Some time ago I ran across a prayer for a lost child. I’ve lost the original writer, but it struck me as just a bit off in tone. It was long, and so often we Christians are used to long prayers, squeezing in a lot of our thoughts and perspectives. Heaven knows when we have a lost child, we have a lot of conflicting things piling up in our hearts and minds. Could it be my fault? Could it be an evil influence–a peer, a godless society, a demon? Could I have gone to church more often–and dragged them with me? Could I have been less of a holy roller? Was I too strict? Too indulgent? Not enough tough love? Or any love?
Another contemporary writer I read began her prayer with a petition for personal mercy, on whatever I did to chase my child away. Not every parent is ready to confront that. And some dwell overly much on it.
Jesus’ parable for this coming Sunday’s cycle C gospel doesn’t get into those details of blame. The lesson isn’t to teach about how our lost loved ones come back, but how God welcomes them when they do. Maybe we can focus on that. And look for ways God has welcomed and rejoiced when we ourselves have slipped on the journey of faith and gotten tangled in thickets or confused in the weeds.
This is my take for the one who waits, gazing at the far horizon for some sign of hope:
God of All Mercy,
We ask for your grace and goodness
on behalf of those who are lost.
Let your compassion fill all hearts,
that we may know you are God, living and true,
God who was, who is, and who is to come.
Help us to surrender ourselves to you
that we will find rest
and the lost find unconditional love
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
through Christ our Lord.
Image credit: it’s the Rembrandt, of course.