God you have made us for yourself - our hearts are restless

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may grow in union with the One who fulfills our heart's desire]


Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you;
so lead us by your Spirit
that in this life we may live to your glory
and in the life to come enjoy you for ever;

through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

NZPB p. 632b

We humans are enfleshed yearning. St Augustine said it well at the start of his Confessions, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." We constantly desire more, and better, and different. Cars, gadgets, toys. It is not just that we have a God-shaped hole alongside other differently-shaped holes, as if our television fills and satisfies our television-shaped hole. It appears to me that people try and put their television (replace with your own recent want-it) into their God-shaped hole. But our God-shaped hole, our yearning is infinite. No amount of televisions, no television of whatever quality or value, will ever fill it. Only God.

Some would say that our desire for a god, our desire for transcendence, our inability to satisfy our yearning, this is the source of the human creation of the concept of God. Yeah Right! [As the NZ Tui advertisements would have it]. In a comprehensible reality, which I believe I am part of, thirst points to the existence of water (somewhere - I might not be in the right place to satisfy that thirst). Hunger points to the existence of food somewhere. Sexual desire points to the existence of the possibility of its satisfaction. And so on. Might not our very yearning for transcendence, for a god - rather than argue for atheism argue more strongly for the One in whom my restless, yearning heart will find its rest?

Too quickly some spiritualities denigrate our desires. As if we should ignore them. Flee from them. I suggest that our Creator gave us our desires for a reason. I am not surprised that the subtitle of the monastic book Trappist is "living in the land of desire". I am not suggesting that all our desires, our yearning is satisfied in this limited world of space and time. The very opposite. We are creatures who do not find our ultimate fulfillment in this creation.

We might often during the day in our minds repeat Augustine's phrase "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." Augustine's prayer might become our own. Other similar ones might accompany us during the day as we chew them over: "my soul is yearning for you, my God" (Ps 42:1), "O God, you are my God, for you I long" (Ps 63:1), "You have seduced me, O God, and I have let myself be seduced" (Jer 20:7 - this last one was repeated many times in the film Into Great Silence).

Such short prayers, "arrow prayers", "ejaculations" (how close our prayer language can be to other intense human desires - see the Jeremiah quote above), can be a significant spiritual discipline, a Christian equivalent to a mantra, alongside other disciplines to sanctify the day.


This collect is an adaptation of the new collect prepared by the CofE Liturgical Commission based on Augustine's "quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te". That ASB collect has been revised again (it retains there its Pentecost 18/Trinity 17 position):

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The NZ revisers might have been more creative in the address of God, rather than once again returning to the default of "Almighty God", a title, whilst not contrary to Augustine, that was not used by him at this point.
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