Thursday, 1 November 2007

The "prayer" of "St Francis"

Does anyone else dislike this piece of kitsch as much as I do? Anyway, I subjected the longsuffering members of another forum to this rant, so you blog readers might as well get it too:

The prayer was discovered (and possibly written) anonymously in 1912. As the wiki article on it notes (you can find the words there too), the prayer has been used and promoted by Roman Catholics, although it has become popular in other circles.

It is an essentially Christ-free poem that makes the individual pray-er the focus of God's work on earth, and where the true source of grace—the cross—has been eclipsed. In its place, I have become the channel of God's grace and the one whose work will bring knowledge of God.

There are a few other surprises in it, too. It is news to me, for example that I will be the one who brings about "true faith in you", as the ditty purports to request.

Like many fluffy and ambiguous hymns and choruses that we tend to sing in churches today, a good lawyer could probably get it off the charge of semi-pelagianism by appealing to the ambiguity and general vagueness of almost all of the words. "He didn't mean it, yer honour. In fact, he didn't mean anything." On these grounds, of course, most of our TV advertising and jingles could be sung in church with only the slightest of tweaking.

eg. ‘Oh what a feeling! Lord Jesus!’ might well be sung to the tune of the Toyota ad.

It's my slightly belated Reformation Day wish that we might extirpate this pseudepigraphal prayer of St Francis from all Protestant hymnody and, incidentally, from the walls of some of the houses of our elderly aunts, where it sits in all its cheesy needlepointed or tea-towelled glory under a picture of those praying monkish hands.

6 comments:

Jonathan Hunt said...

Got a spare paper bag there for me to be sick into?

David McKay said...

Not convinced yet, Gordon.

Anonymous said...

This is too much! The "monkish hands" (your prejudices are showing) were drawn by the good Protestant Albrecht Durer.
Incidentally, the wikipedia article you referred to seems to have been edited since yesterday -- I'm sure it gave heap more details then about the steps which led to the anonymous prayer of 1912 becoming attributed to St Francis.

Bush said...

Second try (through technological ineptitude) at leaving a comment -- I was calling you on the prejudice which led you to call the praying hands (drawn by the Protestant Albrecht Durer) as "monkish" -- or is it that you think prayer isn't for Protestants or the laity?
I was also noting that the wikipedia article seems to have been edited since yesterday, and has far less information than I thought I saw then.

Gordon Cheng said...

Perhaps with a different song under them those hands would've looked less monkish ;-)

Actually I can think of one or two the good Meister Durer might've preferred.

"A mighty fortress is our God..."

With that song, I could imagine them as Huldrych Zwingli's hands readying themselves for the final battle that led to his martyrdom.

Anonymous said...

No, I was wrong; it wasn't edited; I just had to look a bit further. It's interesting how things get ascribed to authors, even when there's no intention to deceive, like the Chief Seattle speech, or beautiful Psalm 90, which I don't for a minute think Moses wrote.