Tag Archives: challenging

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.

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 26, 2017

Psa 119-10 all my heart, hillside

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

This verse in Psalm 119 and its accompanying commentary by Dietrich Bonhoeffer really made me think. Of course, many of these from this Psalm strike home, and challenge me to strive to follow God more nearly and love God more dearly. However, this particular verse talks of following God “with my whole heart.” Here’s the whole of Psalm 119:10.

With my whole heart I seek You;

let me not stray from Your commandments.

When I think about following God with my whole heart, then I am striving to commit my life truly to the following of God. As Bonhoeffer says, “For with half a heart we might be seeking an idol, but never God Himself.” [1] If I only give half of myself—or even less of my attention, love, or service—to God, that is an extremely poor excuse of a gift to give to my Creator, my Shepherd, and my Savior. How could I even think to give a shoddy gift like that to my God?

Sadly, I am afraid I give that kind of gift to God on a regular basis…

I am surprised God doesn’t strike me down with a thunderbolt from heaven, for the really awful gifts I do end up giving to God. When I even think of giving gifts at all…

Dear Lord, I am sorry. I know I owe You so much more. As Bonhoeffer says, “If we are responding to God’s Word we will say ‘I seek You with my whole heart.’” [2] Gracious God, help me to seek You every day in such a way. You want nothing else from me but to seek You, to be in Your presence, and to rest in You. Help me to be constant and consistent in seeking You, Lord. So help me, 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 116.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, August 24, 2017

Psa 58-3 voice of charmers

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Another blog post, another punch in the gut. Seriously, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words hit home especially hard. In this short commentary on Psalm 58, Bonhoeffer describes the challenging sentiments of King David in such vivid terms.

Yes, Psalm 58 is a psalm of vengeance. (What sometimes is called an “imprecatory psalm,” which has the psalmist “praying evil against” his enemies, and praying death and destruction to come upon them. [1] ) King David wants so desperately to describe his enemies as evil, nasty and abominable.

I was struck by verse 5, which has the enemies of David characterized as not heeding “the voice of the charmer, no matter how skillful his charming.” [2] Or, rather, I was really impacted by Bonhoeffer’s comments on this verse as directed to the modern believer. He describes us as charmed by the “skillful One who by his words of grace charms and controls our hearts.” [3] Yet, there are some who do not listen, and who even go so far as to seemingly stop their ears.

Ah, Herr Pastor, your words hit me right between the eyes…”There are times when, in willful disobedience, we harden our hearts against God’s will and heap up sin upon sin until at last we can hear no more. Then Satan has gained control of us.” [4]

That is me. I am the guilty one. Dietrich, you were exactly correct. Sometimes I willfully sin. Sometimes I deliberately shut my ears to God’s words of grace, Oh, woe is me! Who shall save me from such a sinful state? (Yes, I know—rhetorical question. Read Romans, especially chapters 6 and 7, followed by chapter 8.)

And, as Bonhoeffer eagerly admits, all we can do in such a case is pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to walk in Your ways and listen to Your words. Unstop my ears from willful disobedience, and lead me in the Way everlasting. 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] https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Imprecatory-Psalms

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 78.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 79.

Prayer and Meditation, in India

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, February 15, 2017

 

bus-drawing

Prayer and Meditation, in India

I read a brief vignette about Thich Nhat Hanh, while he was in India. He was there to give retreats for the Dalit people, a people group who historically were the lowest caste in Indian society. Many Dalits have embraced the Buddhist tradition, since Buddhism has no caste system.

A Dalit man from New Delhi organized the retreat tour. While Thich Nhat Hanh visited with this man, they rode upon a New Delhi bus. Thich Nhat Hanh enjoyed the bus ride quite a bit, viewing the landscape. He noticed the Dalit man, sitting next to him, nervous and unhappy.

Even though the Dalit man had converted totally to the Buddhist belief system, he still had some residual worries and unpleasant feelings associated with being a member of the lowest caste—a caste which the majority in India looked down upon as unclean. “That tendency always to be struggling had been handed down to him by many generations. It’s not easy just to stop and recognize old habit energies.” [1]

How often do I duck back into old habits? How many times do I retreat emotionally, as well as physically and relationally? Lord, these are good words, and true. (Even if challenging words.)

Dear Lord, thank You for this excellent reading from this book, How to Sit. Help me to not only read these words, but also to digest this article and put into action a thoughtful and hopeful response. Thank You, 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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 64.

Pray in the Here and Now.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, January 26, 2017

now-clock

Pray in the Here and Now.

It’s a challenging thing to calm yourself, slow down, sit and compose yourself for prayer and meditation. Sometimes, that is.

In this little book How to Sit, the teacher Thich Nhat Hahn said, “Enjoy your arrival. How wonderful to feel that you are home, that your true home is in the here and the now.” [1]

What I understand from that quote feels homey. I can feel the comfort, and warmth. Thich Nhat Hahn expresses such simple—yet profound—statements in such a way that his words often make me sit back and think. Think deeply. And, the homey-ness, comfortability and warmth of these statements make me feel almost as if it is absolutely natural for me to seat myself in sitting meditation. (I am not quite there. However, I am trying. And, I keep on trying.)

It doesn’t matter which faith stream this book comes from, ultimately. There have been so many wise men and women over the centuries, giving their wisdom and understanding on how to pray and meditate. I hope I can begin to follow in this teacher’s footsteps, just as I have tried to pray in the manner of several other wise believers.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear 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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 38.

Meditate, Pray, Be Present.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, January 12, 2017

present-moment-mindfulness

Meditate, Pray, Be Present.

“The quality of our presence is the most positive element that we can contribute to the world.” [1]

Rushing around and trying to get things done can be counterproductive. If I am striving to rush-rush, hurry-hurry, all the time, I can’t possibly pay full attention to what is right in front of my nose.

I’ve watched people scurry around, like chickens with their heads cut off. People have various motivations. (Money is a powerful motivator. And often, quite necessary. But, that necessary?)

Power and control are two more familiar motivators. Oh, so familiar! And, who wouldn’t want to put “accomplishment!” down as yet another motivator of activities? Of purpose? Of

Even worthy, spiritual people who meditate and pray regularly can be off-kilter in their motivation. As our author says, even super-spiritual people can get off track and act like a person who doesn’t know the first thing about being spiritual. Or meditation. Or prayer.

I know something about the quality of presence. I’ve experienced it. I’ve learned a great deal from chaplain work. There in my interactions, sometimes, I desperately needed to center myself and rely on presence. Less-anxious presence. And, people expressed their gratitude and thanks, if not to me, then in letters sent to the pastoral care department.

The ministry of presence is also useful—sensible—needful—in my current position, as a small church’s pastor. Also, in the other parts of my life. I owe a great deal of thanks to the people in my life who staffed those hospitals and care centers, as well as those who added to my practice in developing the Ministry of Presence. Even though sometimes, it can be difficult, and challenging. Even well nigh impossible.

Thanks to them all. And most of all, thanks to God. Alleluia!

@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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 25.

The Divine in You, the Divine in Me

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, June 29, 2015

Moonrise over water - photo credit Bell of Compassion

Moonrise over water – photo credit Bell of Compassion

The Divine in You, the Divine in Me

This chapter of Handbook for the Soul opened with several challenging paragraphs. Not exactly difficult to understand, but my take-away message was pretty much what I used to title this post.

I had difficulty connecting with Betty Eadie. At first. Yes, she talked about several things I have a great deal of interest in! Near death experiences. Spiritual understanding. Quiet place within. But—can I say that her foundational premise is one I can’t truly grasp? (I think I can.)

However, that’s not the end of it! I mean, the end of Eadie’s chapter. After the initial page or page and a half, I got on board. Really and truly.

Eadie started talking about the different ways different individuals use to get in touch with that quiet place within. Or, openness. I use many of these same ways. To get in touch with God as I understand God. I have noticed that several of these are widespread, all over the world. In many different manners of approaching God, or the Eternal One, or the Divine Spirit. Or, whatever your people or group wishes to call this One.

“Our relationships with other people can also help us grow in spiritual understanding,” [1] said Eadie. So, what I get from this is that growing in spiritual understanding is not just a solitary activity. No, we require relationship. That is friendship and fellowship from like-minded others. (Even not-so-like-minded, if that’s the case!)

I hope my relationships with many are responsible for bringing some peace and serenity into this world. God willing, that’s my prayer.

@chaplaineliza

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

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] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 182.