Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Saturday, August 14, 2021 (Day 70)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 70 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
God, to save me, Lord, to my help, hasten!…
As for me, I am lowly and needy.
God, O hasten to me!
My help, the one who frees me You are.
Lord, do not delay.

An Opening Word
I agree with Psalm 70. Quickly come to my aide. When we are in need of relief, support, bailing out, rescue, mitigation, assistance, we need it swift, with nimble promptness. Help! As Anne Lamott points out, “help” is the most primal prayer, the one we instinctively use when it feels like there is no escape. “Help” is a pressing, urgent prayer at the boundary of life-or-death. When it feels like there is no way out, we accidentally, involuntarily, impulsively pray Psalm 70. It is our knee-jerk reaction to impossible situations, even those of us who may, in less stressful times, might say “meh, I don’t know if God even exists.” “Help,” is an agnostic’s prayer as well as the prayer of the most faithful.

Today’s mystic, Clare of Assisi, also relied faithfully on the help of God. I’ve been to the little Italian village of Assisi. Maybe you have too. The steep hills and the cobblestone village streets help you to imagine the worlds that came before, especially that thirteenth century world of St. Francis that made the village famous. Of course I little remember the influence of his famous follower (and today’s mystic), St. Clare of Assisi. Much of her writings were lost to time, but it turns out that “The Rule of St. Clare” was found, in its original form, in 1893, wrapped in her habit and hidden in Santa Chiara in Assisi. She was the founder of the “Order of Poor Ladies,” embraced a life of radical poverty, for she was “inspired by the love of the Lord who was poor as he lay in the crib, poor as he lived in the world, who remained naked on the cross.”

The prayer below is from a letter she wrote to her friend Blessed Agnes of Prague.

Prayer from the Mystics: Clare of Assisi (1194–1253)
What you hold may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step and unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
Go forward, the spirit of our God has called you.

August 14, 2021

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