(Lead me Lord,) As my constant companion
The Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse gives one of the best descriptions of prayer I know:
“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.”
Theophan finds the justification for his understanding of prayer in scripture passages like John 15:4 “4 Abide in me as I abide in you.” Pilgrims pray lead me as a constant companion as a way of reminding ourselves that live our lives in the presence of God. The apostle Paul in his speech to the Athenians says it this way:
Acts 17:24 [NRSV] The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’
There is solace in the knowledge that wherever this life takes us we go with the Lord as our companion.
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
There is assistance in our quest to live lives of love, peace, and justice too. For whenever we are tempted to depart from the life we know is consistent with God’s will for a workable human community, we might remember that our departure from the way is witnessed by our constant companion. Henri Nouwen describes his visit to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the advice she offered him in his book The Way of the Heart. He visits her to ask how he might faithfully live out his vocation as a priest. She replies, “Dear Father, spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord, and never do anything that you know is wrong, and you will be alright.” I love the simplicity of her counsel. Spend time every day with God and God alone, and never do the things you know are inconsistent with the heart of Christ and all will be well.
Daily Collect: Lord in whom we live and move and have our being: You are not far off and removed, but in close with us. You are close enough to be our faithful shepherd, our companion along the way. Help us to abide in you and to see that you abide in us too, so that we can learn to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing. We ask this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.