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Ancient Prayers

A prayer book seems like a restrictive ritual for a person whose faith has always been identified with spontaneity. Growing up Baptist and serving in Pentecostal churches did not prepare me for the rhythms of structured prayer, inhibiting my free flowing prayer.

Yet, prayer books have become an integral part of my devotional life. The rhythms that once seemed lifeless now echo foundations of faith from centuries past. These old prayers have become resting places for my soul. I find refuge in the simplicity of ancient faith.

Lately, one prayer from an Orthodox prayer book has fascinated me. It has become something of a breath prayer for me. These words move back and forth across my mind as I breathe in and out.

“Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”

This simple prayer somehow expresses the awesome majesty of our God. The stocks may be sliding, the car may be stalling, and the light may refuse to turn green. Yet He Is. Above the mindless chatter, above the clacker of keyboards, above the terror deep in our souls, over and above all else dwells the “Holy God.”

He is so great, even greatness cannot contain Him. Every attempt to understand, to explain and to even defend falls short of the eternal greatness of God. He is overwhelming. And He doesn’t owe me anything.

In some strange twist, we sometimes develop the notion that God is in debt to man. He owes me a good marriage. He owes me good health, a better income, and an exotic vacation. He owes me “spiritual chill bumps.” He owes me more success, better friends.

He owes me nothing.

The “Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal” God owes me nothing. Comprehending this, I might actually learn to appreciate and receive His unlimited gifts. He freely gives me sunlight, cool breezes, laughter, friends, butterflies, music and life.

He created the world of waterfalls and windstorms, stars and seagulls, fireflies and fruit trees as a gift to His most prized creation: humans. The world was a gift. As Adam and Eve received God’s unlimited gifts, they enjoyed loving fellowship with their Creator.

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Then in a tragic act of deception, they ate from the one tree God had forbidden. They took the one thing that God did not give. In so doing, they cursed themselves. No longer able to receive gifts from their loving Father, Adam and Eve toiled and strived to satisfy their appetite for the eternal. Unfortunately, outside of God’s communion nothing could satisfy. Ever since, we continue to toil to satisfy a desire that can only be filled by the “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal.”

So, we think God owes us. We learn methods to manipulate other people and God to satisfy our urges. We lose sight of the gifts that continually surround us.

“Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”

We need His mercy to restore a gracious heart that learns to receive from His loving hand. He is the giver of all good gifts. I am satisfied because He fills my soul with good things.

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