Why we include the Prayer for God's Grace in our
Some of us grew up with (if not the actual words than at least the idea), of Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God;" or Cotton Matter's "
Judgments of God on Several Sorts of Offenders;"or John Calvin's doctrine of the total depravity of man -- ringing in our ears. Others of us grew up with the idea of original sin telling us that we were born into a sinful state. For many of us, a salient message we received from our religious communities was that human beings are pretty much bad and that we tend to make a mess of just about anything we lay our hands on.
Some of us heard this message from our churches growing up, but it is also possible to look at the headlines of the world today and to draw pretty much the same conclusion. Human beings are making a mess of things. There are far too many examples to point to.
So why start a service of worship putting this full in our face? Is that what the Prayer for God's Grace is supposed to do? Is it supposed to remind us of how bad we are and how much we make a mess of things? Is the purpose of the prayer for God's grace to remind us of our guilt?
No! Not at all.
Worship is to be an encounter with hope and redemption not a place of condemnation.
And that is precisely
we begin our worship with the Prayer for God's Grace or in other traditions with what is called the Prayer of Confession.
The Prayer for God's Grace is about Grace not guilt.
For the great Hope that lies in the absolute apex of our faith, the hinge point of it, the dawning that happened on Easter morning is that yes we are fallible and make a mess of things and yet, -- and Yet!
We are not bad. We were created by goodness for goodness. That is the core of who we are and that is why God never gives up on us. God recognizes our fallibility and forgives us because God also sees the potential in each and every one of us. For that reason, Jesus came to redeem us and to show us a Way of living in love, joining with God in the healing of the world.
When we confess our failings and receive the assurance of God's Grace, we release all the ways we have fallen short both in what we have done and in what we have let undone. We do so, so that we can let go of the grip of guilt, fear and shame that such failings may have on us. We do so, so that by God's Grace we can work to become the best version of ourselves that we can be. We do so, so that God's persistent, relentless, ever present power of redemption can enter into us and transform us (this is also called sanctification) into God's partners working with God for fullness of life and thriving of humanity. The Prayer for God's Grace acknowledges that God does not need or seek our perfection. Instead, God needs and seeks our participation and a humble willingness to put ourselves in the hands of our loving God.
Our failings are real. We mess up all the time. But perhaps our biggest failing is when we do not trust in God's love for us. When we hid from God out of fear that we will be met not with forgiveness but with condemnation.
So let us practice praying the Prayer of God's Grace. Let us continue to create with God a community where we feel safe, where we feel we belong and where we feel loved and at home. Let us practice standing in the midst of such a place and practice acknowledging that each and every one of us is in need of God's Grace. Let us step into the peace that comes when we truly begin to trust that we are a wholly loved and forgiven people so that we may join with Jesus in:
bringing good news to the poor.
proclaiming release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
letting the oppressed go free,
proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:19)
"Have you ever wondered...?"
will be a weekly column this summer where we will provide short answers to questions you may have about why we do what we do in worship.