Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Prayer for Yom Kippur

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. On this day, in ancient Israel, the high priest, dressed in simple white clothing and without his usual priestly finery, entered into the Holy of Holies and spoke the Ineffable Name of God, sprinkling blood upon the Mercy Seat, where the presence of God dwelt. In doing so, he made atonement for all of Israel, for the tabernacle, and for the world. He restored a right relationship with God, bringing together those who had been estranged through the blood of sacrifice.

Today, in synagogues throughout the world, Jews gather together before the Lord and recite the Kol Nidre prayer:

All solemn vows, all promises of abstinence and formulas of prohibition, and declarations of austerity, and oaths which bear a name of God, whatever we might have sworn and then forgotten, whatever earnest, well-intentioned vows we might have taken up but not upheld, whatever punishment or harm we might unwittingly have called down on ourselves, from the last Day of Atonement to this Day of Atonement, from all of them, we now request release: Let their burden be dissolved, and lifted off, and canceled, and made null and void, bearing no force and no reality.

They pray for forgiveness for thing they have done, and things they have left undone, for vows not kept, for harms inflicted, for rebellion and dissension, for failures to serve God as they ought to have done.

And today, I pray with them. For forgiveness for my rebellions, for my lack of understanding, for the oaths made in the name of God that I have not kept perfectly, for my failures and fallen-ness and fractious temperament, for the times I have not looked to the Lord as I should have. I pray for release for the punishment or harm I may have unwittingly called down upon myself or my loved ones. I pray for a release from burdens large and small, and for the strength to bear up the burdens that the Lord sees fit not to remove just yet. I pray for the ability to bear the burdens of others, and so in some small way to follow the Savior, who promised to make our burdens light.

I pray for renewed strength to follow the Master. I pray for greater understanding of His purposes, and for his aid in closing the gap between what I know and how I act. I pray that the blood of my Savior, the great and last sacrifice, might heal my broken heart, might grant me release, might mediate between me and the judgments of God, so that I might also part the veil and enter the presence of God, and stand clean before Him.

On this ancient holy day of atonement, my prayer—and my testimony—is centered on the redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that if we look to Him in faith, He WILL wipe away the tears from off all faces, swallow up death in victory, heal the wounded heart and transform the life in shambles, if only we will see His grace more than we fear Him. I pray that when I meet Him and prostrate myself at His feet, He will lift me to Him and hold my face in His wounded hands--those hands that created the universe, healed the sick, raised the dead, and carried a cross--and wipe away the tears from my eyes, and heal my broken heart. And then, I pray that my Savior will embrace me, and call me His own, and lead me by the hand back into the presence of my God. That is a day I would give anything to see.

Picture from http://judaica-art.com/images/

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