Prayer. All By Myself.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 17, 2018

monk kneeling at prayer

Prayer. All By Myself.

Father Nouwen says some intriguing things on these pages, in discussing inner silence—or, not so silent. Oh, how difficult it is to turn off that internal dialogue! Many people cannot stop that chatter, that constant whispering or commentary or even that committee in their own heads. “When there is no one to talk to, and no one to listen to, an interior discussion starts up which almost seems to get out of hand.” [1]

Yes, when I was a tween and teen, I disliked being alone. I liked to be with people. Even into my twenties, I wanted to be with people almost all the time, and did not care to be alone for very long. (By the way, that aspect of myself has changed.)

Have I changed, all that much? Sure, I enjoy, even relish being alone today. I can be silent sitting next to my husband, while both of us are working on the weekends. It’s a companionable silence, between the two of us. Dear Jesus, is that the kind of thing You are looking for? Is that the relationship You would like with me?

I am sad to say that I still feel some awkwardness in prayer. Yes, I have prayed for decades, and I still occasionally have deep and significant times of prayer. However, the prayer interactions are not always comfortable for me. Sometimes, it seems too stressed and forced (on my part, not on the other end).

Dear Lord, help me to feel comfortable with You, more regularly. Thank You for the possibility to be silent before You. Thank You for the love and caring You show to me, on a regular basis. I know I am not in a good situation…but as long as I am here together with you, Lord, I don’t have to worry. Father Nouwen is certainly correct; being calm and quiet takes a great deal of attention, but it is worth it. A relationship with my dear Lord Jesus? Thank You, Lord.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 19.

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, May 8, 2018

open hands

Prayer. Silence. Shhh.

What a stunning viewpoint on silence. Or, should I say, Silence?

Somehow, I feel as if this word ought to be capitalized. Father Nouwen makes such telling points on silence and the modern understanding of it. This little book was written in 1972, which is well over forty years ago. Fr. Nouwen talks about the clatter, banging, and constant noise of this modern time. Boy, can I relate.

I wonder what the good Father would have to say about 2018, the modern day in the western world? With all the technological updates and social media and the myriad of different choices in the way of accessing sound and video and recording of all different kinds…   Would this audio-visual kaleidoscope of noise, this cacophony of countless visual and audible selections, cause him to shun technology even more?

I remember I did not like being alone or in silence very long, when I was a teen. It got better in my twenties and thirties. Now, I enjoy it.

Oh, Father Nouwen, you seem to run toward silence with abandon. Nonetheless, you freely admit that “for many, silence is threatening. They don’t know what to do with it.” [1] Is silence truly a disappearing art? Is silence a fearful and terrifying thing, finally in its fearsome stages of existence?

The question forty years ago Fr. Nouwen wanted answered was, have people become alienated from silence? I consider it just as fair to ask what have the majority of people become addicted to?  Beyond random noise, to videos, blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, much less regular texting and instant messaging?

Dear God, save us from ourselves. Help me—help us to see that You thrive in the various sounds of silence just as much as in loud howls and yells, conversations, noisy trumpets, cymbals, honky-tonk pianos, drum sets, wailing guitars, and all the variety of electronic sounds and other forms of audio and visual input. Gracious God, thank You that You have given humanity the insight, ability, and ingenuity to come up with all of the constant sounds. Help us to quiet our insides just as much as the outside environment can be quietened. Thank You for this profound insight Fr. Nouwen brings to me today.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 16.

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer candles

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Father Nouwen makes it sound easy. Well, if not easy, then straight-forward.

I know very well that I sometimes am all of these unpleasant things he talks about. I hate, I don’t forgive, I clutch worldly things or attitudes to my chest and turn away from the obvious invitations and overtures God in making to me. Yes, God. Guilty as charged. Yet, Henri Nouwen does make the process of prayer sound easy. (Or, straight-forward, whichever is more applicable to me at the time.)

Yet—before I get down to the serious business of praying, Nouwen tells me there is a caveat. “You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed.” [1]

Patience? Seriously? Is this trait an absolute necessity? Because if it is, I do not think I will get very far in my walk with God. Or, my continuing conversation with God, either.

In the very next paragraph, however, Fr. Nouwen rephrases that absolute, and turns it into a conditional suggestion. He even acknowledges our human frailty. He says, “You can never fully achieve such an attitude, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all these fists….At any hour of the day or night you might clench again for fear.” [2]

Ah. Now you have it. Fr. Nouwen lays out the clear dilemma of prayer and the human experience. I have such fear and trepidation in my heart. I am filled with such anger, or shame, or even revulsion. Or, God forbid, I find myself chock-full of self-righteous judgement. Any or all of these can hinder or even totally stop my conversation with God.

What do I do about all of these horrible emotions and character traits that are so deeply rooted inside of me? Nouwen says, “What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away…Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.” [3]

Dear Lord, is it possible? Can I actually be welcomed into Your presence even though I am chock-full of all of these yucky emotions and character traits? Thank God, indeed.

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 8.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 10.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Detached? Prayerful, Instead.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

immeasurable prayer power

Detached? Prayerful, Instead.

Oh, Father Nouwen, your words burrow deep within my heart. Or, deep within the flimsy defenses I’ve erected, rather. (Whichever it is, these words do burrow deep. Perhaps both deep in my heart AND deep within my flimsy defenses…)

So many of the unpleasant, downright irritating and repulsive character traits Father Nouwen mentions in this short section are true about me. At least, every once in a while, and sometimes much more often than that. These repulsive character traits do get in the way when I wish to pray. (And, especially when I do not wish to pray. Then, perhaps, they get the most in the way.)

Most striking to me today is the fact that I “can become attached to [my] own hate. As long as [I] look for retaliation, [I am] riveted to [my] own past.” [1]  Oh, how foul. How horrifying. Imagine, being stuck in an infernal hamster wheel of hate for my whole life long.

I have rarely been burdened with long-term hatred and the desire for retaliation, thank God! However, sometimes… Twisted daydreams of revenge and retaliation do flit across my mind, on occasion. Again, thank God they do not stick around. I would shrink back in terror and horror if my mind did happen to continually return to twisted thoughts like that.

“Don’t be afraid of him who wants to enter that space where you live, or to let him see what you are clinging to so anxiously…. Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, disappointment to him who reveals himself as love.” [2] Oh, dear God, let it be true! Even though I am filled with twisted, repulsive, bitter character traits and negative emotions, I know You continue to reveal Yourself as love. Reveal Yourself that way to me, today. Now.

With a hopeful heart—surprising, after considering this sad, depressing topic—I pray all of these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

 

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 6.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer—No Easy Matter

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 20, 2018

honest definition

Prayer—No Easy Matter

When I read this first reflection on prayer by Henri Nouwen, his words penetrated me deeply. (Again, I might add. I have a feeling this will happen to me again and again as I read through this short book.) I am unashamedly a fangirl of Fr. Nouwen. His profound writing and superb choice of words consistently hits home. Now, if I could just get his words to remain in my brain and imprinted on my heart…

He speaks of a deep relationship, a no-holds-barred relationship between me and the other. (Or, should I say the Other? I have always honored God with capitalization, as much as possible.) In any case, Fr. Nouwen talks of a deep resistance, as well. Giving the illustration of a woman admitted to a psychiatric center [1] who absolutely refuses to open her fist until it is pried open to reveal a coin…makes me think hard. How much am I trying to hide from God?

As Fr. Nouwen says, “When we are invited to pray we are asked to open our tightly clenched fists and to give up our last coin. But who wants to do that?” [2] This can be such a painful process. Even though some may cry out of that deep place of pain and anguish, the whole process can be painful. Just deciding to begin to pray can be filled with anguish. “You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small clammy coins which you don’t want to surrender.” [3]

Dear Lord, how difficult it is to be totally honest. Even though You know everything already, just like a wise, benevolent earthly parent, I feel awkward, and shy, and ashamed, and resentful. Disappointed, jealous, sad, and angry, too. Why is it that deep emotions get in the way of my relationship with You so readily? Clutching these yucky emotions to my chest as if they were treasures is not in my best interests. Lead me to understand this deep truth that Fr. Nouwen brings to my attention.

Let us pray. Gracious God, loving Heavenly Parent, You are patient and merciful. You are also all-knowing, so I cannot hide from You—as much as I want to. As the psalmist reminds me, even if I flee to the depths of the sea or the highest mountain, You are still there. You are still with me, no matter what happens. Help me to be honest with You. You love me. Help me emblazon those words on my heart. In Jesus’s precious name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 3.

[2] Ibid, 4.

[3] Ibid.

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of these things. Amen,

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

Resurrection Sunday, For Us

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Jesus and empty tomb

Resurrection Sunday, For Us

I haven’t written any reflections last week during Holy Week. Yes, I was busy. Yes, I was under the weather. And yes, I had much too much on my plate. I feel badly, because I did not finish the daily readings from the apostle Paul. (I did do two readings last week from Colossians, and appreciated them very much. But, I did not do any others…mea culpa.)

I know I have a poor track record, doing daily devotions. (Perhaps I ought to think of it as a batting average? That way, one day out of three would still be an awesome batting average. Any major league baseball player would be proud of a .333 batting average. *grin*) In any case, God and I will continue to discuss my regular vs. daily prayer, scripture readings, and devotions. Of that, I am sure.

The last reading was from 2 Corinthians 5. Such a marvelous chapter! In almost every verse in this chapter I find a vivid image or stunning word or phrase that speaks directly to my heart and soul. From the tent Paul describes in the beginning of the chapter to the ministry of reconciliation that he closes the chapter with, this is—hands down—one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new!” And, the three verses following, of course. Such wonder. Such glory. I cannot even begin to describe the magnificence of Paul’s words.

As Prof. Williams says, “Paul write perhaps his most powerful explanation of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. His point is this. The resurrection of Jesus matters, Paul says, because without it our faith is futile and we are pitiable people….But not only that – it also inaugurates that new creation now, as a reality into which we are invited.” [1]

What an invitation! Imagine, Jesus inviting you and me into His presence, into His new creation. We may come freely, no strings attached. How awesome, how fabulous is that? Truly, a gift given to us all, freely. Thank You, Jesus. “Let us live in this world as foretastes of the new creation to come, a world guaranteed by Your resurrection life. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.” [2]

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 92.

[2] Ibid.