Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Encourage the Heart—in Word and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 7, 2015

encourage each other water

Encourage the Heart—in Word and Prayer

Who doesn’t get discouraged from time to time? And sometimes, more discouraged than others. I very much needed today’s New Testament psalm on Encouragement from the book Praying the New Testament as Psalms.

I suspect this is why God chose some to be positive, encouraging bright spots in God’s congregations. Yes, God has given me insight and some facility with words. I often try my best to put down words that are true, honest, loving, and—of course—encouraging.

I was particularly touched by this verse from the psalm on Encouragement: “Much joy and encouragement stem from love,/setting at rest the hearts of God’s holy people.” [1] Wow. A great deal to unpack from just these two verses.

This book’s authors (Fr. Desmond O’Donnell and Sr. Maureen Mohen) went to the little book of Philemon for this verse. I had almost forgotten about Philemon—such a little letter, tucked away after 1 and 2 Thessalonians. A letter of admonishment and concern as well as love and encouragement, written by the Apostle Paul to his friend and co-worker Philemon.

Ain’t it the truth? (In most cases, that is.) Joy and encouragement do flow out of love, and are the natural next step. And, don’t joy and encouragement calm people down? Yes, these feelings can get people excited, too, but the excitement is more happy-excited, rather than upset or even riled.

When I think of the term “setting hearts at rest,” serenity comes to mind. And that can only be a good thing. Thanks for such wonderful thoughts and images, God!

@chaplaineliza

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Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 64.

Reaching God through My Righteousness? Umm . . .

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, April 23, 2015

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

Reaching God through My Righteousness? Umm . . .

When my third daughter was a little girl, a preschooler, we would go to the park. There would be swings, and she’d dash to them. Hopping on, she would pump and go higher and higher. “Mom, look! I’m going up to the sky! I’ll reach the moon soon! I’ll reach as high as God!” I would laugh, and encourage her to pump as high as she could. (A daredevil, that one.)

When I read the passage from the liturgical lectionary prayer book today, I found it came from Galatians 2:11-21. As my eye settled on 2:21, I noticed “if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing.”

My daughter tried to reach up to the sky. Reach up to God. The first thing I thought of as I read the second chapter of Galatians was the Tower of Babel from Genesis. The people who built the Tower were trying to touch the sky. Trying to reach as high as God.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul relates a situation where the Apostle Peter tried to be extra-, super-cautious and thereby discriminated against a smaller, minority group among the believers. Peter was trying to convince Gentile believers that they had to eat and drink and live in the same way and according to the same laws as Jewish believers.

The Gentile believers trying to reach God by “acting Jewish” was just as foolish as the people at the Tower of Babel building the tower high enough so that they could try to reach God. And just as foolish (and sweet!) as my preschool-aged daughter declaring that she was going to pump so high on the swing that she would be able to reach up to God.

Praise God, we do not need to twist ourselves into knots in order to satisfy some legalistic Pharisee. God is gracious. Here is Paul’s prayer, in verse 2:20; it’s even been set to music.

I’ll say it over and over again. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Like, right here and now, in today’s lectionary reading. Praise God, indeed.

@chaplaineliza

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Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

Life-Giving Spirit? To This Mortal Body?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MISSIONS globe

Life-Giving Spirit? To This Mortal Body?

I really like the Apostle Paul. I have, for several decades. Even though he has complex, even difficult-to-unravel sentences in most of his letters in the New Testament, I still enjoy his deep thoughts and his logical, step-by-step thought-progressions. Except—not so much, now. I mean, I still appreciate his deep thoughts, but they are not exciting me quite as much as they did in the past.

Right now, I find I crave the simplicity of the Apostle John. How he could frame such profound thoughts using such spare vocabulary (especially in his letters) is remarkably stunning. Then, too, I find myself turning to the stark, almost journalist-style of Mark. (“Just the facts, ma’am.”) These two New Testament authors are my current faves (to borrow the vocabulary of my college-age daughter’s acquaintances).

However . . . the liturgical lectionary prayer book has listed a reading from Romans 8 for today. Back to Romans for me, I fear. Away from John, and back to the complex sentence structure of chapter 8, verses 1 through 11.

All right, Lord. I really, earnestly am trying to find what riches You have for me in this passage today. I am drawn to verses 10 and 11. The Holy Spirit as a Life-giver? That resonates with me, deeply. Yes. Today is also Earth Day, a day when a large part of the western world is celebrating the Life-giving nature of our planet. In Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit, the Ruach ha kodesh was hovering over the waters. Breathing life into the world as that Life-giving breath/wind/spirit, so foundational to all created beings.

How much more simple can we get? The Spirit of God long ago moving, hovering over creation. The Spirit of God, breathing life into this mortal, sinful body. These mortal, sinful bodies. Through the power of God Almighty, the power that raised Jesus from the dead, that same power is also giving life to me. To us. Can Paul get any more profound and basic than that? I think not.

I need to pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, all I can say is thank You. Thank You for everything. I fall on my face before Your awesome power and majesty. Dear Holy Spirit, thank You for breathing life into the world, and for breathing life into me. Into us. Thank You. Alleluia. Amen. Praise God.

@chaplaineliza

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Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

All the Saints—in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 14, 2015

prayer candles

All the Saints—in Prayer

When I say the word “saints,” what do you think of? What immediately pops into your head?

When I think of “saints,” two things come to mind, more or less interchangeably. First—coming from a Protestant background and upbringing, regarding my theology—I think of all believers. The Apostle Paul calls us all “saints.” It was not a special designation for him.

However, the second strong impression entering my mind is that of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, where “saints” are particularly revered, especially-holy believers in Christ.

Either way, these ideas of saints can help me as I pray.

The verse for the day, heading today’s reading in my prayer guide, comes from Hebrews 12:1-2. Yes, that great cloud of witnesses helps me as I pray. And as I live my life. As I stand (or fall on my face, which is sometimes the case) before God.

I have many Catholic relatives in my extended family. My parents were both baptized Catholic as babies. I feel an affinity, some familiarity with Catholic believers, and I was born in one of the largest Catholic archdioceses in the country. This has aided me in my work and calling as a chaplain in hospitals and care centers in the Chicago area. Thus—I have been able to come alongside Catholic believers in difficult or traumatic situations, and walk with them. Pray with them. Cry to the Lord with them. Some of them have requested assistance from a favorite saint, several have asked me to pray the Rosary with them, and I agree with them in prayer before God.

I can also think of several Protestant “saints,” who have helped me so much as I have learned about prayer, over the years. Dear Miss Rose, now in God’s presence. A woman of immense faith and prayer if ever there was one. Several more dear ones, who have inspired me and nurtured me along the way. I am grateful beyond measure for their examples and lessons.

As I understand from the words of Rev. Howell, we are not supposed to come to God as extra-holy super pray-ers. Instead, what we bring to God “is brokenness and profound need, a virtually desperate desire to be loved, held, and swept up into the very heart of God.”[1]  This, then, is what I bring to God. This, then, is where the saints can gather round me, and cheer me on. Sometimes console me and sit with me, as I sit or stand or kneel before God.

Regardless, I am not alone. God is with me. And so are the company of saints. That great cloud of beneficent, loving witnesses, cheering me on as I journey with God through this life. That cloud of saints is with you, too. Praise God, they are right at our sides.

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

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 50.

In Which Prayer is Natural, but Also Difficult

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 2, 2015

draw near to God

In Which Prayer is Natural, but Also Difficult

I am a great proponent in the idea of both/and. Not either/or. This works in many areas. Not either apples or oranges. (What about pineapples? Peaches? For that matter, bananas?) Not either right-handed or left-handed. What about ambidextrous people? Where do they fit in?

I much prefer both/and. Talk about the option of Door Number Three!

When I think about prayer, sometimes, this additional option comes to mind. Especially when I think about the topic of today. In which prayer is perfectly natural, but at the same time difficult. People often do not understand how these two things can be occurring at the same time. In the same person, even.

I was drawn to the difficulties in prayer. (Naturally.)

As Howell says, there are two kinds of comfort in difficulties of praying. First, even saintly people of prayer like Mother Teresa (and Henri Nouwen, my addition) had difficulty praying, so I am in good company when I have problems praying.

Second, a quote from Rev. Howell: “Prayer isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there.” And, from Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in his country of El Salvador: ‘God is not failing us when we don’t feel His presence. . . . Let us learn from that cry of Christ that God is always our Father and never forsakes us, and that we are closer to Him than we think.’

As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The Spirit truly helps us when we can’t pray, or are bogged down in difficulty, or are far away from God.

This is grace. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

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Grace and Peace and Hugs

matterofprayer blog post for Friday, August 29, 2014

PRAY praying for you

Grace and Peace and Hugs

Praying for others can be wishing them grace and peace. People who are in your house, or next door. People who are across town or across the country. People you are mad at, or feeling sad about. People you don’t even know.

Yes, when we intercede for each other, we have the opportunity to ask God to bless others. Wish them grace and peace. “Grace” is a typical Greek greeting, and “peace” (or shalom) is a Jewish blessing and greeting. Grace also has the idea of unmerited favor wrapped up in it. Peace/shalom is not only the general concept of harmony, concord, quiet and tranquility, but it also holds a Jewish component. The idea of wholeness and harmoniousness. The Apostle Paul coined a new phrase as he started greeting people in his letters with these two words.

My, that’s a huge deal to be wrapped up in two little words.

I wanted to add the “hugs” part. Grace, peace and hugs. When the Apostle Paul was signing off, he sometimes would say a phrase like “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” (from Philippians 4:21) This is the English translation. In the original Greek, Paul’s readers would read ‘aspazomai.’ That means even more than “greet.” That word means to enfold in one’s arms, even to welcome and embrace each other.

So when we pray for each other, we can wish each other grace, peace and hugs. What a wonderful expression, what a marvelous prayer. And, what a nurturing, encouraging way to act toward one another, too.

Let’s pray! Dear Lord, Gracious God, we thank You for the Apostle Paul’s words, written in the New Testament. Thank You for his faithfulness and earnest prayers for all the saints. Dear God, as each of us is encouraged to pray for one another, help us remember Paul’s excellent example. We can wish each other grace, peace and hugs! And You can embrace each of us with Your everlasting arms of comfort and care, too. In Your name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net Shortlink: