On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Preston and I write letters back and forth. We share about mystery, wonder about faith and the long walk of obedience, tell stories about Gossip Girl and God’s grace. We would love for you to join us in the comments. You can read his last letter to me here.
I have a confession: I’m afraid of the hungry. I avoided feeding them in the Saturday morning ministry in college. I crossed the street too often in Boston when I saw them ask their silent question. I once ran two full blocks away from one man outside my favorite Starbucks in Washington, DC because I knew he was the face of Jesus and I couldn’t look at him.So when I read your beautiful, gut-wrenching piece about these vagabond wounded, this circle of prayer and the way they taught you to pray, I’m reminded that I don’t know how to pray for them. I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid to offer them my silly, selfish, full-of-petty-desires words.
I read what you wrote about the spirit of that place, Jerry’s thundering voice and call to repentance, it made me wonder about my own whispered prayers. You see, I don’t really know how to pray well out loud for those big, bold things – how to call out for repentance or tell the story about death and life, or pray that the Spirit of the Lord be mightily upon a person. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to God. I talk to Him more than anyone. When I run I ramble on and on about my heart and His heart and the marvelous things He does and the things that make me mad because I don’t understand. I want to talk to Him all the time. I want to pray.
But the words, Preston? The big words about the big story? I’m tongue-tied. I open my mouth and nothing happens. Remember when I said that I am on my knees but without an altar call? When I told you I was in love with God, rooted in that love, but it’s a quiet story? This is where I feel my whole self wrestling with whether I can do this, walk this Christian walk, and be tongue-tied about preaching the good news.
I don’t know how to pray for the hungry. For the brokenhearted. For the people I love to love Jesus. For the curious and wandering to find Him (or be found by Him). I don’t want to pray a laundry list. I don’t want to fake it. I don’t want to be silent. So I run away from homeless ministry or from altar calls or from talking about my faith with people who only know the barest skeleton of it. I hide behind my books and blogs and theories about St. Aquinas and St. Anselm.
And then every Sunday I hear the Collect for Purity. Almighty God, unto you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I cry because there the Church has found a way to help me pray when I’m tongue-tied. There the Church has met my feeble laundry lists and filled it with riches. For we pray this prayer over all of the world – saints and sinners alike. The Church in all her history has reminded those of us who don’t know what to say that God is mighty, all-seeing, a cleansing Spirit. The Church reminds us that our hope rests in pursuing perfect love of Him who died, and magnifying His name with every fiber of our being.
So I pray the Collect for Purity, Preston, because I love God and I love His people. Because I don’t know how to pray. Because I am afraid of the altar calls. Because I am a tongue-tied lover of Jesus.
Love, and the whole Collect for Purity is prayed over you,