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Prayer 20

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Lord, O Lord, who bears no grudges,
tolerant, forgiving, compassionate, powerful,
and merciful,
behold, your actions rest on truth,
your judgment upon confessions,
your decisions upon sound testimony,
O seer of the unseen. Like the three
fortunate youths who were tested by the caustic fires
of Babylon but were unharmed,
I groan a mournful refrain,
“I have sinned. I am lawless. I have done wrong.
I have been indicted and I have not heeded
your commandments.”1
They being innocent of any wrong
cried out this confession, while I am rightly
condemned to death and have yet more reason
to plead even as Daniel,
the blessed holy prophet,
who was of your true lineage
and the chosen branch of the house of Judah.
To his words and prayers of commitment that
were acceptable to you, I add my cries
for punishment and humiliation.

B

Knowing full well what was improper,
I strayed from the path,
sinning in all ways in all things,
I fled from the balancing bounds
of your will. And this is
the characteristic profile of base
lawlessness that I practiced and
perfected till my wrongdoing knew
no limits. Is this not the very image
of criminality? You admonished
but I was shameless. You entreated
but I took no heed. Both are flagrant signs
of rebellion.

C

You clothed yourself in righteousness,
O doer of good, and prepared
shame and humiliation for me.
For you, fitting glory,
for me, deserving insult.
For you, sweetness immemorial,
for me, vinegary bile.
For you, praise that cannot be silenced,
for me, weeping laments.
For you, songs of blessing rising with incense,
for me, the alienation of exile.
For you, all rights justly deserved,
for me, every worrisome debt.
For you, exaltation and praise beyond words,
for me, the abject punishment of eating dust.

D

And you, O splendid goodness beyond measure,
you received our offering with sweet frankincense
fitting to you, while
I received my portion of censure compounded
by aggravating circumstances.
For if the innocent prayed to you in this way,
what apology shall I weave in my guilt, I who have
faltered more basely than anyone?
I have strayed down wayward paths in my
undisciplined mind.
In my everyday speech I have been brazen.
I have been obsessed by shameful deeds.
I have become puffed up and haughty.
I have become arrogant and conceited
though I will soon be lowered into the earthly grave.
I want to make a deal
though I cannot even give my breath as collateral.

E

I, breathing dust, have grown haughty.
I, talking clay, have become presumptuous.
I, filthy dirt, have grown proud.
I, disgusting ashes, have risen up,
raising my hands with my broken cup,2 strutting
like a swaggering peacock, but then
curling back into myself, as if rejected,
my speaking slime glowing with anger
I grew arrogant, as if I were immortal,
I, who face the same death as the four-legged creatures.
I embraced the love of pleasure
and instead of facing you, turned my back.
In flights of fancy I darted into lurid thought.
Indulging my body I wore out my soul.
In strengthening the sinister side
I weakened the force of my right side.
I saw your concern for me, too deep for words,
and paid no heed.
F

As Hosea wrote of Ephraim,3 I rushed
toward my former ways like a wild fowl.
In my sanctuary I was immersed in my worldly
preoccupations and I did not halt the meandering
horse of my mind with the reins of rationality.
I added to my former wrong doings with new
inventions. Like Job,4 I made my heavy yoke
even more unbearable. Like Jeremiah,5
I became like a rotten cloth, and, as the preacher6 said,
my name is erased from the book of mankind
like a stillborn child. And as Isaiah7 said,
I have become soiled like the napkin of the
menstruating woman and I am shattered and
unmendable like a ceramic bowl.8 Like the Edomite
chastised by the prophet, I have prepared myself
for a squalid end9 as the fourth penalty for
my lawlessness. And it would be no lie were I to add
that abandoning my inheritance in heaven I even built
a tabernacle to the demon Moloch,10 even fashioned
an idol in the form of the Babylonian Star
of Rephan like the one the Israelites had in the Sinai, 11
so that my legacy should be hell.

G

And now with the license of my original grace revoked
I have changed, I am dispossessed, I am exiled,
I am banished, I am separated and irreparably cut off.
Now, accept me, O Lord, and renew the impression of
your image on my soul, I who am unworthy of life,
a capital felon, evil person,
a fallen being trampled by Satan,
a terminal patient at death’s door,
depraved and unworthy of your calling,
defeated with one blow, wanderer, exile and outlaw,
a doubter, wretch, reject, battered, shattered,
broken, wounded, dejected, embattled soul.

H

And again, O compassionate Lord who loves mankind,
almighty God, as you consider these words of pleading,
treat them as a confession from a contrite soul
fallen at your feet in repentance.
And as you judge, note and weigh
the tearful soul, the heaving sighs,
the quivering lips, the dry tongue,
the clenched face, the good will in the depth of the heart,
you who are the salvation of humanity,
the seer of the undone, the creator of all,
the healer of invisible wounds,
the defender of the hopeful and the guardian of all,
to you glory forever and ever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Dan. 3:29-30; 9:5.

  2 ...... Jer. 51:7-8.

  3 ...... Hos. 9:11.

  4 ...... Job 40:21.

  5 ...... Jer. 13:7.

  6 ...... Ec. 6:3 - 4.

  7 ...... Is. 64:6.

  8 ...... Is. 30:14.

  9 ...... Am. 1:11.

  10 ...... Am. 5:25-26, Acts 7:42-43.

  11 ...... Am. 5:25-26, Acts 7:42-43.