“We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” — J. Reuben Clark Jr., Oct. 1936
At this week’s rehearsal, we’re going to be starting work on a piece called O Lord, From Whom All Good Things Come, by Jean Pasquet. It’s a setting of the collect for Rogation Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer, and it’s a very beautiful piece.
O Lord, from whom all good things do come; grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rogation days are, in the calendar of the Western Church, four days traditionally set apart for solemn processions to invoke God’s mercy. There’s one major Rogation Day, which is April 25th, and then three minor Rogation days, which are the three days preceding Ascension Day. Although Rogation Sunday isn’t until April, I’ve chosen for us to sing this piece in February rather than on Rogation Sunday, because by mid-February, we’re starting to become more Lenten-minded, and the piece fits well with the development of those thoughts.
The word “rogation” comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning “to ask”, and this Sunday was often used along with the gospel reading “Ask and ye shall receive”, from the gospel of John. The tradition was also for priests to bless crops at this time, and people usually fasted in preparation for it.
So it’s historically a Sunday of “asking” of the Lord. Take a closer look, though, at what this prayer is actually asking of the Lord. It’s a personal prayer, not a family- or community-minded one, and as far as personal prayers go, it’s pretty single-minded. It’s definitely not asking “Dear Lord, please let the Broncos win.” Or “Lord, please let me get that promotion.” It’s simply asking, “Lord, fill my head and my heart with good things, and help my actions be good, too.” It reminds me of a saying my parents had when I was a kid, in reference to low-quality television shows: “garbage in, garbage out!” If God helps us put good things in our hearts and minds, good things ought to come out in the form of actions.
When you think about it, when we pray for ourselves our top priority really should be that our thoughts are pure and good, because then our actions do have a higher likelihood of following suit. This turns the focus of the prayer away from what He can do for us, to what WE can do for us with His help. It puts the onus on us to become better Christians, rather than to sit back and wait for Him to “fix” us. And be honest: how often do we go to Him in prayer and have a laundry list of the things we want Him to take care of in our lives? Yes, as Christians we are to turn our burdens over to Him, and He’ll take care of them. But what do we carry on our shoulders that shouldn’t be a burden in the first place? What burdens should we just not have assumed in the first place, because either we don’t have control over the outcome anyway, or it just doesn’t matter in the longterm? If we get that first priority settled, good thoughts and good actions, then most of those other worries will likely fade into the background.
Lord, this week, help us to worry only to ensure that we are filled with concern over things that are good, and that our actions this week reflect those good thoughts. Help our focus in our lives to be on what glorifies you, and less on the various trivial worries we might have in our day-to-day living. Put good things into our hearts and minds, so that good things will come out.
[FYI:The choir will not be singing an anthem at church this week, but you are sure to enjoy the bell choir’s performance instead!]