Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 18, 2015
The Sweeper –
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1889)
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.
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 The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 108.