Tag Archives: prayer guide

Paying Attention to Soul and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, June 2, 2015

birds silhouette sunset

Paying Attention to Soul and Prayer

I love the book I am using as a guide in the month of June. I really do. But, you all don’t know quite what kind of book it is. So, Handbook for the Soul is a compilation, a complete change of pace. This new book traces different ways of relating to our souls. Today’s author lifted up paying attention.

Robert Fulghum wrote this message, for today’s chapter. Did anyone pay attention to what I wrote as I write this post?

Here is a pertinent paragraph: “Sometimes during the day, I consciously focus on some ordinary object and allow myself a momentary ‘paying-attention.’ This paying-attention gives meaning to my life. I don’t know who it was, but someone said that careful attention paid to anything is a window into the universe.” [1]

Fulghum then mentions, step by step, a typical day in his life. A day when he is allowed to nurture his soul, and find beautiful and satisfying things to do and say. Of course, he is not able to do all these things–to check them off an internal list every single day. It is then that his life might go off-track, mentally, emotionally and spiritually speaking. But—that’s okay. Sometimes those things happen.

I need to ask myself: do I pay attention to others? To myself? About what aspects of my work, my life, my very being? About which subjects should I say nothing?

Again, I mention something Fulghum wrote, at the end of this chapter: “I don’t expect that anyone’s life will be lived exactly according to plan. But I do expect that life will go well if I simply pay attention to the positives, as well as to the negatives, of the mixture that is in me and is in the rest of the world.” [2] Hopeful, positive words, indeed.

These are words that can nourish the soul, words of gentleness, encouragement and comfort. I think practically everyone deserves a little of this way of thinking (and acting!) each day. God willing, I might be able to be that kind of person.


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] Handbook of the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995), 12.

[2] Ibid, 16-17.

To Renounce, or to Follow? (In Prayer.)

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 25, 2015


To Renounce, or to Follow? (In Prayer.)

Today’s reading in my prayer guide is a wonderful addition to the sermon I preached this morning. The prayer guide: renouncing. The sermon: following. And there is a tie-in, believe me.

This morning’s Gospel lesson came from Mark 1, where Jesus calls four fishermen to “Come, follow Me!”

What does the Gospel writer Mark tell us about the fishermen Jesus saw by the Sea of Galilee, Simon, Andrew, James and John? Mark is a man of few words, but the words he does use are important. These four men are involved in their daily business. They are fishermen, and they are in the middle of their daily tasks. Casting a net. Mending nets. Typical work of typical fishing business. Right in the middle of things, Jesus comes up to them and says, “Come, follow Me!

Do you think this was the absolute first time these four men had ever seen Jesus? I suspect not. I would imagine the brothers might have seen Jesus preaching and teaching when they went into town, stood among the crowd and listened. Perhaps the brothers had discussed what Jesus had said while they were working on the job, in their boats, or mending their nets.

Following? Reframing, reorienting.

Renouncing? Simplifying, streamlining.

To truly follow, I need to focus on Jesus and let go of certain things and behaviors in my life. To truly renounce, I need to focus on Jesus and simplify certain things and behaviors in my life.

As I renounce, as Rev. Howell tells me, I need to deny myself. “Prayer is not just adding more on to an already full life. Prayer will involve subtraction.” [1] Or, as I see it, prayer requires simplifying or streamlining my life, to make room for prayer. As I follow the Lord Jesus in prayer, this following requires reframing, reorienting. (A kind of metanoia, or redirection.)

God bless all who not only wish to follow Jesus, but also to renounce the world, its works and its ways. God, help me as I strive not only to follow You, but to renounce the stuff my so-full life is filled with. Help all of us. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

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.

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press: 2003), 80.

Repent! Repentance! Prayerfully.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 21, 2015

repentance a gift from God

Repent! Repentance! Prayerfully.

Repentance is the word for today. Repent! Reminds me of seeing stern, dour-faced street preachers with bullhorns, standing on street corners, crying, “Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

But, that’s not quite what our prayer guide, Rev. Howell, had in mind for today. Actually, it’s not precisely what I think Jesus had in mind, either, in the verses that accompany this short chapter in the book The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray: Mark 1:14-15. Moreover, this is from the passage I am considering and praying over, from which I will deliver a sermon on Sunday.

Yes, the Hebrew word “repent” (or, shuv) means to turn around, or make a 180-degree turn. It’s like I am going the wrong direction, so I make a u-turn. Go the right direction, instead. And Mark was Jewish; so was Peter, his friend and mentor, and presumably the source for most of the material in Mark.

Except, the Gospel of Mark was written in Greek. The Greek word for “repent” is metanoia. This word has a slightly different focus, or vector. Yes, the simple definition is “change one’s mind.” However, when expanded, this word can also mean changing one’s behavior, reorienting to new insights and understandings, framing new objectives and making new goals.

I am greatly relieved to hear this! This means that I do not need to grovel and crawl in the dust. Like a worm. (From somewhere back in my memory, a long time ago, I am remembering a state called by some pastor “Christian Worm-ism.” Pretty descriptive, if you ask me!)

So, I am reorienting myself, from the inside out. What a positive thing this can be! Not negative, laden with guilt and shame. (Especially shame! We have recently talked about both of these, yesterday and the day before.)

Reminder to self: God does not want to make me feel small or insignificant or guilty or especially shame-filled. No! But I know who does—sin, the devil, or Satan, or evil tendencies or wicked spirits. Whatever or however you may want to describe those negative feelings and emotions and urges that are not of God. Instead, we can be positive, and look forward to new opportunities.

Yes, we are angry and sad that we messed up. Yes, we can feel hesitant, even shy of going forward in life. But we can have confidence that—with God’s help and support—we will go forward with God at our sides.

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.

Prayer Book of the Bible? The Psalms.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 12, 2015

PRAY woman-praying

Prayer Book of the Bible? The Psalms.

Praying the Psalms—what a natural place to start, if I want to pray using Scripture!

The Psalms have been called the song book of the Bible, but also the prayer book of the Bible. All ranges and all kinds of emotion can be found in this book. When you or I turn to a specific Psalm, chances are that we can relate to whatever emotion the writer may be feeling.

As Rev. Howell brings out in our prayer guide today, the first verse of Psalm 130 is a good example. “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord.” Who among us can understand these words? Who feels like this, once in a while? Or maybe even, more often than that? I know that many challenges, obstacles, or troubles come into my life on a periodic basis, and I can feel like I am in up to my neck. Maybe, even, over my head. Help, God!

What about people who have some form of mental illness, or emotional or psychological affliction? It can be depression, the deepest, darkest anguish. I can speak to that, from personal experience. I have cried to the Lord out of the depths of my darkest night, on a number of occasions, for long stretches of time.

I have clutched at the words of Scripture with a death grip.

I have knelt (either figuratively or literally), and reached for the tassel on Jesus’ garments. Oh, if I can only touch the edge of His cloak, perhaps that will be enough of a connection! Yes, the Psalms zero in on very human, foundational emotion. In many ways!

The Psalms not only tell of sadness, grief, despair and anger, but they also express prayers of intense worship as well as shouts of joy and triumph.

For anyone who wishes to try a straight-forward, centuries-old practice, you can read a Psalm a day. (For the longer Psalms, like Psalm 119, they certainly can be broken up into several days’ readings.) It is refreshingly simple, and you don’t even need a special prayer book or bible study guide. As we read, we can talk with God about the emotions we see as we read, and pray the words of the Psalms, as we are so moved.

Powerful words, poignant prayers. Just a suggestion. As Rev. Howell tells us, the Psalms “express in profound ways our relationship to God. . . . they can help to know ourselves honestly, and to pray honestly before God.” [1]

God willing, the Psalms will help me—will help us to see our true selves. So, help me, God.


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.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 43-44.

Coloring Outside the Lines Today—In Prayer

Coloring Outside the Lines Today—In Prayer

PRAY Lord hear our prayer

There were a number of positive, even deep comments made today by the author of my prayer guide. Yet, one sentence popped out at me. Called attention to itself. “The principle of prayer is like pictures children color: there are no bad pictures, and you are encouraged to color outside the lines.” [1]

How often do I feel like a child, coloring outside of the lines? I know I am one. I know I need God’s forgiveness, and God’s patience. I realize I need both of these, so much. Maybe not every day, but most days. Or nights.

Ironic, how Rev. Howell has a positive spin on children coloring outside of the lines. He implies the freedom inherent in the image of the child coloring. Yes, but . . .

Here, I am putting a less than optimum stance on that same image. God, please help me to see that image in a positive way, like Rev. Howell. I very much want to feel that freedom, a God-given attitude. It’s not only in prayer, but in all of my life—our lives. God, please help us to pray.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, Abingdon Press (Nashville, TN: 2003), 22.