Tag Archives: genuine

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.

@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), 121.

[2] Ibid, 122.

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.

 

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 27, 2015

o come to us Emmanuel

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

What kind of situation do I come from?

When I consider the Christmas reflection Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, I cannot complain. By no means can I complain. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis. I read a portion of a letter he sent to his parents before Christmas 1943. He considered the occasion of the Christmas celebration within the prison as opposed to other places.

Can I possibly understand what Bonhoeffer really meant? I mean, really and truly? I must be honest. I have only a small idea what it’s like to be in misery and suffering. Just a little bit. I am struck by this sentence: “For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name [of Christmas] is kept.” [1]

That sentence did, indeed, pull me up short. How do I consider Christmas? Do I keep the holiday in a sincere and genuine way? Or, am I shallow, uncaring and inconsiderate? (Not considering my Christmas observance in a judgy, condescending manner, but instead in a thoughtful, contemplative one.)

Bonhoeffer’s contention is that a prisoner in a cell may well have a better understanding and more sincere appreciation for Christmas. So much better and more sincere than that of some people here on Chicago’s North Shore.

Dear Lord, help me to make room for You here. Help me to be open to Your work, Your will and Your ways.

Thanks.

@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), 70.

Act of Charity—Carried Out

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 12, 2015

encouraging word cloud

Act of Charity—Carried Out

I was a little surprised by the prayer suggestion for today. It’s an action, not necessarily a prayer. Well, sort of both. I’ve been told I have some of the gift of encouragement. I sure used it today.

I was supposed to plan an act of charity for someone in need. And, endeavor to carry it out. I think I did that. Not quite as actively helpful in the way of doing something—like I posted on my other blog, where I helped out a senior citizen by vacuuming her apartment. But all the same, I think it counts.

Here’s the basis for the act today. I have a friend, some distance from here. She has had continuing difficulty with an acquaintance for a number of months, on and off. I have been praying for her and the situation. Today, I wrote her an encouraging email. I let her know I think her handling of this continuing situation is (and has been) just superb. I really mean that.

I think encouragement helps! Truly.

In the book of Acts, Barnabas was one of the early followers of the risen Christ. He was also a great one for encouragement. That’s what his name means. Imagine, being so encouraging to his fellow believers that they chose a new name for him? Specifically, “Son of Encouragement.” What’s more, Barnabas was living through some very uncertain times. I suspect it was not easy for him to act as a positive, encouraging voice, as one who assists others and is a fine example of how to act, even though times are difficult.

So, how did I realize God was there, through this act of charity? My friend thanked me for my continued prayers, and appreciated my reassurance. Plus—those things I wrote? They just seemed like the right things to say. True, and honest. Genuine. I hope and pray that my words were a comfort and support to my friend, reaching out through her computer and giving her a big hug.

Charity = love = encouraging email. Works for me; I hope it worked for my friend. I pray so!

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.

Praise God for the Good—in Me?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – February 10, 2015

God is good all the time

Praise God for the Good—in Me?

Ever get embarrassed? I mean, really embarrassed? That was my first, instant reflex when I read today’s prayer suggestion. And then—I considered further. Why on earth was I embarrassed, when God knows it all, anyhow?

We’ll see what you think. The prayer suggestion read: Praise and thank God for all the good qualities you find in yourself. And—the follow up question was this: How can you more fully develop these good qualities?

First of all, I still have occasional baggage from my family of origin. I’m the youngest of a bunch of siblings. I still have that nagging feeling in the back of my brain that I’m the smallest, the least consequential, the one left behind. (I can’t blame my older sibs. After all, I was six years younger than the last sib. Of course I’d be trailing behind.) Add some low self-esteem, and the fact I was a chubby kid and turned into a chunky adolescent? Plenty of baggage.

Somehow, I need to square these fleeting, negative images of myself with how God sees me. God sees the positive gifts, the beneficial attributes.

Okay, God. Intellectually I know You love me. You want the best for me. And, You are sitting back, waiting to see what I’ll do with this prayer suggestion. Or, is it a prayer challenge? Because that’s very much what it feels like, right now.

I am genuine and persistent. I have a deep concern for others. People repeatedly tell me that I really listen to them, I hear their difficulties, I feel their emotions. (I suspect they seem to sense where I used to be, and still am, weak.) I also feel a strong motivation to help people, to serve as a companion, a liaison. I am often a friendly and prayerful companion. I am by nature a caring, nurturing, helpful, encouraging person. I have a definite sense of humor, and I sometimes use it to lighten the mood. I enjoy singing and making music, and I have an artistic bent.

If this suggestion was pointed more towards my spiritual gifts, I have the gifts of helps, mercy, a bit of hospitality, discernment, and pastor/teacher.

I feel like I cheated. I didn’t just come up with these off the top of my head. Instead, these characteristics have been confirmed by mature Christian elders and others, and by doing my own personal emotional discovery work. I’ve written them down, otherwise I couldn’t possibly come up with these gifts and attributes at the drop of a hat.

God, I need to take a good look at myself. An honest one, too. Thanks for helping me to see that I am a worthy and wonderful child of Yours. Help me to remember these good gifts and generous attributes on a regular basis!

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.