Tag Archives: devotion

Prayer, In Advent

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 19, 2018

o come Emmanuel

Prayer, In Advent

Advent lasts for quite a while. Almost a whole month. Why does Advent last for such a long time? Why can’t Christmas hurry up and arrive, already?

This waiting-period reminds me of one of the leading cast of characters in Advent preparations, John the Baptist. What does John the Baptist have to do with Christmas, anyhow?

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, does not fit into your typical Nativity scene. Usually, in most drawings or figures of the Nativity, there are a usual cast of characters. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, animals, and a manger. John the Baptist just does not fit in here. Where does he fit? With his rough clothing, different kind of diet, and hollering about repentance, he will not easily fit onto a Christmas card, either.

Yet, John the Baptist is featured in the Advent readings, for several weeks. “But the schedule for children’s pageants and choir Sundays often allows us to avoid him, and it is understandable that few of us complain.” [1]  However, John the Baptist is a featured part of the whole reason and purpose behind Advent. Advent is all about repentance. And waiting.

True, the crowded calendar in December often provides little room for repentance and devotion that is strongly suggested for Advent. What gives with this hurry-scurry, rush-rush attitude which now seems to be part and parcel of the holidays? It’s either that, or an extra dose of guilt unloaded on those who are also trying to have Advent devotions on top of following a full calendar of holiday dates.

Dear Lord, help me steer through all of this extraneous stuff and find the expectation and anticipation of Advent. Lead me to discover anew the great worth and value of John the Baptist, and his important message of repentance. Thank You for Your patience and understanding for the many people who are striving to get closer to you—including me. It’s in the name of Jesus, God-with-us, we pray, amen.


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[1] (This devotional by the Rev. John Thomas appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 19th edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois. Advent 2018)

Follow Jesus in Devotion

“Follow Jesus in Devotion”

John 2-16 Jesus-Cleanses-the-Temple

John 2:13-22 (2:17) – March 4, 2018

A few people are really devoted to their house. You know the people I mean. Ones who are extremely meticulous about every little thing, inside and out. And, heaven forbid if someone makes a mess, either in the living room, downstairs in the finished basement, or outside on the patio. Everything has to be “just so,” a real showplace. These folks simply go overboard.

A few people feel like this about their house of worship. Meticulous about the upkeep, they won’t hear a word against the place! And, what goes on inside the building does not mean too much. Everything about the building, the landscaping, and the furnishings is super-important. Talk about going overboard!

This reminds me of the First Commandment, where the Lord tells us not to put anyone or anything first, ahead of God. It seems that some folks might be doing that with their houses or churches or other houses of worship.

Our Scripture reading shows us a situation early on in Jesus’s ministry. where Jesus and several disciples go up to Jerusalem to worship. They make the pilgrimage to worship at the Temple, and—Jesus finds a number of people in and around the Temple who are not focused on God, at all. Instead, some of these people are focused on making money for themselves, and definitely not serving God. Buying and selling of animals for Temple sacrifices, and exchanging regular money for special “Temple money,” the only kind of money suitable for offering to God.

Is it any wonder that Jesus got so upset when He came onto the Temple premises and found this three-ring circus going on in a place that was supposed to be a house of prayer? How could Jesus not get upset? Even, downright angry? Of course He would throw out those people—and their animals and money-changing supplies—who did not belong inside the Temple.

Let’s back up a bit. I want to explain more clearly what the money-changers were doing. Suppose we needed a special kind of money to buy food from the grocery store. Our regular American money—like this—did not work. We all had to go to a special money-changer who was outside of the store to change the regular money for special grocery-store-money. I forgot to tell you. For every ten dollars each of us would give to the money changers, they would keep one dollar, or maybe two, and only give us eight or nine dollars in return. Just imagine how much money they would be making at the end of a single day, not to mention one week, or one month.

Amazing profits! Profits for the money-changers, and I suspect the grocery store would take their cut, too. Except in the case of our Gospel reading today, it was the keepers of the Temple who were taking their cut. And, the money-changers and vendors selling animals and birds would be making a great deal of money, too.

Let’s listen again to what Jesus did: “15 So Jesus made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; He overturned the tables of the money-changers and scattered their coins; 16 and He ordered those who sold the pigeons, “Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”

I know “cleansing of the temple” is the common title for this Gospel reading; that is not really what is going on here. “’Cleansing’ implies something has been cleaned up or changed or reformed. But, in John’s version of the story, Jesus doesn’t appear interested in cleaning up the market system that operated at the Temple, but in doing away with its idolatrous economic infrastructure altogether.” [1]

I will say it plainly. Graft! Corruption! The whole Temple offering and finance operation was crooked and corrupt. Jesus put a stop to it! He really tried to do away with all the idolatrous economic infrastructure—but, I suspect, all the corrupt buying and selling and economic practices all came back eventually, despite Jesus and His anger and devotion to God.

I would like to stress that Jesus did not just get angry for no reason. No! Jesus did not just “lose it” and act out in way he would later regret.  He knew exactly what He was doing and He knew that it would make powerful people very, very angry with Him. However, Jesus still did it. Can we understand Jesus’ actions not so much as wildly angry and out of control, but brave and courageous? [2]

When I choose hymns for the worship services here, I almost always go for hymns with some relation to the Scripture passages or the topic of the morning service. I chose our opening hymn to illustrate this part of the Gospel reading. When we sing the words “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,” this was exactly what I was thinking of. We can ask God for wisdom, courage and bravery to rise up against systems and structures that are not right, not Godly, and not moral.

We can see that our Lord Jesus was devoted to the house of God. Jesus got angry and threw the offending people and all their stuff out of the Temple. Let us call this perverse attitude what it is. Idolatry. For some few or some group of people to put crass profit before the holiness and worship in God’s house is Idolatry, which is the same thing that the First Commandment explicitly tells us about.  Don’t do it!

Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom, these two weeks are called Fairtrade Fortnight. Some churches, other houses of worship, and other nonprofit agencies highlight Fair Trade. Fair Trade means fair pay and working conditions for farmers and producers. Fair Trade products are made in safe and healthy working conditions, where farmers and producers receive a fair price and have a voice in how their workplace is run.

This is from a suggested script for a children’s message for the third Sunday of Lent in the Church of Scotland. “Ask the young people if anyone recognises this picture (hold up the Fairtrade logo)? This symbol is as a result of anger.

“People were angry when they realised that the tea and coffee that they were drinking had not been bought at a fair price. That means the farmer who grew the tea, or the workers who picked and sold the coffee beans had been short-changed, and had not been paid enough money to send their children to school or to get enough for their familes to have a good life. And this anger made them take action. Christian Aid and Traidcraft, amongst many others, set up the Fairtrade foundation to ensure that the buying and selling of goods could be done in a different and more just way. Even to this day there are supermarkets who are still trying to short-change hard working communities and farmers.” [3]

I think we are doing what Jesus would do when we support Fair Trade practices, and stop graft, corruption and immoral practices. I think Jesus would want us to keep on taking action to make sure that everyone has enough to flourish and to glorify God by being fully alive.

What an important thing for all of us to strive to do: follow Jesus in devotion. Stop graft and corruption, and encourage everyone to flourish and to glorify God. Amen!

[1] http://jubileejusticeeconomics.blogspot.com/2015/03/jesus-and-international-exchange.html

“Jesus and the International Currency Exchange Traders in the Temple,” Stan Duncan, 2015.

[2] https://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/02/year-b-third-sunday-in-lent-march-8-2015_7.html

Worshiping with Children, Lent 3B, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2015.

[3]   http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/47661/4_March_Wendy_Young_3_in_Lent_formatted.pdf  The Mission and Discipleship Council would like to thank Wendy Young, of Christian Aid, for her thoughts on the third Sunday in Lent.


(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2018: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Feb 25 Lent 2 Sermon: “Follow, Carry the Cross “ Mark 8:34 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer  https://wp.me/p5Nfg4-lv


Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 15, 2017

Psa 119-1 those who are blameless, road

Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is a psalm that talks about the Word of God. Scripture, the Law, God’s decrees, His way, commandments, statutes, promises, and more. Each verse of this acrostic psalm mentions God’s Word in some way. What a natural passage for Bonhoeffer to write about and concentrate on, since he was so devoted to praying and meditating on the Scripture.

How sad it is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer only finished commenting on 21 verses of this lengthy psalm. Yet, these beginning verses (of 176 verses, divided between the 21 Hebrew letters, 8 verses in each section) give us so much of Bonhoeffer’s feeling and heart for this wonderful psalm. Such an expression of the unknown psalmist’s love and devotion to the existing Scripture of that time.

He wrote this meditation in 1939 and 1940, when he was a teacher of seminary students once more at an out-of-the-way vicarage and again in Pomerania.

Speaking of verse 1, Bonhoeffer concentrates on beginning the life with God. “God has once and for all converted me to himself; it is not that I have once for all converted myself to God. God has made the beginning; that is the happy certainty of faith.” [1] Yes, indeed, all of us are addressed as those who are walking on the way with God. We are all on the journey.

Happy are they—these words speak of the happiness and blessedness of life in the law of the Lord. It is God’s will that it should go well for those who walk in his commandments.” [2] Ah, Bonhoeffer admits there are certain Christians who wish to show that they are more spiritual than God…that they are super-spiritual and holier-than-Thou. Renunciation, suffering, the Cross, all of these are part and parcel of their lives. And, it is true that some people’s lives in this world are not all that easy. Yet, these super-spiritual Christians “lose the full joy of their Christian calling and deny God the thanks they should give for his great friendliness toward us.” [3]

Yes, God’s rich gifts to each of us encompass so much more than anyone can ask or imagine. Thanks be to God, who gives to all abundantly.



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, 95.

[2] Ibid, 100.

[3] Ibid.

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 1, 2017

Psa 34-19 afflictions, script

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

When I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison, the companion thoughts of suffering and deprivation also come to mind.

I could shake my fists, cry out to heaven and ask God, “Why?” Except, I do not think I would receive any sort of an answer. I know, many righteous people have been unjustly imprisoned throughout the centuries.

Looking at Psalm 34:19, “The righteous person must suffer many things; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Bonhoeffer also meditated and prayed at length over this verse. (I secretly wonder how much comfort he found in it?) “The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others seem only natural and unavoidable. The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness, because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.” [1]

Senselessness and absurdity. That is certainly true, and has been true for thousands of years.

And yet—and yet—“the Lord delivers him.”

God is always present, all over the world. The righteous person is always with God, no matter where, no matter what. Bonhoeffer had the unshakeable belief that “God allows him to suffer so, in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake. In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.” [2]

I am afraid I am a far weaker person than Pastor Dietrich. I do not know whether I would have been able to suffer such deprivations as he did. I read his writings and am in awe of such faith and devotion. I pray that I may be able to display just a small part of Bonhoeffer’s resilience and faithfulness.

Lord, in Your mercy, help me in my journey through life with You, whether difficult or not. In times of suffering and pain, or times of calm and serenity, You are with me.



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, 88.

[2] Ibid.

More About Morning Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, June 26, 2017

sitting in park

More About Morning Meditation

A puzzlement: am I just convicted and disgruntled by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s injunction to pray and meditate first thing in the morning? Or, am I truly a night owl, able to find other times to meditate and pray during the day and even the night? Possibly, both.

Pastor Bonhoeffer might well have been a morning person. My mother was, too. She would wake up early every morning and think, make her lists, have coffee, and get ready for the day. (She was definitely not a Christian, but that is the matter for another post.) From what I understand, Martin Luther was a morning person, too. He was also a man of great prayer and meditation. And, yes. He would pray and meditate over Scripture in the morning, too.

How my heart yearns to get on board with Bonhoeffer when he says: “The morning must yield an hour of quiet time for prayer and common devotion. That is certainly not wasted time. How else could we prepare ourselves to face the tasks, cares, and temptations of the day?” [1]

Sure, I might be able to drag myself out of bed on occasion, and get involved with prayer and meditation first thing in the morning every once in a while, but I know my body. Faithless flesh and blood, it would scream out for more sleep. It would hit the snooze button on the alarm.

The principles of Scriptural prayer and meditation that Bonhoeffer sets out make such sense, though, especially given my job—my calling—as a minister? “How should we go about during the day as ministers of the Word, preaching and instructing, helping to carry the burdens of others, if we have not experienced God’s help for the day ourselves?” [2]

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me figure out this prayer piece in my life. Not only for my personal life with You, but also for my professional life. Yes, I know I have been coming to You for years now with variations on this same prayer. I still need Your help. I suspect other people need Your help in the same way, too. Dear God, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.



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), 30.

[2] Ibid, 31.

Worship and Devotion with Andrew Murray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, April 27, 2017

worship, definition

Worship and Devotion with Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray was a well-known missionary leader in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. Both his mother’s and father’s faith traditions were varied. As he grew and started working in ministry in South Africa, their influence caused Murray to be ecumenical. His influence grew, especially because of his many devotional writings. (Two of which I have read.)

Murray called his readers to a sincere, devout, daily devotion to God. As Murray and his readers worship God regularly, he gives them an analogy. (This was particularly striking to me.) “There is no more wonderful image in nature of the glory of God than we find in the starry heavens…A photographic plate fixed below the telescope will reveal millions of stars which otherwise could never have been seen by the eye…What a lesson for the soul that longs to see the glory of God in His Word. Let your heart be as a photographic plate that waits for God’s glory to be revealed…The plate must be exposed for several hours to receive the full impression of the farthest stars.” [1]

What a marvelous insight. As I am still before God, God will imprint God’s glory—the stars, and whatever wonderful insights and impressions—upon that photographic plate that is my heart. Then, I will be able to more fully appreciate and apprehend God’s magnificent works and ways. Is there any other response to make, other than to hide my face in awe and wonder and sigh, “How great Thou art!”

Further on in the reading, Murray writes these words, requesting our Lord Jesus to teach us to pray. (I cannot understand why he wrote them, since he was so connected to God…but, there it is.)  “Blessed Lord Jesus! O my Lord! You are the Great Intercessor. You alone pray and hear prayer for the sole purpose of glorifying the Father. Teach me to pray at you do.” [2]

Ah, such a request! Even more so, coming from such a man who strove mightily to do the very best he could in service, as well as to evangelism. And, especially in prayer and devotion. Dear Lord, gracious God, teach us to pray with one fraction of the intensity and fervency of Andrew Murray. Please, dear God. Fulfill this earnest prayer. Amen.


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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 272.

[2] Ibid, 274.

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, April 3, 2017

submission, flower.jpg

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Fascinating reading today. I had never heard of this spiritual writer before, who set down the distinctive markers of medieval spirituality. As he went about this writing, Richard of St. Victor had an ease of speaking of intimate relations.

“See to it that the very time He begins to knock at the door is not the first time that you begin to want to throw out the crowds of those who make noise.” [1] Ah! How often am I distracted by outer noises, much less inner thoughts, wanderings and other distractions! Lord, You know how much difficulty I have had (for years!) with prayer and meditation.

Then, there is the plain statement “How often must one repeat ‘Wait and wait again, a moment here and a moment there.” [2] It is a rather ambiguous statement. Yet, this can refer to the Lover, to Christ waiting outside, knocking, patiently standing outside the door. He could break down the door. He could. As we reflect on that word picture, ‘Wait, and wait again’ can also refer to the beloved. How often do I lose patience with God? (Far oftener than I care to admit to myself, much less to all the rest of the world.)

Yes, this practice of waiting is a way for me to practice the spiritual gift of submission. Waiting quietly in line, sitting silently with a smile, walking slowly in connection with

I am reminded of other mystical, medieval literature I have read, especially in these phrases: “He is heard by a showing; seen by contemplation; kissed warmly by devotion, drawn close for the infusion of His sweetness.” [3] Ah. To be loved wholly, fully, without strings or hang-ups or any other distraction: that would be heavenly. Wait! I already am loved that way. Thank You, God!



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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 185.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Contemplation: Prayerful Marguerite Porete

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, March 4, 2017


Contemplation: Prayerful Marguerite Porete

I had never heard of this medieval woman before. (Not all that unusual. Nevertheless, I was still a bit miffed that I had not even heard of this woman.)

There is some vivid language here. Marguerite certainly spoke of a close relationship with God, and sacrifice, and love. She makes some definite statements about her personal will, and how the will gets in the way. In fact, one must “destroy her own will.” [1]

(I am not sure quite what I think of her more forward-looking and forceful words. I’ll need to ruminate on them.)

One of Richard Foster’s discussion questions, after the reading, includes 1) Contemplative prayer may involve a deeper intimacy with God. Am I willing to accept this possibility?” (The possibility of my friends entering into a closer relationship with God is awesome. AND scary.)

Such a vibrant expression of faith and trust in her language. I did have a bit of difficulty with the bright, shining, even ecstatic nature of her writing, however.

Too bad her life was ended so abruptly. Dear Lord, gracious God, we come together. We come from a wider Christian audience, and what our desire ought to be. Yes, the deepest desire of the heart is to strive to the best of my ability to be a resource for prayer, intimacy, fear, thanksgiving,  and devotion.

Let it be so, dear Lord.



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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 23.

Be Thou My Vision, Lord

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 25, 2015

be Thou my vision large cross

Be Thou My Vision, Lord

Have you ever sung a prayer? That’s what this prayer made me feel like doing. I like to sing, and I enjoy singing, but I haven’t particularly thought of my singing as prayer, before.

Today’s prayer is about Devotion. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer deals with “For Thine Is the Kingdom” (Prayer 477, page 141) [1] This is listed as a Traditional Irish prayer. Looking at my trusty hymnal, I find that it was translated by Mary E. Byrne, and versified by Eleanor H. Hull.

Looking at the topic of this prayer, I find myself looking at God. With devotion. Yes, there were many other prayers that expressed worthy ideas of devotion. However, this one drew me in, like a magnet. And, I found myself singing it. (To the tune of SLANE, if you would like to know more.)

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.” O, Lord! Not just a sovereign, ruling God, not just some intellectual deity whom I posit as superior or foundational. But—Lord of my heart. The feeling-part. God is the God of my insides, my emotions, just as much as God is the God of my mind and intellect.

“Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art,” God, how awe-inspiring, and humbling! Saying that nothing can compare to You. This reminds me of the “I am” from Exodus 3. God said “I am” or “I will be what I will be.” Surely, God, nothing can possibly compare to You.

“Thou my best thought, by day or by night.” O Lord! When I think of You, what can possibly compare? I am ashamed to say that my mind often gets sidetracked or hits a detour, and sometimes I even neglect thinking of You. Forgive me, dear God.

“Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” Waking, sleeping, morning time, evening time. At any time of the day? Yes. When You are present, Lord, You are indeed my light. My devotion remains given to You, Lord. Even when You seem far away or when I hide myself from Your everlasting light, You are still there. Even when I doubt You, it doesn’t matter. You are still with me through difficult times.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for this prayer. Thank You for emotions and feelings. And, thank You for the multitude of differences in the world, and the unity of love we all share in You.


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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

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 141.