The Collected Works of Theodore Parker/Volume 02/Theodore Parker's Prayers/Prayer 09
DECEMBER 28, 1856.
O thou Infinite One, who fillest the ground under our feet and the heavens over our head, whither shall we go from thy spirit or whither shall we flee from thy presence? If we take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead us, and thy right hand shall hold us up. If we say, Surely the darkness shall cover us, even the darkness shall be light about us; yea, the darkness hideth not from thee, but the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Father, we know that at all times and in every place thou wilt remember us, nor askest thou the persuasive music of our morning hymn, nor our prayer's poor utterance, to stir thy loving-kindness towards us; for thou carest for us when sleep has sealed our senses up and we heed thee no more; yea, when enveloped in the smoke of human ignorance or of folly, thine eye is still upon us, thou understandest our needs, and doest for us more and better than we are able to ask, or even to think. But in our feebleness and our darkness, we love to flee unto thee, who art the light of all our being, the strength of all which is strong, the wisdom of what is wise, and the foundation of all things that are; and while we lift up our prayer of aspiration unto thee, and muse on thy presence with us, and the various events of our life, the fire of devotion must needs flame in our heart, and gratitude dwell on our tongue.
Father, we thank thee for the world about us and above and beneath. We bless thee for the austere loveliness of the wintry heavens, for those fixed or wandering fires which lend their splendour to the night, for the fringe of beauty wherewith thou borderest the morning and the evening sky, and for this daily sun sending his roseate flush of light across the white and wintry world.
We thank thee for all the things that are kindly to our flesh, which our toil has won from out the brute material world. We bless thee for all the favourable things that are about us; for those near and dear to us, whom we watch over, and those who long since watched over and blessed us. We thank thee for wise words spoken to us in our childhood or our youth, for the examples of virtue which were round us, and for the tender voice which spoke to our spirit in early days, and wakened in us a sense of reverence, of love, and of trust in thy spirit. We thank thee for the fathers and mothers who bore us, for the kinsfolk, the friends, the acquaintance, and the teachers, who brought us reverently up; for all the self denial which watched over our cradles, which held our head when our heart was sick, sheltering us from the world's hardness, holding up our childish hands when they hung down, and guiding our tottering footsteps when we ran giddy in the paths of youth. Yea, we thank thee for all the examples of excellence, the words of kindly remonstrance and virtuous leading, which have been a lamp to our path, showing us the way in which we should go.
We thank thee for the noble institutions which have come down to us; for the church, with its many words of truth and its recollections of ancient piety; for the state, with its wise laws; for the community, which puts its social hospitable walls about us from the day of our birth till we are cradled again in our coffin, and the sides of the pit are sweet to our crumbling flesh.
We remember before thee the ages that are past and gone, and thank thee for the great men whom thou causedst to spring up in those days, great flowers of humanity, whose seeds have been scattered broadcast along the world, making the solitary place into a garden and the wilderness to blossom like a rose. We bless thee for the great men who founded the state, and for the inventors of useful things, large-minded men who thought out true ideas, and skilful-handed folk who made their lofty thought an exceeding useful thing. We thank thee for those strong men of science in whose hands the ark of truth has been borne ever onward from age to age, for poets and philophers whose deep vision beheld the truth when other men perceived it not, and for those gifted women whose pre-sentient soul ran before the mighty prophet's thoughtful eye, forefeeling light when yet the very East was dark with night. Yea, we thank thee for the goodly fellowship of all these prophets of glory, the glorious company of such apostles, and the noble army of martyrs, who were faithful even unto death.
Chiefliest of all do we bless thee for that noble son of thine, born of a peasant mother and a peasant sire, who in days of great darkness went before men, his life a pillar of fire leading them unto marvellous light and peace and beauty. We thank thee for his words, so lustrous with truth, for his life, fragrant all through with piety and benevolence; yea, Lord, we bless thee for the death which sinful hands nailed into his lacerated flesh, where through the wounds the spirit escaped triumphant unto thee, and could not be holden of mortal death. We thank thee for the triumphs which attend that name of Jesus, for the dear blessedness which his life has bestowed upon us, smoothing the pathway of toil, softening the pillow of dis tress, and brightening the way whereon truth comes down from thee, and life to thee goes ever ascending up. Father, we thank thee for the blessings which this great noble soul has widely scattered throughout the world, and most of all for this, that his spark of fire has revealed to us thine own divinity enlivening this mortal human clod, and prophesying such noble future of achievement here on earth and in thine own kingdom of heaven with thee.
Father, we thank thee also for the unmentioned martyrs, for the glorious company of prophets whom history makes no written record of, but whose words and whose lives are garnered up in the great life of humanity.
O Lord, we bless thee for all these, and, in our own day, when thou hast given us so many talents and the opportunity so glorious for their use, we pray thee that we may distinguish between the doctrines of men and thine eternal commandments, and that no reverence for the old may blind our eyes to evils that have come down from other days, and no fondness for new things ever lead us to grasp the hidden evil when we take the specious good ; but may we separate between the right and the wrong, and choose those things that are wise to direct, and profitable for our daily use. Lord, when we compare our own poor lives with the ideal germ which warms in our innermost soul, longing to be itself a strong and flame-like flower, we are ashamed that our lives are no better, and we pray thee that in time present and in all time to come we may summon up the vigour of our spirit, and strive to live lives of such greatness and nobleness that we shall bless our children and all who come after us, giving them better institutions than ourselves have received, and bequeathing to them a more glorious character than was transmitted to us. May we cultivate every noble faculty of our nature, giving to every limb of the body its proper place and enjoyment, and over all the humbler faculties may we enthrone the great commanding powers, which shall rule and regulate our life into order and strength and beauty, and fill our souls with the manifold delight of those who know thee and serve thee and love thee with all their understanding and all their heart.
In the stern duties which are before us, Father in heaven, may thy light burn clear in our tabernacle, and when thou callest us may our lamps be trimmed and burning, our loins girt about, our feet ready sandaled for the road, and our souls prepared for thee. Thus may thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.