O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
This prayer echoes a line from a famous hymn that is found in our hymnal. You may well know it: “O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (LSB #314). You might know it in another translation as “O Christ, Our Light, O Radiance True” (LW #314). The hymn was written by Johann Heermann, a prolific German Lutheran hymn writer of the century following Martin Luther. The hymn calls upon that true Light to shine on those estranged from God, who are lost in error’s maze and who sit in darkness. What is not so well known is that Heermann did not come up with the central idea of the hymn. He read it in a poem written by someone else. He did not know the author of the poem. That author was an Austrian Jesuit named Peter Brillmacher who had lived decades before Heermann and had been on the front line of the Roman Catholic response to the Lutheran movement in southern Germany.
Ironically, when Brillmacher wrote those words, he thought the Lutherans were the folks who had been estranged from God and were lost in error’s maze! Heerman heard these words and thought of other people. We find this hymn in the “Missions” section of our hymnals, a hymn we usually sing thinking about missionaries in distant lands, bringing the Gospel to others. It works for that, but this prayer, needs to start with us. This third week of Lent calls for the humble penitential attitude which adheres to true Christianity. We all have been enlightened by that true Light because we needed it. We have done our fair share of wandering in error’s maze and have sat destitute and helpless in utter darkness. This is a prayer about us before it can ever be a prayer about someone else. Pray this prayer for yourself and then pray it for someone else too.