A prayer given at Torrey graduation, May 24, 2013. It includes a little unfootnoted Calvin, a little Barth, a little Lincoln, a little Psalm 98, and is based on a prayer I prayed ten years ago for another graduating class.
O Sovereign God, your story is bigger than ours.
We come to you today with a handful of little stories: the stories of these candidates with their 4-year plans completed just behind them and new prospects of achievement opening before them; the stories of their parents and supporters with the sacrificial provision and care they have been faithful to provide for so many years; the story of Biola University with over a century of becoming an institution fitted to equip men and women in mind and character to make an impact on the world for the Lord Jesus Christ; the story of the manifold western tradition stretching back into the dim ages of the past behind Athens and Jerusalem, and the intellectual formation that these candidates have received from partaking in that long story. These are our little histories, through which you have graciously shaped us and shepherded us.
But your story, Father, is from everlasting to everlasting, and reaches from the heaven of heavens to the deepest part of the earth. From the sacred stillness of your own inner plenitude and richness, in which you had no need of anything, in which you enjoyed perfect, living fellowship with your dear Son and the Holy Spirit, You have revealed your salvation, you have made your righteousness known in the sight of the nations, and you have remembered your lovingkindness and faithfulness to the house of Israel. Through Jesus Christ your Son you have humbled yourself in order to exalt your ruined creatures. You became poor to make us rich. You suffered and died, and in so doing gave us freedom and life. And that eternal grace and faithfulness display your might and majesty as our Creator and Lord in the saving history that you have freely condescended to share with us.
Lord, our prayer for these candidates is that they may find their stories in yours, that they may play out a minor role in your total work, that they may joyfully accept a small part in your ongoing plan for the world rather than seeking the lead role in their own petty stories. Better to serve in your story than rule in their own. We have no higher request to make of you on their behalf than that they may lose their lives in yours.
To this end, we bring before you now all that troubles us: our failings, errors, and exaggerations, our tribulations and sorrows, and also our rebelliousness and bitterness, our confusions, perplexities, uncertainties, loose ends, and sketchy plans for the future –our whole life and our whole heart, which you know better than we know it ourselves.
But on this joyful day of graduation, we also bring before you most especially all which fills us with joy, that in you our joy might be made complete. We pour out before you all our cares, that you may care for us; our hopes and wishes, that they may be granted not according to our will but according to your will; our sins, that you may forgive them; our thoughts and desires, that you may cleanse them; our whole life in these days, that you may bring us to the resurrection of all flesh and to eternal life. We place all this in the faithful hands which you have stretched out to us in our Savior. Receive us as we are; raise up those who are weak, enrich from your fullness those who are poor.
Let these candidates find their lives in yours: From the pride which will cause them to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, pride which will cause them to take on more than they can handle, pride which will tempt them to create their very selves out of nothing in their own images, deliver them O Lord. Lead them from it into your majestic humility.
From the sloth which will cause them to miss opportunities, sloth which will cause them to leave the good thing undone, sloth which will cause them to bury their talents and think of you as a harsh judge, deliver them O Lord. Lead them from it into your sovereign rule.
From the untruth which will dog their footsteps and haunt their best works, deliver them, O Lord. Lead them from it into your perfect truth. Speak your truth through them so often and so eloquently that they learn what it sounds like to bear witness to you before the world.
From their tiny stories, their failures and their successes, Lord, lead them out into your plan and your perfect will. Let them lose their lives in you and find them where you have placed them, hid with Christ, in God, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.