Sir Francis Drake: Until It Be Thoroughly Finished

“O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life for us, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.” ~ Sir Francis Drake

This prayer of Sir Francis Drake is included in the reading for the Second Tuesday of Advent in N.T. Wright’s Advent for Everyone: A Journey With the Apostles. Wright quotes the prayer in his discussion of Hebrews 6:9-12, looking at the theme of perseverance.

When I was a girl, I loved Roy Gerrard’s Sir Francis Drake: His Daring Deeds. The book told of his service to Queen Elizabeth I and recounted some of his seafaring adventures. I especially loved the pictures and the cartoonish way they made history come alive.

As I read his prayer this morning (yes, I was a day behind on my readings), I was fascinated to get a glimpse into this brave man’s spirituality. Sea voyages at that time were especially long and in turns dangerous and monotonous — Drake knew what it was to persevere. In our own era, two millennia since Christ’s first advent and who knows how long before his second, we are in the midst of our own long “continuing of the same,” living our lives in the middle of the grand story. We lack the enthusiasm of the beginning, and the end feels incredibly distant.

More personally, in a time of life that feels aimless and muddled at times, the season of Advent acts like a compass, orienting me in the story. While the particulars of my own little plot can feel fragmented, I am reminded that a baby was born in Bethlehem, that this little boy grew up to be a man who was victorious in life and over death itself. I remember that in this man I have a great King who is sitting at the right hand of his Father, and that one day he will return to reign forever. If our King Jesus has already finished so great a work, how can I not but carry to completion the small good works prepared for me, as insignificant as they may seem?

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