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Hallo again to all.

For many decades, at the end of public worship, it's been our custom to say silently what is called a Prayer of Self Oblation*. Written in Latin by King Henry VI, the English translation** is this:

Lord Jesus Christ, who hast created me, redeemed me, and brought me hither to that which I am: Thou knowest what Thou wouldst do with me: Do with me according to Thy will, with mercy.

Illuminated manuscript with the prayer of King Henry VIWhy this particular prayer struck us so forcibly in our early twenties, when we first came across it, is lost to time. But strike us, it did. The idea that not only were we created and redeemed by a gracious and loving God, but caused (praeordinasti) to be our sort of person seemed comforting, if perhaps theologically a bit complex. Being preordained to be what one is can swiftly carry us to the edges of predestination. But being blithe and 22, we ignored the knotty predestination question and stayed with the comfort that we were that which it seemed good to Our Lord that we should be.

The rhythmic lines — 'Do with me according to thy will, with mercy' — were for us the heart of the prayer. That we could ask God to shape us to his will, with a merciful understanding of all our foibles, foolishnesses, and sins, seemed utterly right. Occasionally the 'with mercy' italicised itself in our mind, since our lives, as years moved on, were certainly in need of it. Now after three decades, this small somewhat mysterious text of Henry VI — about 30 words whether in Latin or English — has remained a constant coda to our personal prayers.

Image of Henry VIThere is no hierarchy of prayer, to our way of thinking: all have their place. Intercession, adoration, thanksgiving, petition: all weave themselves into 'the land of spices, something understood'. But whatever the prayer, we're sure that many of us feel as if we're still babes at it. We aren't nearly as disciplined as we ought to be, we're easily distracted, we forget those we wanted to remember, and so on. And so on. But perhaps small arrow prayers, only-seconds-long-but-heartfelt petitions, and rambling meditative times on our knees still waft to the heart of the universe and are gathered up, with mercy, by God.

A priest of our acquaintance uses, as his 'sig' this short phrase: 'Pray until something happens'. 'Something', of course, can be sometimes 'nothing', if God chooses to answers our prayers with a 'No'. But that simple 'Pray until something happens' energises us from time to time when our prayers begin to slip into some vaguely heavenward to-do list. So we carry on with our prayers until we see something in our world change. We try not to let up or give up. For in the end and at the end, there is prayer. Our language at our last hour, whether lisped aloud or heard only in our own minds, surely won't be about office memos or household projects (or, for heaven's sake, the Anglican Communion), but will be our heart's words to God. And the prayers of others — the milkie way, the bird of Paradise — will, please God, accompany our crossing over.

Prayer and the deep mysterious chances of life that can alter our world in a second are the subjects of an essay by Jonathan Steinhart, MD: Jesus, Remember Me. This is Dr Steinhart's first article for Anglicans Online and we're delighted to publish it.

See you next week. And pray until something happens.

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Last updated: 22 July 2007

* The title given to the prayer in The Cuddesdon Office Book

** We sometimes silently say the prayer in Latin, but when we do, it's nearly impossible to eradicate the lovely strains of Henry George Ley, who set the text to music. You can hear a portion of it here (opens in Windows Media Player or Apple Quicktime). Here is the original Latin text:

Domine Iesu Christ, qui me creasti, redemisti, et praeordinasti ad hoc quod sum: tu scis quid de me facere vis: fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam, cum misericordia. Amen.

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