Imagination, introspection, insight and integrity are wonderful aids to prayer.
Posted in , Jun 21, 2018
To some people, the name “Peter Marshall” is associated with the long-running television show host of Hollywood Squares, but to me the name evokes preaching and prayer. That is because few people have been as influential in my prayer life as Peter Marshall, the pastor and Senate chaplain (1947-49) whose wife’s account of his life became a best-selling book (1951) and feature film (1955), A Man Called Peter. I’ve profited from collections of his sermons and prayers, and I aspire to pray like Peter Marshall, in five ways at least:
1) Pray with Imagination
The following is a fine example of the imagination Peter Marshall expressed in his prayers, in which he used memorable word pictures to enliven his prayer:
we come to Thee now as little children.
Dress us again in clean pinafores;
make us tidy once more
with the tidiness of true remorse and confession.
O, wash our hearts, that they may be clean again.
Make us to know
the strengthening joys of the Spirit,
and the newness of life which only Thou can give.
2) Pray with Introspection
Marshall’s prayers often revealed deep and lingering introspection and humility, such as the following:
I do need thee, Lord. I need thee now. I know that I can do without many of the things that once I thought were necessities, but without thee I cannot live, and I dare not die.
I needed thee when sorrow came, when shadows were thrown across the threshold of my life, and thou didst not fail me then. I needed thee when sickness laid a clammy hand upon my family, and I cried to thee, and thou didst hear. I needed thee when perplexity brought me to a parting of the ways, and I knew not how to turn. Thou didst not fail me then, but in many ways, big and little, didst indicate the better way. And though the sun is shining around me today, I know that I need thee even in the sunshine, and shall still need thee tomorrow.
I give thee my gratitude for that constant sense of need that keeps me close to thy side. Help me to keep my hand in thine and my ears open to the wisdom of thy voice.
Speak to me, that I may hear thee giving me courage for hard times and strength for difficult places; giving me determination for challenging tasks. I ask of thee no easy way, but just thy grace that is sufficient for every need, so that no matter how hard the way, how challenging the hour, how dark the sky, I may be enabled to overcome.
In thy strength, who hast overcome the world, I make this prayer. Amen.
3) Pray with Insight
Marshall seemed to have a heavenly kind of insight into the lives and needs of others around him, an awareness that I crave in my own prayers:
Lord Jesus, bless all who serve us,
who have dedicated their lives to the ministry of others--
all the teachers of our schools who labor so patiently with so little appreciation;
all who wait upon the public,
the clerks in the stores who have to accept criticism, complaints, bad manners,
selfishness at the hands of a thoughtless public.
Bless the mailmen,
the drivers of streetcars and buses who must listen to people who lose their tempers.
Bless every humble soul who,
in these days of stress and strain,
preaches sermons without words.
4) Pray with Integrity
Perhaps one quality that recommended Marshall to the position of Senate chaplain more than most others was his integrity in life, preaching and in prayer. He not only exhibited integrity, but with his prayers he called others to reflect that characteristic as well:
God, have pity upon us.
We want peace without pain
and security without sacrifice.
We want peace
but not the perils of peacemaking.
O God, may we learn what love is.