Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 9, 2018

HOPE scrabble

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Depression, fear, worry, anxiety. When these things creep into my life, I feel like I am suddenly walking through chest-high water. It can be so difficult to get through a day, even an hour. I have friends and relatives who deal with depression and anxiety, too. Yes, it can be more than a challenge to keep one’s head above water.

When Father Nouwen quoted from Bertold Brecht, I felt the words deep inside. Because—sometimes I feel that way. Not as much as before, but still, sometimes. Here is the quote:

“As it is, it will stay/What we want will never come.” [1]

Life without prayer, life without hope—that is what those words reflected inside of me. Father Nouwen said, “If you believe this way, life stands still. Spiritually, you are dead. There can be life and there can be movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and you look ahead toward that which is not yet.” [2]

That is hope. That is what can be, if we believe in prayer. Although, prayer seems to be more about asking than about hoping.

When I have hope somewhere inside of me (no matter how deep it is), I have more ability to go forward. I have dragged myself along when I have been in deep depression, or filled with fear or anxiety. At times, it has been a difficult journey. (Like walking through chest-high water.. But, I repeat myself.)

Thank God I know that God always has ears wide open to my cries, and arms ready to receive me when I stumble and fall into them. Dear Lord, help me to have hope. Hope in prayer, and hope in You and Your faithfulness. Help me to believe, to hope, and to pray more easily.

Thanks, God.

@chaplaineliza

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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), 39.

[2] Ibid.

Hands Open Towards Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 2, 2018

my heart saying a prayer

Hands Open Towards Prayer

It’s amazing how a turn of phrase can spark the imagination.

In this brief reading today, Father Nouwen refers to the passage from John 21, where Jesus tells Peter that he is now a person of volition, going where he would, but when Peter grows old, he will not be able to have the same volition. Moreover, people would take Peter where he did not want to go.

All of this is in the context of volition. Having one’s hands open. Even, having one’s heart open. As Father Nouwen talks about having one’s hands open towards prayer, he mentions care for others. “Care for others means a growing acceptance. This acceptance led Jesus and his disciples to where they didn’t want to go, to the cross. That is also the road for one who prays.” [1]

I hope I have acceptance in my heart. I hope I show that acceptance in my prayers. I realize where I do not have acceptance, and I ask God to forgive me for that non-acceptance, that insecurity, that dislike—even bordering on downright fear.

When I have my arms (and hands) stretched out in prayer, I strive to be welcoming in prayer. Dear Lord, it can be a challenge! However, as Father Nouwen rightly brings out, this acceptance and welcome I offer in prayer opens me deep within to the freedom that God truly offers. The freedom of God’s breath (which I referred to before, several posts ago – see Prayer, Life-Breath of God #matterofprayer  https://wp.me/p43g3i-12T ), and the freedom of the cross.

Dear God, please give me the courage to be prayerful. Please give me the acceptance to stretch out my hands in prayer. Forgive me for my insecurity my dislike, and especially my deep-seated fears. Help me to follow after You all the days of my life, especially in Your Son’s example of prayer. Amen.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 35.

@chaplaineliza

 

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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

Prayer. More About Breath

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, June 26, 2018

teach us to pray,

Prayer. More About Breath

When I read a section from this little book of Father Nouwen’s today, I immediately thought of people who are very much hurt. Hurt on the inside. They hurt so much that they can hardly open up to anyone. Not even to God.

Yes, I know Father Nouwen wrote so eloquently about prayer, and about it being the life-breath of God. That is true in so many situations, yes. But, not in all.

Last week was World Refugee Day. I read what several prominent church leaders had to say about the incredibly sad situation that so many people are in, worldwide. Migrants, refugees, fleeing for their lives, in most cases. Fleeing because of war or conflict, violence, famine, flood, or any of a dozen other reasons.

And, I prayed. I prayed for these dear ones, all over the world. I prayed for the desperate or horrible situations from which they flee. I lamented. I wanted to raise my fists to God, crying out, “How could this happen?” But, I didn’t.

However—I am sadly aware that some of these refugees are incredibly hurt and angry. Some of these refugees and migrants cry out to God, asking about justice, about free passage to a stable life, about a decent place to sleep and food to eat. Things I know nothing about, since I have had stability and a roof over my head for all of my life. (Not necessarily the most emotionally-functional living situation, but still, pretty stable.)

I am afraid many refugees are too emotionally and psychologically hurt to pray. It pains me to think that, yet I realize it probably is a reality.

At the same time, I was so touched by Father Nouwen’s quote from Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Song for the Asking.” [1] He speaks of allowing others to appear to him as they choose. “Then people can talk to one another and share their lives in a way where heart speaks to heart.” [2]

Alas, I do not think many refugees are quite ready to enter into dialogue, sharing their lives in such a way. I suspect their lives right now are much too desperate. I hope and pray that refugees worldwide can arrive at a place where prayer and thanksgiving become possible for them. I pray that such dialogue becomes a possibility for them, too. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our heartfelt prayers.

 

@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] “Song for the Asking,” Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel album Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970, Columbia)

[2] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 32.

Prayer, Life-Breath of God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 20, 2018

breath of God, mountains

Prayer, Life-Breath of God

Father Nouwen calls the Gospel—the Good News—the life breath of God. Isn’t that it, exactly? If we name the Good News as indispensable for life, how then shall we orient our selves? Our lives? Indeed, our souls?

“The person who prayerfully goes about his life is constantly ready to receive the breath of God, and to let his life be renewed and expanded.” [1] (Fr. Nouwen wrote this several decades ago, when “he/him” was commonly seen to be representative of all humanity.)

If I am receptive and ready to receive God’s life-giving breath, God’s Ruach ha Kodesh, into my life and self and soul, isn’t that the essence of being? Isn’t that what it means to be a child of God? (These are rhetorical questions.) I agree with Henri Nouwen. Then, I can stand upright, stretch out my hands and come out of the corner where I have been hiding and cowering in fear. Then, I am free to boldly stride through the world, because then I can move without fear. [2]

Fear is just what I am preaching on, in my summer sermon series. I am looking at just a few of the hundreds of “Be Not Afraid!” passages in the Bible, and highlighting these each Sunday. But, to return to Nouwen’s idea of God’s breath, it is truly life-giving.

Nouwen describes someone who never prays as someone who has asthma. (Or, from my direct experience as a hospital chaplain, someone with COPD.) So difficult to breathe! As I have had it described to me, life becomes as small as the distance an affected person is from his or her oxygen source, as far as their oxygen tube can take them. What a sad commentary on living and existence.

It is prayer that opens up the world for anyone, even if some do have mobility difficulties and challenges. Prayer becomes that gift from God for which we need not give anything in return. Thank You, dear God, for the remarkable, immeasurable gift of prayer.

@chaplaineliza

(Here is last week’s “Be Not Afraid” sermon: June 17 Sunday Sermon: “Joshua Called Courageous!“ Joshua 1:8-9 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer )

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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), 31.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer, Gift-Giving, Control.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 13, 2018

man in prayer, silhouette

Prayer, Gift-Giving, Control.

What a punch in the gut! Seriously, Father Nouwen’s words can really pack a punch.

He speaks truth. When you or I give something to someone, whether we want to or not, we often find ourselves in a superior position. Manipulating others, whether we want to or not. Such an eye-opening realization, giving “gifts” to an inferior person.

I certainly do not mean to cast dispersions on all gift-giving. No! Sometimes, gift-giving comes from a sincere love for the other person, a feeling of gratitude, an honest desire to give a loved one something, or some combination of these reasons. However, not always…

Lord, are You talking to me? Is there something that You want me to get through my thick skull? (Sometimes, a two by four to the head is the only way the message from God sinks in…)

Good grief. I have no words. I want to particularly think about these following words from Fr. Nouwen: “When you give, you are master of the situation, you can dole out the goods to those you think deserving. You have control over the surroundings and you can enjoy the power your possessions give you.” [1]

However, if I truly want to be humble, I need to prepare my self and my heart to accept. To receive. “Ultimately, a gift becomes a gift only when it is accepted.” [2] When I finally find myself willing to accept gifts, food, drink, other tangible things, it is then and only then that I have gratitude in my heart. Otherwise, “many people are even embarrassed with a present because they know of no way they can reciprocate. ‘It makes me feel obligated,’ they say.” [3]

Dear Lord, this is a weighty problem, and no mistake. I don’t want to feel obligated. Yet, I know there are some people who joyfully and willingly give gifts! Gracious God, help me to find the graciousness to accept gifts, as well as the wisdom to decide when and where I might willingly and lovingly give gifts. Thanks for Your grace and power, and wisdom from on high. In Jesus’ powerful 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), 29.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 30.

Prayer, Acceptance, Openness.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 7, 2018

 

acceptance word cloud

Prayer, Acceptance, Openness.

What profound insights Father Nouwen has. Seriously, at times his words penetrate deep inside me. Like, tonight.

He speaks of prayer being acceptance, if one is experiencing deep silence. This is rare for me, since I am so wordy. Lectio divina is one of my favorite prayer methods, as is Ignatian prayer. Both depend strongly on the use of words, Bible reading and sometimes written responses. However—I have experienced deep, silent prayer. Meditation is a challenge for me, but I have done it. It’s like writing with my left hand. (Yes, I am right handed.) I can do it, but writing with my non-dominant hand is a challenge, even difficult at times.

Yet, I immediately understood what Father Nouwen was talking about. If one experiences deep silence, prayer can very well mean acceptance. But, that is not all. “Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us. Indeed, God wants to give himself;” [1] Now, this is more difficult for me to believe. God wants to give Himself to us? To me?

But, wait. Father Nouwen clarifies, and explains further. “This openness, however, does not simply come of itself. It requires our confession that we are limited, dependent, weak, and even sinful.” [2]

Oh, yes, I am more than ready to admit that I am not God. (I am very familiar with the Recovery Program, which talks about that very thing. I am—one is—most certainly not God, no matter how much one might want to think that is the case. Or, feel rather omnipotent.) Yes, this does make one feel vulnerable. However, if God is right by my side, I will not feel as lost and alone. Or as vulnerable and small.

Thank You for Father Nouwen’s wonderful words, dear God. Just what I needed tonight.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 25.

[2] Ibid, 26.

@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

Prayer. Even in Dreams.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 31, 2018

dream not interpreted, letter not read

Prayer. Even in Dreams.

Often, when Father Nouwen suggests something, I strongly consider it. Except—in this particular situation. He was talking about silence, and noise, and especially about sleep. Then, he mentioned dreams. Oh, no!

It’s not that I never dream. From what I understand about dreams, I must dream with some regularity. I just never remember my dreams. Other people remember their dreams with great detail. Alas, not me. I am even uncomfortable talking about the fact that I don’t remember my dreams. (Well, hardly ever. Two, maybe three dreams a year, at most. And those, only vague impressions.)

Nouwen is talking about God being a Master Gardener; “Under this gentle regime, we can once again become masters over our own house. Not only during the day, but at night as well….Sleep is no longer a strange darkness, but a friendly curtain behind which dreams continue to live and to send out messages which can be gratefully received.” [1]

I am terribly sorry, Father Nouwen. I can’t make use of this friendly curtain, or the dream-space behind it. I feel my lack of dreams strongly. Periodically, I hear others discussing their dreams. An older friend encounters God on a fairly regular basis in dreams. (That’s how God communicates with my friend…not me!)

Realizing God communicates with me through the written word was (and is) a comfort to me. Gosh, I am so word-based! I know lectio divina and Ignatian prayer are great ways for me to pray. However, I have tried other ways of praying and meditation.  I really have tried, and tried hard. But, I just can’t allow myself, turn myself over to dream, because thereby leads to frustration and sorrow and disgruntlement.

Dear Lord, I do not think You want me to be disgruntled when I’m coming before You in prayers! I think that much be the furthest things from Your mind. Thank You for letting me find out that lectio divina and Ignatian prayer are two ways of praying that can lead me into Your presence, on a reliable basis. Gracious God, help me to be able to come before You on a regular basis. However, if I should be some change remember my dreams, help me to find some meaning in them. Just another in the dozens of ways You find to communicate with us. In the loving name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 21.