A Prayer for Simplicity

Yesterday and today, I had the treat to teach a module at Hope International University on the theme of “Fasting and Simplicity.” It was new material, and God’s blessing in answer to the prayers of many was profound. I really enjoyed my time with the ten students.

As part of my block on simplicity, I was drawn to lead the class in a prayer of Søren Kierkegaard, early 19th c. Danish philosopher and theologian, on his famous theme: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” I thought I would share that prayer here. (Remember that he when he wrote inclusive language wasn’t, and Thees and Thous were typical in prayers):

TO WILL ONE THING

“FATHER in Heaven! What is a man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all! So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing. Oh, Thou that givest both the beginning and the completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give to the young man the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may Thou give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing. Alas, but this has indeed not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So in this time of repentance may Thou give the courage once again to will one thing. True, it is an interruption of our ordinary tasks; we do lay down our work as though it were a day of rest, when the penitent (and it is only in a time of repentance that the heavy laden worker may be quiet in the confession of sin) is alone before Thee in self accusation. This is indeed an interruption. But it is an interruption that searches back into its very beginnings that it might bind up anew that which sin has separated, that in its grief it might atone for lost time, that in its anxiety it might bring to completion that which lies before it. Oh, Thou that givest both the beginning and the completion, give Thou victory in the day of need so that what neither a man’s burning wish nor his determined resolution may attain to, may be granted unto him in the sorrowing of repentance: to will only one thing.”

(from The Prayers of Kierkegaard. Ed. By Perry D. LeFevre. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956, p. 31-32)

I’d be very grateful for your prayers Friday through Monday as I lead three days of ministry with two Northern California churches.

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