Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 18, 2015
Sweep the Rubbish from Within Me
As I pray through these petitions, I sometimes revisit places deep within. As I read through this petition, some memory deep within me started twitching. I mean, something far back. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I intuitively know it is there. (The memory, I’m groping for.)
What came to mind? I had a vague remembrance of the time I spent in the Lutheran Church, about the time of confirmation. I took confirmation classes with about six or seven other young people, in seventh and eighth grades. That was every Wednesday afternoon, after school. I loved my introduction to theology and bible study, as well as Luther’s Small Catechism. I ate it all up. (I also was a quiet, serious, nerdy-acting girl.)
Like I was saying, this particular petition resonated with something from that time period in my life. Way back. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer concerns “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” (Prayer 351, page 108)  The prayer is in a section entitled Penitence.
The subtitle on this specific prayer is “an African schoolgirl’s prayer. It reads as follows: “O Thou great Chief, light a candle in my heart, that I may see what is therein, and sweep the rubbish from Thy dwelling place.”
Lord, it mentions a “schoolgirl.” How old was she? Was she serious of heart? Searching for You? Yearning to find out more about the Bible, and theology? Was she at all similar to that child I once was?
As African theologian Kwame Bediako suggested in his book Christianity in Africa, African believers often start from a vastly different theological, cultural and sociological place than I did, as a believer growing up in a Lutheran church, in an urban area in the United States.
Although I am startled a bit by the schoolgirl naming God as “great Chief,” I shouldn’t be. (Dr. Bediako told me not to be.) Then, I am deeply moved by the analogy of “light[ing] a candle in my heart.” Lord, that is exactly what I would want to do! Of course I would want to “see what is therein!” And, the request to “sweep the rubbish from Thy dwelling place?” Oh, that strikes home. (*deep, deep sigh*) That request goes straight to my very young self, and I find myself curving in. Protecting the heart, what is deep inside of me.
Yet, Lord, I really do want to bring all this stuff before you. I want Your help to clear out the unwanted or unwelcome rubbish from inside of me! Please, gracious God. Heavenly Father. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my earnest prayer.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 108.