Friday, January 04, 2008

An American Prayer from Dr. Ben Witherington

If you have not checked out the blog of Ben Witherington, you probably should. His most recent gem is this masterpiece he aptly titles An American's Prayer for the New Year. He also includes movie reviews, book reviews, and ongoing commentary on culture. You know, normal blog stuff. Suffice it to say, his blog is definately worth the regular glance.

Here is his prayer (which connects nicely with our series on Myth...). May we take heed to its message.

Lord God:

I am almighty tired of all that is tawdry and cheap about Christianity in America. I am tired of the chest thumping assumptions about God being on ‘our side’. I weary of those who equate their brand of American politics with the will of God for the world, or worse, those who think being a Christian means I should not be involved IN the great causes of the age or the major decisions made in our land. Lord help us not to mistake apathy for true spirituality, or abstinence for action.

Lord is there not a way to help American Christians understand that they are called to be global Christians, not merely American ones? Is there not a way to help us understand that the true patriots are those who will what is best for all humankind, and not just our kind? Is there not a way to make clear that when Jesus said we must ‘love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ he was not kidding? Could we not take to heart the words of your servant John Donne when he said ‘any man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind. Therefore do not think to ask for whom the bell tolls….’

Lord this is an election year, and there is much fervor and ferment. Doubtless much hangs in the balance in regard to the war in Iraq, our relationship with Pakistan, and many other large matters, and yet we seem much more concerned about our own standard of living, and whether our houses will sell or not. Could we not please get a glimpse of a larger world vision and world view that would help us see that our near total preoccupation with ourselves is a reflection of human sin, of human fallenness, of ‘the heart turned in upon itself’? Could we not realize that real family values amounts to realizing that the worldwide family of faith, the family of Christ is the primary family, not our nuclear families?

Lord I do not understand the blindness I encounter repeatedly in church after church. We rant and rave about sexual sin, and yet ignore racism, sexism, and in general the entire social gospel. Is this because we have reduced sin to the private and personal spheres in our lives? Is this because we have forgotten about the body of Christ and how there are both corporate and national as well as personal sins? Why do we strain over gnats but swallow camels when it comes to sin? Why do we repeatedly put the emphasis in the wrong place?

Lord there is much that is good and generous about the American spirit. Yet so often it is myopic, and amounts to helping ourselves, or our near kin. Lord, I would pray that more Christians in America would take on the challenge of cross cultural missions and let it expand their world view, and reshape their mentality about your human creatures. Forgive us Lord for forgetting and letting the Great Commission become the great Omission as we build bigger barns here in America to house ourselves, or for treating the great Commission as if it were only the job of missionaries.

Lord forgive us for our Biblical illiteracy, and for whittling off the hard edges of Scripture because they rub us the wrong way. Forgive us for our arrogance and ignorance which is always a lethal combination. Forgive us Lord for treating our cultural preferences as if they were Biblical absolutes, and forgive us for perverting your Gospel which is Good News for the poor into empowerment for those who long to be richer, wealthier, scratching the itch of a greedy soul. Lord forgive us our sense of entitlement and for treating you as if you were the great Santa Claus in the sky whose mission in life is to fulfill all our worldly longings and desires.

Lord you have said that not many of us should wish to be teachers of your Word, and yet you have made me one. Lord, it is a heavy responsibility, and yet your yoke is lighter than being in bondage to sin. I hear every day the words ‘to whom more is given, more is required’, and sometimes I fear the reckoning, as I fall short, and am not infrequently wrong about things.

Lord I understand that Christ is the model of true humility, and that it involves knowing both who and whose I am. I know it has nothing to do either with false humility or false pride, nor anything to do with feelings of low self worth or self-denigration. I know I am not God or even an angel, and yet Lord I know I am not nothing either. I know I am created in your image and recreated in Christ for good works.

Help me to not mistake my busy-ness for your business in all respects. Help me not mistake my convictions for your truths in all respects. Help me say more often--- ‘I do not know’. Help me to continue to learn before I teach, to love before I critically evaluate, to praise before I blame, to help before I hinder, to listen before I speak.

Lord in your Mercy, and in the name of the Blessed Trinity, hear my prayer,


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