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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

Who satisfies your desires with good things…

“Satisfies…” Really? “With good things…” Is this true?

I read this line this morning and my mind flashed to a most unholy image: February 2006, and the Super Bowl XL halftime show. If you saw it, you’ll remember: Two 60 year-old men, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones bounced around the stage like skeletons draped in greasy rags bellowing out their anthem, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Cause I try, and I try, and I try and I try, I can’t get no, I can’t get no”

40 years after Mick and Keith wrote and released this song, after all the food and drugs and women and attention and adulation talent and money can buy, I saw them still singing this simple riff with a passion and power that only conviction and experience can bring. They meant it and they were living proof: Life has not satisfied.

Desires of course are dangerous things. I recall once talking to a devout Buddhist friend who warned me against wanting too much from life. “Life is suffering,” he said. “Suffering comes from desires that can never be had. The power of enlightenment comes only when we control, release, and ultimately eliminate desire.” I thought about her words and later came back to my friend with another challenge. I recalled reading C.S. Lewis’ great essay, “The Weight of Glory.” I shared the following quote with her.

Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.    

Lewis believed – and I’m convinced he was right – that we are too easily satisfied with pursuing immediate satisfaction, which as Mick and Keith admit, never answers as it promises. The solution isn’t on the one hand to desire more of the same, and pursue more at all costs, or on the other to suppress desire and cease to want and so to live. The surprising solution is to aim desire itself at a higher target. The answer is do desire God!

As we amble our way toward Thanksgiving we return to this amazing promise in Psalm 103. We have benefits granted by God, benefits that are settled and sealed for us. All we need to do is “remember them.” The gifts of these benefits are already given. One of those benefits, David says, is “satisfying our desires with good things.” The challenge is not to temper desire. The challenge is to remember – and see already around us at our feet – that the “good things” are already here – good at the level of right and fitting and fulfilling. The promise is astounding and simple: we now have all good things necessary for all true desire. And what is this “good thing?” It is first and last and only God himself!

Thank you God for giving us passion and desire. You have set up our lives so that nothing and no one can ever satisfy our deepest need. We say, “I can’t get no satisfaction…Cause I try and I try…” Yet you have promised that we can be fulfilled when we take hold of the one “good thing” that does fill our emptiness. You are that one “good thing.” Help us today to look for and find your presence in our world here and now. We will not suppress our passions; we will find completion of them in you! We trust you, and you yourself are the object of our deepest desire. You are the only and ultimate “good thing” that satisfies, and you have given us yourself for this very reason. Thank you.

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