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a philosophy student's prayer

Anselm of Canterbury. Image from forallsaints.wordpress.com

This afternoon I was doing my reading for a Philosophy course I am auditing this term (pretty dry, heady stuff at times) when I came across these few paragraphs from Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). The first sentence released a bunch of mental tension that I didn't even know I was holding on to. The second sentence caused me to breathe deeply and acknowledge my longing to be unburdened. The third sentence undid me. This is my prayer as a student, this is my desire as a teacher, this is my constant necessity as a church leader. Pray it with me, if you like.

Come on now little man [one], get away from your worldly occupations for a while, escape from your tumultuous thoughts. Lay aside your burdensome cares and put off your laborious exertions. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a while in Him. Enter into the cell of your mind, shut out everything except God and whatever helps you to seek Him once the door is shut. Speak now, my heart, and say to God, "I seek your face; your face, Lord, I seek." ...

Let me see your light, even if I see it from afar or from the depths. Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to this seeker. For I cannot seek you unless you teach me how, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you, and desire you in seeking you. Let me find you in loving you and love you in finding you.

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created in me this your image, so that I can remember you, think about you and love you. But it is so worn away by sins, so smudged over by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do unless you renew and reform it. I do not even try, Lord, to rise up to your heights, because my intellect does not measure up to that task; but I do want to understand in some small measure your truth, which my heart believes in and loved. Nor do I seek to understand so that I can believe, but rather I believe so that I can understand. For I believe this too, that "unless I believe I shall not understand" (Isa. 7:9). [1]

Our contexts of work, study, faith community, and even family can become so focused on productivity or providing for others that we cease to regularly practice "coming away." The pull of demanding schedules and needy people is hard to resist, and yet, we must. I must. Periods where I shut out everything else but God bring me back to the truth: I cannot do any of these things unless the divine Spirit of the Creator breathes life into me, so let me "breathe deep, breathe deep the breath of God." [2]



[1] Anselm, Proslogion, Chapter 1, excerpts.
[2] Breathe Deep the Breath of God by Lost Dogs. 1996.


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