READING ROOM
 
 
THE PRAYERS OF SOREN KIERKEGAARD
 

".there exists a great chasm between God and human beings bridged only by the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

 

Move in Infinite Love

You who are unchangeable, whom nothing changes! You who are unchangeable in love, precisely for our welfare, not submitting to any change: may we too will our welfare, submitting ourselves to the discipline of Your unchangeableness, so that we may in unconditional obedience find our rest and remain at rest in Your unchangeableness. You are not like us; if we are to preserve only some degree of constancy, we must not permit ourselves too much to be moved, nor by too many things. You on the contrary are moved, and moved in infinite love, by all things. Even that which we humans beings call an insignificant trifle, and pass by unmoved, the need of a sparrow, even this moved You; and what we so often scarcely notice, a human sigh, this moves You, You who are unchangeable! You who in infinite love do submit to be moved, may this our prayer also move You to add Your blessing, in order that there may be brought about such a change in us who pray as to bring us into conformity with Your unchangeable will, You who are unchangeable!

 

You Have Loved Us First

Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

You have loved us first, O God, alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing You have loved us first many things and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You - You are the first - You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.

Have Then a Little Patience

Father in Heaven! Show us a little patience for we often intend in all sincerity to commune with You and yet we speak in such a foolish fashion. Sometimes, when we judge that what has come to us is good, we do not have enough words to thank You; just as a mistaken child is thankful for having gotten his own way. Sometimes things go so badly that we call upon You; just as an unreasoning child fears what would do him good. Oh, but if we are so childish, how far from being Your true children You who are our true Father, ah, as if an animal would pretend to have a man as a father. How childish we are and how little our proposals and our language resemble the language which should not be this way and that we should be otherwise. Have then a little patience with us.

 

Hold Us Up Against Our Sins

Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins so that the thought of You when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what You did forgive, not of how we went astray but of how You did save us!

 

The Promise and the Pain

Father in Heaven! We know indeed that seeking is never without its promise, how then could we fail to seek You, the author of all promises and the giver of all good gifts! We know well that the seeker does not always have to wander far afield since the more scared the object of his search, the nearer it is to him; and if he seeks You, O God, You are of all things most near!

But we know also that the seeking is never without its pains and temptations, how then would there not be fear in seeking You, who are mighty! Even he who trusts in thought to his kinship with You does not venture forth without fear upon those crucial decisions of thought where, through doubt, he seeks to trace Your presence in the wise order of existence or, through despair, he seeks to trace You in the obedience under providence of rebellious events. Those, whom You call Your friends, who walk in the light of Your countenance, they, too, not without trembling, seek the meeting of friendship with You who alone are mighty. People of prayer who love with their whole heart - it is not without anxiety that they venture into the conflict of prayer with their God. The dying man, for whom You shift the scene, does not relinquish the temporal without a shudder when You call him. Not even the child of woe, for whom the world has nothing but suffering, flee to You without fear, You who do not merely alleviate, but are all in all! How then should the sinner dare to seek You, O God of righteousness! But therefore he seeks You, not as these others do, but seeks You in the confession of sins.

 
The Sickness Unto Death

Father in Heaven! To You the congregation often makes its petition for all who are sick and sorrowful, and when someone among us lies ill, alas, of mortal sickness, the congregation sometimes desires a special petition; grant that we may each one of us become in good time aware what sickness it is which is the sickness unto death and aware that we are all of us suffering from this sickness.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth to heal them that suffer from this sickness, form which, alas, we all suffer, but from which You are able to heal only those who are conscious they are sick in this way; help us in this sickness to hold fast to You, to the end that we may be healed of it.

O God the Holy Spirit, who comes to help us in this sickness if we honestly desire to be healed; remain with us so that for no single instance we may to our own destruction shun the Physician, but may remain with Him - delivered from sickness. For to be with Him is to be delivered from our sickness, and when we are with Him we are saved from all sickness.

 

To Will One Thing

Father in Heaven! What are we without You! What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if we do not know You! What is all our striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half-finished work if we do not know You: You the One, who is one thing and who is all!

So may You 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 You grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing.

You that gives both the beginning and the completion, may You early, at the dawn of the day, give to the young the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may You give to the old a renewed remembrance of their 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 You 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 is alone before You 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.

You that gives both the beginning and the completion, give Your victory in the day of need so that what neither our burning wish nor our determined resolution may attain to, may be granted unto us in the sorrowing of repentance: to will only one thing.

 
Each Morning Broken

Lord! Make our heart Your temple in which You live. Grant that every impure thought, every earthly desire might be like the idol Dagon - each morning broken at the feet of the Ark of the Covenant. Teach us to master flesh and blood and let this mastery of ourselves be our bloody sacrifice in order that we might be able to say with the Apostle: "I die every day."

 

Reflections

It is a wonderful thing to see a first-rate philosopher at prayer. Tough-minded thinking and tenderhearted reverence are friends, not enemies. We have for too long separated the head from the heart, and we are the lesser for it. We love God with the mind and we love God with the heart. In reality, we are descending with the mind into the heart and there standing before God in ceaseless wonder and endless praise. As the mind and the heart work in concert, a kind of "loving rationality" pervades all we say and do. This brings unity to us and glory to God.

ABOUT SOREN KIERKEGAARD (1813-1855)

Soren Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen in the early nineteenth century. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen and spent two years in Germany before returning to Copenhagen, where he would spend the rest of his life. In 1834 he wrote and published his first book, Either/Or, which startled the religious world with its denouncement of watered-down Christianity.

In fact, Kierkegaard's life and works were a serious challenge to the institutional church that he believed had removed the necessary leap of faith and the individual's (as opposed to the masses') responsibility of commitment. All his writings served as a kind of judgement against a church that minimized the distance between the human and the divine. Kierkegaard believed that there was a great chasm between God and human beings and that the only bridge was Jesus Christ. In the period of history we call the Enlightenment (when reason seemed to triumph over faith and human potential over human weakness), Kierkegaard's philosophy served as a corrective to a world and a church that had lost its identity.

   

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