Earthquakes and Prayer

I always look forward to the Wednesday Morning Office because one of my favorite prayers is normally used on that day.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought in safety to this new day: Preserve us with our mighty power that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in al we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s a prayer I most often say early in the morning, sitting in my study with a cup of hot coffee at hand.  But I have also said it from a hospital bed hooked up to a variety of tubes and monitors.  It’s been a prayer said as a litany while on a walk, naming each of our children, grandchildren and godchildren with each iteration.  It’s been a prayer said for friends and enemies.  It is a prayer, my prayer, of great thanks and great hope.
This morning, January 13, 2010, sitting in my cozy study and comfortable chair, surrounded by books and icons, coffee cup at hand, two dogs sleeping at my feet, grateful for yet another day that has safely arrived, I wonder.  I wonder about an impoverished Haitian, for whom life has always been hard, sitting homeless in the debris of a rain soaked street with the bodies of family, friends and strangers for company.  The earthquake that struck last night and this morning’s aftermath present an image that is another sort of icon, one through which the complexity of natural disaster and human moral evil come into sharp focus.  That sharp focus sheds momentary light on conditions like it elsewhere in the world, and reminds us of events and conditions in our own communities where personal safety arrives with no new day.  What then of this prayer?
The key is the last petition; “direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose through Jesus Christ.”  In whatever way we are able, let us be this day agents of God’s redeeming grace in places where that grace is most desperately needed.  That might be Haiti or Sudan or some other far off place, but it might also be in the house next door.

6 thoughts on “Earthquakes and Prayer”

  1. I agree about disasters in general and this one in paarticular, BUT, having just gone through a personal disaster of unexpectedly losing my mate of 57 years, I can attest to the comfort that a good hearty and all encompasing hug from Steve means at the time of greatest need. He may be Fire Department chaplain, but he is also a dear friend, what a double blessing. Remember to give hugs whereever and whenever they are needed.

  2. I am sorry that you did not seize the opportunity, a few years ago, to go to Whitman College to see the play \”Candide\”, based on the satirical novelof that name by thebrilliant and cynical Frenchman who took the pen name \”Voltaire\”. What inspired his satire was the disastrous earthquake in Portugal of 1755, which destroyed much of the city of Lisbon, with great loss of life and property. The Deist philosopher Leibnitz was popular then, with his idea that Nature, despite natural disasters like that, was basically good. (Voltaire did not dare openly blame God; he was in trouble already with the Inquisition for his satirical views of Christian religion!) The English poet Alexander Pope, though nominally Catholic, was a spokeman for the popular Deism of the day, when he wrote in his Essay on Man,\”What is is right/For be it understood/All partial ill/Is universal good\”. Deism was not, as sometimes supposed, a form of atheism, but a philosophy that God did not intervene in Nature, but had made Nature subject to Providence. Voltaire showed the flaws in that Deism when Nature actually does horrible evil! Dr B

  3. You're right Dr. B., I did not go to see the play but have read Candid a couple of times. Ah, to live in the best of all possible worlds. Or, as the book closes, keep working, we need to plant the seeds for the food we will in months to come.cP

  4. One further note on Voltaire (born Francois Marie Arouet 1694-1778).When he died, he was not allowed to buried in a Catholic cemetary (the only ones in France!),since he was a heretic and excommunicate. Some friendly Jesuits (out of favor with Church authorities at that time) devised a plan: his body was propped up in a carriage, ( as though alive but asleep) and driven to a Protestant part of nearby Switzerland and buried there!…Somewhat like the case of the American novelist Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (born St.Paul,Minn. 1896, died 1940). The Catholic Church authorities would not let his body be buried in a Catholic cemetary, because he not died in a \”state of grace\”, from his lifestyle. Four decades or so later, after Vatican II, his body was transferred to consecrated ground by a \”kinder, gentler\” Catholic Church!

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