There is a Collect that I pray each morning as I wake up. Actually, I have to start it over a couple of times, because it really is my awakening prayer, and often I wake up more than once and discover I’d fallen asleep again mid-sentence. I usually get there in the end.
It is the Collect for Grace offered in the Morning Prayer services of the Episcopal Church. The traditional version (p.57) goes like this:
O Lord, our Heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that we, being ordered by thy governance, may do always what is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The contemporary version is subtly different:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In my sleepy state, I tend to go for a combination of the two. This has to be one of the prayers I grew up with in the Church in Wales (we read Morning Prayer every other Sunday), because it is so familiar that I can pray it in my sleep; but it is the contemporary opening which springs to my quiet lips: you have brought us in safety to this new day.
Lately, I’ve had trouble praying those words. For the first time in a lifetime of praying this Collect, they have struck me as rather selfish. Yes, I am safe, but we? Us? Depends on who is included, and what safety signifies, doesn’t it?
It started with three people who died unexpectedly: John, Ethan, Robert; leaving questions in their wake, bewilderment as well as the usual grief. Then the Boston marathon, and the earthquakes, and West, Texas, and the usual rounds of fear and falling and pain and tears, until I felt quite selfish, waking up warm in my own bed, and the words of safety sounded smug in my own head.
Last week, while I was preparing a memorial homily, I was reminded of a book, Butterflies Under Our Hats, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. It was recommended by a friend, the Revd Joy Caires for talking to children about death and dying (see her blogpost here). It is about a town that is out of luck, but which discovers hope.
Hope. That resonated deeply with me. I went to bed rolling it around in my soul, tasting it and trying it out. When I awoke the next morning, tentatively, I tested the waters,
You have brought us with hope to this new day
And it seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.
Yes, I know better than to mess with the traditional prayers that have been handed down through the generations, and I ask the forgiveness of my spiritual ancestors. But I do not think that they would deny me hope, and for the safety of my soul, for now, it will be my first thanksgiving of the day.
Butterflies under our hats, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Joani Keller Rothenburg (Brewster,MA: Paraclete Press, 2006)