Sunday, March 11, 2012

Third Sunday in Lent: The prayer in the Name of Christ

Opening Sentence
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Luke 15:18, 19

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 93, 96

Lessons: Genesis 44:1-17, Romans 8:1-10, John 5:25-29

The Spirit of Prayer is a pressing forth of the soul out of this earthly life. It is a stretching with all its desire after the life of God. It is a leaving, as far as it can, all its own spirit to receive a Spirit from above, to be one life, one love, one spirit with Christ in God. The prayer, which is an emptying itself of all its own lusts and natural tempers, and an opening itself for the light and love of God to enter into it, is the prayer in the Name of Christ, to which nothing is denied for the love which God bears to the soul. His eternal, never-ceasing desire to enter into it, to dwell in it, and open the birth of his Holy Word and Spirit in it stays no longer than till the door of the heart opens for him. For nothing does, or can keep God out of the soul, or hinder his holy union with it, but the desire of the heart turned from him. And the reason of it is this. It is because the life of the soul is in itself nothing else but a working will and therefore wherever the will works or goes, there, and there only, the soul lives, whether it be in God or the creature.

Nothing does or can go with us into Heaven. Nothing follows us into Hell, but that in which the will dwelt, with which it was fed, nourished and clothed in this life. And this is to be noted well, that death can make no alteration of this state of the will. It only takes off the outward, worldly covering of flesh and blood, and forces the soul to see and feel and know what a life, what a state, food, body and habitation, its own working will has brought forth in it.

Tell me, is there anything in life that deserves a thought, but how to keep this working of our will in a right state, and to get that purity of heart which alone can see and know and find and possess God? Is there anything so frightful as this worldly spirit which turns the soul from God, makes it a House of Darkness, and feeds it with the food of time at the expense of all the riches of eternity? On the other hand, what can be so desirable a good as the Spirit of Prayer, which empties the soul of all its own evil, separates death and darkness from it, leaves Self, time and the world, and becomes one life, one love, one spirit with Christ and God and Heaven.

Think, my friends, of these things with something more than thoughts. Let your hungry souls eat of the nourishment of them as a bread of Heaven, and desire only to live that with all the working of your wills and the whole spirit of your minds, you may live and die united to God.

William Law
The Spirit of Prayer

And Can It Be That I Should Gain