Tag Archives: despair

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.

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.

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, July 2, 2017

hands folded in prayer

Meditation, Prayer and Wartime

The year was 1942, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer found himself in the midst of the war. Of the seminarians he was responsible for training several years before, many of those young men had gone into fighting on the front lines.  And, several had recently died.

World War 2 had indeed indelibly marked so many hearts. In writing to these hurting hearts on the matter that struck everyone so close to home, Bonhoeffer says that “they sleep now with all the brothers who have gone before them, awaiting the great Easter Day of the Resurrection.” [1]

It takes an especially strong faith to be able to hold to that faith in such dismal conditions.  When so many others are in despair, having lost their belief in God, Bonhoeffer’s faith shines all the more brightly. Plus, his simple, hopeful view of God’s heaven relates to just about every person living in those times: “We see the cross and we believe in the Resurrection; see death and we believe in eternal life; we experience sadness and separation but we believe in eternal joy and fellowship.” [2]

Bonhoeffer reflects on the letters he was receiving that month, for it was his birthday. I am assuming not only the seminarians but others of his acquaintance were sending him letters, remembering his birthday. “How shall I respond to such faithfulness? I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Let us remain constant in prayer for one another. Who knows how much protection through God’s grace he owes to the intercession of a brother?” [3]

I gather from these words that few things were as important to Bonhoeffer as being held in prayer by his friends and companions. Just as he did the same, in earnest prayer and meditation, this was an all-important activity of his. Such a simple, blessed view of God and the faithfulness of God’s people! This, to me, shows us a man who practices what he preaches: faithfulness and earnestness in prayer and meditation.

Dear Lord, help me be one of the sincere followers of Bonhoeffer, taking his example to heart. 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 41.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 42.

PEACE: Feeling Safe, Being Safe

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, April10, 2016

PEACE: Feeling Safe, Being Safe

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Today I will share some special personal definitions of PEACE. These definitions came from an opportunity to visit the Muslim Community Center last Sunday afternoon.

The president of the Sunday school reminded the gathered crowd that I was there to ask the simple question “What is PEACE, to you?”

First, Taqeer’s personal definition: “PEACE is inside, at first, in your heart.”

When I asked if I could know more about that definition, Taqeer said, peace gets planted inside you. After that, then you give peace to others.

Then, Zaineb. Her personal definition: “PEACE is being/feeling safe, and equality.”

I was very much moved by what she told me. First, she mentioned her definition. I asked for further words to describe It was then that I felt such compassion. She had such challenges! Being born into a refugee camp, she had such memories. Frightened, feeling helpless and powerless, anger, despair. Zaineb and I embraced. I felt my heart overflow with such compassion for her.

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Thanks to God that Zaineb is here in this country, now. Be truly present to her and her loved ones as she journeys along her path. Thanks for Taqeer and his family, too. We praise You for openness and for welcoming such a spectrum of difference, diversity and ability.

@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

(Thanks to everyone at the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove, for making this week f personal definitions of PEACE possible.)

The Joy of the Lord

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, December 28, 2015

refiner's fire

The Joy of the Lord

One of the so-called mortal sins is acedia—sadness of heart or resignation. Close cousin to depression. I know depression. I have friends and acquaintances who are quite familiar with almost constant sadness of heart, depression, even despair at times.

How is it that we here in the United States can live in such a materially rich time, yet feel so empty? So desperately sad? Boredom doesn’t even touch it. The deep feeling goes much further to the soul’s interior than just that.

Yes, it seems like an insidious disease, almost an unseen plague. And those who are not afflicted do not, and cannot, possibly understand the deep pain. The desperate fear and anxiety. It is truly an inside job. On the interior.

Monastic literature had more than a nodding acquaintance with acedia, though. I feel deeply for those so afflicted, in the centuries past. I pray they had some relief.

Relief can come from God, to some extent. (Not to the exclusion of everything else, though! Please, listen to your doctor or therapist. Please, please.)

As I was saying, joy—deep and abiding joy—can come from God. God delights in giving joy to God’s children. One of the compilers of this book of December meditations writes, “The joy of the Lord has gone through the poverty of the manger and the distress of the cross.” [1]

No easy joy, here, however. A biblical illustration, from several places in Scripture. It is through difficulty and distress that deep emotion goes through fiery trial, as if through a refiner’s fire. We can understand that, to a greater or lesser extent. Let us praise God for God’s presence with us. We celebrate Emmanuel—God with us, indeed, through the poverty of the manger and the distress of the cross.

@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] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 72.

Building Blocks for a New Way of Life.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, November 27, 2015

live one day at a time

Building Blocks for a New Way of Life.

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by day, in all the thousand, small, uncaring ways.” Stephen V. Benet

The Twelve Steps promises a new way of living. A departure from unmanageability, hopelessness, loneliness and despair. But, only if a person works for it. Decides to go for it.

Ah, the key of willingness. It just takes a small amount of willingness to begin the way of new life, to begin the way of Twelve Step living. Very small. But if willingness is present, all kinds of possibilities open up!

Today’s meditation from the book Keep It Simple has a remarkable insight: “The more we use a tool, the easier it is to use. The same goes for the Twelve Steps. We need to depend on the Twelve Steps, just as carpenters depend on their tools. If we only wait for the new way of life, it’ll never come.” [1]

Oh, too true! Sitting back on your hands and waiting for the Twelve Steps to start working (almost by osmosis) is pretty stupid. I have rarely heard of anyone who sat twiddling their thumbs and had the Program of the Twelve Steps work in their lives. Work well, that is.

Although, just from attending meetings, that still is worth something. But for the whole nine yards? The whole shmear? That takes some work. “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to take certain steps. … Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery.” [2]

Yes, it takes work. And yes, it is worth it. The Promises say so. God as each of us understands God says so, too.

@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

(also published at http://www.matterofprayer.net

[1] Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal. (Hazelden Meditation Series) (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989), November 27 reading.

[2] Alcoholics Anonymous (New York City, Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, Inc.: 2001), 58-59.

Be Present, O Merciful God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 25, 2015

mercy and grace crossing

Be Present, O Merciful God

It’s a good thing God has big ears and can hear a whole lot of people praying at one time. It’s a good thing God is merciful. A number of people I know are crying out to God right now. And, it’s a good thing God is present. I mean, really here. (Or, wherever people need God to be.)

As I read through the Evening Prayer on www.dailyoffice.org tonight, I came to an abrupt halt as I read through one of the collects for the evening. Just before the private, free time of intercession. I have it handy. “Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The beginning and ending of this section gives me no problems. I can agree with every word—from the first and last parts of the prayer. But God, the part of the prayer that particularly throws me this evening is “we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.”

Just out of curiosity, I put the sentence above into the search bar on my computer. Lo and behold, I found this, from the Diocese of Mississippi. A notice for a spiritual formation retreat. ‘Life is full of transitions. Some are chosen while others are thrust upon us. Within each of these moments of change and adjustment there come opportunities to encounter God in unique ways. This retreat will provide an occasion to explore the transitional moments in our lives and discover anew the One who abides with us in “external changelessness.”’ [1]

What a thought. God abides with each of us in external changelessness, even while we are going through transitional moments. Yet, we can encounter God at work, at home, in the hospital, even as we travel from place to place.

Each and every moment is so often a transition from one thing to the next. It just so happens that many people in my acquaintance are going through awful things right now. Or, their loved ones are. So difficult to bear. The weight of the knowledge and sometimes even the despair.

Yet, God’s changelessness is so much greater than the transitions you or I or your neighbors or my friends or the people across town or—you get the idea. God is forever the same. Loving, constant, faithful, caring—praise God, we can encounter this God, for real.

@chaplaineliza

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

Visit the website http://dailyoffice.org/ to find out more about Morning and Evening Prayer!

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] http://www.dioms.org/digital_faith/events/3160983