Tag Archives: dear Lord

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.

 

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: 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.

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, 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. All By Myself.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 17, 2018

monk kneeling at prayer

Prayer. All By Myself.

Father Nouwen says some intriguing things on these pages, in discussing inner silence—or, not so silent. Oh, how difficult it is to turn off that internal dialogue! Many people cannot stop that chatter, that constant whispering or commentary or even that committee in their own heads. “When there is no one to talk to, and no one to listen to, an interior discussion starts up which almost seems to get out of hand.” [1]

Yes, when I was a tween and teen, I disliked being alone. I liked to be with people. Even into my twenties, I wanted to be with people almost all the time, and did not care to be alone for very long. (By the way, that aspect of myself has changed.)

Have I changed, all that much? Sure, I enjoy, even relish being alone today. I can be silent sitting next to my husband, while both of us are working on the weekends. It’s a companionable silence, between the two of us. Dear Jesus, is that the kind of thing You are looking for? Is that the relationship You would like with me?

I am sad to say that I still feel some awkwardness in prayer. Yes, I have prayed for decades, and I still occasionally have deep and significant times of prayer. However, the prayer interactions are not always comfortable for me. Sometimes, it seems too stressed and forced (on my part, not on the other end).

Dear Lord, help me to feel comfortable with You, more regularly. Thank You for the possibility to be silent before You. Thank You for the love and caring You show to me, on a regular basis. I know I am not in a good situation…but as long as I am here together with you, Lord, I don’t have to worry. Father Nouwen is certainly correct; being calm and quiet takes a great deal of attention, but it is worth it. A relationship with my dear Lord Jesus? Thank You, 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, 1972), 19.

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer candles

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Father Nouwen makes it sound easy. Well, if not easy, then straight-forward.

I know very well that I sometimes am all of these unpleasant things he talks about. I hate, I don’t forgive, I clutch worldly things or attitudes to my chest and turn away from the obvious invitations and overtures God in making to me. Yes, God. Guilty as charged. Yet, Henri Nouwen does make the process of prayer sound easy. (Or, straight-forward, whichever is more applicable to me at the time.)

Yet—before I get down to the serious business of praying, Nouwen tells me there is a caveat. “You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed.” [1]

Patience? Seriously? Is this trait an absolute necessity? Because if it is, I do not think I will get very far in my walk with God. Or, my continuing conversation with God, either.

In the very next paragraph, however, Fr. Nouwen rephrases that absolute, and turns it into a conditional suggestion. He even acknowledges our human frailty. He says, “You can never fully achieve such an attitude, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all these fists….At any hour of the day or night you might clench again for fear.” [2]

Ah. Now you have it. Fr. Nouwen lays out the clear dilemma of prayer and the human experience. I have such fear and trepidation in my heart. I am filled with such anger, or shame, or even revulsion. Or, God forbid, I find myself chock-full of self-righteous judgement. Any or all of these can hinder or even totally stop my conversation with God.

What do I do about all of these horrible emotions and character traits that are so deeply rooted inside of me? Nouwen says, “What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away…Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.” [3]

Dear Lord, is it possible? Can I actually be welcomed into Your presence even though I am chock-full of all of these yucky emotions and character traits? Thank God, indeed.

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 8.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 10.

@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