Tag Archives: Lord Jesus

Prayer: God Moves Us

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 26, 2019

candles, darkP

Prayer: God Moves Us

Prayer can be so intimate, so up-close-and-personal.

So many accounts of times when people felt utterly awestruck, as with M. while he read John 10, where Jesus talks about Himself as the Good Shepherd. “It was a beautiful time of prayer, an intimate time. There was so much in the words; it’s so beautifully written. I wasn’t reading words; it was alive, almost directly touching my heart.” [1]

I read about these times of prayer, and I feel uplifted, just reading these words. And then—at the same time, I feel so sad. Sad, and almost resentful. Why can’t I have these types of experiences on a regular basis? I do have similar experiences, but rarely. Why has my prayer life been dry and parched, like wandering in the wilderness, for decades? (Yes, for literal decades.)

The idea of letting the words of Scripture swim in one’s heart is certainly an imaginative one. Being immersed in the words of the Bible—so much so that I feel all filled to the brim with these life-giving words—what an image for my sometimes overactive imagination.

I would think this feature of our brains really causes Ignatian prayer and meditation to bear a great deal of fruit. How wonderful to be an imaginative pray-er. I do not think that access to prayer (speaking to God) and meditation (listening to God) are both required for our communication with our Heavenly Parent, but I suspect it helps.

But…what if the usual ways of praying don’t really work for some people? What would it be like to never have a close relationship with God from prayer? I am assuming some people have real difficulty in this. I truly do not know what I would suggest, other than the different more kinetic ways of prayer. I know it is possible to do Ignatian prayer and walk the labyrinth at the same time. (I’ve done both—at the same time.) But, other than kinesthetic praying, I do not know what to suggest to these friends. I guess I need to learn more about prayer styles, and refresh my memory with suggestions of diverse ways of communication with God.

We ought to breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for this opportunity to find hope. Hope in our dear Lord Jesus. Dear Lord, thanks for giving us a number of ways to communicate with You. Help each one praying find a way of prayer-communication that each one feels touched now. 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 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] Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture, Timothy M. Gallagher, OVM (United States of America: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 24.

Prayer, and Christmas Legend

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas poinsettia

Prayer, and Christmas Legend

I enjoy hearing about the various legends and stories about Christmas that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some start out in one area or region, and then after years go by, they spread around the world.

The online Advent devotional calendar I’ve been reading these past weeks comes from Epiphany United Church of Christ in Chicago. I appreciate this entry, from Ginny, an older member of the congregation. She also loves legends and stories. She relates the legend of the poinsettia.

“It once was the custom in Mexico for the villagers to leave a gift for the Baby Jesus in their church on Christmas Eve. In one small village, a little boy who had no gift to bring prayed to God for a way to show his love for the infant king. God, full of mercy, looked down on the boy and answered his earnest prayer by causing a flower to bloom where he knelt — a flower so brilliant and fair. The miraculous flower was formed like a star with leaves that were red and so bright, and the boy’s precious gift has come to be known as the “flower of the holy night.“ (flor de la noche buena)” [1]

This was one legend I missed. I had known all my life that poinsettias were considered Christmas flowers, but had never known the story behind it. Now, I do. Lovely story for a lovely flower.

However, I have always been rather uncomfortable about giving gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s not that He doesn’t deserve rich, sumptuous gifts—certainly He does! Certainly, He deserves all of our gratitude, obedience and love. Except, Jesus rules over the entire universe. What could we possibly give Jesus that He doesn’t have already?

This poinsettia legend reminds me a bit of the poem written by Christina Rosetti, published in the January 1872 edition of Scribner’s Magazine. Some might know it better as the lyrics for the Christmas hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I memorized the last verse of this hymn almost fifty years ago, and it has been repeating itself in my head for the last week or two.

“What can I give Him, Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.”

I believe Miss Rosetti had it right: Jesus does not want rich gifts, or sumptuous gifts. Jesus wants me to give Him the best gift of all. “Give my heart.”

Dear Lord Jesus, as I await Your birthday celebration, almost here (!!), help me to give You my heart. Help me to give You my gratitude for salvation, obedience to Your commands and words, and love for Your indescribable gift. Thank You for Your love for me—for us. We bow before You in honor, worship and praise. And, say thank You. Thank You.

@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] (This devotional by “Ginny” Maddox appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 23rd edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois.)

Christ Shows Us Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christ Shows Us Prayer

If I’ve ever wondered what prayer is, I can go to my bookshelf and take a look. I have more than fifteen books on prayer. (Give or take. I don’t have them all in one place—some are in my office at church.) That does not count all the books on spirituality, spiritual direction, and other kinds of practical theology. I geek out over those things.

However, I fall far short of giants in prayer. I call myself an advanced beginner at prayer. When I consider several of my friends and acquaintances, they are real people of prayer. I stand in awe of several people who have written books about prayer, like Father Nouwen.

His life exemplified prayer. He gives a brief declaration of what goes on when we pray: “When you pray, you open yourself to the influence of the Power which has revealed itself as Love. That Power gives you Freedom and Independence. Once touched by this power, you are no longer swayed back and forth by the countless opinions, ideas, and feelings which flow through you.” [1]

That is the way it’s supposed to work, anyway. I can only strive to pray this way. I am not free and independent of opinions, ideas and feelings, so help me, God. Fr. Nouwen raises it to the next level in the next paragraph: “Christ is the one who in the most revealing way made clear that prayer means sharing in the power of God. Through this power He turned His world around.” [2] Good grief. How can I possibly enter into prayer with such a high bar set for me? First Father Nouwen, that giant of prayer, and then the example of our Lord Jesus? Talk about feeling small and inadequate.

I’ve had this regular blog for several years now, and I do strive to follow God in prayer. Clear, unambiguous statements like the ones Fr. Nouwen made set me back on my heels.

They are counterbalanced by Fr. Nouwen’s follow-up statement: “Praying, therefore, means being constantly ready to let go of your certainty and to move beyond where you now are….This is why praying demands poverty, that is, the readiness to live a life in which you have nothing to lose so that you can always begin afresh.” [3] Oh, dear Lord, how I wish I could be so free, to have truly nothing to lose.

I hesitate to even begin to pray this way. Rather, I have begun, in the past. I have spent some time with God, resting in God’s presence, but exerting power? Not being swayed by opinions, ideas, and feelings? Dear Lord, I need help from You. I feel like such a beginner, especially when I read such words. Help me to pray, 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 116.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 117.

Breaking Down Barriers

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, March 19, 2018

Gal 3-28 all one, words

Breaking Down Barriers

The Apostle Paul talks about barriers several times in his letters. Not only about breaking down barriers between people, between Jews and non-Jews, between male and female, slave and free, but also between us and God. (That is, all of us—humanity—and God.)

This caused me to reflect on the breaking down of barriers today. It seems to me that God would be pleased if followers of God were to break down barriers in all areas today. Not only racial and social, but in terms of gender, class, accident of birth, ethnic and cultural barriers, as well.

It seems as if racial, ethnic and cultural tensions are on the rise. It is not just my imagination. Just over the weekend, The New York Times reported a marked spike in hate crimes here in the United States. Specifically, hate crimes against Jewish people between the years 2016 and 2017 are up over 50 percent. [1] And, this is not an isolated occurrence.

In Detroit this past weekend an experiment disgruntled many people. A mock “no Irish pub” was “part of an experiment to raise awareness about how poorly Irish immigrants were once treated in the U.S. against the backdrop of prominent modern-day conversations about race and immigration.” [2] This mock-pub had a bouncer outside who gave verbal abuse to people of Irish ancestry and people who were wearing green—as was common around the turn of the 1900’s, with signs in shop windows that said “No Irish need apply” for help wanted positions. “Century-old newspaper articles that described Irish immigrants as “simians,” “too lazy to work” and members of “a servant race” helped fuel bouncer Bill Johns’ language as he sat outside the pub, telling people they couldn’t come in.” [3]

During the Apostle Paul’s time, in some circles, if you were not a Roman citizen, you were not worth much at all. (Fortunately, Paul was born a citizen; he was born to a father who had Roman citizenship.) Right side or wrong side of the railroad tracks, north-sider or south-sider, city mouse or country mouse? It does not matter to God. God breaks down all barriers. (Thank God!)

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, in this Lenten season we are reminded of the sacrifice you made for us. Thank you that, by your sacrifice, you have made peace between us and God, and between us and others. Help us to live as people who represent the hope of the universe. Amen.” [4]

@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] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/sunday-review/anti-semitism-american-jews.html

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/17/detroit-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-detroit-st-paddys-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-make-point-m/435650002/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 90-91.

Meister Eckhart: Be of Service

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 7, 2017

serve one another, Mark 10

 

Meister Eckhart: Be of Service

We come to another medieval spiritual writer, Meister Eckhart. Yes, and much more than that. He entered the Dominican order, studied in Paris and Cologne, became Dominican prior at Erfurt, and soon started serving as Professor of Theology at Strasbourg. All the while, he also preached and served as spiritual director. Although he was brought up on charges by inquisitors in Cologne, some time later these charges were found to be largely fabricated and politically motivated—but, too late. Meister Eckhart had died while traveling to clear his name. [1]

This excerpt from one of Eckhart’s sermons features Martha and Mary. He lifts up Martha as mature and a person of depth. Interesting that she was more of the servant of the two sisters. “Now Martha says, ‘Lord, tell her to help me.’ Martha did not say this out of anger. She spoke rather out of a loving kindness because she was hard pressed. We must indeed call it a loving kindness or a lovable form of teasing.” [2]

Now, let’s look at Mary, sitting at our Lord’s feet. Eckhart’s words: “she yearned without knowing what it was she yearned after, and she desired without knowing what she desired!” [3] Ah, to be Mary, and to think “that she can already do what she wishes so long as she is only seated beneath your consolation.” [4]

Indeed, as our Lord Jesus says to Martha, only one thing is necessary: “I and you, embraced one by the eternal light—that is one thing.” [5] Yes, Jesus calls us to serve. And, yes, Jesus calls us to study, sit, and drink in the presence of the Lord. Both/and, not either/ or. As I reflect upon this interpretation of Martha and Mary, I tend to agree with Richard Foster. Yes, I appreciate Eckhart’s central point. Yes, “spirituality and service are inseparable twins.” [6]

Dear Lord, as I read this narrative again, I am also reminded of my tendency to swing to extremes on the pendulum. Help me—help all of us—to find a healthy balance. 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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 205.

[2] Ibid, 206.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 207.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 209.

Simone Weil, Praying the “Our Father”

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

Our Father Matt 6

Simone Weil, Praying the “Our Father”

Here is another brilliant pray-er. (Educated in philosophy, and experienced as a teacher!) Simone Weil had such a multi-layered relationship with God. As one of the foremost twentieth century mystics, she wrote essays about prayer and her contemplative experience.

In this edited, gathered collection of selected writings, Richard Foster has Ms. Weil discussing the Lord’s Prayer. She runs through each petition, and gives a short commentary about each one. Of course, each extended paragraph—as commentary—has so much packed into it. I am simply amazed at the theological depth of this loved one of God.

That said, one sentence cut me to the heart, even more than the rest of her penetrating comments. In her paragraph discussing “Our Father, which art in heaven,” she says “We do not have to search for Him, we only have to change the direction in which we are looking.” [1]

It is as if the blindfold has been taken off, and I’ve been turned around to look the right way. By changing the direction I look, I change my attitude, and my impressions of life, of others and of my situation. I change focus. Almost imperceptibly, I find myself changing from the inside out.

As Richard Foster mentions afterwards, our Lord Jesus prayed this prayer in a teaching moment. “By responding to their request with the “Our Father” Jesus shows Himself to be the absolute Master of prayer, as He is of all matters of life.” [2]

Truly, the Rabbi Jesus prayed a prayer for the ages, interpreted in dozens of ways. Jesus knew very well about trials and temptations, as well as daily bread and the Kingdom of God. No matter the situation, no matter the location. No matter what. Thank God for the “Our Father.”

@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), 48.

[2] Ibid, 53.

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 2, 2016

god-wants-to-talk-to-you

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Upon reflection, make that a busy evening, plus a busy day. A great deal of running, fetching, errands, and emails.

Started off the day on the computer. Went to the gym and power-walked. Did stuff at church for several hours. Dropped off two flyers at the local counseling center this afternoon (for the Prayer Gathering on Monday, Dec. 12 and the Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 19). Then, a stop at the tree-lighting in the park downtown, and rushed off to a Holiday Concert (at my daughter’s school). Ended up doing several more errands.

Not a dull moment.

Lord, did I take one moment to think about You? To come before You with my praises as well as my pain? Well—I took a couple of minutes to pray, at my good friend Josh’s Daily Prayer website. (In case anyone is curious, it is www.dailyoffice.org ) But, I am afraid that was it, as far as prayer is concerned.

In retrospect, it was a good day. I had several excellent conversations. I enjoyed myself very much at the concert. (Especially hearing Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.)

However—Lord Jesus—I need to talk with You more. I don’t care how or when I communicated with You in the past, but I need to do more of it. Can You help me? That is my petition right now. 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