Here’s a song I wrote a number of years ago. I think this song (and the other 3 parts of this long extended suite… you can have it on this album right here, buy it or just listen for free…) make pretty decent meditations for lent. I hope you enjoy.
Not too long ago I wrote a contemporary wording with music of John Wesley’s covenant prayer. Here it is… for free or whatever you want to pay.
And here are the lyrics if you’re interested.
Wesley Covenant Prayer
I don’t belong to me, I belong to you
I belong to you
My life is not my own, it belongs to you
It belongs to you
Have me do what you want
Put me with whoever you want
Put me to work, or set me aside
Let me be exalted for you
Let me be humbled for you
Fill me up or empty me out
Grant me everything in you
Or take it all away for you
Give me joy, or fill my heart with tears
Because everything I have
I surrender it to you
Let me serve you, with a humble heart
Glorious God, Blessed One
Creator, redeemer, sustainer and Lord
Let this promise I make
Reach from earth to the heavens
You are mine, and Jesus, I am yours
©2016 Peter J. Hamm, based on John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.
If you use this in your church, please contact me to let me know. Thank you.
This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.
When Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life, I think (and I’m not the only one) that he meant something beyond “I am the way to get to heaven” and such. A handful of people have pointed out that when he says “I am the way”, he might mean that his method of life is the best way to live.
I like that, so I wrote a song about it. This past weekend, when our church’s pastor was preaching on imitating Christ, it seemed only fitting to share this song, “You Are the Way“, since that’s exactly what it’s about. (But no, I didn’t just write it. It was written years ago.)
This song is a promise and a prayer all wrapped into one. I want Christ to live in me so that I can do a better job of loving my neighbor the way that He would like me to, and it’s a promise to do that, as well, to “lift my neighbor up off the ground”.
When you really mean that, I suppose it’s a hard song to sing, but I think it’s fun to do it anyway.
You Are the Way
I want to do the things you do
I want to pray the things you’d pray
I want to love whoever You love
I want your truth, your life, your way
You are the way I want to follow
You are the truth I want to believe
You are the life I need inside me
Jesus, won’t you put your love in me
I want to know forgiveness
I want to spread it all around
I want my heart to be just like yours
I want my life to make a joyful sound
The same melody they heard when you were around
I want to lift my neighbor up off the ground
I want to show all the lost that they are finally found
©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.
Last May I wrote this post about my visit to my brother’s Catholic Seminary. You can go read it first… I’ll wait… (I am still shocked that out of the almost 38,000 visits to this blog (as of today) since I started, about one third of them were this one story.)
I was blessed to be able to visit again this past weekend. And yes, I’m just as impressed with the seminarians and with the future of the Catholic Church as I was then. In fact, if denominations were publicly traded commodities, I’d recommend you dump a few of those and invest in the Catholic Church… (I’m just kidding… I think…)
This year when I visited, I got to attend an evening prayers (Vespers) service. Now I don’t usually do evening prayer, even though I’m a humongous fan of fixed our “prayer offices” and actually use the Catholic rite for morning prayer even though I’m not Catholic (but was raised in the Catholic Church). I love how very wise men have picked excellent portions of Scripture and wonderful prayerful responses to help guide me as I seek after God.
But at the seminary, they go totally off the deep end with the Sunday evening Vespers, which means we are led by a choir and organ and chant basically the whole service, which more than doubled the time it would take if I were doing this alone or even with a group praying aloud. It was very ceremonial and exact and carefully done, in a way the most of my Evangelical brothers and sisters find onerous, ponderous or even offensive. And I could tell that the (mostly) young men who were participating were indeed doing so with a full heart of love for Christ and His Church.
Often my fellow Evangelical Protestants complain that these kinds of prayers are “vain repetition” such as Jesus suggested we never ever use. I do not concur, although I have no doubt that for some it can become this. The full cycle of fixed hour prayer contained in the full Liturgy of the Hours (You can read a version of today’s prayers here if you’re interested) that these seminarians practice while they are at seminary, and many “religious” practice all through their lives, takes the “pray-er” through the entire cycle of Psalms (which is, btw, a prayer/hymn book, let us not forget) multiple times a year.
But may I suggest that it is far more likely that when we sit down and use our own words to pray to God without thought to any intention, petition or emotion outside of our own temporal feelings and remembrances, that our extemporaneous prayers become the kinds of vain repetition that all who live a life of faith would love to avoid. I find that often when I use my own words, that I get lost in my own selfishness, in the same words and petitions and prayers over and over again… and my prayers become… yes, you guessed it… “vain repetition.”
So, I rely, most every morning, on “non-vain repetition” as I pray (along with millions all over the planet) words that have been generously given to me by centuries of tradition, not to mention Scripture (which is primarily what these prayers consist of). Sure, I talk to God on my own… a lot, these days as He and I are sometimes “having it out”, if you will. But I always return to the words of Morning Prayer (and occasionally evening prayer) to bolster my faith in a way in which, after over 3 decades of following Christ, my own words have simply proven incapable. (I use this little book, which I’ve recommended before. This series from Phyllis Tickle is excellent, too.)
I continue to wish my Evangelical brethren would stop caricaturing our Catholic brothers and sisters, most often condemning their beliefs in a way that shows far more ignorance of what they actually believe than they have of what we do. (I recently had a discussion with someone who was criticizing Catholic doctrine, and he had every single one of the doctrines he was criticizing very wrong… and it’s not the first time I’ve experienced this.)
But, more than that, I hope that some who read this will consider it a good idea to “stand on ceremony”, take a break from your extemporaneous prayers (especially if, like me, you feel like they are getting nowhere more often than not), and try something a little different, a little older, a little more formal. If you’re like me, you’ll be glad you did.
P.S. If you’re interested in knowing more about this, from an Evangelical Protestant perspective, check out this amazing book by Scot McKnight.
Also, as was the case last year when I blogged about it… no slamming, no theological debates here. I only had to delete a handful of comments last year. Hopefully, fewer this year.
This will be a little long, and very preachy, I confess…. I promise to give you exit points, for those of you who pray wonderfully. But I don’t, and many I know don’t.
I grew up Catholic and became truly and fully aware of God and responded to His grace outside the Catholic Church in my Junior year of High School. One of the first things that I learned was not to use any written prayers or any man-made forms of prayer but to only pray extemporaneously to God. Anything else was “vain repetition and evil”.
What a lie.
Here’s what happens. I set aside a time for prayer, and sit down and start praying… with my own words. You want to talk about vain. Tell me you don’t do this, you who have embraced, as I have, “making it up as you go along”. My words were always the same. And what does that sound like? You guessed it. Vain repetition… and by the way… pretty selfish vain repetition, treating God like the cosmic vending machine like we Evangelicals are so good at.. Exit point 1. Maybe you’re not like this. Go ahead, close the window, move on to the next thing in your day, whatever. You don’t need to keep reading. But maybe you do, because you will be like this someday, maybe soon. But I’ll be honest… those of you who think this is working? I’ve heard some of you pray… Some of you are as bad at this as I am. You would, I promise, benefit from what I’m talking about. I promise.
Here is some really great news for people who can’t pray right.
People have apparently known of this problem for thousands of years. There is evidence, I think overwhelming evidence, that the ancient Israelites, the Jews, Jesus, and the early Christians all have practiced fixed hour prayer, using set prayers, for thousands of years (not to mention the non Judeo-Christian faith communities). But the Reformation threw all of this out in the trash in the 16th century, and then the Great Awakenings shut the lid on that trash can really tight, even though the actual reformers, many of them, continued these practices, and even wrote new prayer books (such as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer) so that people could continue these practices, no matter their station in life. This isn’t a replacement for using your own words with God by any stretch, but is most certainly a better jumping off point than having nothing, or, in my case (tell me this isn’t you) just my selfish man-centered grocery list for God. Exit point 2. You are afraid of prayer books… don’t be. There are some that are easy and even free online! And, as I point out in a moment, you have other alternatives that are really great.
I am really bad at prayer, aren’t you?
Lately I’ve read a lot on prayer, and many people (these are Evangelicals, for the most part, by the way, not Catholics) are returning to fixed hour, fixed prayer. I am one of them, and over the past year, especially, have found that my prayer life is more vigorous, more of a connection to God, and more life-changing than otherwise. It also takes both less time, and more time… Less time at my “prayer station” in the morning, as I do morning prayer from this book, which, despite its being of Catholic origin is totally ecumenical in nature (no Hail Marys to be found, guys) is an amazing and easy tool to use for this. I have to say, also, that my own personal petitions are informed by this, and are getting less selfish all the time. I like that. I’m a very selfish person by nature, more so than a lot of people that I know. I might be the most selfish person I know, as a matter of fact, so anything to make me less Peter-centered and more Jesus-centered is a good… no… a great thing.. Exit point 3. You hate Catholics or at least fear them, for some reasons. Get over it, we’re all going to be singing in the same throne room in heaven. I promise you.
It only takes me about 10 minutes a day to do this…
Let me make sure you understand something. My morning prayers, when I used someone else’s words (basically the Psalms and prayers based on them) take less time and bring me more into communion with God than when I just “wing it”.
I have heard it said (by people I love and respect) that even the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”) was not meant to be prayed word for word at all… ever… Is that even possible in a world where Jesus, when asked what is the greatest commandment, answered with the Shema (plus his addition to the Shema – see below) which was repeated by observant Jews at their fixed-hour prayers every single day, multiple times? In a world where the largest book, by far, in our sacred texts is a book of worship songs, meant to be sung, spoken, or prayed, or even memorized, by ordinary people. We evangelicals have romanticized something called “quiet time”, which isn’t actually celebrated in Scripture as much as fixed hour prayer is (The early Christians even continued the practice of going to the Synagogue for fixed hour prayer… it’s there in Acts. Jesus seems to have done this, too). Quiet time is GREAT! I just offer to you that it can be better when combined with words that were already prepared for the purpose… Back to the Lord’s Prayer… We have overwhelming evidence that the early Christians recited the Lord’s Prayer whenever they met together, and churches don’t seem to have discontinued this practice until the past 200 years.
So… I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.
The Lord’s Prayer a great start to prayer, but also it’s a great prayer. It’s the great prayer.So you want a great easy start on this? Perhaps you can do what Scot McKnight recommends in this excellent book. 3 times a day, morning, noon, and evening, repeat the Our Father, if not out loud at least moving your lips as you breathe so that you actually “get the full benefit” (like chewing food), perhaps the 10 commandments (if you don’t know them by heart, you should) and the “Jesus Creed”, which is the Shema and the second great commandment combined by Jesus. This will only take you a few minutes, and you’ll be praying with people all over the world at the same times! You want to put that prayer into turbo mode? Try making the Lord’s Prayer your own… Once a day, maybe in the morning, say it one line at a time… meditate on that point and in your own thoughts, put it in your own words. Exit point 4. You hate this idea and you have no idea why you’ve read this far. Or, you think your prayer life stinks, and you think that this might be a good idea. Trust me. It is. Here’s a couple of great books on this subject. One from a Vineyard Pastor (I find that one to be the most practical and best book on prayer that I’ve ever read) and one from an Episcopalian. They are better than me at explaining this.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we also have forgiven those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Prayer is the most important thing that Christians do. I’m going to say that again in case you didn’t hear me. Prayer is the most important thing that Christians do. I need help with it. I think you do, too. And there is help to be had.
*This closing passage to the Lord’s Prayer is deemed by virtually every Bible translator and scholar to be absent from the original manuscripts, and yet many of them feel it is still a great addition to the prayer. I concur.