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A prayer for guidance

For months, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down and still continues even as businesses and churches reopen.

The risks to our health and to our economic wellbeing remains high. The shocking death of George Floyd led to massive demonstrations challenging our society to look deep within ourselves and search for answers individually and as a community for an appropriate response to the deep-seated and continuing problem of racism.

Personally, I feel overwhelmed and powerless against the cataclysmic changes that brought so many disruptions and changes to our daily life and our worldview. As a pastor, as a Christian, as a citizen of society, what should be my response?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

My first response? Trust in the Lord with all my heart. How? Prayer. This prayer written by Thomas Merton has guided me for many years. Merton’s prayer contains three parts:

1. “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.”

Four times, Merton expresses doubt about the future and his understanding of himself. 1. I have no idea where I am going. 2. I do not see the road ahead. 3. I cannot know for certain where it will end. 4. Nor do I really know myself. Yes Lord, that describes my feelings of helplessness.

Then: “Just because I think I am following your will doesn’t mean that I am actually doing so.” More than admitting an occasional lapse of judgment; Merton asks the deepest question imaginable: “Lord, am I doing what you put me on this earth to do?”

2. “But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.”

There is the key. “A desire to please you.” The desire to know God, please God and serve God. I hope to possess that desire in everything I do. I hope that I never do anything apart from that desire. If my desire to please God remains strong. So, I pray to never lose that desire. Never let me give up.

“And I know that if I do this, You will lead me.” Where is God when you struggle? God will lead you. This is the reassurance of faith that calms our fears, satisfies our deepest longing, and nourishes our soul. “And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.”

3. “Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Therefore, despite all my COVID-19 related doubts and fears, despite my muddled plans for confronting the issue of racism, I will trust you always. I will not fear for you are ever with me. Even when facing my fiercest storms, you will never leave me to face them alone.

Does this provide a sure-fire formula for surviving COVID-19 or change our deep-seated racist tendencies or provide the support our law enforcement officers need? No, but by surrendering my will to God’s control, I trust God to ultimately lead me in the right direction so that I will endeavor with all my talents and strength to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.

Are you wondering whether you are following God’s will? Are you questioning whether you are in fact the person God has called you to be? Trust God always. Do not fear because God is with you. Then, you will never face your perils alone. Amen.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.