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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Two Prayers

I am much less bashful about talking about my Faith than I used to be. In English English there is a contraction of ‘pious’ or ‘piety’: ‘pi’. When I say that you are pi, I am not being polite. ‘Sanctimonious’ is never a compliment. Englishmen feel an uncomfortable sensation in the collar region when alluding to such things as Faith. Older, more robust generations of Christians did not experience this prickling.

I offer the following as the most practical examples of piety I know.

It is now my practice, when I experience any frisson of joy or gratitude, inwardly to utter:

‘Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen.’

Every April I find myself quoting Browning to myself:

O, TO be in England

Now that April 's there,

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge

Leans to the field and scatters on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—

That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,

Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,

All will be gay when noontide wakes anew

The buttercups, the little children's dower

—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

One of the uses of poetry is its appropriateness as a response to emotion. I think prayer is similar.

It is also my practice, when I experience resentment, malice or self-pity, inwardly to utter:

‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’

This is known as the Jesus Prayer. Christians of the Orthodox tradition make much of it. It is hard for me to imagine how more theology could be packed into twelve words. Its ‘usefulness’ though is not in reminding me of the Fall and the Incarnation and of Redemption. It is more like a squirt of bleach into the toilet bowl. It kills 99.9% of resentment, malice and self-pity.

I am a happier man for using these two prayers.

May you experience joy and gratitude. May you disinfect yourself from resentment, malice and self-pity.

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