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This Day

Matthew had some strong ideas about prayer. It is in his book that we find the Lord’s Prayer, also known as “The Swiss Army Knife of Prayers.” This particular prayer, according to Matthew (who should know about such things), is the Alpha and the Omega of prayers. He stresses this when he writes in Matthew 6:9-6:13, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven…

Of late, and for obvious reasons, I’ve become more likely to pray than to curse. Indeed my new program is to swap a prayer for a curse whenever I find I’ve slipped into the cursing mode.

In a world that is cursed putting more curses into it is never a good idea. We are full up at present. No shortage of curses that I can see. Still, slipping into the cursing mode is easy to do in today’s world. We’re encouraged to do it by the very nature of the secular society.

Add to that my thirty year stint in New York City where the standard reaction to almost any event is either a curse that involves the middle initial of the Savior (Just what does that “H.” stand for anyway?), or the invocation of unnamed males who have an affinity for crude sex only with females of the motherly persuasion, and, when it comes to my ability and propensity to curse, you are dealing with one crude mother…. replica rolex pearlmaster

Cursing is a bad habit and one that I am trying to break. One way is, whenever I catch myself in an angry cursing moment, to recite a prayer instead. And the goto prayer in these multiple moments is always the Lord’s. It’s brief. It’s beautiful. Plus I can say it at high speed and by rote; a Christian prayer wheel.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day…

The Lord’s Prayer also has a hidden benefit. It has, at its core, one simple but profound request:

“Give. Us. This. Day.”

That’s it. That’s the real core of all prayers. That is the one request of the Lord without which nothing else matters. This day is what all our past, lost days flow towards and which all our future hoped-for days flow from. Without the gift of “This Day” the ones that have passed have no meaning and the ones that are to come have no potentiality. Both are but abstractions or, as the poet has it:

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Which is a fancy way of saying that without the gift of this day being given us all else is lost. Secular thinkers speak of this as being “in the now” as if “being here now” was all that it took to be really alive.

I lived in that popcult fauxworld for years before escaping and, looking back, I seem to remember it not as replete with luminous headlands overlooking the sea, but as the shadowlands that loom beyond a darker border. Being in the now was neither a gift nor a curse, a burden or a blessing. It simply was and, as a result, was rather unremarkable.

That secular world originated out of nothing, out of the limited imagination of the noosphere and, with no reach beyond itself, existed closer to the Alpha than to the Omega. That world had, as secular things often do, a tangle of bright, shiny deceivers clustered around it like gnats outside a privy. When you arrived at the center “the now” it had nothing to say about tomorrow, and very little to promise about this day other than that it would be roughly similar to yesterday. There was little inscape and no escape. The secular “Now” was always the same day, neither given nor taken but simply existing. It was the kind of day in which the existence of the Human and the existence of a sea slug was essentially equal. I, for one, would rather ask for my day than simply arrive in it.

Which is why, when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I always pause — at the very least — when I come to the phrase, “Give us this day.” And in that pause, I remember another phrase derived from scripture, “Tomorrow is not promised.”

I once knew that phrase, “Tomorrow is not promised,” in a rather dry, academic, vaguely poetic manner. Now, having had my all my tomorrows removed and then miraculously restored a few times, I understand the phrase down to the marrow of my bones. Coming into this day I always ask the Lord to “Give us this day.” Departing this day I find I return to the early litanies of childhood, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake….”

But then, so far, I do wake and I continue in my project to replace curses with prayers. I’m not very good at it yet. Still fairly shaky. Then again, as another poet tells me,

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The Lord give me (and give you) This Day.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bob sykes December 31, 2017, 4:37 AM

    Always, you teach me something new. This is my favorite blog. I got the reference to Eliot (The Poet) and to de Chardin, both of whom I first read 50 years ago, and still read, but I missed the Roethke quote. I actually have his poems, but they are unread. Now they will be.

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  • Suz December 31, 2017, 4:49 AM

    I try to say the Lord’s Prayer on awaking every day. I love the phrase “the Swiss Army knife of prayers”. Happy New Year, Gerard. May you live many more years and I will read every day that you write.

  • Ralph Kinney Bennett December 31, 2017, 5:00 AM

    Thank you for this, Gerard. Thank you. And then, too, there is that wonderful turning point in this prayer — “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…”. That’s not God’s suggestion. That’s an order. And a hard one to obey. It’s almost as if you have to be filled with a new spirit to do it. Hm-m-m. Thank you for being here. For sharing the riches. Happy New Year.

  • Chuck December 31, 2017, 5:34 AM

    I too thank you for your comments on the Lord’s Prayer and they could not have come at a better time. Pope Francis, concerned about “lead us not into temptation”, wants to change those words into something more…I know not what. Of all the Popes I’ve known since Pius XII, he is becoming my least favorite. I knew his choice would be bad for the Church. And he keeps proving my premonition.

  • Kathryn of Wyoming December 31, 2017, 6:46 AM

    Such a lovely essay and I think of your thoughts on prayer often. Especially ‘Give us this day’ and ‘now I lay me down to sleep’. Thank so very much.

  • Howard Nelson December 31, 2017, 6:59 AM

    And our uplifting obligation? From whatever deep midwinter, to give one’s heart (what’s a heart for if not for-giving).
    ‘For it is in the giving that we receive,’ Frankly teaching.

  • Missy December 31, 2017, 9:42 AM

    I never liked or understood the language “our trespassers” in the Lord’s Prayer, having recited it thousands of times at my Episcopal schools for 12 years. Then recently I “got” it. My heart was hardened against an adult rural neighbor who both threatened me and sprayed graffiti on my iron mailbox while intoxicated. Police were called, and charges were suggested, but I am alone here and did not press them. He was my “trespasser,” literally and figuratively. A few months ago I stopped at the word “trespasser,” mid prayer, and grabbed my bent burglar alarm sign in hand. I found him in his shed, startled him and asked him nicely if he could straighten my sign post. I was afraid, but I was not afraid, too. His eyes welled up, to my amazement, and he both straightened the post and replaced some screws with “better screws.” No discussion of the ugly incident took place. I am certain now that all will be well. Thanks be to God.

  • ghostsniper December 31, 2017, 9:56 AM

    @Missy, clever.
    I’d rather have a friend, than an enemy.

  • John Venlet December 31, 2017, 12:17 PM

    Ghostsniper, though clever could be applied to Missy’s action, and the result, I think what actually occurred is Missy applied the greatest commandment; Love thy neighbor as thyself; with spectacular results.

  • Patrick January 1, 2018, 11:32 AM

    Gerard, mil grazie as always. Missy, thank you for responding to a great grace: your line ‘I was afraid, but not afraid, too’ will appear in this parish priest’s homily in 2018. An echo of ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,’ Julian of Norwich’s report of the words of Our Lord, artfully stolen by T. S. Eliot and incorporated into his Four Quartets. Joyful 2018!

  • Sam L. December 29, 2018, 9:46 AM

    IIRC, the H. stands for “Holy Ghost”.

  • William Norton December 29, 2018, 12:34 PM

    Good one, thank you.

    By the way, my parents and younger siblings lived at
    Rock Creek, Tobin, Yankee Hill. I am CSU ’64. Perhaps our paths crossed many years ago.

  • Ulysses Toole December 29, 2018, 6:04 PM

    Another oft repeated by me is the “Desert Prayer” or “Jesus Prayer”.
    O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

    This is better than yoga or the rosary. Use it for breathing. Intake “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” then exhale “have mercy on me, a sinner.”

  • tnxplant December 29, 2018, 8:26 PM

    Another favorite is this one (from St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer):
    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.

  • AbigailAdams December 30, 2018, 2:43 AM

    Gerard, it’s not the secular society that causes or even encourages us to curse. That is satan and his minions. Glad to know that your better angels are keeping watch over you and your thoughts and tongue. Also from the gospels; Luke the doctor: Luke 6:45 New International Version (NIV)

    45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

    I prefer to meditate on the gravity of the source of my cursing (and I’m not saying this is true for you or anyone else) because it is too easy to think of cursing as simply a habit or bad word choice — as in a sort of “oopsie, my bad!” non-apology to the aggrieved Holy Spirit.

    On the Lord’s prayer: Another way to meditate on it that I find exceedingly helpful is to emphasize each successive word as I repeat it. “GIVE us this day.” Give US this day.” “Give us THIS day.” “Give us this DAY.” I do that for the entire prayer, focusing and pondering the meaning in it.

    Love to you, brother. ~AA

  • Bill Jones December 30, 2018, 7:49 AM

    A rarely commented upon aspect of this prayer is the conditional stanza:
    “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”

    Forgive us, to the extent that, we forgive……
    Gives me pause for thought everyday.

  • Janet A. Roesler December 30, 2018, 9:20 AM

    Re “give us this day,” your thoughts are a timely reminder of the dailiness of our lives and the need to appreciate without taking for granted each new day we are given, but you have gotten the object wrong. Jesus is not praying to be given “this day;” He is praying to be given “our daily bread,” and to be given it this day – today. The word order and grandeur of the KJV cloud this somewhat, but the request is essentially “Today, give us the bread we need every day.”

    Yours is always the third blog I read daily, right behind two news aggregate sites.

  • JoanOfArgghh! December 31, 2018, 4:23 PM

    Some saint somewhere noted that the Lord’s prayer is our basic concerns of life: bread, and debt.
    Such a tidy prayer. Its secret is that it starts with praise, and that is where you will be freed from the curse of cursing. Praise– not simple thanksgiving for things, but a “hallowing” of the Name. It sets us in our place and our world in proper order: He is great because He is able to keep His promises and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. We praise as though we know: He is good, even when it’s hard to see it. We praise because it is good for our ears to hear our own lips speaking this simple Truth: He is God, He is holy, He is good. Everything else is skirting around the fear that we are alone, and the sure knowledge that we are not enough. The praise is how Hope grows.
    Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord!

  • AesopFan January 1, 2019, 12:14 PM

    Beautiful post, beautiful meditation, beautiful comments.
    A thoughtful and uplifting way to approach the New Year.

    Gerard, your comments on trying to alter old habits remind me of the early 20th-century Latter-day Saint, J. Golden Kimball. In his youth, he helped his widowed mother support their family by working as a mule driver and in other rough-and-ready professions. That didn’t prevent him from being called to LDS leadership positions, but it made his speaking companions a bit nervous whenever his turn came up.
    Often admonished for his slips of the tongue, he once replied, “You can’t excommunicate me — I repent too damn fast!”
    He was a favorite among the congregations, of course, who always packed the chapels when they learned he was coming to preach.
    On one occasion he told them, “I may not have walked the straight and narrow, but I crossed it as often as I could!”

    Bless you and your mother and the Editor-in-Chief (loved that picture!)

  • Larry Geiger January 2, 2019, 7:20 AM

    From the dictionary:
    honor as holy.
    “the Ganges is hallowed as a sacred, cleansing river”
    make holy; consecrate.
    synonyms: holy, sacred, consecrated, sanctified, blessed; More
    greatly revered or respected.
    “in keeping with a hallowed family tradition”
    When we say “hallowed” we are saying holy, sacred, consecrated, sanctified and blessed. He is holy. He is set apart. Above. Outside. Unapproachable.
    1 Timothy 6:16, NIV: “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”
    And yet…
    And yet his Holy Spirit is in us, among us and animates everything. He fills us, he animates us, he teaches us, he delivers us he saves us.

  • Auntie Analogue December 29, 2019, 12:56 AM

    I like a good thick salty string of curses. They’re actually for venting, not for cursing, wishing evil to someone. But abusing the privilege, making cursing the very coin of one’s speech, is a whole ‘nother thing.

    But my go-to short prayer is “Lord, have mercy.” Often enough I say it in the liturgical Greek: “Kyrie eleison.”

    “Our daily bread” in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ is, and is not, the stuff we eat; it’s a cipher for the spiritual food for the soul, a parallel to Christ at The Last Supper, in the Gospel of Luke, instructing his disciples in the Blessed Sacrament: “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

  • Chris December 29, 2019, 5:52 AM

    All I know is when I was a lad and my father screamed JHC,I was in big trouble!

  • Joan Of Argghh! December 29, 2019, 6:24 AM

    As noble a sermon for Sunday morning as I could hope to hear.
    I once read a snippet regarding The Lord’s Prayer as containing the most basic elements of human existence in every day: bread and freedom from debt; daily sustenance and forgiveness. To ask for more for ourselves seems a sacrilege.
    This refines the larger part of my prayer time to asking for others, for there, Jesus tells me, He will pour out that extra blessing of bread and new mercies for those who have come to me for shelter and sustenance: “Open the door, Friend! It’s midnight and I suddenly have company, and have nothing to offer them!” has become my favorite prayer for others. What do I have to give, really, for the broken heart or spirit? Nothing. Ah, but my neighbor, my Friend, is rich and merciful. He will arise and provide if I keep knocking.
    Ask. Knock. Pray. Repeat.

  • captflee December 29, 2019, 10:17 AM

    I was told that the “H” stood for Howard, as in “Howard be Thy name”, though I believe that Larry Geiger above may be closer to the truth.

    For nearly forty years I followed a profession noted for cursing (cuss like a sailor), but even that population knows some limits, as I discovered to my chagrin when a deputation from the unlicensed crew implored me to speak to my visiting bride about lightening up on her profanity.

    How I have not earlier noted this post is a bit of a mystery to me, but better late than never. Teilhard du Chardin, RamDass, Tom Eliot, the Apostle Matthew…well done, sir, well done!

  • James ONeil December 29, 2019, 11:49 AM

    I don’t pray much, nor, on the other hand, do I cuss much. Just about every time I sit back and contemplate now, where I’m at at a given moment, I’m quite satisfied with ‘now’ and I have to admit everything past, good or bad, led to this delightful now. Change anything past and I wouldn’t have this now.

    I don’t fault those that do though.

    Joan of Argghh states it quite well above.

    Reading her third paragraph I guess that actually I do pray, silently, each and every time I appreciate my now; I pray and wish and hope for the same for you and yours.

  • ghostsniper December 29, 2019, 12:55 PM

    My wife said dam once, at least that’s the rumor, as I wasn’t there when it was said, thankfully. She heard about a TV show named Ray Donovan and we watched the first episode the other night at supper. I wasn’t impressed and she thought the language was unnecessary and inappropriate. The whole show was depressing and repulsive so I can’t recommend it.

  • rabbit tobacco December 29, 2019, 6:21 PM

    16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?

    17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

    18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

    19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

    20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
    king james translation/ matthew 15: 16-20

  • Marilyn Valdes December 29, 2019, 7:07 PM

    Give us this day . . No other words necessary.

  • Terry December 29, 2019, 9:12 PM

    I find myself becoming closer to “The Creator” as I get older. Especially over the last five years or so. I quit going to church services (church info linked below) when I started high school in 1959. What turned me off was the “organized religion” BS. Not even close to the original Judea-Christian scripture.

    The link below is the church my family worked to build and donated gold dust for materials. That was in 1859/1860. My family were gold prospectors and then miners. Many family members still live in the town (Sonora, Tuolumne County) including my youngest son and grandson.

    I remember pulling the rope at the bottom of the bell tower when I was about eight years old and being pulled off the floor by the return upward swing of the bell lever. I also remember wonderful people there in attendance on Sunday mornings.

    The only times I have been back in the Little Red Church has been for memorial services and weddings for family members.

    If the Little Red Church was closer than 850 miles from where I live now, I think I would attend a Sunday service. At least once. I miss it now.


  • Christian Identity Australia December 30, 2019, 12:05 AM

    The Book of Psalms is always my first port of call when I’m looking for inspiration to pray. Psalm 34 in particular is pretty hard to beat since it covers almost every situation.

  • Snakepit Kansas December 30, 2019, 4:03 PM

    Matthew Chapters 5, 6 and 7 are extremely rich. If one ever wanted to know how to live to the expectations of our God, then these are the three most comprehensive, in my non- theologian opinion. Some years ago I started reading a chapter of the Bible per day. It only takes five minutes or so. Soak it in.

  • gwbnyc December 29, 2020, 4:03 AM

    H for Walter.

  • Anne December 29, 2020, 7:47 AM

    Thank you for posting this, as a newcomer to your site I find that I have missed so much. This piece in particular is important to me. I lost my church (Episcopal and/or Anglican) when the fem-nazis of Seattle decided it was time to destroy it. It broke my heart to loose the words–the opportunity to be close.
    Re-reading this post I understand where the sound of your work is grounded–not so much in the words, but rather in the sound of those words that were given to us so many hundreds of years ago. Good work!

  • EX-Californian Pete December 29, 2020, 9:16 AM

    Yet another truly inspiring and timely post, Gerard. Thank you.

    I pray every day, mostly thanking God Almighty for how wonderful and blessed he has made my life- DESPITE my being an undeserving sinner.
    In these strange times, and with so much evil and hatred that permeates our society, I find comfort and reassurance as I look above my computer screen and see the Serenity Prayer that hangs on the wall in front of my desk.

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    enjoying one moment at a time;
    accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    that I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    forever in the next.

    Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

  • Marie December 29, 2020, 11:38 AM

    Thank you, Gerard, for this beautiful meditation on the Our Father.

    I think it was Saint Teresa of Avila who said the Lord’s Prayer is the most complete of prayers, as it is the prayer taught by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples and every phrase in it has a meaning.

    But I’ve always went past the “give us this day” in getting to “our daily bread.” Thank you for showing the meaning of “give us this day.”

    By the way, someone told me that the “H” means “Harold.” As in, “Harold be thy name.”

    A blessed New Year to you and yours.

  • Hanoi Paris Hilton December 29, 2020, 1:17 PM

    I’ve followed your writings religiously, so to speak, for at least the last decade, but the reposting today of the Lord’s Prayer/anti-cursing article you had first put up, evidently, on New Years Eve 2017 was maybe life-changing (one could hope).

    Due to a phenomenal series of mis-steps and stupidities on my part, I somehow spent a year at the height of the VN war (April ’68-April ’69) as an infantry grunt up in Eye Corps and have been only recently posting onto my own website some of what I wrote and photographed: both soon, and now long thereafter.

    Before I went overseas, I got to know a geezer NCO, Sam Goldstein; then still on active duty (!) who had actually been a mule-skinner at Schofield Barracks HI before Pearl Harbor. I should have listened more to Sergeant Major Goldstein on many counts, and one thing he often warned me about what how unnecessary and counterproductive was my incessant cursing… which only became more prevalent postwar, and further activated and enraged with the descent into my own geezerhood.

    Bolt from the blue today on it’s now finally high time to pray when inclined to curse!

    I’m a semi-observant Jew. Matthew doesn’t figure large in the OT, but nothing do I see in the Lord’s Prayer that’s contrary to Jewish sensibilities; if not to Jewish practice.

    Thirty years in NY (my native village) and you probably didn’t get much into the specifics of the Hebrew liturgy, but the one prayer most likely to be practiced by even marginally observant Jews is the motzi, i.e., the grace before meals: “Blessed art thou o Lord our G-d, king of the universe, who bringeth forth bread from the earth.”

    If I find something more apposite to substituting for reflexive cursing, I’ll so advise you in due course.

    Glad you came back from the dead. Been close to that situation myself.

    Kindest regards,


  • paul scott December 29, 2020, 5:27 PM

    I am lucky to find this site, or maybe guided here. I have become very angry this year and lost all sense of peace. It is though we are at war and being crushed. I hope God can give us some better energy this next year.

  • Greg December 30, 2020, 8:34 AM

    Give us this day our daily bread? I have passed over and missed those words of Jesus, until now. Reading the thoughtful comments in response to your interest in getting ready for the big day made me think about them all day yesterday.
    So this day of my life, number 21,231 and that same number dinners is what? It was right there before me and so natural that I missed it. Of course God’s gift to me: Living. Living in finite and numbered type of a life. I had a beginning and will have a end as does everything around me as all events are ordered and the only ones we live in is This Day.
    So I can count backwards to day one of Genesis and God has given 2,200,242 days so far. I don’t know about you, but I am oddly uncomfortable about being trapped in only Today, since it’s so natural to go over to the past and then try to predict the future. Beyond a doubt I was created for a system infinite without being bound by This Day and numbering everything so there is order. Death: days without number that you don’t have ask for every morning, which will be Hell for some and Heaven for the rest.
    And now I end this by remembering that tomorrow Thursday is the day selected to have my teeth scraped clean.
    Such is life.

  • Dan December 30, 2020, 6:47 PM

    Praying instead of cursing. Sublime. I’m giving it a go.

    We’re told to overcome evil with good in Romans. I’m completely out of ideas how that is going to work when evil literally wants you dead.

    Praying instead of cursing may do it. At least in small ways.

  • Dan December 30, 2020, 6:54 PM

    I always understood the “Harold” to be one of two characters in that famous Christmas carol we’ve sung forever: “Mark and Harold, the Angels, Sing.”

  • hooodathunkit December 30, 2020, 10:27 PM