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Prayer 68

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

And now, recalling the stern wrath described above,
that awaits me from God,
how can I stop these new laments
and how can the flow of tears from my eyes be dried?

Were I to take the rushing streams of the four rivers1
that water Eden and the rest of the earth to its
farthest reaches and direct them to the
       springs of my eyes,
they would not cool the flames
of my soul’s mortal sins.

Or were the prophet’s wishes to come true for me2
and my head were inundated with water
and upon my light of vision, fountains of tears
were to gush,still it would not suffice to measure the
pain of my broken soul.

And were the tragic cries of a wailing woman,
heart and soul pierced with pain, joined together,
they would not suffice to incant the melody
or the harmony of the lament of my soul’s devastation.

B

The day of my birth was cursed,
and not that of Job3 or Jeremiah,4
for their birthdays are to be celebrated and not erased,
since the world is not worth even one of them.5

But looking at me, who does not deserve the light
or any portion of goodness, they should curse the day
I was born, I,
a destructive child, deadly neighbor, sower of sin and satellite of iniquity.

I, who did not honor the covenant of life
that you established, God, doer of good,
and did not walk in the path of your life-giving salvation.

I did not gather the harvest of grain,6
to store for my sustenance
when snowy days of trouble come.

I did not build firm walls
and did not put a roof on my house
to protect from the stormy gusts of air.

I did not lay aside a store of sacramental wafers
for the endless journey to cure the turmoil of my hunger.

I did not address you with prayers of supplication,
so that I might have the audacity to stand before you.

I did not amass the reward of salvation through
good works to assure the renewal of my soul.

C

On my life’s journey I did not settle accounts with
my adversaries, so that I might here and now escape
the stern hand of the judge.7
I did not approach with hands filled with blessings and
in hope of exoneration with the lawgiver.8
I did not look forward,
nor did I protect my back,
nor was I armed to the right,
nor was I shielded from the left,
to be spared harm in the battle.
I did not dress my cavalry in armor
nor did I equip my footsoldiers with arms
that I might send them to the front.
I did not gather the early fruit,
nor act in time for the late harvest,9
and now I am in limbo, bereft of goodness.
I do not have the flower of innocence,
nor the oil of mercy.
Here, in the darkness of the night, without a
flicker of light, I doze in the stupor of mortality,10
while the trumpet call summons me.
Once again I have arrived without wedding clothes,
and have left the oil of good works behind.
And the door to the wedding feast has closed
before me.11

D

How shall I find comfort for this much grief?
How much of the light of hope can I mix
with the darkness of doubt?
Where should I dig in my heels?
On what shall I fix my eyes?
What calm can I await?
To what peace shall I lift my hands?

Should I look for the vault of the heaven from where
the fiery rain fell on Sodom, as written?12

Or where earth
opened its voracious throat
to swallow Dathan with the army of Abiram?13

Dare I flee my keeper
to be captured by terrible leviathan?14

Or should I travel among those beasts, who
would be quicker to ask vengeance from the creator
than Elisha did against
the pagan youth of Bethel?15

Or shall I turn to the expanse of clear skies
covering the Egyptians in thick darkness?16

Look to the birds on high
that feed like vultures on bloody carrion?17

E

What good is it to be brave as
a lion among the weak
and then be devoured by wasps?18

Or to be delivered from the bears’ claws,19
only to be engulfed in blood-sucking flies?20

If I sit down to rest, impudent flees swarm around me
like flecks of flaming ash from a fire.

If I escape being impaled on the horn of a unicorn,
my flesh will crawl with the chewing of little worms.

And even huddled in the darkest corners of my closet,
I could be accosted by the foulness, like heaps of dead
frogs, to disgust me.21

If stand in the middle of a field,
I can be surrounded by swarms of locusts.22

But let me leave aside the grasshoppers and caterpillars,
a mighty army, together with the palmerworm and
seemingly lifeless canker,23 and the hardened
water pellets of hail and the destructive frosts,24
which may to the eye seem less destructive,
but when wielded by God with his eternal wrath and
strength have struck down, laid low, and
driven out the high and mighty Pharaoh
with his rod of violent repression, vanquishing him.

These then are the visible manifestations of the
hidden afflictions, the spiritual chastisements
and unseen inner torment,
suffered by the Egyptians for their injustice.

F

But you, almighty creator of everything, Lord of all,
who rise up again at my enemies and scatter them,25
have mercy on me, with compassion.

Extend your hand of salvation to me,
perplexed, weary, wayward, and worthy of death.
For you alone are known as God,
glorified forever, with the Father and your Holy Spirit
unto the ages of ages.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Gen. 2:10.

  2 ...... Jer. 9:1 (Arm. 8:23).

  3 ...... Job 3:3.

  4 ...... Jer. 20:14.

  5 ...... Heb. 11:38.

  6 ...... Pr. 6:6-8.

  7 ...... Mt. 5:25.

  8 ...... Ex. 23:15.

  9 ...... Jas. 5:7.

  10 ...... Mt. 25:3-8

  11 ...... Mt. 22:11.

  12 ...... Gen. 19:24.

  13 ...... Num 16:31-32.

  14 ...... Jon. 1.

  15 ...... 2 Kg. 2:22-24.

  16 ...... Ex. 10:21.

  17 ...... Ezek. 29:17-20.

  18 ...... Ex. 8:16-28.

  19 ...... 2 Kg. 2:23-25.

  20 ...... Ex. 8:21-24.

  21 ...... Ex. 8:11-14.

  22 ...... Ex. 10:4.

  23 ...... Jl. 1:4, 2:25.

  24 ...... Ex. 9:25.

  25 ...... Ps. 68:1 (Arm. 67:2).