Tag Archives: gracious God

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.

Be Present in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 27, 2017

lily-and-lily-pads-mindful

Be Present in Prayer

As I read the short passage this evening from the book How to Sit, I was struck by how much common sense was to be found in this brief reading. “When we have the capacity to be peaceful and joyful as we sit, we can sit anywhere.” [1] Yes, that is correct. The quote says “we can sit anywhere.” That is anywhere, in peace and joy.

When I am anxious or fearful, this is an option for me. When I am angry or jealous or depressed, again—this is an option for me. Being in the present moment, striving after peace and joy.

From what I understand, peace and joy flow into the sitting, and being present. Prayer and meditation are part and parcel of sitting, and being present. This practice is simple, and straight forward. NOT easy, but it is simple. “We are not pulled away by the past, the future, or by anger or jealousy in the present. When we sit like that, we sit as a free person.” [2]

Then, as I sit in prayer and meditation, I am free. I am not bound by strong, difficult emotions. My insides are not tied up in knots, and I can approach the Holy freely. What a gift.

Gracious God, thank You for showing me this option. Thank You for giving me possibilities in this life. Forgive me for disregarding You and Your kindness to me. Help us walk close by You from this day forward. In Jesus’ precious name we all pray, 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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 82.

[2] Ibid.

Starting Point for Prayer and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, February 10, 2017

now-clock

Starting Point for Prayer and Meditation

When starting to pray and meditate, different people have different ways to focus. Different starting points, or prompts. When Thich Nhat Hanh talks about meditation, he is often speaking of mindful meditation, in the Buddhist tradition. Meditation and prayer cross the borders of many different faith traditions and belief structures. I would very much like to practice my type of prayer and meditation as fully, deeply and thoroughly as this Buddhist teacher.

As Thich Nhat Hanh describes the beginning of his meditation and prayer, he talks of a bell. A simple bell, struck once or twice, can be a marvelous focus for one’s mind. After a person hears the bell sound, then the different parts of the human—intellect, thoughts, feelings, perceptions—can come together. It is then that a person is enabled to think with clarity.

This got me to thinking: what kinds of starting points for prayer and meditation was I used to?

I do not believe there is any other audible start to prayer and meditation except “Let us pray.” Not in my tradition of prayer, anyway.  Except—I have borrowed a cross-cultural way of meditation. I have started meditation with a bell a few times. This has been a pleasant and welcoming experience for me. A welcome starting point.

Gracious God, Thich Nhat Hanh has a lot of good ideas, including such a positive starting point. Thank You for such wonderful examples for me in this life. I ask to be as faithful as Thich Nhat Hanh in my prayer and meditation life, today. 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

Enjoying Prayer and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, February 8, 2017

pray-blocks

Enjoying Prayer and Meditation

When I slow down and get ready for prayer and meditation, I sometimes find myself automatically loosening up my shoulders, taking slow and even deep breaths, settling myself comfortably, or turning my head gradually from side to side. All this is my way of getting ready.

Thich Nhat Hanh has similar advice for his readers: “Set aside a room or a corner or a cushion that you use just for sitting. When you arrive there, you will immediately begin to feel some of the joy and relaxation that comes from sitting.” [1]

Relaxation and calmness are with me, and a part of me, most of the time now when I pray. However, I sometimes still find it difficult to generate the joy that the monk talks about here in this section from the book How to Sit. This is one of my current challenges, I know. (I am working on it.)

Gracious God, this quote reminds me of what joy and happiness can be found in prayer and meditation…Thich Nhat Hanh shows it so clearly. I know I ought to strive for that same joy. But—I feel the challenge. I realize this is difficult for me. Heck, I really am excited about feeling relaxed and calm most times, when I pray! (Much less feeling joy. One step at a time. That is what I keep telling myself.) Dear God, help me to persevere. And, thanks for the wonderful, unexplored world of prayer. I know I’ve just gotten started, in prayer. 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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 53.

Joy and Happiness in Prayer?

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

 

happiness-in-sand

Joy and Happiness in Prayer?

What an outrageous thought—feeling joy and happiness while praying. Or…is it?

Not according to the author of How to Sit, Buddhist monk and meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. The way he talks about it, feeling joy and happiness is a natural outgrowth of regularly practicing meditation and prayer.

All I know is I am able to tap into calmness and (even) serenity sometimes when I pray and meditate, now. Sure, I still have regular bouts with fear and anxiety. I can’t imagine a single person who does not. Welcome to the human condition. However, I am able to calm down that fear and anxiety, and more often than not relax into calmness, slowed breathing, and legitimate peace of mind. Really. Really and truly.

Now, going the next step and feeling joy and happiness, on a regular basis? Not so much.

As How to Sit says, relaxing and calming the body is a wonderful thing to do. Except, he connects being relaxed and calm with experiencing joy and happiness. [1] This is a challenging next step for me to do.

As this page mentions, “Countless people bounce around like yo-yos in their busy lives and never have the chance to taste this joy.” [2] However, I can take heart in the fact that I don’t have hours each day to sit in prayer and meditation, since “a few moments of sitting and conscious breathing can bring great happiness.”

Contentment? Peace? Certainly. I’ve experienced it. But, happiness and joy? I guess I’ll have to keep practicing until I do. That’s okay. I have a great love for these practices. So awesome! I guess there is always something more to learn. Again, that is perfectly okay.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thanks for bringing this reading to my attention. Thanks to our author, and much appreciation for his offer of support and encouragement. Thank you! And, go, us!

 

 

 

@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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 51.

[2] Ibid.

Sitting At Ease.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 2, 2017

flower-growing-between-rocks

Sitting At Ease.

Today’s short reading from How to Sit describes ease in sitting and meditation. It is as simple and straightforward as that. Sitting so that one feels completely at ease.

It made me wonder: how often do I really feel completely at ease?

I realize I was thinking more broadly, but, how often do I feel rushed, or anxious, or upset, or fearful? I know I occasionally get a massage (which feels wonderful!), but that welcome respite is only a part of the whole. Not my whole self, my whole state of being.

Yes, what I am thinking about NOW is—broadly speaking—my general mindset, outlook and internal attitude. But—how much of that total mindset and attitude would Thich Nhat Hanh be interested in? Yes, this little book is about meditation and prayer, but calmness, contentment and ease in meditation overlap in amazing ways.

So, it is good advice for me not to “make a great effort, or struggle, or fight” as I sit. [1] I realize as I do final relaxation in yoga, it is good for me to take more of this teacher’s advice, and to relax every muscle, including the muscles in my face.

Feeling completely at ease…a good thing to strive for.

Dear God, help me to take the suggestions this book raises for my consideration, especially this one. Feeling completely at ease. Gracious God, You do not want me to feel anxious or fearful or any other negative emotion. You have promised me Your peace and contentment. Indeed, serenity. Thank You for Your loving, gracious promises. 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] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 46.

Daily, Mindful Prayer.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, January 20, 2017

Daily, Mindful Prayer.

flower-in-rocks-mindfulness

Sometimes, life happens. In my life, other people’s lives. Mindfulness helps when life happens. Daily, mindful prayer.

I went through life, as usual. Yeah, I encountered some rough spots, as well as some great times. Sometimes stuff happens to me, and sometimes stuff happens to my family. Like, when an elderly loved one of mine had a serious illness in November, and the doctors finally told the family that he needed to enter hospice at the beginning of December. Then, two weeks later, he died. So, the extended family had to deal with something quite serious—a death in the family. On top of which, things were complicated by the holidays.

Sometimes stuff just happens. All during the fall, during my loved one’s illness, I was reminded that I could pray and meditate anywhere.

Prayer and meditation are not determined by anyone’s position. Sitting, standing, walking—however you would like to practice, it works. What’s more, prayer, meditation and mindfulness are is not exclusive, or only for one particular group of people. Each one of us has the opportunity to reach for the stars.

Each day, each night, mindful meditation and prayer are good options. I need to remember that. Gracious God, help me. Dear Lord, thank You for the opportunity to come before You, at any time, any place.

@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

How Should I Then Pray?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, November 26, 2016

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How Should I Then Pray?

A new year. Yes, tomorrow begins the liturgical year again, with the first Sunday in Advent. That season of hope and expectation, where we wait for the birth of the Christ Child with baited breath. Well, not really. That is, not everybody does. Even in the church.

I feel like I am running as fast as I can, and I still haven’t caught up. I don’t have a chance of catching up. (Alice, I fully sympathize with you in your conversation with the Red Queen.) The turning of the seasons is getting faster and faster all the time.

These two seemingly disparate things are connected. So many people are scattered and fragmented—including me. Pulled in many different directions. It is increasingly difficult to focus on one thing (even when it’s so important, as the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ). That is, when there are so very many things calling for my attention.

Dear Lord, help me to slow down. Help me to sift through the urgent and important, and focus on the one thing that I need. The one thing that gives me nurture and strength. My relationship with You, dear Lord. Help me bring my other needs, pains, joys and concerns to You, too, because then I will not be distracted. Gracious God, in Your mercy, hear my 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