Monday, 7 November 2011

Prayer of abandonement

The following is a prayer I came across while in Theological College and which has ever since both challenged and alarmed me. I had lost touch with it a few years back but a good friend of mine texted it to me at a time when I needed to pray it again. It is now in my prayer book.

It challenged me because I was - and still am - aware that I have not fully given my all to God. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all that we are - heart, mind, soul, body - and our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Frankly I don't and just a cursory self-examination reveals that I am selfish, mean-hearted, ambitious and self-centred, often maquerading the things I do and decide as serving God when in reality they are my ideas seeking God's confirmation. This prayer strikes at the very heart of my so-called Christian life and asks awkward questions about my real intentions. Whose cross do I carry? If it's mine - fashioned and made to measure - it will sit easily on my shoulders, padded, planed and not too heavy, more of a fashion statement than a means of my death to world and to self. If it is Christ's, it will chaff and bite my shoulders, it's awkward edges wearing marks in my skin and reminding me constantly of the suffering of the one who first bore it.

It alarmed me - and still does - because it offers everything, to God. It relinquishes control and, "without reserve" surrenders, abandons me, into God's hands. It means that I give up being god so that He can be. It means accepting everything that comes my way - the good, the bad and the downright ugly - as His will in some way. It means I must become less so that He may be more (John 3:30) and for someone with an ego as big as mine, that is asking a lot, more than I can manage - on my own.

So challenging and scary as it is I will still pray the prayer in the hope that one day I may truly live it.

But before showing you the prayer let me offer a little background of the person who wrote it, Charles de Foucauld whose picture is above:

Charles de Foucauld was born on September 15, 1858 in France. He lost his faith early in life, but at the age of 28 had a powerful conversion experience. From that moment on, all of his life was fixed on living the Gospel and his love for Jesus.

After a variety of experiences as a Trappist monk and a time spent in the Holy Land, he conceived of a new form of religious life, a life closer to the daily lives of the poor. As Jesus at Nazareth, he wanted to live amidst the people, rooted in a culture, sharing the condition of those who live from day to day by the work of their hands-- of those who have no security at all and who are the poorest of the poor.

He did not envision preaching the Gospel in words as such, but by crying it out with the witness of his whole life; a life lived in shared friendship, silence and prayer. He wanted to go beyond all of the boundaries of religion and race and to become known as a "universal little brother"; the little brother of his beloved Jesus.

Brother Charles hoped to found small fraternities of brothers..."What I dream of is something very plain and few in number, similar to the little communities of the first Christians...living the life of Nazareth, through work and the contemplation of Jesus...a little family, a little home, very small, very plain"... This dream would not be realized until after his death.

Brother Charles of Jesus died on December 1, 1916 at Tamanrasset in the midst of the Sahara. An innocent, defenseless victim of an assassin's bullet he fell to the sand like the grain of wheat which dies so that it can bring forth its fruit... Throughout the world today there are many little groups (religious brothers and sisters) which claim as their spiritual father-- Charles de Foucauld.

Prayer of abandonment

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Amen.

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