Tag Archives: gracious God

Instruct Me in God’s Laws?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 7, 2017

Psa 119-12 teach me, words

Instruct Me in God’s Laws?

When I read this brief comment on Psalm 119:12, I sat back and thought about it for a while. Let’s get the verse in front of us, so we can see what Bonhoeffer is talking about.

Blessed are You, O Lord;

Instruct me in Your statutes.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Does the ‘I,’ which is so noticeably repeated in these psalm verses, signify preoccupation with the self in self-criticism and self-justification?” [1] I do not know about that. What I recognize is that the Psalms are one of the most personal and emotional books in the Bible. I always appreciated the fact that the different psalm writers had no problem expressing deep (and sometimes troubling) emotions.

I have never thought of this specific idea before. Does the psalmist have some hyper-sensitive preoccupation with the self? (I mean, unhealthy preoccupation. I am not talking about a normal self-concept here.) That is a fascinating idea, and one that is new to me. I simply cannot answer that right now.

However, I can agree with the psalmist and with Bonhoeffer on his other striking insight. “In blessing God, we confess what we have received. In making our request of God, we confess our poverty.” [2] Oh, my. I know very well how poor I am. I need God’s instruction, God’s wisdom, and especially God’s help. What can I do, but pray?

Gracious God, source of all wisdom, thank You for these words. Thank You for this psalm. Continue to impress these verses on my heart and mind. Please, Lord, help me to follow Your statutes and laws. I thank and praise Your blessed name, Lord. All glory be to You. 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 118.

[2] Ibid.

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 26, 2017

Psa 119-10 all my heart, hillside

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

This verse in Psalm 119 and its accompanying commentary by Dietrich Bonhoeffer really made me think. Of course, many of these from this Psalm strike home, and challenge me to strive to follow God more nearly and love God more dearly. However, this particular verse talks of following God “with my whole heart.” Here’s the whole of Psalm 119:10.

With my whole heart I seek You;

let me not stray from Your commandments.

When I think about following God with my whole heart, then I am striving to commit my life truly to the following of God. As Bonhoeffer says, “For with half a heart we might be seeking an idol, but never God Himself.” [1] If I only give half of myself—or even less of my attention, love, or service—to God, that is an extremely poor excuse of a gift to give to my Creator, my Shepherd, and my Savior. How could I even think to give a shoddy gift like that to my God?

Sadly, I am afraid I give that kind of gift to God on a regular basis…

I am surprised God doesn’t strike me down with a thunderbolt from heaven, for the really awful gifts I do end up giving to God. When I even think of giving gifts at all…

Dear Lord, I am sorry. I know I owe You so much more. As Bonhoeffer says, “If we are responding to God’s Word we will say ‘I seek You with my whole heart.’” [2] Gracious God, help me to seek You every day in such a way. You want nothing else from me but to seek You, to be in Your presence, and to rest in You. Help me to be constant and consistent in seeking You, Lord. So help me, God.

@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, 116.

[2] Ibid.

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 8, 2017

Psalm 23-4 though I walk through valley shadow death

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly faced a great deal of devastation in his life, as well as the lives of those he was close to, and the lives of those in the congregations he served.

I suspect he knew well the words of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Although that verse was written so long ago by King David, remembering the times when he was so very afraid (yes—afraid for his very life), that verse echoes and re-echoes down the crooked pathways of time. Sometimes through dark and fearsome valleys, sometimes through pelting storms and fiery trials. Yet, King David’s words ring true, for many, many people throughout the ages.

I know those words from Psalm 23, personally as well as professionally. I have pulled them out of my Bible in emergency rooms, in the intensive care unit, in living rooms, even sitting on street corners or in waiting rooms. People have spoken these precious words from Psalm 23 along with me. Other times, people have been too choked up to even utter a word, and silently allowed these words of comfort to wash over them.

Dear Lord, whether in grief, or pain, or anger, or trauma, we hurt. We cry out. We question. We wonder, “WHY?” (And, there is rarely an answer. An answer that satisfies, that is … )

Gracious God, You have said You would be right by our sides, even though we go through those extremely difficult experiences. Even though our parents—or siblings—or spouses—or children die. Even though we lose our homes, or limbs, or jobs, or even countries. Even though we may become refugees or homeless or incarcerated or even suicidal. Dear Lord, You have promised to remain with us. Right by our sides. Perhaps even holding our hands, through the trial or torment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross [was] blessing…. The world would have no hope if this were not so.” [1]

Only a love that extraordinary could possibly encompass my fear and suffering and hopelessness. And, encompass the griefs, pains, angers, traumas, and all of the countless sufferings of all of the rest of the world. God provides hope where there is no hope. God comes alongside when it seems as if there is nothing left. Thank God. Thank God for being there through Hurricane Harvey, and with Hurricanes Irma, José and Katia coming quickly. Dear God, help us. Please.

@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, 89.

Leo Tolstoy and Confession

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, April 16, 2017

confession of sin

Leo Tolstoy and Confession

We remember Leo Tolstoy for his magnificent novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. However, that is not all there is to Mr. Tolstoy. He wrote short stories, and essays, showing how much success and equality he had with the peasants. He held everyone of great value; it did not matter to Tolstoy, in the larger town and area where he owned a large amount of land.

I could tell more about the fair and equitable way—the progressive way—Tolstoy treated the workers on his property. But, I wanted to focus especially on the moral tone of Tolstoy’s writing. He underwent a crisis of faith, became even more devout, and “became still more preoccupied with moral questions.” [1]

This excerpt comes from a set of Tolstoy’s religious essays, an essay called The Lion and the Honeycomb. He was concerned about the prevalence of drinking, smoking and using opium: in other words, “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?” He thought that a person’s conscience ought to be able to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Ah, he talks about the consequences of intoxication! Such a sad thing. He was a century too early. If only he had been around when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, Tolstoy could have spread the word so much more quickly and given countless people knowledge of what options they had for intoxication and for alcoholics and addicts.

And, yes. Of course there is a spiritual deadness in people who are addicted to substances. God—the Higher Power—is often something they do not want to face, and neither is the inner conscience, the moral law, the moral dilemma. “Life does not accord with our conscience, so we bend our conscience to fit life.” [2]

Gracious God, dear Higher Power, thank You for continuing to show caring individuals—like Leo Tolstoy—that You do not abandon Your children, no matter how deeply they may be involved with addiction. Thank You! Lord, for giving abundant life. 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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 240.

[2] Ibid, 241.

Fasting, According to Augustine

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, March 12, 2017

St. Augustine mosaic

Fasting, According to Augustine

Another view on fasting, and a fascinating view, at that. Augustine was a brilliant teacher of rhetoric before his conversion. He brought that well-honed skill at debate and discussion into his life as a Christian, too. Here he describes fasting, referencing Matthew 6 (where Jesus gives directions on fasting).

I was so struck by one statement of his: “It is evident from these precepts that our entire striving is to be directed toward inward joys, to keep ourselves from seeking outward rewards and becoming conformed to this world.” [1]

Directed toward inward joys—while fasting. Wow! Inward joys! What a different point of view about fasting. Augustine tells his readers that they ought to oil their hair. Oil was celebratory, Jesus said to anoint ourselves (or, something comparable, given each different culture) and that is what people who fast regularly ought to consider doing.

A second statement hit home, too. “With the same intent he will be washing his face, that is, cleansing his heart whereby he is to see God, with no veil intervening.” [2] The concept of the veil (seen worn by Moses after he came down from the mountain) is fascinating: not only should the one who fasts do so with a joyful heart, but moreover, there will be nothing—no go-between, no nothing—acting as a separation or a mediator between us and God. (How awesome is that?) We have direct access to God.

And, that’s just a sample of what Augustine said in this pamphlet. There are other riches here, too. What a jam-packed statement. Let’s pray.

Gracious God, You truly are gracious, merciful and awesome. Continue teaching me—us—on how to come to You in prayer and fasting. In Jesus precious name we ask these things, 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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 68.

[2] Ibid, 69.

Practical Prayers of Agnes Sanford

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, March 6, 2017

healing prayer for you

Practical Prayers of Agnes Sanford

When I hear about (or, read about) someone who prays like Agnes Sanford, I tend to be skeptical—a bit. I also hope against hope that her example in healing prayer could be true. I must admit that I do not have lots of faith. A bit of faith, yes. Sometimes, even more than a bit. But, there are times when I say with the man who came to Jesus, “Help my unbelief!”

In the case of Agnes Sanford, I have to take the word of Richard Foster. He gave witness to the fact that he sat and learned how to pray from Agnes, many times. (And, I respect Richard Foster more than I can say.)

How scary to pray, and have God’s power in our words—that’s the Almighty God, who made heaven and earth, who created life and love on a cosmic scale. Yet, that is exactly what we do and say when we pray.

At first, we have the suggestion of praying for a simple, tangible thing first, such as relief from worry, or finding something lost, or the return to health of someone who is sick. As Ms. Sanford said, “How strange it is that people who fear to do this do not hesitate to pray for the most difficult objectives of all, such as the peace of the world or the salvation of their souls!” [1]

So right. Such an odd thing, to have little confidence in God in prayer: “if they have such confidence…that they do not dare to test their powers of contacting God by praying for an easy thing, it is probable that their cosmic intercessions are of little force.” [2]

Ooo. That hits home. That hurts, Ms. Sanford.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to have faith like Agnes Sanford. (Or, at least more faith than I do currently.) Thank You for Ms. Sanford’s excellent example, and grant that many may learn from her books and writings. 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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 39.

[2] Ibid.