Tag Archives: hope

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 24, 2018

hope - cursive

Hope, Turn Toward God in Prayer

I had the unusual experience of questioning what Father Nouwen said in his book just now. “Only if you pray with hope can you break through the barriers of death.” [1] I did not quite understand what he was saying here. I know I might be believing pie-in-the-sky sort of theology, but I suspect that what Father Nouwen seems to say here goes against what I have always believed. In other words, that if I do NOT have hope, then I am out of luck, in terms of prayer.

That statement, on the surface, goes against everything I have learned of God and of prayer. However, that is only one sentence in this small section on hope and prayer.

Several sentences further down, Nouwen said “When you pray with hope, you turn yourself toward God, trusting fully that God is faithful and makes all promises real.” [2]

Now, THAT I can understand. Praying with hope. Turning toward God. Trusting in God.

When you or I take what we know of God and pray with what hope we have in our hearts (even if it is only a mustard-seed’s-worth of hope), then you—I—we turn towards God. Isn’t that enough? Or, do I need to quantify my hope and my prayers to God?

“As long as there is still hope/There will also be prayer…

And you will be held/in God’s hands.” [3]

This is what I understand. This is what I relate to, and what my heart opens toward. When I open my heart in prayer, when I have even a tiny scrap of hope inside of me, that is enough. God will still hold me in God’s hands of love and caring. For that, I truly thank the Lord.

@chaplaineliza

 

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[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 75.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 76.

Pray in Hope, Hope in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 21, 2018

hope - light, dark night

Pray in Hope, Hope in Prayer

I can see how some cynical people might scoff at Father Nouwen’s words here. Sure, “hoping” might be overrated. “Hoping” has little to do with the mundane day-to-day experience. “Hope” is for naïve people, or worse, for suckers.

Such a dreary, pessimistic way to approach life! I have met a couple of people who had this kind of attitude and way of thinking about life. I would not trade places with them for anything.

Father Nouwen tells about the trusting relationship of little children with their loving mother. “All day long they ask for things, but the love they have for their mother does not depend on her fulfilling all their wishes.” [1] In this simple, straight-forward description of the mother/child relationship, Fr. Nouwen hits the theological and relational nail on the head. Our relationship with God our heavenly Parent does NOT depend on whether God gives us everything we ask, or grants us each request (no matter how ridiculous or outrageous those requests may be).

It reminded me of a long-ago memory. One of my children (in preschool then, now in her 30’s) dearly wanted a pony. She had a plan, had thought about it a great deal, and came to me and her father with this plan. The pony could live in the storage space in the basement, and would not take up much room at all. She would go down and feed the pony, too.

At the time, we lived in a smaller vintage apartment building in Chicago. I realized what the landlady would say if my daughter brought this up to her, much less the animal control department of the City of Chicago. However, I could not tell all this to my preschooler. I needed to let her know that it was not possible, of course.

But—she really, really, REALLY wanted that pony. She hoped against hope that she would get a pony for Christmas.

How many times do I want a pony, too? How often do I come to God with a sincere, deep-seated request oh, so similar to my dear daughter’s Christmas wish? Yet, a little child still loves their mom or dad dearly, even though their parents know that the requested thing (or wish or experience) would be negative or not at all good for their dear child. In the same way, our loving, caring God sovereignly knows what would help each of us.

Yes, I can hope. Prayer is hope. Hoping is prayer. “All those concrete requests are ways of expressing [my] unlimited trust in God who fulfills all promises, who holds out for [me] nothing but good, and who wants to share goodness and love with [me and] you.” [2]

Thank You, dear God, for wanting to share goodness, love, and caring with me.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 74.

[2] Ibid.

@chaplaineliza

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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

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, July 9, 2018

HOPE scrabble

Prayer: An Expression of Hope

Depression, fear, worry, anxiety. When these things creep into my life, I feel like I am suddenly walking through chest-high water. It can be so difficult to get through a day, even an hour. I have friends and relatives who deal with depression and anxiety, too. Yes, it can be more than a challenge to keep one’s head above water.

When Father Nouwen quoted from Bertold Brecht, I felt the words deep inside. Because—sometimes I feel that way. Not as much as before, but still, sometimes. Here is the quote:

“As it is, it will stay/What we want will never come.” [1]

Life without prayer, life without hope—that is what those words reflected inside of me. Father Nouwen said, “If you believe this way, life stands still. Spiritually, you are dead. There can be life and there can be movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and you look ahead toward that which is not yet.” [2]

That is hope. That is what can be, if we believe in prayer. Although, prayer seems to be more about asking than about hoping.

When I have hope somewhere inside of me (no matter how deep it is), I have more ability to go forward. I have dragged myself along when I have been in deep depression, or filled with fear or anxiety. At times, it has been a difficult journey. (Like walking through chest-high water.. But, I repeat myself.)

Thank God I know that God always has ears wide open to my cries, and arms ready to receive me when I stumble and fall into them. Dear Lord, help me to have hope. Hope in prayer, and hope in You and Your faithfulness. Help me to believe, to hope, and to pray more easily.

Thanks, God.

@chaplaineliza

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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, 1972), 39.

[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

 

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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.

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 27, 2017

psalm 42-11 help of my countenance

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Have you ever been full of doubt? Downhearted, depressed and hopeless? Completely lost, with everything collapsing around you? Yeah … me, too.

That was what I dealt with for years. (Seriously, yes.) For years, I would struggle to pray, struggle with my doubts, and especially struggle with any knowledge that God was remembering me, at all. It was almost a daily struggle, for many, many months. For years, at times.

That was how the psalmist felt, too. (This psalm was written by one of the sons of Korah, so we are not sure exactly who wrote it.)

Our psalmist was of two minds as he wrote this. Sure, he told about his assurance in the Lord, and how he trusted in God. He wrote of how much the Lord would help him, and how he would pray to God regularly. On the other hand—he also poured out his heart, and confessed his doubts, his fears, his heaviness. He would mention how much his enemies oppressed him, and how far away from him he felt God was. (Yes, very far.)

And, yet … and, yet …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “Whoever has found God in the cross of Jesus Christ knows how mysteriously God hides himself in this world, and how, when we believe him farthest away, he is just there beside us.” [1]

Some might call this a paradox, others might say it is the mysterious, sometimes unfathomable nature of God. Note the closing verse of Psalm 42: “Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”

I have trust in Bonhoeffer’s closing in this mini-commentary: “He will be the help of your countenance; because he knows you and loved you before he made you, He will not let you fall. You are in his hands.” [2] I take heart in this assurance. Pastor Dietrich affirmed this blessed truth. He certainly had a good deal of challenge and hardship in his life. However, he made it through his struggles and trials. Bonhoeffer continued to thank God for being there for him and with him.

Dear Lord, help me do the same. Please, Lord.

@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), 60.

[2] Ibid, 61.

How Should I Then Pray?

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

jigsaw-puzzles-615x200-ehow-images-800x800

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

Unabashed Prayers—for the Cubs

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Unabashed Prayers—for the Cubs

chicago-cubs-win

At long last, after 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Holy cow! Hey, hey! Holy mackerel! Cubs win! Cubs win!

The Cubs and their dry spell of over a century have been legend in the annals of baseball, and even in the wide world of sports. These past seven games—and especially Game 7—have been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, of absolute rapture to the depths of despair, to be sure.

However. Now this brash, young team full of hope, this winning-est team in major league baseball, has achieved the pinnacle of their sport. The 2016 World Series. Fly the “W” flag!

Lord knows, I have tried not to hope too much. I have seen my hopes and dreams dashed time and again, with many, many other Cubs fans, in many, many other seasons.

But, I tell ya, pinch me. It can’t be true. (Can it? Is it?)

I think it is. Hell is freezing over, right this minute.

God knows that I try to pray for a good, clean game, when I am asked to pray for a sporting event. I pray for both teams to do their very best, and for there to be as few errors, or penalties, or mistakes as possible. Except—I have been praying for the Cubs, the last few games. It’s not that I dislike the Cleveland players. Certainly not! That team is absolutely an excellent team. If the Cubs had had to play against Cleveland during the regular season, I am afraid they might not have had quite as many “wins” to their credit.

But, I digress. Yes, I prayed for the Cubs. And, the Almighty looked with favor upon our boys in blue. Thank You, God.

(I do pray for the celebrations tonight, and into tomorrow. Please, Lord, don’t let anyone get hurt. Keep people safe. Help everyone celebrate in a fun, excited way, and help us welcome the Cubs back to Chicago with open arms. Lord, in Your mercy and grace, 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