Posted by: davidlarkin | March 11, 2011

Ash Wednesday Prayer for Christopher Hitchens

My friend Mark emailed me about Christopher Hitchens’ interview on 60 minutes last Sunday. He thought Hitchens showed great courage, and that his comment about miracles or “surprises” at the end of the interview was amusing. Hitchens is a star public intellectual and writer and a great mind.  He is dying from esophageal cancer, a deadly cancer with a 5% survival rate.   He is well-known lately as one of the four outspoken public atheists, sometimes referred to as the “Four Atheist Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris.  Hitchens wrote a best-seller decrying the God of the Bible, God is Not Great.

I have written about Hitchens, and his remarks about the virtue of Alexander Solzhenitsyn before here on this blog.

Who could argue that Hitchens does not show great courage facing death with his esophageal cancer. In the interview, when asked whether he could be open to the existence of God, he responded with surprising humility considering his public defiance, stating that he is always open-minded, and that he did not have sufficient evidence to acknowledge the existence of God, but that he “liked surprises,” no doubt referring to miracles, as my friend referred to the remark in his email.  Presumably, his epistemological objection, lack of evidence, cannot stand in the way of grace and the supernatural revelation of God without which no one can have sufficient evidence for His existence.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, signalling the beginning of Lent and a time of repentance for sin for the Christian, fasting and abstinence for the Roman Catholic, in anticipation of Easter and the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the event without which there is no Christianity. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (NIV)

Without the resurrection, Paul concludes that hedonism becomes a reasonable alternative:

If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

1 Corinthians 15:32(b)

I have been working my way through William Barclay’s 1965 Prayers for the Christian Year. Wednesday’s entry for Ash Wednesday was a prayer of contrition and for God’s grace to recognize our sins and receive a spirit of repentance and godly sorrow. Although the prayer is written as a prayer for “us”, by substituting “Christopher Hitchens” for “us,” we have a very suitable and timely prayer for Christopher Hitchens, one of God’s creatures who was greatly blessed with great intellect and talent and the personal discipline to work hard to develop his talent, but whose personal strength and pride has blinded him to the source of his success.   He needs prayer as death closes in on him.

Save especially at this time, Christopher Hitchens, O God,

From the blindness,
which is not even aware that it is sinning;

From the pride,
which cannot admit that it is wrong;

From the self-will,
which can see nothing but its own way;

From the self-righteousness,
which can see no flaw within itself;

From the callousness,
which has sinned so often that it has ceased to care;

From the defiance,
which is not even sorry for its sins;

From the evasion,
which always puts the blame on someone or something else;

From the heart so hardened,
that it cannot repent.

Give him at all times,
—- Eyes which are open to his faults;
—- A conscience which is sensitive and quick to warn;
—- A heart that cannot sin in peace,
but is moved to regret and remorse.

So Grant that being truly penitent he may be truly forgiven, so that he may find your love is great enough to cover all of his sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Note:  Christopher Hitchens Died December 15, 2011  In light of his death, the Ash Wednesday Prayer remains excellent, of course, for any living lost person, whether relative, friend, acquaintance, or enemy.  Substitute the person’s name instead Christopher Hitchens.


  1. […] Hitchens now diagnosed with esophageal cancer needs our prayers, as he faces death in a universe that is without hope. I have a prayer for Christopher Hitchens here. […]

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