Threshold Prayers

Written by Mary Paul
Dwelling with God

With this issue, Mary Rearick Paul begins service as a contributing writer whose articles will encourage us in pursuit of a deeper relationship with Christ. Dr. Paul has served as pastor/co-pastor at several New England District churches, taught at Olivet Nazarene University, and is currently vice president of spiritual development at Point Loma Nazarene University. We welcome her to our team.

Each new year presents a clean slate full of possibilities. After the events of 2020, facing the year ahead can be both hopeful and daunting. 2020 showed us that a year can be unprecedented, unexpected, and unpredictable. We all pray for things to be better in the days and months ahead.

An important threshold moment that informs our journey into this new year is when the Magi arrived at the home of Mary, Joseph, and toddler Jesus. Did they pause and look at each other with uncertainty? Did they pull back? Were they bold to move forward, fueled by their trust in God who provided the guiding star? Did they take a deep breath as they stepped into the unknown? My “iMAGInation” is shaped by the hymn We Three Kings:

          “O star of wonder, star of night,
          Star with royal beauty bright.
          Westward leading, still proceeding,
          Guide us to thy perfect light.”1

The words and meter encourage us to keep pressing forward. The Christmas narrative includes both the good news of God’s coming down to the very ground as our Emmanuel (God with us) and the promise of His commitment to guide us. I am thankful for a God who leads us, keeps us and helps us navigate next steps, especially when the journey takes us into the night. Bright lights, candles and stars in a darkened sky carry the reminder that God keeps His promises, shines light into the darkest places, and is with and before us.

I am thankful for a God who leads us, keeps us, and helps us navigate next steps, especially when the journey takes us into the night.

Threshold prayers can be gifts for us to offer in any of those moments when we know we are stepping into something new. They can be breath prayers like “Come Lord Jesus” or “Come Holy Spirit, I need you” or “Oh Lord, hear my prayer” or dedication prayers like “This new home/job is yours God” or “Whatever happens, I am Yours and You are mine.” These are offered as a person or a people enter new seasons of their lives regardless of whether that season is marked with sadness, gladness or fear.

There is a tradition, practiced most commonly in Britain, of an Epiphany blessing of the home and, specifically, the threshold. I love this tradition and have used it in my office, home, and church. The basic idea is that on Epiphany you pause and commemorate the visit of the Magi. Chalk is often used to mark the year and the letters C, M, and B somewhere on the door frame. So, if the year was 2021 it would look like:

                                        2021 C M B 2022

The letters are in reference to the non-biblical tradition that the names of the Magi visitors were Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Others prefer to have the letters stand for Christus mansionem benedicat, Latin, meaning “May Christ bless this dwelling.”2 Either way, the chalking of the door is a way of remembering to pray for all who cross the threshold in the comings and goings of life.

While traditionally this prayer is connected to the celebration of Epiphany, it can be used in any of life’s threshold moments. Such prayers may be for the peace of Christ to be known and shared in a new year, new home, or a new stage of life.

Connecting to the threshold crossing of the Magi we pray that every person will offer their particular gifts, talents, graces, or personalities in ways that will serve Christ who dwells in us, among us, and between us. This prayer can also include the commitment to offer all of ourselves in worship (kneeling before Christ like the Magi) where we then more fully receive the presence of Christ.

Some of us might find the thresholds on which we stand marked by grief, goodbyes, or endings. In such times, I am comforted by the deep assurance that comes through faith that Christ is already present in the unknowns of the life ahead. Whether I step across timidly or boldly, God is with me, before me, and will not leave me. Therefore, I can in all times, across every threshold, join my voice with those who sing this hymn;

          “O star of wonder, star of night,
          Star with royal beauty bright.
          Westward leading, still proceeding,
          Guide us to thy perfect light.”

1“We Three Kings,” John Hopkins Jr., 1857
2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalking_the_door

Dr. Mary Rearick Paul is vice president of spiritual development at Point Loma Nazarene University.