Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer—No Easy Matter

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 20, 2018

honest definition

Prayer—No Easy Matter

When I read this first reflection on prayer by Henri Nouwen, his words penetrated me deeply. (Again, I might add. I have a feeling this will happen to me again and again as I read through this short book.) I am unashamedly a fangirl of Fr. Nouwen. His profound writing and superb choice of words consistently hits home. Now, if I could just get his words to remain in my brain and imprinted on my heart…

He speaks of a deep relationship, a no-holds-barred relationship between me and the other. (Or, should I say the Other? I have always honored God with capitalization, as much as possible.) In any case, Fr. Nouwen talks of a deep resistance, as well. Giving the illustration of a woman admitted to a psychiatric center [1] who absolutely refuses to open her fist until it is pried open to reveal a coin…makes me think hard. How much am I trying to hide from God?

As Fr. Nouwen says, “When we are invited to pray we are asked to open our tightly clenched fists and to give up our last coin. But who wants to do that?” [2] This can be such a painful process. Even though some may cry out of that deep place of pain and anguish, the whole process can be painful. Just deciding to begin to pray can be filled with anguish. “You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small clammy coins which you don’t want to surrender.” [3]

Dear Lord, how difficult it is to be totally honest. Even though You know everything already, just like a wise, benevolent earthly parent, I feel awkward, and shy, and ashamed, and resentful. Disappointed, jealous, sad, and angry, too. Why is it that deep emotions get in the way of my relationship with You so readily? Clutching these yucky emotions to my chest as if they were treasures is not in my best interests. Lead me to understand this deep truth that Fr. Nouwen brings to my attention.

Let us pray. Gracious God, loving Heavenly Parent, You are patient and merciful. You are also all-knowing, so I cannot hide from You—as much as I want to. As the psalmist reminds me, even if I flee to the depths of the sea or the highest mountain, You are still there. You are still with me, no matter what happens. Help me to be honest with You. You love me. Help me emblazon those words on my heart. In Jesus’s precious name we 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 3.

[2] Ibid, 4.

[3] Ibid.

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Psa 34-19 brokenhearted, words

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a tumultuous life during the 1930’s and 1940’s, ending with his imprisonment and death by the hand of the Nazis. He had escaped the tumult of Germany for what ended up being only a short respite. Bonhoeffer had been invited to come to the United States to lecture.

As was a habit for him, Bonhoeffer regularly prayed and meditated on a published selection of bible passages, the Herrnhuter Losungen. After reading and praying on a Losung text (2 Tim. 4:21), he felt strongly convicted by the instruction “Do your best to come before winter.” He decided to return to Germany in the summer of 1939.

This sermon on the suffering of the righteous (taken from Psalm 34) Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944, after he had been imprisoned for some time. His writings in prison had much to do with God being present with him—and with others—through adversity. He said, “Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of it all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering.” [1]

This is not the way that most people respond to suffering. Bonhoeffer had an intimate relationship with God. I take a step back from his difficult life and look at the upsetting and unfair circumstances. Yet, his deep faith in God brought him through and it showed. I am in awe of relationships like that. Such a deep, thorough understanding of the character of God astounds me. I quake and fear that I might be expected to go through fiery trials similar to what Pastor Dietrich experienced. I know, from even a rudimentary knowledge of church history, that many saints of God were similarly tested and tried.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to remain firm in my commitment and relationship to You. Help me love You with my heart, soul, mind and strength. Lead me—lead us to do what is right in Your sight.  In Your mercy, Lord, 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, August 24, 2017

Psa 58-3 voice of charmers

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Another blog post, another punch in the gut. Seriously, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words hit home especially hard. In this short commentary on Psalm 58, Bonhoeffer describes the challenging sentiments of King David in such vivid terms.

Yes, Psalm 58 is a psalm of vengeance. (What sometimes is called an “imprecatory psalm,” which has the psalmist “praying evil against” his enemies, and praying death and destruction to come upon them. [1] ) King David wants so desperately to describe his enemies as evil, nasty and abominable.

I was struck by verse 5, which has the enemies of David characterized as not heeding “the voice of the charmer, no matter how skillful his charming.” [2] Or, rather, I was really impacted by Bonhoeffer’s comments on this verse as directed to the modern believer. He describes us as charmed by the “skillful One who by his words of grace charms and controls our hearts.” [3] Yet, there are some who do not listen, and who even go so far as to seemingly stop their ears.

Ah, Herr Pastor, your words hit me right between the eyes…”There are times when, in willful disobedience, we harden our hearts against God’s will and heap up sin upon sin until at last we can hear no more. Then Satan has gained control of us.” [4]

That is me. I am the guilty one. Dietrich, you were exactly correct. Sometimes I willfully sin. Sometimes I deliberately shut my ears to God’s words of grace, Oh, woe is me! Who shall save me from such a sinful state? (Yes, I know—rhetorical question. Read Romans, especially chapters 6 and 7, followed by chapter 8.)

And, as Bonhoeffer eagerly admits, all we can do in such a case is pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to walk in Your ways and listen to Your words. Unstop my ears from willful disobedience, and lead me in the Way everlasting. 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] https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Imprecatory-Psalms

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 78.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 79.

Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, August 20, 2017

Psa 58-3 go astray

Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

I was amazed when I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words in this short commentary on Psalm 58. (I’ll deal with verses 1 through 3 tonight.)

First off, verse 1: “Are you then dumb, that you will not speak what is right, and judge the children of men with equity?” Bonhoeffer’s immediate response is somehow prescient…”It is an evil time when the world allows injustice to occur and keeps silent.” [1]

With all that has happened in these past days, between the horror from the marches and countermarches in Virginia last weekend and the subsequent vigils, marches, and other gatherings this week…it is an evil time indeed when we allow injustice to occur and the mass of humanity observing merely watches, and keeps silent. As Bonhoeffer says, so many are not only dumb, but are unmerciful.

Verse 2: “No, you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.” It is not only those who merely watch that Bonhoeffer condemns. No, it is also the rulers. The leaders and overlords of the countries involved. How long, O Lord? How long? I agree with Herr Pastor Dietrich. It is truly a mystery of godlessness that runs rampant in all humanity.

Verse 3: “The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth.” Ah. This, again, is the very depth of wickedness.

I am reminded of those verses from Isaiah 53:6 that mention “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.” (Ah, Handel, you set those verses so beautifully in your oratorio “Messiah”…) This is such a Lutheran sentiment, too.

All I can think of is running to my Lord and my God for help, for succor, for relief from sinfulness and blackness of heart. I know only too well that there is much injustice in this world. How long, O Lord? How long will we suffer? How long will You be silent?

Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our cries to 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 77.

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, August 14, 2017

Psa 58-1, words

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

This sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer was written in 1937, just as the Gestapo were “tightening the net” around those ministers and seminary professors who protested against the Nazi regime in Germany. More than 800 of these members of the Confessing Church had been either imprisoned or taken under house arrest—for the “crime” of protesting against the regime. One example: a former seminarian at the secret seminary of Finkenwalde was arrested, and had “Evangelical Pastor” as his “crime,” written above the door of his cell.

The seminary at Finkenwalde was forcibly closed by the Gestapo in September 1937. Bonhoeffer wrote this sermon in response. (It was two more years before he actively joined the underground Resistance movement.) [1]

Sadly, how timely that this reading should be set for this time, next in the book. Given the horrors that happened this past weekend in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia with white supremacists and neo-Nazis openly marching and carrying swastikas and Nazi flags…

Bonhoeffer opens his sermon with a complete reading of Psalm 58, and then asks: “Is this fearful psalm of vengeance to be our prayer? May we pray in this way? Certainly not!” [2] No, Herr Pastor Bonhoeffer decries the sin that inhabits all of us. Our personal sin, “our spiritual indolence, our open or hidden disobedience.” [3]

Just as a good Lutheran pastor ought, Bonhoeffer reminds us of our personal guilt, and where each of us falls short. He follows this declaration with the crystal-clear fact that none of us is guilt-free, and none of us is truly able to pray this psalm. (As much as we may want to.)

True, we may desperately want to pray this imprecatory psalm, and especially those who were directly impacted by the horrific events in Virginia. Yet, Bonhoeffer says “No, we cannot pray this psalm. Not because we are too good for it (what a superficial idea, what colossal pride!), but because we are too sinful, too evil for it!” [4]

Dear Lord, deliver me—deliver us from the great sin of colossal pride. Reveal all the ways in which I have fallen short, and help me to amend my ways. Turn my thoughts to You, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 73-74.

[2] Ibid, 75.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. 76.

More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Psa 62 my soul in silence

More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on Psalm 62 early in his ministry, when he served as assistant pastor to a German congregation in Barcelona. He took as his text verse 1: “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

“To be silent does not mean to be inactive, rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey.” [1] When we are silent before God, what happens? I realize that some people—mistakenly—think that means to become completely blank and without thought. While I understand some forms of meditation involve some sort of emptying one’s mind of thoughts, I don’t think this is the kind of directed meditation and prayer that God wants us to do.

Bonhoeffer rightly goes on to say that some people grumble that only few become aware of those deep, loving, profound things that God wishes to say. God does, indeed, speak winning words to us: “I love you.” Yet, why is it that relatively few people fully realize the enormity of God’s personal love, caring and guidance in each person’s life?

“…We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.” [2] Oh, how perceptive of Herr Pastor Dietrich! As Bonhoeffer mentions, these times are comfortless, even fruitless.

I know so well that merry-go-round of the urgent, of the necessary, of the endless to-do list. And, what about the demands of work? The voices and cries of the children, the aging parents, and the extended family? The rounds of the visits, the events, and religious obligations. I don’t have any quick fix, sadly. The extremes of becoming a martyr to all of the busy-ness or trying to set up walls of obliviousness both confront me.

Dear Lord, preserve me from all such clutter in my head and heart. Lead me to come before You in spirit and in truth, seeking after Your presence, Your silence. And then, may I seek after Your will in my thoughts, words and life. Please, God, may it be so.

@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), 49.

[2] Ibid, 50.