me control of my thoughts, if I should lie awake.
Give me wisdom to remember that the night was made for sleeping, and not for the harbouring of anxious or fretful or shameful thoughts.
Give me grace, if as I lie abed I think at all, to think upon Thee.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips; when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
To Thy care also, O Father, I would commend my friends, beseeching Thee to keep them safe in soul and body, and to be present to their hearts to-night as a spirit of power and of joy and of restfulness. I pray also for the wider circle of all my associates, my fellow workers, my fellow townsmen and all strangers within our gates; and the great world of men without, to me foreign and unknown, but dear to Thee; through Jesus Christ our common Lord. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist