This prayer is the one written by C.S. Lewis—words no doubt uttered throughout his own lifetime. The poem is titled, “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer.”
“From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
at which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.”(1)
Few prayers pause to ask the Hearer to deliver us from the very words we choose to speak. Yet not all graven images are of stone and gold. Apologist or other, some of our idols can turn out to be quite thoughtful in nature.
In a letter to a younger colleague, poet and professor Stanley Wiersma once advised, “When you are too sure about God and faith, you are sure of something other than God: of dogma, of the church, of a particular interpretation of the Bible. But God cannot be pigeonholed. We must press toward certainty, but be suspicious when it comes too glibly.”
We are given minds and imaginations that can freely tread into heavenly matters, and yet we are clearly offered the limitations of this freedom as a revelation as well. “Show me your glory,” Moses implored of God. “Show us the Father,” the disciples plead with Jesus. The desire to see God is invariably set upon our hearts, even as we are reminded with great promise that we cannot even fathom what God has done from beginning to end anymore than we can fathom God in the first place. “We have heard the fact,” says Saint Augustine, “now, let us seek the mystery.”
Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water, 1907, oil on canvas, Des Moines Art Center.
In this, I love that there are things we can be surprised by again and again with God, even as the master of the house repeatedly seems to awaken us on the threshold of a house and a homemaker we have seriously underestimated. It is forever shocking for me to be reminded that the famous words of Jesus, for instance, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” were not uttered at angry religious leaders or directed at the lost and downtrodden. To me it always seems a statement that draws with quickened stroke a line in the sand, separating the sheep from the goats, providing infinite comfort to the lost, while disturbing those who think of themselves found. And certainly, Christ’s words have a way of doing just that. But this eminent line was spoken that day to those who knew him best. To his disciples, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and life.” And they did not understand.
Days later, as the disciples watched the very life of Jesus poured out before them like a sheep led to slaughter, perhaps they saw again those words on his lips and wondered all over again how they could make sense of an absent messiah. Throughout their ministries it is evident that their vision of the vastness of God grew exponentially as they began to put the pieces together, seeing that Jesus intended those words more remarkably than they ever could have imagined.
I believe that God continues to move us to those places where we discover again one who is fearfully alive and reigning in a kingdom we grossly underestimate, one who can fill even our holiest moments with the mere hem of his robe, one who repeatedly shows us that even our best thoughts of Father, Son, and Spirit are but coins merely reflecting the real thing. We must repeatedly recall, as Job recalled in dust in ashes: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted… Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”(2)
“Show us the Father” is a hope our hearts were meant to utter—even as we learn to marvel at the mystery of the request. Far more significantly, it is a longing God has promised can be answered: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.(3)
Author: Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at RZIM in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) C.S. Lewis, Poems (New York: Harcourt, 1992), 131.
(2) Job 42:2-5.
(3) Isaiah 40:5.