Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury

After three weeks of putting on my case of medical malpractice, it was now time for the “closing arguments” by the attorney for each side.  I got up from my table, walked to the front of the jury box, and said with a calm and confident voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury”.

What happened next is my favorite part of a trial.  I get to tell the jury my interpretation of the evidence they have heard. My goal is to convince the jury that my client should win the case.  Since some of the jury may be inclined to believe my opponent, I say as powerfully as possible, “I want to change your minds!”

Interestingly, at the end of my closing argument comes what is termed a “prayer for relief.”  My Websters dictionary defines prayer as “The earnest request or wish, a petition to God or a god in word or thought.”  The Merton Prayer is more a prayer of confession and adoration than it is a petition or “earnest request.”  Several people at workshops I have led point out that The Merton Prayer does not ask God for anything; a fact confirming this is a prayer of confession and adoration.

If I am honest with myself and with you, many, if not all, of my prayers include a very big per centage of time on requests and petitions and very little time in confession and adoration. My prayers far too often sound like Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury!  “Lord, you know the pain my sister Jana is going through right now after falling and breaking her hip.  Please comfort her and allow her to succeed in her rehab treatment.” Or this…”Lord, help the pilots flying me from California to Illinois get a good night’s sleep tonight so they can fly the plane safely tomorrow.”  These prayers are not wrong; we are wise to seek God’s power for such petitions and God is faithful to hear and answer our prayers.

However, I strongly believe that prayer should never be just about Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury with me telling God exactly what I want God to do.  We should not pray to change God’s mind; our prayers should seek to align ourselves with God’s will.  Jesus modeled this principle for us, right?  “Not my will but thy will be done.” We do not have to guess at what the “my will” was that he was giving up.  Luke 22:42 quotes Jesus in his garden prayer of agony, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.” Jesus models for us the human practice of wanting God to change something we are facing, while immediately also aligning ourself to God’s will.

Maybe this is why The Merton Prayer has so captivated me for decades now.  It’s like a breath of fresh prayer air: “I have no idea where I am going,” “Nor do I really know myself,” and “the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am doing so.”  And then the wonderful adoration of God fills my soul with joy: “You will lead me by the right road,” “You are ever with me,” and “You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Perhaps this week you and I will add The Merton Prayer’s confession and adoration to our usual Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury prayers.  I encourage you to memorize The Merton Prayer and make it a regular part of your connecting with God. A friend of mine recently shared with a big smile on his face that he has memorized The Merton Prayer.  Being able to pray this prayer from memory has been such a blessing to me and countless others.

[NOTE:  If your organization, church, or school would like a workshop/presentation on The Merton Prayer please use the contact tab and let me know!  I can Zoom all over the world and have done 90-minute, 3 hour, 5 hour, weekend, or five-day workshops/retreats.]

Leave a comment, if you wish, regarding this post or how you found The Merton Prayer and why it is important to you.  Thanks for visiting!

2 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury

  1. Ruth and I read this blog and both feel what you wrote was well said. Honest, vulnerable confession and heartfelt worship and adoration of God need to more prominent in our prayers, something we are trying to do. Your blog is a good reminder for us to do it.


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