In my quiet time this morning, I prayed for my family, and for you, and for some folks going through especially challenging times just now, and for our church leaders.
I suppose I should have prayed for our country, coming up to a general election of government but, I'm sorry Lord, I forgot.
I prayed for myself, too, and this I always find puzzling. I know what I want, but I'm never quite sure what I can ask. In humility anyway, and accepting that life is full of the unexpected and challenges come as well as joys, here follows what I want and what I asked God for.
First and especially I prayed about the end of my life (I pray this fairly often). I asked for a quiet and unexceptional death, for a way of leaving this earth that will not distress those who love me. That I will leave before I become a nuisance to them, so they will not be heartily glad to see me go, but that I may lay down my life in such a way that they see life can be trusted, that they can live with confidence in providence and goodness.
Then I prayed for responsibility; that God will provide for me to pay my bills and buy my food. I prayed that I may have enough money to realistically resource involvement in society so I may keep my body active and well in old age. I asked that I might be responsible in financial management and household management and the management of nutrition and health, and that I might fulfil my responsibility of kindness and generosity to my fellow human beings who are suffering and in need. I asked for continence and lucid sanity right to the end of my life.
I asked most fervently to live the remainder of my life on earth in quietness and peace. I know that around the world many people live with war and hunger, with domestic violence and addiction, fear and anxiety, sexual violence and the scourge of ill health. I asked to be spared these things so far as possible, and I offered my life to work to eliminate these evils from the world in the small sphere within which my light shines.
I have planned conscientiously to resource and support the life of my body on earth; our eternal souls live in a physical world, and we have to manage this responsibly, realistically and advisedly. It is not sensible to throw caution to the winds. But I also know — even from personal experience — that you can plan as carefully and diligently as lies within your power, and even still the earthquakes and avalanches come that upset the fragile mandala you have made of your life. You lay the pattern, and then someone comes along and kicks over the entire board. How else would we learn courage and patience and forgiveness?
Then I pray for wisdom and intelligence to live with such slender simplicity that there is little to set to rights when my life is thus upset — that what I have and am is flexible and easy to rebuild.
I ask for quietness and peace, for the space and tranquillity to delight in the companionship of those I love, for means enough to supply my own need and help others too.
And I give thanks for the beauty of the sunrise, the freshness of the morning air, the wonder of stars and frosty nights, the comfort of the fireside and a hot water bottle in my bed and a cup of nettle tea — not just any cup, either, but a beautiful ceramic cup made by an accomplished potter.
My life is blessed, and may it be a blessing. But what does God expect of me? I don't know. Will God grant me the peace and the quietness my soul craves? Is it enough to live responsibly to the best of our ability, or does he want more? Is it enough to do my best to develop kindness and understanding, to remember to relieve the needs of others and provide wisely for my own commitments? Is it enough to walk the small and hidden track of my choosing, and to weave the best words I know how to do, to share and unfold the beautiful gospel of Christ? Will God allow me to spend my life gently and simply and well? Or does God expect of me the courage and endurance to face terrible things and deeper refining? I ask for peace, and a nook out of the wind's way; but I confess I do not know what God expects of me, and my times are in his hands.