The Christmas ornaments are going back into storage, and along with them we bid farewell to this past year. How shall we greet this new year? What will capture our attention? What should capture our attention?
In Psalm 27, David makes his choice:
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
This is not a fanciful flight from the real challenges of life, but an earnest prayer that takes seriously the choices before us all. David knows that evil men advance against him and war breaks out around him. Yet, rather than praying for these circumstances to change, David prays for the grace to sustain his focus on the Lord’s beauty.
Such singularity of focus and poignancy of yearning remind me of another prayer. Soren Kierkegaard wrote "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing" to resurrect the dead religion in the churches of 19th century Europe. The book is a bit of theology, philosophy, and prophetic crankiness, all wrapped up in beautiful prose. It was a summons to Will One Thing--God. Kierkegaard begins this quest with a prayer, which I share with you at the start of this year:
“Father in heaven! What is a man without You! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know You! What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world, but a half-finished work if he does not know You: You the One, who is one thing and who is all! May You give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may You grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, [grant] collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, [grant] patience to will one thing. Oh, You who gives both the beginning and the completion, may You give to the young man the resolution to will one thing. May You give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing. Alas, but this has not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So in this time of repentance may You give the courage once again to will one thing. Amen!”