My prayer life is not as consistent as it could or perhaps should be. With all the changes going on right now I find that I sometimes struggle with what to pray for, and even what prayer is or is about. Petitionary prayer has never really been something I did very much of anyway; I never really felt comfortable asking God for things. But prayer is not (only) about asking for things. It’s about a relationship, it’s about communing with God, it’s about growing closer to God. So I have been finding inspiration in the prayers and writings of Christians who have gone before me. And today I came across this little gem:
For all that has been –
For all that is to come –
Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)
I don’t know how if you are familiar with who Dag Hammarskjöld was. For me, the name rang a slight bell when I came across it in a book of prayers, but I couldn’t quite place it. So I did what I always do, and googled it. And I was transported right back to my college days of studying international relations. Because Dag Hammarskjöld is really quite famous, just not for being Christian, but for being the 2nd Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961). He died tragically in a plane crash en route to negotiate a cease-fire in Congo. His journal (Markings) was publish a few years later, and until then very few people knew how deeply spiritual and Christian he was.
There are, of course, quotes online and this was one that jumped out at me. (The book has definitely been added to my reading list, by the way). I did some further googling and found out that he wrote this as an entry around the time he became Secretary-General. From what I have read of him, he seems a very interesting, serious, humble man. Apparently he did not know he was nominated as SG, and thought it an April Fool’s joke when journalists called for comments. I imagine this prayers on his lips, as he looks back on the path that God has guided him on; and as he looks ahead at a daunting task of leading the world in the pursuit of peace and justice; less then a decade after it had torn itself violently apart.
I am struck by that last word in the prayer. Saying yes to God, to all that is to come is both vague and total. It is a non sequitur, it is not a response that goes with the statement, and yet it can convey so much more. I read submission into it, submission to what God will work in the world. There is hope in it, the hope that the best is yet to come. But more than anything, what I see when I read this is Dag rolling up his sleeves, grabbing God’s hand and readying himself to do the work God will place before him. The work of pursuing peace and justice.
We can do that too. Don’t let the fact that Mr Hammarskjöld was, literally, a world leader stop us. Because before God we are all equally humbled. And with a pandemic, racial-injustice, forest fires, economic crises, there is a profound need for peace and justice. But God has not placed all of those needs completely before us. We can look around in our own lives and see where we can give a little extra time and attention to our neighbor who lost their job. We can call our grandparents who are getting lonely, we can wear our masks. We can keep it small, like this prayer, and just say Yes to what God puts in front of us.