Tag Archives: fellowship

Prayer While Losing Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, September 26, 2018

rain on windowpanes

Prayer While Losing Heart

When I read this reading, the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Oh, such a sad thing, to be so self-sufficient, and yet so alone. Father Nouwen must have known someone who was like this. (Or, perhaps even he was like this, now and again.)

When someone grits their teeth and tries really hard to go it on their own, I look at that person and am divided in my thoughts. Yes, I acknowledge their persistence and perseverance. Going it all alone can show signs of strength and stick-to-it-ive-ness. I honor that. Truly.

However…when someone presumes that they absolutely must do it on their own, or else they lose some of their person-hood…”with this mindset you will become weary and exhausted from your efforts to prove that you can do it alone and every failure will become cause for shame.” [1]

My sneaking suspicion is that Father Nouwen might be writing this about himself. Either that, or about someone he knows very well. Oh, I do hope that who ever he was writing this about found some sort of assistance and help from even one person. What Nouwen writes about sounds so lonely, and weary-making. Someone’s sense of honor is not so easily impugned. Asking for help every once in a while is not a threat.

This so sadly reminds me of the Paul Simon song “I Am a Rock.”

“I am a rock, /I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain; /And an island never cries.” [2]

I hope and pray that the one Father Nouwen wrote about found someone to share their burdens with, and someone to pray with. What is more, God will surely send fellowship into the lives of God’s people. All we need do is ask.



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), 87.

[2] “I Am a Rock,” Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel album Sounds of Silence (Columbia, January 17, 1966)

Grateful, Thankful Prayers

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 24, 2016


Grateful, Thankful Prayers

It has been a thankful, grateful past few days. First, a wonderful opportunity to gather together for a beautiful service on Wednesday night. Yes, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve service happened, for anyone who felt especially thankful. (And, even for those who did not, but were trying to feel thankful.) So interesting and heartening to come together, to be thankful. What an opportunity to see and hear from different faith traditions and religious leaders.

Yes, what happened in the service was wonderful last night. However—I thought one of the best times of the night was the time of refreshments after the service. Almost all of the people who attended the interfaith service came to the fellowship hall afterwards. And, you should have heard the talking, laughing, and otherwise mingling together going on. Such a friendly, welcoming, wonderful thing!

Today’s turkey dinner (which was superb, by the way) was a family affair. Small, cozy, and welcoming. All of my children—now grown—were here with me. Truly, a time to be grateful and thankful for all that God has given to us.

Dear Lord, Giving God, we give thanks for the beauty of Your world, and for the holiness of Your temple. We give thanks for the fruits of the earth and for the labors of those who harvest. We pray for all those in need, who hunger and thirst because they have limited resources. Provide not only for us in our abundance, but also for the relief of all who are in need, here in the Chicago area, as well as throughout this world. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of Your great bounty, Lord. We give You thanks and praise, to the glory of Your Name. Alleluia, amen!

Peace to all at this thankful, grateful time of the year


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

PEACE: God’s Love Within

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 16, 2016

God brings peace

PEACE: God’s Love Within

This post includes a second definition of PEACE from Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church. But, before we get to that, I need to tell a bit about the Englewood neighborhood, and Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK). This excellent group has a dinner outreach called Take Them a Meal. Several people from Morton Grove traveled to the south side of Chicago to provide for the dinner, two weeks ago.

The weather was quite warm—and so was the fellowship and community! Heartwarming, too.

As the dinner outreach packed up, Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church started to set up on the same street corner. They have an outdoor worship service every Wednesday night during the summer. That church has a regular outreach to the Englewood community.

I greeted several of the church members, including the associate pastor, Frederick Schells. A kindly man, he gave me his view of peace right away. Pastor Frederick’s personal definition: “PEACE is the love of God within you.”

As I asked for him to elaborate, he said, “Peace has to be recognized from within.” He talked about the importance of God in each individual’s life, and how the presence of God is a foundation for peace.

The presence of God can be a comfort and encouragement for many, especially when going through difficult or challenging times. The Gospel of John lets us know that Jesus promised peace—His peace. Not as the world gives. Not fleeting or temporary, but permanent. Everlasting peace.

Praise God. Thank You for Your peace.


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.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

PEACE: Community, Family Dinner

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 12, 2016

peace sign stones

PEACE: Community, Family Dinner

This post includes another in the series of definitions of PEACE. But, before we get to that, I need to give a little background. Several people from Morton Grove travelled down to Chicago a week and a half ago to participate in a dinner outreach called Give Them a Meal. Run by Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK), this is a generous act. An opportunity to be kind, to anyone who comes to the table.

When I was helping at the dinner, I asked one of the Mothers Against Senseless Killing for her personal definition of PEACE. Tamar’s personal definition: “Peace is family dinner—dinner with your community. Fellowship.”

Tamar is a straight-forward, no-nonsense person, instrumental in the outreach Give Them a Meal. When I asked her to elaborate on her personal definition, she was clear. Almost forceful in her enthusiasm. “This is it. People eat dinner together, get to know each other. This is what it’s all about.”

She wants to bring the neighborhood together, and provide an opportunity for community and fellowship. Table fellowship, where individuals can become friends.

This can be a powerful, life-changing act, breaking bread and sharing a part of themselves, a part of their very lives. Yet, such a simple act of friendship, too.

Thank God for this meal outreach. Bless all those who share in the meal, either daily or on an occasional basis. Bless those who faithfully serve, donate, and pray for this outreach. Dear God, we pray not only for the Englewood neighborhood, but also for the whole city of Chicago. For all of the suburbs, too. Bring PEACE to these many neighborhoods. And, stop the senseless killing, we pray. 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 sister 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

In Which I Attend Worship on Thursday

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 21, 2016

worship, light

In Which I Attend Worship on Thursday

Thursday is a different kind of evening to have a worship service. An occasional service, at a Protestant church. I am not thinking of a regularly scheduled morning Mass, or a noonday service on a weekday. (For example, at a large church in a busy downtown area.)

However, this particular event was a different sort of service. Outside worship experience, too.

A service that highlighted the middle of things. The middle of summer, the middle of life, other types of midpoints. As Dante might say, midway through this journey of life.

There are good midpoints, not-so-good middles, bittersweet stopping points that are nearer to the end than what is first thought.

What do you think of middles? What kind of midpoints am I experiencing? Are things nearer now to the beginning, or the ending, or do we just not know?

All good questions. Valid, and thoughtful.

I appreciated the prayers, the hymns, the worship. The pastor—a new friend. The others who led the worship. All in all, a meaningful opportunity to gather in fellowship and in worship.

We are all in the middle of things. In medias res.

Gracious God, thank You for being right there, in the middle of things, right by our sides.  Thank You.


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

Make the Door of God’s House a Gateway to God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, October 10, 2015

University of Chicago snowgram, 2-1-15

Make the Door of God’s House a Gateway to God

Doing. “What doing?” Years ago, I remember my toddler daughter asking me, or her Auntie Sue, or her Grandma. That little piping voice, so curious. “What doing?” So interested in everything. I ask myself today: What am I doing? What—more importantly—am I doing for God? And, on God’s behalf?

Today’s prayer is about Doing. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer concerns “Thy Kingdom Come” (Prayer 211, pages 73-74) [1] I am going to put the whole prayer here, because it touched my heart in so many places. It moved me in such interesting ways.

“O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife.

“Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power.

“God make the door of this house the gateway to Thine eternal kingdom.”

The editor of the Book of Prayer mentions this prayer being inscribed on the door of St. Stephen’s Church, Walbrook, which is located inside the City of London. Bishop Thomas Ken is listed as author. The prayer is also found in the King’s Chapel Prayer Book (from King’s Chapel, one of the oldest churches in Boston).

So, yes. This prayer has a pedigree. But, this prayer is also inclusive, welcoming, encouraging, and strengthening.

Inclusive, because all humans need love and fellowship. Welcomed, because envy, pride and strife ought to be dis-invited. Encouraged, so that all who stray feel the warmth and love of Christ. Strengthened, since God and God’s power are more than enough to banish the tempter’s power.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to focus on the ideas behind this prayer, and not simply mouth the words. Help me follow through with the actions written here, and be filled with Your presence and Your love and mercy for all of these, the least of these. In Your mercy, Lord, 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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 73-74.

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.


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.

How to Heal. In Prayer.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 29, 2015

healing prayers

How to Heal. In Prayer.

More about healing? God wants to heal broken relationships, bruised feelings, imperfect people. And, God can heal actual, physical illness and disease, too.

Sometimes, as C.S. Lewis notes in his book A Grief Observed, a person deals with much more than physical illness. It is somehow magnified by feelings of desperate loneliness, or quiet despair, or sharp pangs of regret. And what about resentment, screwed up so tight, or anger, simmering like a kettle over a high flame on the stovetop.

Yes, God is intimately familiar with all of these afflictions, too.

I was especially intrigued by something Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote, shortly before he died. Cardinal Bernardin was the head of all Catholics in the Chicago area for some years. He said, especially in respect to his ministry to cancer sufferers, “the worst suffering is isolation, feeling cut off.” [1] The most profound thing we can do, oftentimes, is just show up.

Rev. Howell gives another example, too. He states, “a friend of mine spent a week in Lourdes, the shrine in France where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. . . . When my friend returned, I asked her, ‘Did you see any miracles?’ She said, ‘Oh yes, every day.’ … ‘Every day at Lourdes, no matter who you are, or where you are from, or what’s wrong with you, you are welcomed, and loved.’” [2]

Yes, God can be seen, healing from something physical. True. And yes, it can be in some quiet way where the chaplain comes alongside without words—with the ministry of presence, or sitting beside a family in fresh grief and anguish and praying. Or, speaking softly with a senior, encouraging their heart at the sad prospect of a life with limited mobility. I repeat what Rev. Howell said through his friend, “No matter who you are, or where you are from, or what’s wrong with you, you are welcomed, and loved.”

Isn’t that what all this is about? Yes, it would be so nice if the crowds were suddenly healed from all physical infirmity, or healings continued in some stadium-sized venue. But that must not be what God wants. God’s priorities are not the same as our priorities. Not always, anyway.

Yes, Jesus healed, physically. Sometimes in a big way, usually in a public way, occasionally in a quiet way. Not only physical healing, but emotional, spiritual, and psychological healing. Jesus cured relationships, and restored individuals to fellowship with God and with each other. Do you want that for yourself today? Jesus will heal you in the most intimate way possible, so you can enjoy being forever-friends with Him.

And, how awesome is that?

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

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press: 2003), 89.

[2] Ibid, 90.

Teach Us to Pray (Focus Friday!)

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 16, 2015

PRAY teach us to pray

Teach Us to Pray (Focus Friday!)

“Teach us to pray.” That’s what the disciples wanted their Rabbi Jesus to do in Luke 11, wasn’t it?

The prayer guide we are considering this month has this request of God as its centerpiece, or foundation. Rev. Howell has based each basic or foundational “lesson” on some general aspect of prayer. He sets up each chapter as a brief lesson or tutorial on prayer. Howell mentions Richard Foster in today’s chapter, and I wanted to find out more about Foster’s viewpoints on prayer.

Accordingly, I checked out his book Celebration of Discipline, in the chapter dealing with prayer. Sure enough, Foster mentions Jesus teaching His disciples to pray. “They had prayed all of their lives, and yet something about the quality and quantity of Jesus’ praying caused them to see how little they knew about prayer. . . . It was liberating to me to understand that prayer involved a learning process. I was set free to question, to experiment, even to fail, for I knew I was learning.” [1]

Yes—the ultimate point, the shining beacon ahead of us is God. Drawing us forward and upward. Yet, I am grateful and relieved that I don’t have to be a perfect practitioner of prayer. As time passes, each of us has the opportunity to grow closer to God in prayer. As Foster explains it, prayer can be understood not only as communication, but as a process.

“In the beginning we are indeed the subject and the center of our prayers. But in God’s time and in God’s way a Copernican revolution takes place in our heart. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, there is a shift in our center of gravity. We pass from thinking of God as part of our life to the realization that we are part of his life.” [2]

This revolution—sometimes almost imperceptible—occurs over time. The starting point is all about me, but change does happen.

As several of my friends and I were considering recently, our self-absorption and self-centered orientation gradually changes. It morphs into something oriented towards God, and towards others. Prayer becomes more and more communication and fellowship with this Higher Power, and less and less asking for favors, requests, and wanting for my desires to be filled, my menu items taken care of.

What do I think is the most important part of this? The point that I cannot achieve communion in prayer alone. God is always there, to help and to guide. To pick me up when I fall down or trip up. (And believe me, I do trip up.)

Thanks, God. I couldn’t do it without You.

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

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). 36.

[2] Richard Foster, Prayer (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1992). 15.

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, July 17, 2014

PRAY more things are wrought by prayer

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

People ask me to pray for them sometimes. Either when they are sick, or when their loved ones are sick. It depends on how sick, and for how long, and what their emotional state is. Sudden onset? Chronic illness? Serious accident? Baby or small child? End of life concern? It depends.

But what does not change is the seriousness of this prayer request.

I am not going to discuss deep theological thoughts in this particular post. But what I am going to do is remark upon—ponder—the large number of people I have heard of with cancer, in the past nine or ten months. Quite a number. I haven’t been asked to pray for all of these, but I have prayed for most of them. And although most were middle-aged or older, a few were young.

I believe in prayer. I really do. I have faith that God does indeed listen to every prayer that is prayed. When patients (or their loved ones) with cancer cry out to God from a deep, dark abyss of fear and unknowing, that is an emotional cry, indeed. I know. My father died of testicular cancer, a number of years ago.

God can and does come alongside of people. Again, I know, experientially.

A number of people I know are sick. I can try to alleviate their loneliness, spend some time with them, and pray with and for them. I can journey with them—and their loved ones—for a little way down this anxious, fearful, even angry or despairing, road. And, it’s a road I’ve traveled myself, with close relatives and other loved ones. I do not know how prayer works. I simply know it does work. I do not know how God heals, but I understand there are many healings available—not only physical, but spiritual, mental, emotional, and psychological. God is in the midst of all. All of these facets of us complex human beings.

Even when I feel downhearted and depressed, or despairing and dreading the next medical communication—I recognize the fellowship of compassionate friends and other loved ones, joining in prayer with me. I hope I can help others to understand this love and concern in prayer. And, it’s also encouragement. Encouragement even amidst tears and sorrow. Grief. Anxiety. Pain. And yet, hope. Faith. Love. God’s presence.

Let’s pray. Dear, loving, gracious God, we come before You. We do not know how to pray as we ought. Help us to come before you in trust and in truth. Touch all of our desires as well as our diseases, both inside and out. Heal each one where You know we need to be healed. Thank You for Your presence. In Your grace and mercy we pray, amen.


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net