I found this prayer online last week and it really struck me so I wanted to share it:
God our Father,
if I could trace back
through the last two thousand years, marking out routes
from Jesus himself
and then through people
whose faith has touched others
and so reached me,
I would be astounded
by the individuals I would encounter.I give thanks, Father,
for all those people
over two thousand years
who have inspired others
and played their part
in passing on
to generation after generation the living heritage of their faith.
Especially I give thanks
for those who lived their faith
I pray, Father, that I may grow in your faith and love through good times and bad.
I didn’t grow up familiar with our heritage in faith of the church throughout the centuries.
If asked as a young person about the history of Christian’s faith and its value I would have probably despairingly pointed back to the early church and wondered if we could possibly recover their prayers and their ways of doing things since after all they were closest to Jesus’ time and Jesus Himself is our most important resource, no? But the truth is that the same Holy Spirit who lived in Him lived before Him, lived through the centuries and lives today. And He continues to draw all people (all!) to Jesus and to inspire many to follow Him in unique ways.
Not only that but Jesus Himself says that the Holy Spirit will teach great truths about Him to those who follow Him.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it as such:
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said.”
In other words, Jesus never said that “truth” ended in the words that described his life that we read in our Bible. And I think sometimes that in latching onto the “truth” that we believe is only held in Scripture or the life of Jesus specifically that we blindly miss what the Spirit has revealed through many other people about Jesus’ life and its meaning throughout the ages!
And so I believe that we can celebrate the great heritage of our faith by praying the prayers and learning the ways of the pilgrims, poets and ordinaries who have gone before us not because they had special access to God but because understanding Jesus and seeing Him in all the myriad of ways that we do is like looking at Jesus for who He really is – made beautifully more available to us through the love of pastors, evangelists, teachers who have cherished Him before us.