From Prayers at Twilight, by Arthur O. Roberts, (1923-2016), 2003, Barclay Press. Roberts wrote a book Exploring Heaven to describe what the Bible and great Christian thinkers have said about heaven. As he was writing that, he was also writing prayers about the end of this life and the anticipation of the life to come in heaven. Here are some of the poems/prayers from the collection of them published in Prayers at Twilight.
A REASONABLE REQUIREMENT
My friend says one should be content
with this life, make the most of it,
and not whine for second chances.
I pondered this, and then I thought
about this guy wrongly imprisoned,
locked up twenty years, on death row
part of the time. I think of children
blown to bits by terrorists, people
starved in gulags, gassed by Nazis,
people gunned down by drug dealers,
innocent and helpless civilians sacrificed
as ‘collateral damage’ in political wars,
and it struck me that hope for heaven
is a reasonable requirement for justice,
as well as a gift of your love, Lord.
THROUGH THIS TUNNEL
Lord, I’ve got Alzheimer’s
I don’t know my own family
sometimes, and can’t tell the nurse
who our president is. But I know you!
Lead me through this tunnel, Lord,
and in heaven make me whole again.
WHO’S RIGHT, LORD
Lord, yesterday my neighbor and I discussed death.
A heart attack put him in a serious mood.
He’s a retired professor and legislator.
His affluent children support art museums,
his grandkids trek the globe for green causes.
Mac says he’s ready to bow out gracefully,
content to let his influence live on.
Claims it’s the noble thing to do.
I don’t buy this.
From what I learned in Sunday school
I figured on a more personal afterlife.
Besides, I don’t have kids, bright or otherwise.
Who’s right, Lord?
In my alumni magazine letters writers
argue about religion. Recently one alumna
claimed human thought has evolved
in every area but religion. We must not,
said she, let the Bible, or even Jesus,
hinder evolutionary progress
that brings better religious ideas.
Lord, I’m weary of these attacks
on Christian beliefs and believers.
Who does this gal think she is, telling me
in effect, sorry old timer, but we now know
these Bible stories aren’t true. Well, when
twenty/thirty years later she faces death
as I do now, will she believe the same thing?
Or will she say, oops, God, I guess
my ideas weren’t so good after all.
I’D LIKE THAT!
Lord, I don’t travel much anymore.
Went to the Columbia ice fields last year.
But most of the scenes I view now
are inside my head. Some are vivid,
like seeing that dirty trench near St. Lo,
the red blood spurting from my leg.
and that German boy’s face–
before I blew it away. I never talk
to anyone about this, except you, Lord.
Maybe I’ll meet that boy in heaven.
That would be okay. We’ll recognize
and forgive each other, and maybe you
will give us constructive work to do
together, somewhere in the cosmos.
Yeah, I’d like that…
I WISH THEY WOULD LEARN
When I was young we kids were afraid of hell.
Now, it seems, young folks are afraid of heaven.
They can’t imagine anything more exciting
than their affluent lifestyle. Skiing every Sunday.
Shopping at the mall. TV celebrity shows.
Making scads of money, getting stock options.
They don’t fear you, Lord, they ignore you.
Maybe a depression would do them good.
Or a service stint in Somalia. I know, Lord,
when you’re young heaven talk is taboo,
too gloomy, too threatening. Was for me once.
But I wish they would learn soon that fear
of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
WHILE MY LIFE LINGERS
Lord, the last enemy is death,
that’s for sure. Well, it’s combat time
for me. Fight with me. Oh, crucified Jesus
help me bear the penetrating pain
and this slow, sad phase of parting
from dear ones whom I love.
Share with me, Lord, your triumph
over sin and death while my life lingers,
then walk me through the heavenly door.
MOSTLY ABOUT JESUS
Lord, scenarios about heaven make no sense to me.
How can predators live harmoniously with prey?
How can dead bodies, or their ashes, reassemble?
How can there be cycles of life without death?
How can there be both time and eternity?
But then I gaze at the Milky Way on a warm night.
I hear waves crashing rhythmically against the shore,
I ponder the incredible spread of intelligent life
across planet earth, even if not always used wisely.
But mostly I think about Jesus, heaven’s great sign,
about his redeeming death, and his resurrection.
I hear him say: “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Mind then yields to spirit, and my spirit yields to you.
“Yes, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
John 14:1-6 — (Jesus said), “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”
Mark 9:24b — “I believe; help my unbelief!”