April 21st is a minor feast day, or Optional Commemoration, honoring Saint Anselm.  He was an Archbishop of Canterbury, a monk and abbot, and a theologian of great repute to this very day.  I’ve written about him before, which you should feel free to peruse if you’re interested.  Here’s the link: https://leorningcniht.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/st-anselm-of-canterbury/

For our purposes, however, staying close to the subject of Anglican spirituality with the new Prayer Book, I would like to observe that one of the Occasional Prayers (#88, for Daily Growth) is drawn from the prayers of St. Anselm.  He wrote a whole treasure trove of prayers and devotions which are highly theological, both affective and intellectual, you could say.  And from among that material, translated into comfortable modern English, we get this:

Teach me to seek you, and as I seek you, show yourself to me;
for I cannot seek you unless you show me how,
and I will never find you unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you by desiring you, and desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you, and love you in finding you.  Amen.

This is very affective (emotional) as well as intellectual.  A lot of people are more strongly one over the other.  I was raised in a non-denominational evangelical setting where affective spirituality was the rising star: true devotion to Jesus was expressed in terms of love and joy and excitement.  More and more, people were expected to raise their hands and their voices in song as a sign of their spirituality.  But that same church, in my childhood, was more intellectual: know the Scriptures, memorize key verses, study the basic points of doctrine and consider why you believe what you believe.  This story is not unique, by any means; almost everywhere you can find both crowds, sometimes coexisting peacefully and sometimes at odds with one another.  Anselm is great because he stands squarely in their overlap.

Intellectually, he writes of seeking God and God revealing himself to us because we can’t seek or find him on our own.  Affectively, he writes of seeking and finding God by desiring and loving him.  And all the way through its a “both/and” scenario: let us seek God by desiring God and desire God by seeking God.

So if you’re an emotion-driven person who worries about the intellectual credibility of your faith sometimes, latch on to this prayer: “let me seek you by desiring you… let me find you by loving you” because that’s what you already understand.  Or if you’re an intellectual person who worries about how much you actually love Christ, latch on to the other side of the prayer: “let me desire you by seeking you… let me love you in finding you.”  The act of seeking God is itself a sign of love and desire; the act of desiring God is itself a sign of seeking and searching.

What an encouraging little prayer.  Thank you, Archbishop!

One thought on “A Prayer for Seeking God

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