Pray – Read – Learn – Tell – Serve – Give
I was talking to a friend in Spain this week. “I’ve been looking at your diocesan website, and the Rule of Life, it’s really good!”
It’s good because it is simple. Anyone could write their own Rule of Life using these six words. In my preaching in the diocese at the moment I am talking about the six words and encouraging people very simply to think of one thing they can do for each word. The simpler the better.
This week I am fortunate enough to be preaching in the same church that I preached in last week (this doesn’t happen very often). So I am getting the chance to do Week 2 on the Rule of Life! When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he gave them a really simple prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. The trouble is when we pray words we know really well we can sometimes hardly notice what they mean. For ‘Pray’ I have been encouraging people to pray the Lord’s Prayer, but to do so incredibly slowly, to time themselves and to take 10 minutes doing so.
One way of doing this is to start with each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and extend it with your own words. I shall be handing out the prayer cards below for people to take away with them and think about how they might do this.
I guarantee that anyone who does this every day will have a deeper faith, a closer relationship with Jesus.
One of my great heroes is the French writer Simone Weil. She prayed the Lord’s Prayer slowly (in Greek) and was converted by it. There is more information about it here.
Some of the stuff I put up on this blog might make it look like prayer and growing in faith is complicated. Of course, it’s not, it is very simple indeed. As simple as “Our Father …”. As simple as “Pray – Read – Learn – Tell – Serve – Give”.
“The Our Father contains all possible petitions; we cannot conceive of any prayer not already contained in it. It is to prayer what Christ is to humanity. It is impossible to say it once through, giving the fullest possible attention to each word, without a change, infinitesimal perhaps but real, taking place in the soul.”
Simone Weil (her full reflections are below)
See my previous post on the Rule of Life here.
Here are Simone Weil’s extensions of the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father which art in Heaven
He is our Father. There is nothing real in us which does not come from him. We belong to him. He loves us, since he loves himself and we are his. We do not have to search for him, we only have to change the direction in which we are looking. It is for him to search for us. We must be happy in the knowledge that he is infinitely beyond our reach. Thus we can be certain that the evil in us, even if it overwhelms our whole being, in no way sullies the divine purity, bliss, and perfection.
Hallowed be thy name
God alone has the power to name himself. His name is unpronounceable for human lips. His name is his word. It is the word of God. Man has access to this name, although it also is transcendent. It shines in the beauty and order of the world and it shines in the interior light of the human soul. This name is holiness itself; there is no holiness outside it; it does not therefore have to be hallowed. In asking for its hallowing we are asking for something that exists eternally, with full and complete reality, so that we can neither increase nor diminish it, even by an infinitesimal fraction. To ask for that which exists, that which exists really, infallibly, eternally, quite independently of our prayer, that is the perfect petition.
Thy kingdom come
This concerns something to be achieved, something not yet here. The kingdom of God means the complete filling of the entire soul of intelligent creatures with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit bloweth where he listeth? We can only invite him. We must not even try to invite him in a definite and special way to visit us or anyone else in particular, or even everybody in general; we must just invite him purely and simply, so that our thought of him is an invitation, a longing cry. It is as when one is in extreme thirst, ill with thirst; then one no longer thinks of the act of drinking in relation to oneself, or even of the act of drinking in a general way. One merely thinks of water, actual water itself, but the image of water is like a cry from our whole being.
Thy will be done
We are only absolutely, infallibly certain of the will of God concerning the past. Everything that has happened, whatever it may be, is in accordance with the will of the almighty Father. That is implied by the notion of almighty power. The future also, whatever it may contain, once it has come about, will have come about in conformity with the will of God. We can neither add to nor take from this conformity. In this clause, therefore, after an upsurging of our desire toward the possible, we are once again asking for that which is. Here, however, we are not concerned with an eternal reality such as the holiness of the word, but with what happens in the time order. Nevertheless we are asking for the infallible and eternal conformity of everything in time with the will of God. We have to desire that everything that has happened should have happened, and nothing else. We have to do so, not because what has happened is good in our eyes, but because God has permitted it, and because the obedience of the course of events to God is in itself an absolute good.
On Earth as it is in Heaven
The association of our desire with the almighty will of God should be extended to spiritual things. Our own spiritual ascents and falls, and those of the beings we love, have to do with the other world, but they are also events that take place here below, in time. On that account they are details in the immense sea of events and are tossed about with the ocean in a way conforming to the will of God. Since our failures of the past have come about, we have to desire that they should have come about. We have to extend this desire into the future, for the day when it will have become the past. It is a necessary correction of the petition that the kingdom of God should come. We have to cast aside all other desires for the sake of our desire for eternal life, but we should desire eternal life itself with renunciation. We must not even become attached to detachment.
Give us this day our daily bread —
— the bread which is supernatural. Christ is our bread. We can only ask to have him now. Actually he is always there at the door of our souls, wanting to enter in, though he does not force our consent. If we agree to his entry, he enters; directly we cease to want him, he is gone. We cannot bind our will today for tomorrow; we cannot make a pact with him that tomorrow he will be within us, even in spite of ourselves. Our consent to his presence is the same as his presence. Consent is an act; it can only be actual, that is to say in the present. We have not been given a will that can be applied to the future.
Bread is a necessity for us. We are beings who continually draw our energy from outside, for as we receive it we use it up in effort. If our energy is not daily renewed, we become feeble and incapable of movement. Besides actual food, in the literal sense of the word, all incentives are sources of energy for us. Money, ambition, consideration, decorations, celebrity, power, our loved ones, everything that puts into us the capacity for action is like bread. All these objects of attachment go together with food, in the ordinary sense of the word, to make up the daily bread of this world.
There is a transcendent energy whose source is in Heaven, and this flows into us as soon as we wish for it. It is a real energy; it performs actions through the agency of our souls and of our bodies.
We should ask for this food. At the moment of asking, and by the very fact that we ask for it, we know that God will give it to us.
And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors
At the moment of saying these words we must have already remitted everything that is owing to us. This not only includes reparation for any wrongs we think we have suffered, but also gratitude for the good we think we have done, and it applies in a quite general way to all we expect from people and things, to all we consider as our due and without which we should feel ourselves to have been frustrated. All these are the rights that we think the past has given us over the future. That is the claim we have to renounce.
To have forgiven our debtors is to have renounced the whole of the past in a lump. It is to accept that the future should still be virgin and intact, strictly united to the past by bonds of which we are ignorant, but quite free from the bonds our imagination thought to impose upon it. It means that we accept the possibility that this will happen, and that it may happen to us in particular; it means that we are prepared for the future to render all our past life sterile and vain. In renouncing at one stroke all the fruits of the past without exception, we can ask of God that our past sins may not bear their miserable fruits of evil and error.
The forgiveness of debts is spiritual poverty, spiritual nakedness, death. If we accept death completely, we can ask God to make us live again, purified from the evil in us. For to ask him to forgive us our debts is to ask him to wipe out the evil in us. Pardon is purification.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
After having contemplated the name, the kingdom, and the will of God, after having received the supernatural bread and having been purified from evil, the soul is ready for that true humility which crowns all virtues. Humility consists of knowing that in this world the whole soul, not only what we term the ego in its totality, but also the supernatural part of the soul, which is God present in it, is subject to time and to the vicissitudes of change. There must be absolute acceptance.
The Our Father contains all possible petitions; we cannot conceive of any prayer not already contained in it. It is to prayer what Christ is to humanity. It is impossible to say it once through, giving the fullest possible attention to each word, without a change, infinitesimal perhaps but real, taking place in the soul.