Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1937. ROGATION SUNDAY.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
This Sunday precedes the three Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day. The Rogation Days are days of solemn supplication for a blessing upon the land, a blessing upon the labours of those who cultivate it, for seasonable weather and for a fruitful harvest. The supplications are specific. The arrangement of the petitions is significant. From it we may learn the method of vocal prayer in general, for other and any intentions.
The points suggested for meditation are: 1—Dependance upon God: All works must be begun, continued and ended in God. 2—Personal labor must accompany prayer; to pray is to labor, to labor is to pray. 3—Seasonable conditions are to be waited for in faith. 4—Results belong to God. 5—Prayer is cooperation with God. In prayer we become laborers together with God.
The Collect for the day continues this lesson in prayer, widens the scope, and affords a general working rule for prayer.
Note that the first clause arouses the mind to consider that all good things come from God. We are compelled to pause, to delay our anxious petition for the moment, that we may adjust our minds to the reflection that God is the giver of all good things. We are led to pray for holy inspiration to think those things that are good. We must think rightly before we can pray rightly. We must be impressed by the thought of the necessity of self-surrender in order that we may fulfil the will of God.
"Through Our Lord Jesus Christ": our minds are moved to remember the ending of the prayer of Our Lord in the Garden, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done." Our affection for Him is aroused. We cannot allow ourselves to ask. more than He asked.
Do you see what has happened? At the first we had only a vocal prayer to offer. But we stopped to think of God. This was mental prayer. Then our hearts were touched by affection for Our Lord which roused an aspiration, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." This was affective prayer. At the end there could be nothing less than the surrender of the will to the will of God. This was simple prayer.
Those of you who have read some of the books on the science and art of prayer know that in them holy wisdom is to be found. But I have in mind some who perhaps have had no inclination for such books. To them I am anxious to say this. Delay the books until you really want to read them, if you like. But there is one book in your possession which you have had all your life. You cannot delay reading that book, nor do you desire to delay.
That book is your own heart. You know it fairly well from cover to cover. The longer you live the better you will know it. Whether that knowledge will be bitter or sweet will depend upon whether you have followed the things that God has written in it. Just because your heart is a human heart you will find, and you will be driven to find, the merciful guiding that the good God has inspired and written there.
You do not need to be as wise as a theologian. You do not need to be as holy as a saint. But you will grow into wisdom and holiness if you follow simply, and quietly, and humbly, the guiding of God in the way of vocal, mental, affective, and simple prayer. You need not overload your minds with methods which may only confuse and discourage you. You must not try to be some one else. Just be yourself.
Bring yourself and your desires, your needs, your prayers to God; in Holy Communion, in private intercession, in church, at home. School yourself to listen oftener than you speak to God. Set yourself to watch in solitude, to listen in silence, to wait in quietness, to suffer in penitence, to persevere in patience. Time after time you will see for yourself that "in some deep experience, some lesson of suffering, of discipline, some revelation of his love, the Voice is heard, the soul uplifted above itself; all else far away and hushed—and then, the Voice is past, Jesus is found alone."
Affectionately in Our Lord,