One of the prayers of Thomas Cranmer (leader of the English Reformation & Archbishop of Canterbury during the 1500's) begins with these words:
"Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us..."
Which sounds really weird to us today. Prevent us?
But in the older English the word "prevent" actually means "precede." In this prayer we're asking God to send his grace in front of us, ahead of us, before us, as we travel the path that God has given us to travel.
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." ~Exodus 13
This is the great prayer from the midst of The Lorica, that wonderful song written by St. Patrick in the 5th century (the song sung after the baptism of each of my 5 children):
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I recently read of a pastor who was enjoying a sabbatical from a particularly difficult time in his pastoral ministry. Back home, he had felt like everything was too overwhelming, too impossible, too crushing. And he was too fragile, too frail, too weak.
As his sabbatical was nearing the end, he said to a friend: "I cannot face going back. It is too much and too hard."
His friend replied: "Wait a minute. Do you really think that the same Christ you adore here will not also be waiting for you there?"
What are your fears, your trials, your battles? What future do you dread?
"Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us..."