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Draw near: Yearning, beseeching and beholding with Desmond Tutu

Lynne Baab • Tuesday September 13 2022

Draw near: Yearning, beseeching and beholding with Desmond Tutu

“Saint Julian of Norwich says prayer ‘is yearning, beseeching and beholding.’ We are made for God, we yearn to be filled with the fullness of God, and so we come asking the one who is always eager to give. We place ourselves in his hands as suppliants, in the attitude of those who know they have nothing that they have not received, before the One who is ever the gracious one, ready to give beyond our asking and our deserving. We are like parched land thirsty for the gift of rain – yearning, beseeching, waiting and asking and assured that we will be heard and that we will be given. For Jesus taught his disciples to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’”
—Desmond Tutu, introduction to prayers of supplication in An African Prayer Book

In this short series of four blog posts, I am honoring Desmond Tutu – South African archbishop, human rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate – who died in December at the age of 90. Today I invite you to pray two prayers from An African Prayer Book, which Archbishop Tutu edited. The first prayer is from the Mensa people of Ethiopia. I love the way the prayer evokes the moon with such creativity. The second prayer comes from Ghana, and I confess that three times I changed the word “men” into “people,” so that I could pray the words along with Archbishop Tutu and the people who wrote the prayer.

Be For us a Moon of Joy

May you be for us a moon of joy and happiness. Let the young become strong and the grown man maintain his strength, the pregnant woman be delivered and the woman who has given birth suckle her child. Let the stranger come to the end of his journey and those who remain at home dwell safely in their houses. Let the flocks that go to feed in the pastures return happily. May you be a moon of harvest and of calves. May you be a moon of restoration and good health. 

Your Holy Spirit Blows Over This Earth

On your last days on earth
you promised
to leave us the Holy Spirit
as our present comforter.
We also know that your Holy Spirit blows over this earth.
But we do not understand him.
Many think
he is only a wind or a feeling.
Let your Holy Spirit
break into our lives.
Let him come like blood into our veins,
so that we will be driven
entirely by your will.
Let your Spirit
blow over wealthy Europe and America
so that people there will be humble.
Let him blow over the poor parts of the world,
so that people there need suffer no more.
Let him blow over Africa,
so that people there may understand
what true freedom is.
There are a thousand voices and spirits
in this world, but we want to hear only your voice,
and be open only to your Spirit. Amen.

These prayers collected by Archbishop Tutu enable us to pray from a different point of view, to see the world from the perspective of our brothers and sisters in Africa. And they help us pray alongside African Christians, standing in solidarity with them for a brief moment.

Next week: praising God with Desmond Tutu. Illustration by Dave Baab: sheep near Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, Canada. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” below.)

I am so pleased that I now have two books available in many audiobook formats: Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest and Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life

Previous posts on the Holy Spirit:

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