BEFORE GOD

A prayer written by Father Karl Rahner SJ for the first evening of a University Mission given by himself and his brother, Hugo (also a Jesuit). This prayer was prayed during the evening Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament:

Almighty, holy God, to you I come, to you I pray. I acknowledge you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, praise you, glorify you and adore you. I give you thanks for your great glory.

What can I say to you, my God? Shall I collect together all the words which praise your holy Name, shall I give you all the names of this world, you, the Unnameable?

Shall I call you God of my life, meaning of my existence, hallowing of my acts, my journey's end, bitterness of my bitter hours, home of my loneliness, you my most treasured happiness?

Shall I say: Creator, Sustainer, Pardoner, Near One, Distant One, Incomprehensible One, God both of flowers and stars, God of the gentle wind and of terrible battles, Wisdom, Power, Loyalty, and Truthfulness, Eternity and Infinity, you the All-merciful, you the Just One, you Love itself?

What can I say to you, my God? Shall I reproach you with being so far from me or with your silence which is so terrible and lasts a life-time? Shall I complain because I cannot understand your forbearance and because your ways, 0 Lord, which we, not you, must tread, are so incomprehensibly, hidden and incalculable?

But how can I reproach you with your distance, when I find your nearness equally mysterious with your forbearance, when I owe my sinful life to it; with the incomprehensibility of your ways, when it is the wickedness and confusion of my own will which has complicated them?

What can I say to you, my God? Should I consecrate myself to you? Should I say that I belong to you with all that I have and am? 0 my God, how can I give myself to you, unless your grace accepts me? How can I devote myself to your service, unless you call me? I give you thanks for having called me.

Though I find it so hard to serve you, my weak and cowardly heart must learn to be silent and not to complain. Rather should my mouth belie my heart - which wants to remonstrate with you - because in doing so it tells me of your truth, which is more important than mine: Indeed, Lord, your service is good, your yoke is sweet and your burden light.

I thank you for all that you have asked of me in my life. Be praised for the time in which I was born, glorified for my hours of happiness and my days of misery, blessed for everything that you have denied me.

Lord, though I am a lazy and head-strong servant, never dismiss me from your service. You have power over my heart. You have power over me even in the depths of my soul, where I alone am master of my eternal fate, for your grace is the grace of eternal omnipotence.

Wise, merciful, loving God, do not cast me from your presence. Keep me in your service all the days of my life. Ask of me what you will. Only grant what you command of me. Even if I tire in your service, you in your patience will nor tire of me. You will come to help, you will give me the strength to make a fresh start again and again; to hope against hope; in all my defeats to have faith in victory and in your triumph within me.

What can I say to you, my God, but that I am a sinner? But you know that better than I and I would certainly neither believe nor admit it, if your word did not testify against me. Lord, do not depart front me, for l am a sinful man. Surely it is better to make this my appeal? Where, if not with you, could I take refuge in my weakness, in my spiritual sloth, in the duplicity and unreliability even of what is best in me?

God of sinners, God of the habitual, daily, cowardly sinner, of the ordinary sinner! 0 God, there is nothing grand about my sin; it is so everyday, so normal, so much the accepted thing, that I can easily overlook it - only of course, when I overlook you, Most Holy One, and when I forget that you love us with a jealous love and want to possess our hearts, whole and undivided, burning and ready for anything.

0 God, whither could I flee? The great sinners could perhaps sate themselves for a time with the diabolical enormity of their sins. But what disgust I feel for my wretchedness, my complacent slowness of heart, the frightening mediocrity of my "good conscience".

Only you could continue to tolerate such a heart, only you could continue to love me so patiently. You alone are greater than my poor heart (1 John 3:20). God of sinners, God even of the lukewarm and the slow of heart, have mercy on me!

Behold, 0 God, I enter your presence: God, holy and just, you who are Truth, Loyalty, Serenity, Justice, Goodness. In your presence I must needs prostrate myself as Moses did and say with Peter: Depart from me for I am a sinful man (Luke 5:8).

I know that there is only one thing that I can say to you: Have mercy on me. I need your mercy, because I am a sinner. I am unworthy of your mercy, because I am a sinner. But I humbly desire your unfailing mercy, for I am a being of this world, not yet lost; one who still longs for the heavens of your goodness, who willingly and with tears of joy receives the inexhaustible gift of your mercy.

Lord, look upon me, see my misery. To whom should I flee, if not to you? How could I tolerate myself, but for the thought that you can tolerate me, but for the knowledge that you are still my friend? Look upon my misery. Look upon your servant who is lazy, headstrong and superficial. Look upon the meanness of my heart, which offers you only as much as is absolutely necessary and will not be generous in loving you.

Look upon my prayers: see how sullenly and reluctantly I fulfill this duty and how cheerfully, for the most part, my heart turns from talking with you to other things.

Look upon my work : it is barely satisfactory, extorted from me by the pressure of daily life, rarely prompted by true love of you. Listen to my words: the words of selfless kindness and love are rare.

Look upon me, 0 God: you will see no great sinner, only a small one; one whose very sins are small, mean and commonplace; whose will and heart, mind and strength are mediocre in every respect, even in wickedness.

But, my God, when I really reflect on this, I am greatly afraid. Surely the things I am forced to say of myself are precisely those which characterize the lukewarm heart? And have you not said that you prefer a cold heart to a lukewarm one (Apoc. 3:16)? Is not my mediocrity the cloak behind which I hide the worst thing of all, in the hope that it will not he discovered: a selfish and cowardly heart, a dull and insensitive heart which knows no generosity of spirit nor breadth of mind?

Have pity on my poor heart, magnanimous and loving God, God of blessed abundance. Send your Holy Spirit into my poor barren heart and fashion it. May your Spirit burn deep into my dead heart with the fear of your judgment and let my heart awaken! May your Holy Spirit fill it with fear and trembling: let it shake off the deathly grip of hopelessness and resignation!

May your Spirit make my heart humble and contrite let it be filled with longing for your sanctity and with confidence in your all-powerful grace! May your Spirit fill my heart with the holy penitence which is the beginning of the heavenly life and with confidence in the invincible power of your assistance, which brings courage and readiness, cheerfulness and boldness to the hearts which serve you.

Only if you give me your grace, can I feel how much I need it. Only the gift of your mercy makes me recognize and confess that I am a poor sinner. Only your love gives me the courage to hate myself without despairing.

You have had mercy on me, holy God. Your Son has given his Body for me. This is why I can call upon your mercy. He has tasted death, which is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). This is why I need not despair in the sinful darkness of my life. I venerate the mystery which shows the death of the Lord until he comes. This is why I can be confident when the weakness of the flesh and of sin seems to crush me. Through him who was crucified, all is changed: darkness into light, death into life, weakness into strength, emptiness and loneliness into fullness and closeness to you.

Through that sacrament in which our crucified and risen Lord is truly present for now I pray you, eternal Father, I, a poor sinner, pray you, Father of mercies and God of all comfort: Have mercy on me, 0 God, according to the great fullness of your mercy. And my poor heart will praise your goodness for ever. Amen.

 

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