Mary Sumner, Founder of the Mothers’ Union, 1921
Hear my prayer, O God;
hide not yourself from my petition.
Give heed to me and answer me;
I am restless in my complaining.
I am alarmed at the voice of the enemy and at the clamour of the wicked;
For they would bring down evil upon me and are set against me in fury.
My heart is disquieted within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and a horrible dread has overwhelmed me.
And I said: ‘O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.
‘Then would I flee far away and make my lodging in the wilderness.
‘I would make haste to escape from the stormy wind and tempest.’
Confuse their tongues, O Lord, and divide them,
for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go about on her walls;
mischief and trouble are in her midst.
Wickedness walks in her streets;
oppression and guile never leave her squares.
For it was not an open enemy that reviled me, for then I could have borne it;
Nor was it my adversary that puffed himself up against me,
for then I would have hid myself from him.
But it was even you, one like myself, my companion and my own familiar friend.
We took sweet counsel together and walked with the multitude in the house of God.
Let death come suddenly upon them;
let them go down alive to the Pit;
for wickedness inhabits their dwellings, their very hearts.
As for me, I will call upon God and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening and morning and at noonday I will pray and make my supplication,
and he shall hear my voice.
He shall redeem my soul in peace from the battle waged against me,
for many have come upon me.
God, who is enthroned of old, will hear and bring them down;
they will not repent, for they have no fear of God.
My companion stretched out his hands against his friend and has broken his covenant;
His speech was softer than butter, though war was in his heart;
his words were smoother than oil, yet are they naked swords.
Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you,
and will not let the righteous fall for ever.
But those that are bloodthirsty and deceitful, O God,
you will bring down to the pit of destruction.
They shall not live out half their days,
but my trust shall be in you, O Lord.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go, and come again;
tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.
Do not plan harm against your neighbour
who lives trustingly beside you.
Do not quarrel with anyone without cause,
when no harm has been done to you.
Do not envy the violent
and do not choose any of their ways;
for the perverse are an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence.
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the abode of the righteous.
Towards the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he shows favour.
The wise will inherit honour,
but stubborn fools, disgrace.
Listen, children, to a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight;
for I give you good precepts:
do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
tender, and my mother’s favourite,
he taught me, and said to me,
‘Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away
from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever else you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honour you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a fair garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.’
Hear, my child, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what they stumble over.
He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’
He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Faithful and loving God,
who called Mary Sumner to strive for the renewal of family life:
give us the gift of your Holy Spirit,
that through word, prayer and deed
your family may be strengthened and your people served;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.