Returning and Resting in God

The Book of Common Prayer is full of truly beautiful phrases. It’s full of biblical quotes and allusions, of course, but it also contains phrases penned by the prayer book’s original (1559) compiler Thomas Cranmer. Today, his phrases like “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and “til death do us part” are threaded into our cultural imagination.


One of my favorite prayers is on page 832 in our 1979 American prayer book. It’s called “For Quiet Confidence.” Take a moment now to pray it, aloud or silently, as you read it.


O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Little white flowers in the foreground, with a mountain and foggy lake blurry in the background
Photo by Maria Orlova

Here, we see how much of the prayer book comes from the Bible. I’ve marked Bible excerpts in blue (that is, the ones I recognize; I could be missing others).


The “ask” of this prayer is so simple. It’s not “please fix our lives, God” or even “God, help us to understand.” Instead, it’s “hold us close to you, God, and remind us that you are God, and we are not.” That’s actually a pretty good summary of all my prayers.


It also reminds me of a chant I learned a few years ago in a workshop on centering prayer. It was taught by Cynthia Bourgeault, a mystic and Episcopal priest who wrote Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, which has been transformative for my spiritual life.


We chanted words from Psalm 46:10 on one tone, dropping off one word or phrase with each subsequent line:


Be still and know that I am God…

Be still and know that I am…

Be still and know…

Be still…

Be…


“Being spiritual” doesn’t have to be any big, complicated thing. This prayer is a reminder that, to be close to God, all we have to do… is be.