Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with joyful hearts those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I often want to bubble wrap my kids.
My oldest son just started Kindergarten, and I send him off to school every day to perils unknown. Monkey bars! Sixth-graders! Oh my! I often feel guilty that I rarely ever think about what he’s learning at school—I’m too caught up wondering if he feels loved, if he’s accepted, if he feels safe and secure in this new place.
Then, of course, there’s my other son, the three-year-old who is always preparing himself for an illustrious (if short-lived) career as a base jumper. He is forever hurling himself from the back of the couch, the kitchen table, the top porch step with a wild grin of ecstasy on his face.
Blessedly, we haven’t had any ER trips. Yet!
This week’s collect resonates with my fatherly heart. Knowing our God is merciful and good, we ask him—implore him—to keep us “from all things that may hurt us.”
This seems perhaps the most primitive of prayers. What else do humans ask of the divine if not for safety and protection from harm?
This is the prayer that echoes in me as my one child runs into the school building with his backpack bouncing, and as the other one plans his next death-defying stunt. Please, just keep us safe.
But like so many of these prayers, there’s more than meets the eye here. This prayer isn’t meant to be just spiritual bubble-wrap.
That is, in praying that we would not be hurt, we don’t pray merely for the avoidance of pain as an end in itself, but we pray that this would help us be “ready both in mind and in body” for the work God desires to accomplish through us.
Our Father has higher aims for us than our avoidance of any trouble. He did not “spare his own son” from suffering for the sake of the world (Romans 8:32). We seek God’s protection from needless harm so that, when trials come, we might be fully equipped to face them, and face them joyfully (see James 1).
In fact, praying only to be kept out of harm’s way limits our vision of the kingdom of heaven to a celestial panic room.
To be sure, the Bible affirms that God is our rescue and our refuge, our sure defense and strong tower (Psalm 61:3, Proverbs 18:10). But our essential rest and security under him are meant to embolden us to join him in his redemptive work in the world.
After all, God’s covenant promise to Abraham was not only that they would be given land that would keep them safe, but that their establishment as a nation would extend outward and bless all nations.
So, let us not accept for ourselves (or pass onto our children) a bubble-wrap faith. Let us pair our prayers for protection with the courageous commitment to follow Christ on an adventure more daring, more joyful than we could ever imagine.