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Prayer, with Open Hands

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 1, 2018

my heart saying a prayer

Prayer, with Open Hands

If ever I have wanted to learn to pray, Father Nouwen is an excellent teacher. His insights, his words, his example—all can lead me towards a warm, vibrant prayer life.

Take, for example, his latest definition of prayer. “Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God’s promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world.” [1]

This reminds me so much of Fred Rogers. He, too, was a deeply spiritual man. Also an ordained minister, he was always striving to find ways to be more loving and open to his neighbors—which were everyone he met.

This makes me think. And I mean, really think. Do I open my hands to God’s promises? Do I find hope in God for myself, much less my neighbor or my world? Perhaps, if my neighbor closely resembles me. But, what if my neighbor does not look like me? What if they look different? Or speak a different language? Or wear different clothing? What if they were born halfway across the world? What then?

I truly do not think that mattered to Father Nouwen, and I don’t think that mattered to Fred Rogers, either.

“Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.” [2]

I want to learn to pray more deeply, and more freely. I’m reminded of the old joke from New York City—“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice.” I know I have been in the schools of prayer for many years, but I still feel like a rank amateur. My prayer life ebbs and flows, and I feel more and less discouraged, accordingly. (So, I suppose I must feel encouraged sometimes. Apparently not right now, though.)

As I come to the end of this small book, I pray that I may take these lessons to heart.

Dear Lord, thank You for sincere, genuine people of faith like Father Nouwen and Mister Rogers. May I take them as examples for me—for my thoughts, speech and actions. May I find joy in You and in Your presence. And, may I lead others into Your joy, to experience your love, mercy and rest. 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 121.

[2] Ibid, 122.

Empowering Voices—in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 20, 2016


Empowering Voices—in Prayer

I live in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural suburb of Chicago. I work in another multi-ethnic, multi-cultural suburb of Chicago. I have been involved with prayer activities for years, and have more recently added peace-building activities to what I have to offer. So—I was honored to be asked to speak at a panel discussion at the Muslim Community Center in the suburb where I work. That discussion took place earlier this evening, and involved six diverse panelists, and was called “Empowering Diverse Voices.”

What was the primary purpose of this event? Diverse groups of people wanted to come together. Many wanted to collaborate with other minorities that have felt marginalized during this polarizing election process. And—there was a diverse panel, indeed! African-American, Latina, Jewish, Christian and Muslim speakers to discuss how the different segments of communities can stand together against hate to promote harmony, peace and love for all.

I spoke from a Christian viewpoint, and brought my particular understanding as a trained chaplain into the forum. Fear—anxiety—running rampant. Emotions on high, with documented instances of bullying, intimidation, fear-mongering and hate speech spiking hugely since the election earlier this month. (Nationwide, as many instances in the past two weeks as there were in the previous six months.) I spoke peace into this uncertain time, highlighting the many passages in the Bible where God—Ha Shem—the Higher Power tells us “be not afraid!”

Several panelists expressed the hope that participation would bring diverse segments of our communities closer. What one person very much wished was to be sure of a caring environment, a respectful workplace and engaged community. We all want this, where all of our children can learn together and not be bullied or intimidated, and where all of us can live as people who love what this country was founded upon and still stands for.

I was asked for an action step. I thought of how Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us. Accordingly, I suggested a monthly time of ecumenical prayer for our leaders, communities, and for those we disagree with, starting in December. The second Monday of each month, for six months. Joining together in mutual support and prayer, I will open the church I serve, St. Luke’s Church at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, from 7 to 8 pm.

Our first gathering will be on Monday, December 12, 2016. It will be a time for meditation, prayer, and sharing for mutual support. May God richly bless this gathering together for prayer. Dear Lord, 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

Pray and Praise for Young People

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, July 29, 2016

PRAY don't worry, through prayer to God Phil 4-6

Pray and Praise for Young People

Today was a wonderful end to the New Wilmington Mission Conference. Between wrapping up a mission perspective on the Lord’s Prayer, saying good-bye all day to people I see once a year, and finishing the evening listening to the Summer Service team, the day was jam-packed.

Fascinating how the Lord’s Prayer is almost always applicable. Even in a mission and outreach sense. Or, should I say, especially in such a sense?

I know many attendees from this conference. We were reminded at evening meeting that many, many people were praying for the Summer Service team as they spent a number of weeks abroad, immersing themselves in a different culture, different language, and different society.

The team spoke separately tonight, telling a bit about their trip, their encounters, and their reactions to what they experienced.

I praise God for these young people.

I pray that they might carry the encounters and experiences of their time away close to their hearts. I ask for clarity as each one makes decisions about the next thing for them to do. Dear God, I pray for those responsible for next year’s mission conference and service. Missionary God, You are not willing that any perish. Draw people to You. Help each person who was in attendance this week to be energized and empowered to tell others about You. About how much You love them, and even to the ends of the earth. Amen.


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 #PursuePEACE.  And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

A Reckoning at Year’s End

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 31, 2015

Romans 8-28 we know God works chalkboard

A Reckoning at Year’s End

Romans 8:28. Yes, I’ve heard it quoted from time to time. I have purposely not taught it in bible study, or preached on this verse. And, from time to time, I have had serious problems with this verse of Paul’s. Not so much the context, but this specific verse.

Except—Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives me a different way of looking at it.

Many times before, all I could see in Romans 8:28 was either bright, shiny pie-in-the-sky proof text, or dogged, blind belief in a mysterious God who never could be understood. I don’t know quite why, but Bonhoeffer may have given me a way in to the understanding of this verse. He mentions, “I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist [greatest evil] in all times of distress. But He never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on Him alone.” [1]

I appreciate that. I appreciate that kind of God, who respects me as a person, who doesn’t baby or coddle me. And yet, God expects me to use my oar and do my part as part of a team. Sort of like in a yoke of oxen, where one ox cannot do it all.

Bonhoeffer wrote this at the end of 1942. It was more than just a reckoning of the past year, as he sent this letter to several of his closest friends at Christmas. Yet, the snippet I’ve quoted from this moving and powerful letter serves well to close out this year of prayer. This year of journeying through different modes and ways of prayer.

I come to the end of my daily prayer blog for 2015, #matterofprayer. I pray that the various kinds of prayer and meditation I’ve done during each of the past twelve months may have strengthened and encouraged not only my heart, but the hearts of my readers, as well. God bless us all in 2016.


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), 79.

Help Me to Have Fun, Lord!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FUN at least one of them is having fun

Help Me to Have Fun, Lord!

Have you ever met someone who was boring? Dull? I mean, no fun at all? I have, and I did not want to spend much time with this person. It was a few years ago, but I felt sorry for the person. Sad. Terribly sad.

What about when people enter a sober life? When they are choosing not to get drunk, or choosing not to take drugs?

Some people think it is fun, even glamorous, to drink and drug. It isn’t. Using substances is often a necessity, especially for addicts and alcoholics who are established in their using and drinking behavior.

I hope to encourage people to find their own Higher Power, and to contact the curtain that separates people who drink and use from the people who do not use, either.

What can we do to replace the idea of “fun?” I mean, a completely different kind of fun?

As our daily reading book Keep It Simple says, “… live it up! Try new things. Meet new friends. Try new foods. Taking risks and having adventures are a basic human need. So go for it! Sobriety is fun!” [1]

Dear Lord, gracious God, teach us all to play. Teach us all great ways to stay safe, too. All that is human, that is.

Lord, in Your mercy and grace, hear our prayers.


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] Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal. (Hazelden Meditation Series) (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989), November 18 reading.

How to Be Aware of Soul?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, June 11, 2015

SOUL gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul Prov 16-23

How to Be Aware of Soul?

I love going to yoga. Calming my mind, being (more) at peace with myself, and within myself.

Somehow, my yoga practice came to mind tonight as I read this chapter that Ram Dass wrote. The chapter is appropriately called “The Pilgrimage of Awareness,” and Ram Dass talks about the gradual approaching of awareness, of the sense of “me-ness” that I have. Not that yoga was mentioned anywhere in these pages today, but for some reason, I thought of it.

The practice of yoga is gradual, as well. Yet, it is not a sense of “me-ness” as much as becoming engaged with the sense of uniqueness. Yes, my name is Elizabeth, and there have been/are/will be many Elizabeths. However, I am unique. I have “me-ness” that is unlike any other’s.

Although Ram Dass has a more Eastern viewpoint, I can see parallels in his discussion with King David’s writings, and the Jewish understanding of certain Psalms. David mentioned his uniqueness in Psalm 139, and of how precious life itself is, even while still in the mother’s uterus. Ram Dass does something similar, in talking about how separate and unique each human is. Except—being separate is not quite positive, in the Eastern understanding.

I guess I must have been raised with the American mindset of rugged individuality, since I relish this idea of separate, unique personhood. This chapter proposes, instead, that each of us separate individuals needs to be folded back into pure awareness. [1]

Some people follow the Eastern (Buddhist-oriented) path, while others turn to the mindset of American uniqueness and individualism. For me, I honor and try to learn from those who are espousing a way of thinking and being that is different from mine.

God willing, I’ll be able to learn a great deal from peace, calm, serenity—and yoga.


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), 69.

My Connection to the Stars. Or, Not.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 8, 2015

moon and clouds

My Connection to the Stars. Or, Not.

I began the next exercise in the book Inner Compass this evening, in chapter 2. The author Margaret Silf encouraged her readers to use a passage from 1 Kings 19 in meditation and prayer. Where Elijah chooses Elisha, and there is some business with yoked oxen.

Somehow, I did not connect as closely with Elijah and Elisha, and the specifics of the passage. However—in an instant, I entered into the preliminary imagery and meditation Silf described:

“Begin by imagining yourself standing outside your own home, beneath a brilliant, starry sky. Take in the splendor and the immense space stretching out above you, beyond your grasp, beyond measurement. . . . Now find a familiar constellation. Out of the infinity, there is something recognizable—it pinpoints your location exactly in time and space.” [1]

Boy, was I able to visualize this in my imagination. I was immediately outside, face upturned, searching the sky for a constellation. I thought of Orion. I’ve almost always been able to find Orion’s belt when stargazing. Except—on this occasion.

Here in the Chicago area, the stars are less bright. Or, the street lights and various other lights of the city and suburbs mask the brilliant evening sky. Or, something in between the two. I usually see only a small portion of the stars that others tell me about. Others who live in rural areas, far away from the bright city lights. (I hear tell of the glorious wonders of the star-filled heavens.)

But that was not all. In my imagination, I stood in the middle of an open grassy space where I ought to have been able to see some stars, at least. Wouldn’t you know, all the eyes of my imagination could see were clouds. Over almost the whole sky. Although, I did spy the moon, struggling to shine through the cloud cover. The clouds tumbled along in a hurry, and the dim light from the moon flickered. Brighter, then more subdued. I could catch a quick glimpse of a star or two, but then they would be covered up again as the clouds continued to roll across the dark panorama of the sky.

Try as I would to follow Silf’s instructions, I just could not focus on a single star, much less a constellation. That detour at the beginning of my prayer exercise short-circuited the exercise for me. Or, at least sent me in a different direction.

I vaguely understood that my place in the heart of God was hidden. Somewhat. God is still there, of course, just like the moon behind the clouds. But, I am still struggling to find my place, find that unique place that is all mine, in the heart of God.

God willing, I may find that place. And meanwhile, I am still on the journey with God, even though God is hidden. Sometimes.

I didn’t even really consider 1 Kings 19 tonight. I was too caught up with the starry preamble. But, that’s okay, I think. Wasn’t it? I hope so. I pray so. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayer.


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 sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 13.