Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I am suspicious...

(This is the second in what I hope will be a series of posts on things to be wary of.  Not only to guard against that which might be harmful, but of course so as to redirect our thoughts toward what is good)

It is probably safe to say that all Christian churches celebrate Christmas and Easter.  But not all churches make a fuss on Ash Wednesday, and some even call it something different or begin Lent on a Monday instead.  Some do not even have a Lenten season, but look forward to Palm Sunday and then Easter.

There is something that all Christian traditions hold in common, however, and emphasize year round, year in and year out.  And that is a focus on repentance and mercy.  Whether you are Baptist or Orthodox or Pentecostal or Episcopalian, the beginning and the core of the Christian faith is a prayer that is both personal and universal: "Save me, O Lord."

In addition to the "Sinner's Prayer," many Christians of various denominations practice a repetitive prayer, called the Jesus Prayer (I particularly like the one called the Anglican Rosary)

The reason for prayer beads and for this kind of prayer at all is that it is important to repeat the cry for mercy, over and over again, and not just a single time.  It is important to remain humble, and to turn to Jesus, and to recognize oneself as a sinner: "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit," and there is not much that more simply expresses contrition than the Jesus Prayer.

For those of us who celebrate Ash Wednesday, the ashes go onto our foreheads and we pray, "Blot out my transgressions, O Lord." The prayer of the Church, the prayer of the Christian, is a humble one, and it is a plea. 

I am suspicious of prayer that does not begin, and end, with a cry for help.

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