“Be with us, God of glory, assist us as we pray.” These are the words of the invocation for Morning and Evening praise here at St. Anthony’s. As often as I have prayed these words, it was only recently that I began to ponder these words and their meaning.
Honestly, my first thought was, “Don’t we mean, ‘Assist us with what we pray for?’” Each day there are needs on our hearts and minds as we gather for prayer. Our prayers may be for our guests, their safe travel as they come and go, or for a fruitful and spirit-filled time with us; for a volunteer or staff member’s personal needs; for those impacted by stories in the news; or for the needs of the poor or marginalized members of society. Certainly, these are all good prayer intentions that we need God to help with.
Then I thought, “What if we mean exactly what we say?” What might I need God to assist me with, to assist us with, as we pray together as a community?
One reflection I read shared this insight on prayer from Diana Butler Bass. She tells us that the desert mothers and fathers believed prayer was “much more than a technique, and early Christians left us no definitive how-to manual on prayer. Rather, the desert fathers and mothers believed that prayer was a disposition of wholeness, so that ‘prayer and our life must be all of a piece.’ . . . [They] taught that prayer was participation in God’s love, the activity that takes us out of ourselves, away from the familiar, and conforms us to the path of Christ.” 1
When reading another reflection on prayer, the writer referenced the 11th step in 12 step programs: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
Those two tidbits gave me a multitude of answers to my question. I know I need assistance to more fully participate in God’s love. I know I need assistance to step out of myself, my comfort zone, to follow the path of Christ. I know I need assistance to improve my conscious contact with God. I know I need assistance to stay focused, to remain in the moment. I know I need assistance to stay open, to listen for what God may be calling me to do. I know I need assistance to give me the strength to carry out God’s will for me and my life. And I know I can do nothing without God. I need God to assist me with all this and more.
My pondering then led me to ask, “If prayer and life are to be one piece, why limit that invocation to my prayer? Why not start every day, every task, every breath, with that same invocation?”
Be with me, God of glory, assist me as I work, as I pray, as I rest, as I speak, as I listen, as I ponder, as I live, as I breathe.
May the God of glory be with you to assist you this Lent and every day.
– by Marge Lindell
1 Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (Harper One: 2010), 48.