At the close of the Morning Prayer service in the Book of Common Prayer is the prayer called the General Thanksgiving. Over the years I have said this prayer often enough to have it memorized. But recently when saying it at the close of Morning Prayer one phrase stood out to me. It reads, “Give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives.” (BCP page 125)
I am ashamed to admit that my mind often wanders during prayer. But that morning as I offered this prayer to God I suddenly felt very present as I asked God to reveal all the divine mercies in my life. I asked God to do this so that I would have the sort of thankful heart that could be seen in my life and in my words.
The amazing thing was that as I offered that request I felt God doing what I had asked. I was aware of God’s presence and blessings, but then deep sorrow that I had forgotten. But as quickly as it came the sorrow was gone and I felt intense joy. It was shocking to be so impacted by something I had said a thousand times. This experience lasted less than two minutes, but it was powerful and surprising.
I wonder if all prayers could feel like that if I could ignore all the distractions of life and focus. I wonder if this was just a sudden grace from God, or if I am so dense that I need to say something a thousand times before it can be absorbed. Mostly I wonder why I had not thought more about the profound request at the end of Morning Prayer.
Later I stumbled upon a possible answer in a quote from Saint Augustine’s Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Augustine was saying something about how our desires can pull us from God. He was saying that we will never find true rest until we decide to rest in God. But I also think a side point could also be made that a quiet and rested mind is more open to God’s presence.
Lately I am more convinced than ever that the ordinary and mundane moments of life are the most likely moments for us to be aware of God. This is true because in those ordinary moments of life our guard is down, and the mind is quiet. We are so enamored by mountain top experiences that we forget God can be seen in ordinary moments of life. God can be seen in the sunrise and sunset, while harvesting food grown in a garden, sitting on a lake, hearing “I love you,” from a family member or friend, receiving communion in our home parish as we have a thousand times, a cool breeze on a hot day or prayers said before bed.
Our goal then is to be open and present daily ordinary .
See you in Church,
Fr. Tom +