Prayer: Restoring Relationship

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, October 4, 2018

relationship, definition

Prayer: Restoring Relationship

People get all kinds of ideas about prayer. What prayer is, and what prayer is not. Good ideas, not-so-good ideas, off-the-wall ideas, and on-target ideas. Father Nouwen had some excellent ideas about prayer himself.

In this evening’s reading, I was amazed to read that “To pray means to stop expecting from God the same small-mindedness which you discover in yourself.” [1] Oh, my. How true that is! I am somewhat ashamed of having to admit that. (Well, all right. Downright ashamed, actually.)

How could Father Nouwen know me so well? Sometimes, his words hit home in a new way, or in a way that seems sadly familiar.

But, wasn’t he just speaking to the human condition? Don’t I simply have that same human tendency? And sometimes, more fallible and more fallen than others? Even though I try and try to pray, walking in the full light of God, I definitely am fallible. Isn’t sin simply separation from God? Mea culpa, dear Lord.

Nevertheless, Father Nouwen does not leave us in that desperate, sinful state. Sure, we are sinful. Yes, I admit that. Yet, he lets us know that God is faithful. God will be there, for us and with us. God with show up, even when we do not deserve it.

What is it that God wants most of all? The Lord wants a restored relationship. Not just a surface subterfuge, “hi, how are ya?” said wearing a nicely-nicely mask on my fallen face. But, that is me, and my side of the argument. Or, prayer.

What about God? What does God want out of this special time of prayer? (Yes, God wants every time to be a special time, every conversation to be intimate.) The Lord dearly wants a restored relationship. I do not know why, since I am a sinner, and therefore are unable to get over my sinful self. Except—that does not matter to God.

Our Lord wants a restored relationship, even though a deep-down propensity of sin causes people to fail. Fail God, and fail themselves. What a wonderful thing to discover that God wants a restored relationship, too? God’s arms are open wide. We are all welcome in God’s arms. From the Lord’s viewpoint, we are all God’s best friends. Praise 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), 90.

Prayer While Hiding

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, September 30, 2018

storm, waves drawing

Prayer While Hiding

I was struck by Father Nouwen’s descriptive words in this reading tonight. “When God asked Adam, ‘Where are you?’ Adam answered, ‘I was hiding.’ He confessed his true condition.”

Wow. Double wow. That is so true of me, too. I hide so much. I hide from other people, from obligations, from opportunities, from myself. Oh, yeah…I often hide from God, too. Why do I do that? What is my motivation? (Other than the obvious.)

One big motivation happens to anyone who is leading an organization. A large building under construction needs to be using an advance team, according to the daily news blurb. But, what about this particular large building? Are the workers at this particular building staying current with all official procedure?

We could look at Adam in the recently-completed Garden of Eden and compare him to the staff in the building in Evanston. Both had official things they had to do. Both had complaints made against them. What kind of complaints? Complaints of not following through, problems of shirking the assigned tasks.

Did both sets of employees know what they were doing? (Or, NOT doing, in either case.) Yes. Both were aware of NOT doing what they were assigned to do. In Adam’s case, he got all flustered, and afraid. Adam hid himself.

The Lord knows very well what happened. The Lord knows where Adam hid, and goes straight there. The Lord was gracious and merciful to Adam, and will always be gracious and merciful to any of God’s children who struggle with keeping to the straight and narrow.

What does Father Nouwen say? “Certainly praying takes some admissions. It requires the humble recognition of our condition as broken human beings.” [1]  When we realize that God loves us anyway, even though we mess up, even though we are broken and are in need to repair, God loves us anyway.

“If we cling tightly to our own weaknesses, faults, shortcomings, and our twisted past, to all of the events, facts, and situations which we would prefer to cut out of our own history, we are only hiding behind a hedge through which everyone can see.” [2]

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, forgive me. Forgive my sin. Forgive me when I run away and hide, just like Adam. Thank You for loving me anyway. In Your 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, 2005), 88.

[2] Ibid, 89.

Prayer While Losing Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, September 26, 2018

rain on windowpanes

Prayer While Losing Heart

When I read this reading, the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Oh, such a sad thing, to be so self-sufficient, and yet so alone. Father Nouwen must have known someone who was like this. (Or, perhaps even he was like this, now and again.)

When someone grits their teeth and tries really hard to go it on their own, I look at that person and am divided in my thoughts. Yes, I acknowledge their persistence and perseverance. Going it all alone can show signs of strength and stick-to-it-ive-ness. I honor that. Truly.

However…when someone presumes that they absolutely must do it on their own, or else they lose some of their person-hood…”with this mindset you will become weary and exhausted from your efforts to prove that you can do it alone and every failure will become cause for shame.” [1]

My sneaking suspicion is that Father Nouwen might be writing this about himself. Either that, or about someone he knows very well. Oh, I do hope that who ever he was writing this about found some sort of assistance and help from even one person. What Nouwen writes about sounds so lonely, and weary-making. Someone’s sense of honor is not so easily impugned. Asking for help every once in a while is not a threat.

This so sadly reminds me of the Paul Simon song “I Am a Rock.”

“I am a rock, /I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain; /And an island never cries.” [2]

I hope and pray that the one Father Nouwen wrote about found someone to share their burdens with, and someone to pray with. What is more, God will surely send fellowship into the lives of God’s people. All we need do is ask.

@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), 87.

[2] “I Am a Rock,” Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel album Sounds of Silence (Columbia, January 17, 1966)

Prayer Means Togetherness

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, September 15, 2018

pray, church pews

Prayer Means Togetherness

Father Nouwen so often hits the nail on the head. So true today: “Often it is said that prayer is simply an expression of helplessness. It is asking from another what we cannot do ourselves.” [1] He goes on to say that if we stop there, confusion and despair become the natural next steps.

Is this why so many today are leery of prayer? (Except in hospitals. I was a hospital chaplain at a busy urban hospital. I well understand that in dire or traumatic situations, prayer was a ready comfort or recourse for many. And, I would so often be asked to pray for and with patients and their loved ones.) But, more to the point of Fr. Nouwen’s statement, the person who is lost in confusion and despair can also be lost in a wilderness of misunderstanding and pain.

Fr. Nouwen does not leave our wanderer in a confusing and despairing wilderness, however. “The praying person not only says, ‘I can’t do it and I don’t understand it.” … when you can also add the second, you feel your dependence no longer as helplessness but as a happy openness to others.” [2] And, again. Fr. Nouwen is exactly correct. There is nothing demeaning, disgraceful or debilitating about acknowledging openness, even dependence upon others.

Is this mistaken attitude a fault of the gradual breakdown in communication across generations here in the United States? I suspect not totally, although that must have some bearing. Although, Fr. Nouwen wrote this little book some decades ago. This prescient understanding of an almost universal desire and longing for communication with the Holy, with that which is beyond humanity, and which some call “God” is what this book With Open Hands is all about.

I feel sorrow in my heart for those who cannot give themselves permission to feel a dependence upon others. Even upon one or two others. I realize there are those who have been shockingly damaged by truly evil treatment, and I deeply mourn with them for their losses. However, as Fr. Nouwen would surely say, God is there. Even though some are fearful at reaching out, that makes no difference. Even though some may be so pain-filled and snarl at people who reach out to them, God is still there. God will always be there.

As our mentor and pathfinder Fr. Nouwen tells us, “if you see your weakness as that which makes you worth loving and if you are always prepared to be surprised at the power the other gives you, you will discover through praying that living means living together.” [3] (italics mine)

@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), 86.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Does Prayer Matter?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, September 10, 2018

man kneeling in prayer

Does Prayer Matter?

Oh, Lord. This is such a pertinent question. Just what I was talking about with an older friend of mine today. (Yes, another minister, not that that makes it a negative thing.) Yet—this question of “Does Prayer Matter?” only served as a corollary to the overarching question we discussed, which is “Why Suffering?”

Neither of us—me or my friend—came up with anything deeply profound. We simply brought up two options that have been discussed for decades (referring to the wars and conflicts of the 20th century). Such catastrophic events, on the large scale. Such horrific experiences, ahappening to so many individuals. On all sides, of all conflicts.

“If we say that it’s good to turn to God in prayer for a spare minute, or if we grant that a person with a problem does well to take refuge in prayer, we have as much as admitted that praying is on the margin of life and doesn’t really matter.” [1]

Oh, dear God, I so want prayer to matter! Why does it seem so much as if people only dabble in prayer? (Even me, sometimes. Forgive me, Lord, for my inattentiveness in prayer.) I suppose with me, as with many others, when things are going well, or even moderately okay,

“If we think that a little praying can’t do any harm. We will soon find that it can’t do much good anyway. Prayer has meaning only if it is necessary and indispensable.” [2]

Why do people forget You, or forget what we ought to be doing, which is thanking You for all You so graciously give to each one. I want to walk with the Lord, yes, and sit with the Lord, too. Dear God, please forgive me me for my uncaring attitude towards You, and towards prayer, which is a simple wy of communicating with You. Dear 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), 84.

[2] Ibid, 85.

My Neighbor, in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, September 2, 2018

neighbor - who is

My Neighbor, in Prayer

As I read this small section of Father Nouwen’s book tonight, I was hit right between the eyes with a verse from 1 John 4. Again. The verse? “Anyone who says ‘I love God,’ and hates his [or her] brother or sister is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)

Thanks, Fr. Nouwen. Thanks, John. Right between the eyes. Again.

“Prayer can never be antisocial or asocial. Whenever we pray and leave out our neighbors, our prayer is not real prayer. True prayer by its nature is socially significant.” [1]

Good grief. Now I not only feel constrained by Henri Nouwen, I have the added (yet, gentle) pressure of Fred Rogers, too. Two of the gentle giants of the 20th century, spiritually speaking. Yes, in different ways, with different focuses, but here their constraints and pressure cross paths. Oh, I feel it.

Oh, the words of Father Nouwen bring me up short, indeed: “there is some reason to wonder whether the comment ‘I’ll pray for you’ is a sign of genuine concern.” [2] I believe I have read enough writings and books from both Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers to understand that each man was indeed concerned for his neighbors—for all of his neighbors. Truthfully, I feel small and insignificant when I compare myself with these two Godly men.

Yet, I must strive to soldier on. I need to continue to care, continue to love, continue to include my neighbors. Yes, in prayer, and yes, in conversation and interaction, too.

Oh, God. How difficult to do, sometimes. But, the apostle John admonishes me with those words that smart from chapter 4:20. Help me to strive to do as You would have me do. Help me to follow the paths of Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers. Help me—help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. 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), 82.

[2] Ibid.

 

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 24, 2018

hope - cursive

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

I had the unusual experience of questioning what Father Nouwen said in his book just now. “Only if you pray with hope can you break through the barriers of death.” [1] I did not quite understand what he was saying here. I know I might be believing pie-in-the-sky sort of theology, but I suspect that what Father Nouwen seems to say here goes against what I have always believed. In other words, that if I do NOT have hope, then I am out of luck, in terms of prayer.

That statement, on the surface, goes against everything I have learned of God and of prayer. However, that is only one sentence in this small section on hope and prayer.

Several sentences further down, Nouwen said “When you pray with hope, you turn yourself toward God, trusting fully that God is faithful and makes all promises real.” [2]

Now, THAT I can understand. Praying with hope. Turning toward God. Trusting in God.

When you or I take what we know of God and pray with what hope we have in our hearts (even if it is only a mustard-seed’s-worth of hope), then you—I—we turn towards God. Isn’t that enough? Or, do I need to quantify my hope and my prayers to God?

“As long as there is still hope/There will also be prayer…

And you will be held/in God’s hands.” [3]

This is what I understand. This is what I relate to, and what my heart opens toward. When I open my heart in prayer, when I have even a tiny scrap of hope inside of me, that is enough. God will still hold me in God’s hands of love and caring. For that, I truly thank the 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, 2005), 75.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 76.