ACU Library hosts a weekly chapel for our students, student workers, faculty and staff. I was asked to pray in last week’s assembly. I chose to draw from the well of our history rather than bring a word of spontaneous prayer. I reflected on what we are trying to do in the library, not just the tasks we perform, but a core reason for our existence at the heart of the university’s life and mission. I reflected on what we are trying to accomplish in a weekly gathering of students and faculty. I reflected on why we collect and steward information resources in our spaces, why and how our community uses these resources, and to what ends. I then spent some time with J. H. Garrison.
As is the case with most of my friends, Garrison has been dead a good long while. But while he was among the living he contributed mightily to the devotional spirit of the Stone-Campbell movement. Arguably his Alone With God is the classic work on the inner devotional life. He wasn’t the only one who tried to develop this sense among us, and you’ll have to gauge for yourself whether he even did it well, but every time I read him I’m better for it.
My reflections about the nature of our work in our space converged with Garrison’s prayer for truth.
Living as we do in a world charmed by lies, half-truths, near-truths, and spin, I think it wise to pause for a moment and pray for truth. Living as we do in a context rife with passive-aggression, innuendo, rhetorical slight of hand, I think it wise to pause and pray and seek truth. Living and working in a community of scholars, nearly every last thing we do is a search for truth: we research, we investigate, we experiment, we hypothesize, we inquire, we discover, we assess, we interpret. It is good for us along this way to gather and pray for truth.
James Harvey Garrison’s ‘Prayer for Truth’* in Alone With God** (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1891), 151:
O God, the God of truth, mercifully grant that the Holy Spirit of Truth may rule our hearts, grafting therein love of truth, and making us in all our thoughts and words and works, to study, speak, and follow truth, that we may be sincere before all people, and blameless before Thee. May no unworthy prejudice or sectarian pride prevent us from accepting whatever bears the divine impress of Thy truth. May we love the truth, know the truth, and be made free by the truth; for His sake who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in whom is no guile, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
*I adapted Garrison’s pronouns. I changed them from singular to plural and where he prayed to be ‘blameless before men’, I prayed ‘blameless before all people.’
Header Image: Brooks, Jeremy. Truth ->. Flickr. June 3, 2008. Some rights reserved.
Mac is Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Abilene Christian University.