Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prayer. Show all posts

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chiasmic Supplications





Last week a friend of mine, who converted from Christianity (Lutheran) to Islam, asked me directly if I pray to Mary. I looked him straight in the eye and said "Yes, absolutely." He looked shocked by the content of my answer, yet somewhat refreshed by my clear and concise confidence in the appropriateness of such supplications.  He knew that my answer to his question was sincere and thoughtful. I didn't mince words. But I also was not interested in explaining what I meant by what I said, any more than he was interested in explaining what he meant by what he asked. He asked a simple question and I offered a simple answer. 

Praying to Mary means a lot of things to lots of different people. To me, it means something very specific, and very practical, because I believe Mary has been raised from death to eternal life, bodily. Mary may be an idol to one person, a imaginary goddess to another, or a celestial vending machine of favors to someone else. But she is not any of those to me. Moreover, I do not obsess over her willingness or ability to intercede for me. Nevertheless, awareness of her intercessions has become profoundly sensible to me. 

Her existence as both fully alive and fully human this very moment, I am persuaded that her eternal share in the Divine Life with our risen Lord changes everything. Being one whose continuous free will and faithful fiat provided for the definitive salvation of mankind, to be raised up to God for eternity, to rule and reign and intercede with God, it is not difficult to wonder at the great change God has brought to the world through her intercessions. (I also consider the many great Christians whom I know have been raised with Christ; but those are not the point of this post, so I will only focus on Mary for now.) Those who do not meditate on the reality of Mary, her virgin birth, her motherhood of one who now remains both fully human and God for eternity, her death, resurrection, and ascension, often do not appreciate prayers to Mary. Many cannot even imagine what prayer to Mary could or should look like, any more than they can imagine what death, resurrection, and ascension to eternal life really looks like right now. There are far too many cartoonish, futuristic, eschatological imaginations of intermediate existence interfering with interpretations of Holy Scriptures and their surrounding histories.

In this post, I want to sample one illustration from the life and liturgy of the Byzantine Church, to challenge contemporary cartoonish fears about prayers to the saints who are ruling and reigning with God. Below is a poem of Theodore the Studite, translated by Maximos Constas, and found in Mother of the Light: Prayers to the Theotokos. In this translation, three things are worthy of notice:

1) There are three people with free will who are invested in this sinner's prayer, and those who are raised with Christ have also become aids to those who are not yet raised, and are still working out their salvation with fear and trembling.

2) The pattern of prayer is one of ascent and return: the child of God petitions Mary, who in turn Petitions her Son, Who in turn advises and delegates to his mother, who in turn advises and directs the child of God. The pattern of each ode is also laid out as a chiasm: A, B, B', A' 

3) The salvation of the sinner depends upon the participation of the Theotokos in the life of God. Without Jesus's ascension to the right hand of the Father, Mary can do nothing. Jesus could theoretically do all without Mary, but He chooses not to, because he has raised up his mother to his side, to rule and reign with him among the Divine Council.2 The sinner could go directly to Jesus, and even should go directly to Jesus. But the mortal sinner of this poem is also free to express his faith in a Savior who has been raised up from the dead-ones in Hades, and has also raised up fallen Adam all the righteous saints with him, who were formerly held captive in Hades. He is therefore free to petition the risen, glorified saints --like Mary-- to intercede with Jesus that He grant this sinner great mercy. This is what I imagine occurs when supplications and petitions of the like (for mercy, forgiveness, favor, etc.) are offered to God and received through the intercessions of those whom He has already raised from the dead. 

Below is a poem expressing the possibilities surrounding such truths. My purpose in sharing this is simple: I hope this helps others recognize that prayer to (or with) Mary, the "God-Birther" (i.e. Theotokos), are not how Protestants imagine them to be. Protestants still might not be comfortable with this, but I am still confident that not many of them imagine prayer to (or with) Mary to be like the poem below. 





First Ode

O Container of the Uncontainable, entreat Christ to deliver me from the dreaded fire devoid of light, and show me forth as a sharer of His kingdom. 

Receive my entreaty, O Son and Word, and deliver from punishment your servant, who is crying out to me from the depth of his soul, and make him worthy of your kingdom. 

You, Mother, know that I am a font of mercies, for even at this very moment I am showing mercy to sinners who transgress my commandments. But this man severely provokes me by his shameful and evil deeds. 

By many disgraceful and shameful misdeeds you have provoked my Son. Thus, being greatly vexed by you, His compassion has been turned to wrath. 


Third Ode1

Truly I have squandered my whole life in evil deeds, and therefore I cry out to you: O pure Virgin, entreat your Son to call me back from sin and save me, just as He called back and saved the prodigal.

O Lord of all, who was ineffably born from my womb, take pity on your servant as on the prodigal long ago, and place him, O All-Good One, at your right hand on the Day of Judgment.

Hear me, O Mother, as I discerningly respond to you. The one who long ago spent his life in prodigality, returned in ardent repentance and cried: "I have sinned." But this man, even though he now cries out to you like this, will subsequently prove to be a liar. 

I told my Son the things you said, entreating Him to make you worthy of His kingdom. But He opposed me saying: He has not drawn near to me with ardent faith, and therefore I shall send him out from before my face."


Fourth Ode

Understanding your strength, O Virgin, I cry out to you in my hour of need, even if my repentance is not completely ardent. But by your supplications to the Master, grant me the complete amendment of my life. 

O Master, who by nature is God that loves mankind, hearken to your Mother who earnestly cries out to you, and deliver your servant from condemnation. And if he does not possess perfect faith, I beg you, as God, to give it to him. 

O Mother, I have given him every opportunity to be saved, but he does not cease sinning and now draws near to death. And this is why no man can be saved unless he passes through the fire. 

I now know you to be, as my Son said, the cause of your own perdition, because you have completely surrendered to sin, and have entirely given yourself over to slothfulness. Who shall now raise you from the place to which you have fallen?


Fifth Ode

O Virgin, I long to walk always on the path of repentance leading me to eternal life, but immediately the grim ranks of demons drag me down and seek to cast me headlong into an abyss of sin, and into the harrowing pit of perdition. 

O Savior, you first put death to death, and then freed Adam from his bonds. Therefore, I implore you, my Son: pluck this man from the hands of the demons who afflict him, because they have never let him repent. 

O Mother who is praised by all, I too cry aloud to you: It is by prayer and fasting that the multitude of wicked demons will be driven out of him. But he has not cleansed his body by abstinence, prayer, and chastity, and thus, alas, has become a cave of devils. 

Listen well to the words of my Son, and understand what needs to be done. When the disciples had not the strength to drive out the evil spirits, He cried to them saying: "This kind of devil is driven out by prayer and fasting."


Sixth Ode

I am not rich with words, and am poor in virtues. I love neither to pray nor undertake fasts, O Bride of God. Therefore I seek refuge in you. 

Attend to me, my compassionate Son, for it is your Mother who implores you. The man running to me is devoid of good works and cries out to me: "I have no other hope but you, O Lady."

O Mother, who pleads so ardently, cease speaking on behalf of this man! For while he says that I am compassionate, he continues to defile himself, failing to see my wrath. 

On your behalf, I entreated my Son and God that you might obtain mercy. But he cried out to me to cease interceding for you to be saved. 


Seventh Ode

All my hope I place in you, O Lady, cast me not, the wretched one, into the pit of perdition. But return to your Son and cry out to Him: "Do not destroy the work of your hands."

O Master, since you are a sea of mercies without measure, I implore you to receive me yet again, for you alone are quick to reconcile, and so take pity on the work of your hands, O You who of old took pity on the woman of Canaan. 

I show mercy and save everyone who comes to me filled with longing, and I never want any of my creations to be destroyed. Indeed I was born from you in order to save them. But this man is very far from my works. 

My Son, eternal pre-existing as the Wisdom of the Most High God, became perfect man through me, in order to save those who, with ardent faith, preserve their divine baptism. But in this you have utterly failed. 


Eighth Ode

Taking courage I approach you, O Virgin, for I have seen your Son saving the harlot and the thief. They had done no good works under the law, and performed no good deeds in life, yet they both obtained forgiveness. 

Look down from the heights and hearken to your Mother, for I entreat you to deliver your servant from the fire, just as you formerly delivered the harlot, and on your Cross redeemed the thief. 

The thief who long ago hung upon the Cross cried out in faith: "Remember me." And, again, the harlot poured forth streams of tears. But this man is not like them. 

Christ saved the weeping harlot, likewise the thief on the Cross, who showed faith in Him. If you desire to attain the Bread of Life, then run to the Lord with tears and faith. 


Ninth Ode

O Maiden, I have shown myself a greater sinner than all other men, therefore I am ashamed to approach your Son. But I beg you to implore Him to take pity on me, and to receive me drawing near to Him with ardent faith and longing.

O Word, deliver your servant, who draws near to you, from punishment. I implore you: Remember not his transgressions. For though he sinned, O Savior, he turned to me for refuge and I entreat you. Through me receive this man, for you fulfill the petitions of all. 

O Mother, he is not worthy to take refuge in your mercy, for no man has provoked my wrath as much as he. But by your precious prayers, I will not punish him on the Day of Judgment if he brings me fruits of repentance. 

Though you were in the depth of Hades, through my prayer and intercessions you have been raised up to the heights to my Son. See that you do not fall back into your former grievous sins. Depart, and stay on the path of repentance, lest you be cast down into gehenna. 













1. There is no second ode in this canon.
2. For those interested in learning more about the Biblical view of the Divine Council, see this post








Friday, November 16, 2018

Penitent & Priest, Confession & Absolution





As I recently reviewed some of the poetry I had written within the past year, I reflected upon the state of Christianity I observe all around me today and the way in which I expressed aspects of it poetically. After stumbling upon a poem about Christian contrition and confession, it dawned on me that confession is an important—indeed essential—sacrament needing reconsideration and retrieval. 

Growing up as a Protestant I was only familiar with the pop-culture view of Catholicism and confession within that Church (you know, the kind that is either still at war with “unbiblical” medieval views, or the kind that treats everything outside their own non-catholic tribe as “superstitious”, "fictitious",  "magical", or "blasphemous"). Today I recalled some conversations I have had with both kinds of protestant diatribalists, about the so-called “unbiblical sacraments”, and none strikes me as being more misunderstood than the sacrament of Confession. 

There are numerous obstacles in the way of maintaining an edifying conversation about that. I would like to cut through the messiness of how such conversations typically begin. Deflecting attention away from the first obstacle, which is even considering Confession as a sacrament, I think that the most important way of helping Protestants recognize the legitimacy and helpfulness of private confession and absolution to a priest or pastor is to see what Catholic confession can and does actually look like today. I mention this because the most common criticism I have come across has to do with the Roman rite of confession. (You know, the kind that sort of, in a crass way, is portrayed as quick and painless: “Bless me Father for I have sinned…yada, yada, yada. Okay, now go out and say five hail Mary’s and two Our Father’s, and you’re good to go.”)

That might be the way Roman (Western) rite confession is practiced. I seriously doubt that it represents the majority. I have not personally been to confession in a Roman Catholic parish, but I have asked a lot of Roman Catholic friends what they’re experiences were like, and have received a lot of positive, detailed feedback that the kind of priests and parishes which tolerate such pathetic, and somewhat comical confessional practices are not popular, and are not common in the northern midwest regions of America (around where we live). But even if the majority of Catholic parishes practiced confession in such a fashion today (and again, admittedly, I don't actually know how the majority of Roman priests practice it), that is not how Catholic confession operates in Eastern rite parishes. And this, I do have experience in practicing. As a Byzantine Greek Catholic who has celebrated with a handful of parishes across the USA, I can actually dispel some of the “superstitious magic” which Protestants imagine the sacrament of Confession to be instilling.

How might I attempt to dispel such prevailing protestant myths of our era?  

The answer: By illustrating the actual rite of confession within Eastern Orthodox and Catholic parishes. 

My hope, again, is to dispel some of the worrisome and comical “fictions” which Protestants imagine are occurring at every confession within the Catholic Church, and to show plainly through the rite itself how “Biblical” it actually is (and should be considered to remain). That should help provide a framework for Protestants to consider, if not rethink altogether, the possibility of private confession to an ordained minister of Jesus Christ as a healthy practice to retrieve (as even the mighty Protestant icon, John Calvin, begrudgingly implied as a theoretical possibility, long ago1). 

Assuming that a man was to receive the sacrament of Confession, here is how it might look in an Eastern parish: 

First, the penitent Christian approaches the iconostasis located in the front of the Church, beyond all the pews, and stands before an icon of Jesus Christ. The priest draws near and says: 
My brother, inasmuch as you have come to God, and to me, do not be ashamed; for you do not speak to me, but to God, before Whom you stand. If you are able, please kneel before Christ our God 

Facing Jesus and looking attentively to Him, the penitent Christian might then begin with a formal and general declaration, such as: “I have sinned, O Lord, forgive me. O God, be merciful to me a sinner”, followed by more specific details.  

*** 

Or the penitent might just speak to Christ, confess sins generally, followed by the priest questioning him to draw out more specific details about specific sins. (It is especially helpful that priests of the Eastern Catholic rite carry on a conversation in a very practical manner, questioning, encouraging, seeking understanding, and challenging the penitent toward serious consideration of the graveness involved, consequently or actually, by the sins committed and confessed.) 

***

When the confession to Jesus is complete, the priest places his stole over the head of the penitent and speaks to the penitent: 

My spiritual child, who have confessed before your humble servant, I, an unworthy sinner, do not have the power on earth to forgive sins. God alone has that power; yet through that divinely spoken word which came to the apostles after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying: “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained,” we too are given boldness to say: Whatever you have said to me, and whatever you have not succeeded in saying, either through ignorance or through forgetfulness, whatever it may be, God alone forgives you in this present world and in that which is to come.  

Or the priest says instead:

O God our Savior, who by Your prophet Nathan granted the repentant David pardon of his transgressions, and accepted Manasseh’s prayers of repentance: In Your customary love toward mankind, accept also this Your servant, who is here before You to repent of the sins which he has committed. Overlook all that he has done, pardon his offenses, and pass by his iniquities. For You have said, O Lord: “I do not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live,” and that “sins should be forgiven seventy times seven.” For Your majesty is beyond compare, and Your mercy is without measure, and if You should mark iniquity, who could stand?  For You are the God of the penitent, and unto You we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.  

Then the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the penitent, touching his head, saying: 

May God, Who pardoned David through Nathan the prophet when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman weeping at His feet, and the publican and the prodigal son, may that same God forgive you all things, through me a sinner, both in this world and in the world to come, and set you uncondemned before His terrible judgment seat. 

And now, having no further anxiety for the sins which you have confessed, go in peace. 

*** 

Also, if time and circumstances allow, it is proper for the penitent to learn the customary prayers of the Church, formulated by the Scriptures, and to respond, facing Jesus, with such prayers as: 

O almighty and merciful God, I truly thank You for the forgiveness of my sins; bless me, O Lord, and help me always, that I may ever do that which is pleasing to You, and sin no more. Amen.  

Or this might be prayed instead: 

O Lord God of my salvation, the Savior and Benefactor of my soul, I am truly sorry for my every transgression, and I firmly resolve never again to offend You by such sins, and sincerely promise to amend my way of life. Implant in me the fear of Your blessed commandments, that I may trample down all carnal appetites and may lead a godly life, both thinking and doing always such things as are pleasing to You. Grant me the strength of Your Holy Spirit, that I may avoid all evil deeds, works, words, and thoughts, and may avoid all snares of the evil one. Shine in my heart with the true Sun of Your righteousness; enlighten my mind and guard all my senses, that walking uprightly in the way of Your statutes, I may attain life eternal. Amen.  

Or the penitent might pray instead: 

O sovereign Master, Who love mankind, lead me in Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Make glad my heart, that I may fear Your holy name. O Lord, mighty in mercy, gracious in strength, aid and comfort and save me, as I put my trust in Your holy name. Do not rebuke me, O Lord, in Your displeasure, nor punish me in Your wrath, but show me Your great mercy and compassion, O Physician and Healer of my soul. O merciful Savior, blot out all my transgressions, for I am truly sorry for having offended You. Grant me Your grace that I may avoid my previous evil ways. Strengthen me, O mighty One, to withstand those temptations before which I am weak, that I may avoid all future sin. Keep me under Your protection and in the shadow of Your wings, that I may serve You, praise You, and glorify You all the days of my life. Amen. 








1. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book IV, chapters 14 through 17), Calvin presents a scandalous case against the Roman (Western) practice of Confession in his own day, which transitioned from public confessions and absolutions to private ones. In doing so, Calvin was, of course, attempting to distinguish the domineering Roman expression of faith from Christianity altogether. In those three brief chapters (14-17) Calvin attempts to dissuade his audience from believing the long standing doctrine about Confession as a Sacrament (which he, of course, considered to be Divine requirements, and not merely things indifferent). In chapter 14 Calvin admits that he wholeheartedly approves of the ancient practice that required public confession and absolution, but his rationale against the sacrament of private confession to a priest or Bishop is very brief and seems almost entirely anecdotal, overlooking many pertinent counter-rationales from Scripture and history, and all pertaining merely to the Roman rite illustrated within his own era. In other words, even if Calvin was accurate in his reasoning against private confession as a sacrament of Christ's Church, he strangely leaves plenty of room for disagreement, introducing it and dismissing it rather quickly.











Monday, February 29, 2016

God Tests Everyone (A Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, Year C)







Third Sunday in Lent
Year C
Epistle Reading: I Cor. 10:1-13

In a school setting there are different kinds of tests which teachers give their students. Some are written tests were you can answer one of multiple choices, while others are completed in the form of an essay or summary. Tests can also be in the form of activities, like in gym class where you're tested to perform the drills over and over again. In all of these examples, the purpose and goal is not (or shouldn't be, anyway) merely to evaluate who is getting the highest test scores, or even building up the most stamina. Rather, those tests are (or should be) for the maturity and development of the student body.

In the passage today from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, we are reminded that God tests us. Paul says that "We must not put Christ to the test (ἐκπειράζωμεν), as some of them did test (ἐπείρασαν)", and also, "These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us." In other words, the previous examples of God testing Israel are on our exams too, so we would be wise to keep them in mind when we are being tested. 

Paul continues: "So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing (πειρασθῆναι) has overtaken you that is not common to everyone."

God tests everyone. Testing is common to everyone, according to Paul. But this isn't a unique idea of Paul's. It is an overwhelming theme of the Bible. In the wilderness God tested his people:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test (πειράσω) them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (Exodus 20:20 LXX) 
Moses said to the people, "Do not fear, for God has come to test (πειράσαι) you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin." (Exodus 16:4 LXX) 
And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested (ἐπείρασεν) them (Exodus 15:24-25 LXX) 
Take care lest you forget the LORD your God ...when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, ...who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness... and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test (ἐκπειράσῃ) you, to do you good in the end. (Deuteronomy 8:11-18 LXX)

God even tests his people individually: In Eden God tested Adam. He tested Cain and Abel and others too. One of the most memorable tests of Scripture which God ever gave was to Abraham:
After these things God tested (ἐπείραζεν) Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." The Lord said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Genesis 22:1-2 LXX)

How would you like that to be your test?

Even toward the end of Israel’s history as a nation, in second Chronicles 32:30-31 (LXX), we see another test, and that test also alludes back to the principles we just learned in Deuteronomy 8:11-18 (above) about tests through times of prosperity:
And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. And so in the matter of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test (πειράσαι) him and to know all that was in his heart.

There are numerous other passages I could reference, but I think these few illustrate my point. God tests us, and yet, interestingly, in the background of all those passages, God isn't the only one testing us. God's adversary, the devil, and our earthly adversaries take advantage of God's tests, to test us also. Writing to the Bishop of the church in Smyrna, Jesus offers these promises:
I know your tribulation and your poverty and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested (πειρασθῆτε), and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:9-10)

Whenever we examine Scripture’s examples of testing, whether those examples are about God testing us or being tested by evil, we are always tested in one common aspect of our lives: our loyalty to God.

I find it interesting that in our lectionary reading from Corinthians, not only are we taught to expect tests, but in all of the examples Paul gives us about how not to respond to those tests, he mentions the people putting God to the test. In other words, when Paul teaches us about the tests of life, he wants to know what our response will be: Will our response be loyal love toward God, or will we side with evil against God? Will we put Him to the test?

One of the most striking examples of testing in the New Testament is with Jesus right after his baptism, where he goes into the wilderness and is confronted by Satan. There, at the very heart of Satan’s test, Jesus is challenged to question his loyalty to God. As we know, Jesus passed the devil's test. However, at the very beginning of that story we are told that it is the Spirit who lead Jesus into the wilderness for testing (Matt. 4:1). Not only did the adversary test Jesus, but God tested His own Son too, according to that story. God tests us and our adversaries test us. It is very possible for God’s adversaries and ours to take advantage of those circumstances—those tests from God--to test our loyalty to God.

And as we were reminded by Paul, there is no testing of man which is uncommonTesting is common to us all. If you think your situation of testing is unique, think again. Even Jesus “had been tested (πεπειρασμένον) in every respect as we are”, yet he endured it all without sin (Hebrews 4:15). It is for that very reason we ought to follow the example of Jesus and pray as He instructed us: "Heavenly Father, lead us not into testing (πειρασμόν) but deliver us from the evil one (τοῦ πονηροῦ)." (Matt. 6:13)

After studying the Lord’s Prayer in detail years ago, and offering some thoughts about it, I concluded that the best translation for Matt. 6:13 was “testing,” not “temptation.” The reasons being, first, that by implication, the phrase “Lead us not into temptation” carries the baggage of God tempting us—even tempting us with evil--which He never does, for He can never be tempted to do evil Himself (James 1:13). Secondarily, and as I have already noted, God does lead us into testing, and because the same word for “temptation” (πειρασμός) used in Matt. 6:13 more often means “testing” throughout Scripture, and also is not a contradiction with James 1:13, that seems to be the only reasonable translation. And with that translation of "testing" comes an important lesson about Christian maturity and development, as any loving teacher should want a student to receive. If translated as “testing,” it turns out that Matt. 6:13 is not about deliverance from God ever testing us to mature and develop in life. It's not a request for God to cancel our tests altogether. Rather, the petition, "Lead us not into testing, but deliver us from the evil one" is a description of abandonment—to not be abandoned to go our own way or to fall by evil. Even the surrounding context of the Lord’s Prayer sheds light on that meaning. 

Immediately before the Lord’s Prayer on the Mount, where do we find Jesus being tested in his loyalty to God? In the wilderness (Matt. 4:1). The geographical description could not be more obvious for those familiar with the exodus typology utilized throughout Scripture. It is in the wilderness with God that the evil one tested Israel. He tested Jesus also; and it is there where the evil one tests us too. The Lord's prayer is for the new Israel, the Church, who desperately needs deliverance from the evil one if left to our own ways in the wilderness of life.

Therefore, when we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, that portion about God not leading us into testing is not a request to never be tested, but an acknowledgment of our vulnerability before Him in the wilderness of life. We are the ones who, when tested, are free to side with evil and even respond by testing Him back, by grumbling, complaining, and by not seeking deliverance from Him. So Paul says, don't do that! Instead, pray to your Heavenly Father who alone can give us courage through trials and also will deliver us when we turn to Him. The Lord's Prayer is for God's mercy to spare us from testing that we cannot handle. "For to Him belongs the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever."

To Him belongs the power and glory…so seek Him while He is near.

Paul tells us that God is faithful through every test we endure, and He will not let you be tested beyond your ability. With the testing he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. That’s God’s promise to you. God never puts you in a situation where you must sin. He always gives you the freedom to side with Him. So remain loyal to Him through all the tests of life.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

* * * * * * *

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.