What work do your hands do?

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“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
Establish thou the work of our hands;
establish thou the work of our hands.”

Those three lines are the opening sentences of the Midday Prayer in Celtic Daily Prayer.

We use our hands for all sorts of tasks, in fact, pretty much all of them from putting on glasses, brushing our teeth, feeding ourselves, driving, performing wage earning work, building a house, reading a book… our hands are essential to our existence.

Our hands can also be used for evil purposes: they can be used to commit violence, write hate, masturbate, type search terms into google to get a “hit of porn” or indeed, we can simply fail to use our hands for a good (someone needs help but we simply refrain from helping).

Yes, Lord, “establish thou the work of our hands”. Often those of us who study theology can be guilty of “thinking” too much and not “doing” enough with our knowledge. The epistle of James, I think in part, is a warning against this very thing. We have to do something with our faith.

The Anglican liturgy of Confession and Absolution is beautiful because it recognizes this two-fold nature of “done and not done”. It reads in part:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.

James tells us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” because doing so would be to deceive ourselves (James 1:22). What does it mean to be one and not the other? James says “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (1:23-35)

Lots of people hear, lots of people believe – even the demons! (2:19), but we are called to be a people of action, punctuated by periods of withdrawal for recharging.

Are you allowing God to “establish thou the work of YOUR hands”? What does he want you to do, what does he not want you to do with your hands?

Remember, Christ taught us to Love the Lord with all your “heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27), so this necessarily implies using the body he gave us. If you hold onto any gnostic notion of the physical body being bad, banish it now and get about the work of the Lord.

Lord, Jesus Christ, I call upon your mercy and grace to help me know where and when you direct my hands to perform your work of love.

Totus tuus

Prayer: Recovering A Sense Of God’s Presence

Forgive me, my Father.
When things have gone well with me and I have left Thee out,
Crowded my days with work and pleasure and forgotten Thee.
I have been so foolishly proud that I have imagined I could get on without Thee,
So I have lost the sense of thy dear Presence from my life.
I was content with human companionship and often scamped or omitted my prayers
Joy and health, success and comfort, youth and high-spirits made me indifferent to Thee, who didst give them all.
Let me in the future see Thee in all thy gifts,
Seek communion with thee when I feel no need of thee
And cling to thee as I do to a human friend
Take Thy rightful place again o Lord, for in thee alone is life and enduring peace.

By Leslie Weatherhead

Prayer: I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart,
but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me-
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Prayer: Daily Duty

“Cheered by the presence of God
I will do at each moment without anxiety,
According to the strength which He shall give me
The work that His providence assigns me.
I will leave the rest without concern; it is not my affair
I ought to consider the duty to which I am called each day,
As the work that God has given me to do
And apply myself to it in a manner worthy of His glory,
That is to say – with exactness and in peace

by Francois Fenelon

Prayer: An Eternal Perspective

“O eternal God Thou art not such as I can see with my eyes or touch with my hands yet grant me this day a clear conviction of thy reality and power.
Let me not go forth to my work, believing only in the world of sense and time,
But give me grace to understand, that the world I cannot see or touch
Is the most real world of all.
My life today will be lived in time, but eternal issues will be concerned in it.
My business will be with things material, but behind them
Let me be aware of things spiritual.
O God who dwellest in light unapproachable,
Yet also lives within me, give me grace today to recognize
The stirrings of thy Spirit within my soul
And to listen most attentively
To all thou has to say to me
Let not the noises of the world
Ever so confuse me
That I cannot hear thee speak

by John Baille

Prayer: Matthew 6:13

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.

Prayer: Serenity

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr