The Prayer of a Life Lived
Copyright 2003 by William Meisheid

I was watching the end of ER the other night and Doctor Carter was about to ask Abby, a nurse and his on again, off again girlfriend, to marry him. He was discretely pulling the engagement ring out of his coat pocket, getting ready to present the both the question and the family heirloom in one penultimate moment. It never happened. Their conversation was touching on the issue of change and whether or not people really can get beyond their past. Since in the story arc of the show both of their characters come from a history of drug and alcohol abuse, Carter wanted some hope for a better future and Abby disagreed and said, "No, I don't believe people really change." With that Doctor Carter slowly put the ring back in his pocket. The moment passed. We were left with one person wanting the hope of change but saddened because the other was resigned to being what they were.

It was a profound moment and it addressed with great clarity the unspoken issue that lies at the heart of the Christian experience—can I really change? I know I can be forgiven, the scriptures and historic Christian theology make the reality of salvation perfectly clear, but can I change? Can I become a better person, a less flawed person, a less addicted person, a person that more accurately reflects the glory of God in my life, in the real me? That is the root question of sanctification and the burning issue at the heart of the Christian life.

When we last talked about the necessity of engaging God not only with the words of our prayers but more significantly with "the prayer of our life lived," the unspoken question behind living out the life God has called us to, was whether or not can we really change how we live our lives to any significant degree. I don't mean can we stop committing gross sin or when we do sin, repent of it. I mean can we actually conquer some of that sin and change our baser nature, being transformed into something better tomorrow than we are today? These issues are integrally linked. I can't ask what does God want me to do with my life, without addressing what it also means to be a better person than I was when God apprehended me.

At the end of our lives we all want to be able to say with the apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. " But in order to say those words with Paul we first need to believe in the effectiveness of 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" We need to believe that we can change, for in our ability to change lies our hope for the future, no matter how bleak the past or the present may appear to be.

When I reflect on how I have lived, am living, and hope to live my life in the future, a small poem comes to mind.

There are many things that I could have been
Many things that I could yet be
Yet one thing lies beyond my keen
God, what would you have of me?

Those verses echo the both the hope and the lament in many of our souls. A hope about our many possible futures in the grace of God, coupled with a lament about our past choices, about who we are as compared to who we could have been. The way out of that lament is the way of sanctification, the commitment of our souls by the grace of God to change. We need to move with Paul from Romans 7:19 "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing." into the joy of Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship." As any father wants their son to grow into the best possible person they can be, our heavenly Father wants the same for us. By the power of the Holy Spirit the way is open for us to change, to become members of the "radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." of Ephesians 5:27.

In closing, I think that we can all accept that in order to pray the prayer of a life lived that is honoring to God we need to make changes in our lives; the kind of changes that sanctification is meant to accomplish. I think we can all accept that God expects us to make these changes and the hope of change is our hope of a better future, not just in heaven, but also here and now, together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in a church that honors God not only in all that it says but also in all that its does. This is what God expects from us and from us as a church.