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Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

hope heart stone

Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Father Nouwen had an intriguing definition of hope written by a student: “I see hope as an attitude where everything stays open before me….Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now, or a year from now—that is hope.” [1]

According to both the student and to Father Nouwen, when we hope, hope gives us the perseverance to continue trying, striving. Hope helps us to know we are on target in prayer to pray the prayer of hope.

When “wishes” come into the picture, what then? Is that like going to some sort of giant vending-machine in the sky? Or, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment sort of thing, where wishes magically appear—or magically disappear—as the pray-er wishes earnestly. While this may be one way of prayer, certainly, is it the best way? Ought I treat the Lord God Almighty, who made heaven and earth, like a vending machine? Where I can come up to the “God-o-matic,” punch a number or pull a knob, and out pops the answer to my prayer request?

As Nouwen says, wishes might indeed get tangled up with hope, and “concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it….You wish that…but you hope in….” [2]

Hope is open-ended. Hope is expectation, pure and simple. Hope is simplicity itself. I realize that praying with hope may seem unduly optimistic and pie-in-the-sky. Yet, is this not the way a child comes to their Loving Heavenly Parent and asks? And, am I not described as a child before God? Please, God, help me to embrace that image. Help me to come to You with trust, and love, and hope, just as a child would.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 72.

[2] Ibid, 73.

Prayer of Little Faith…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 31, 2018

bad days, good days, every day

Prayer of Little Faith…

Ouch. Really.

Ouch, Father Nouwen! You hit a little too close to the bone. I am afraid I might make prayers of little faith, every now and then. Maybe even more often than that.

Father Nouwen’s description of a prayer of little faith is quite telling. Less on the spiritual side, and heavy on the concrete. Almost like a person is really skeptical of “getting” anything in prayer, or that they expect too much on the material end of things.

I realize that people go through stages like this, especially when they have recently been introduced to Christian faith. However, what I have understood for decades is that Christianity is a relationship. I don’t walk up to God, bold as brass, like the younger son in the parable of the Prodigal, and demand stuff like I am entitled to it. And, heaven forbid that I shouldn’t be able to get any old thing I ask for. (At least, I dearly hope I am not like this. If I am, God, forgive me…)

As Father Nouwen says, “People of little faith pray like children who want a present from Santa Claus but who are so frightened of the “Holy Man” that they run away as soon as they have their hands on the package…All the attention is on the gift and none on the one who gives it.” [1] Oh, isn’t that the truth!

We are reminded that the prayer of little faith is a prayer of no hope, a prayer of despair. Even, “The prayer of little faith is carefully reckoned, even stingy, and is upset by every risk.” [2] Bullseye! I hide my head in shame, fear, and trembling. Why on earth we have been fingered, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because we sin regularly. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” [3]

Dear Lord, gracious God, forgive my prayers of little faith. I want to seek after You with my whole heart. Thank You for loving me—loving us, and holding all of us in Your everlasting arms of comfort and care. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 70.

[2] Ibid, 71.

[3] “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” (NETTLETON). Words by Robert Robinson, 1735-1790.

Prayer? Of Petition.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 26, 2018

immeasurable prayer power

Prayer? Of Petition.

I often pray prayers of petition. Honestly, I do. I know I “shouldn’t” pray these asking-for-things kinds of prayers, but that’s okay.

(“Shouldn’t,” according to whom? Seriously!)

According to certain people, prayers of petition are not as deserving of the title of “prayer” as prayers of praise. Frankly and personally, I consider this attitude nonsense. So what if I am “trying” to get something for myself? If I make a request of God, I am communicating with God, just as much as if I were making a prayer of praise to God.

Apparently, prayers of thanksgiving are supposed to be more “worthy” of the name of prayer than prayers of petition. And, prayers of praise are totally directed to God, and are therefore the most “worthy” kind of prayer.

All of this sounds awfully legalistic and Pharisaic to me. But, I am just a mere person, not even designated with the title of “theologian” or anything. What does Father Nouwen have to say about this? “The important thing about prayer is not whether it is classified as petition, thanksgiving, or praise, but whether it is a prayer of hope or of little faith.” [1]

Father Nouwen is right when he mentions that the prayer of little faith “is filled with wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment. This kind of prayer has a Santa Claus naivete and wants the direct satisfaction of very specific wishes and desires.” [2]

Yes, I can see why God would not be that wild about such Santa-Claus-prayers. But, when someone is afraid or shy or very young or even filled with naivete, what other kind of prayers are they expected to pray? (Just asking.)

Dear Lord, gracious God, forgive me when I pray those Santa-Claus-prayers. I know I do it, sometimes. When You hear those kinds of prayers, thank You for honoring them—sometimes. Thank You for being a loving Heavenly Parent (which You totally are), telling Your children that You love them, regardless of the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, or petition that they bring to You. Thank You so much, Loving God.

@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, 2005), 68.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer: Whatever Fills the Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, July 22, 2018

candles, votive prayer

Prayer: Whatever Fills the Heart

Sometimes, it seems that God might be a big vending machine in the sky. At least, that is the way some people pray. They put in their order, just the way they like it, and when God does not deliver in precisely the way requested, these same people become quite upset.

I do not believe God works that way.

Certainly, according to the Bible, God is concerned about us humans. God dearly wishes to enter into a relationship with us. However—God is not a short-order cook. I cannot even imagine twisting God’s arm to get what I selfishly want.

Yes, we pray when we go on vacation, or for the weather we prefer, or when friends are sick, or even when they die. As Father Nouwen says, “Our prayer emerges from the midst of our lives and is interwoven with everything else which busies our day.” [1]

When I allow prayer to permeate my life and my way of being, of course prayer becomes more genuine. When I allow my relationship with God to become more intimate and loving and caring, of course what I request becomes less of a spoiled whine or anxious fear. When I climb onto Jesus’s lap, He comforts me, just like His beloved child.

When we live in the world, God can act sovereignly to deliver us. Or not. This can be a challenging thing. All the same, “if we pray, and really pray, we can hardly escape the fact that our cares for the moment, big and small, will fill our prayer.” [2] If we pray, we open the door to God,  and allow ourselves to have the chance for friendship with our Heavenly Friend.

How wonderful that God wishes to develop that kind of close, loving relationship with all of us. Thank You, God.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 65.

[2] Ibid, 66.

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

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), 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

 

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. 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.