Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Empty Words

A couple of days ago on Facebook, one of my nephews made an observation about his college instructor's habit of ending a lot of explanations in class with the words "...and so forth...". I suspect that all of us probably use empty words such as these, more times than we're aware.

I'm struggling right now for motivation to complete four talks for a retreat in May. Try as I might, the thoughts that come and the words I write feel very much like the photo at the left..."Blah, blah, blah." It's not a particularly new feeling. It appears quite a lot in my daily attempts to pray. Has for a long time, come to think of it! The only way, so far, that I've managed to deal with it is to"keep on keepin' on".

The liturgy's readings for today (Isaiah 55:6-11; Psalm 34:15-22; Matthew 6:7-15) deal with words. I find the Psalm wonderfully consoling, given what I just said above: "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears...and saves the crushed in spirit...the Lord rescues them...He keeps all their bones..." "Keep on keepin' on"! Both Isaiah and Matthew discuss words, Isaiah reminding us that, especially when we're at a loss for words, it's probably because God's thoughts and ways aren't our thoughts and ways...or his timing, our timing. He uses that beautiful image of snow and rain pouring down -- a very graphic one as I look out my window and see it in action! -- but not returning until "they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater..." So it is that God continually rains the Word down upon us in abundance. It's there even though we don't feel it, and if we continue to "keep on keepin' on", that Word "shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it", far beyond anything we could strain to imagine.

Matthew's advice is to "keep it simple". "When you pray, don't heap up empty phrases...your Father knows what you need before you ask..." He suggests using the prayer which Jesus taught the disciples, what amounts to the first alternative of two forms of the Lord's Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.
I find that even too wordy, and prefer the second alternative used in The St. Helen Breviary:

Our loving God in heaven, holy is your Name,
may your reign come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.

Perhaps this is all simply to say what the Collect urges us today: "Grant to your people, Lord,...grace ...with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only True God..."

No comments: