Near to the Fire

For behold, my cause is in Your hands
and my recourse is to You.
I know my sin, so cleanse me, O Lord,
that I may enter into Your presence
with self-respect.
Now my offenses are weighty;
I have drawn near to the fire which burns.
Your mercy is upon all things,
so that You can take away
all my transgressions.
Pardon me, even me, the sinner.
And pardon all Your creatures
whom You have fashioned,
but who have not heard and learned of You.

Testament of Isaac 4.27-31

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4 Responses to Near to the Fire

  1. desertseeker says:

    I really like this prayer. Thanks for posting it. What are your thoughts on the last clause of the second sentence?

  2. You’re very welcome, Todd. I ran across it while checking references.

    That “self-respect” is kind of odd. Since it was translated from Arabic, with help from Coptic and Ethiopic (see OTP II.903, the intro from the translator W. F. Stinespring), I couldn’t check it. I don’t have the text or the lexical skills to deal with those three (yet). I can only imagine that the original word will cover a range of things like “dignity” and such. “Self-respect” is really somewhat jarring.

    Otherwise, it’s a great! My favorite two parts of it are “I have drawn near to the fire which burns” and “And pardon all Your creatures whom You have fashioned, but who have not heard and learned of You.”

    The first of those can be read in either of two ways, the “fire which burns” can refer to the fires of hell. Or, and this I think is more in line with liturgical use, it can be read “I have drawn near [to You,] the Fire which burns.” This is reflected in one of the prayers of preparation for communion: “For You are a lighted coal burning the unworthy.” That’s what leapt out at me first, admittedly.

    The second of those is just lovely, showing a concern for what many would call the “unreached” or “unevangelized.” God is not a taskmaster who assigns to one subset of His creatures to ensure that all the others are given news of Him, without exception, as their primary goal in life. He is a merciful and loving Creator, Who wants us to learn mercy and love through praying for mercy for ourselves and others, and in living that mercy and love through our lives, more and more as we grow closer to Him. Seeing that, I just couldn’t leave that to moulder in a book, without sharing it….

  3. desertseeker says:

    Amen! Thank you for your thoughts.

    The holy fire part immediately made me think as well of the prayer before communion.

    And as you stated, that last sentence reflects the true heart of God, reminding me of the sentiment Jesus had as He looked over Jerusalem…”How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”

  4. And that’s a good one too, as hens tend to do that when there’s some trouble coming!

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