Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer Means Togetherness

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, September 15, 2018

pray, church pews

Prayer Means Togetherness

Father Nouwen so often hits the nail on the head. So true today: “Often it is said that prayer is simply an expression of helplessness. It is asking from another what we cannot do ourselves.” [1] He goes on to say that if we stop there, confusion and despair become the natural next steps.

Is this why so many today are leery of prayer? (Except in hospitals. I was a hospital chaplain at a busy urban hospital. I well understand that in dire or traumatic situations, prayer was a ready comfort or recourse for many. And, I would so often be asked to pray for and with patients and their loved ones.) But, more to the point of Fr. Nouwen’s statement, the person who is lost in confusion and despair can also be lost in a wilderness of misunderstanding and pain.

Fr. Nouwen does not leave our wanderer in a confusing and despairing wilderness, however. “The praying person not only says, ‘I can’t do it and I don’t understand it.” … when you can also add the second, you feel your dependence no longer as helplessness but as a happy openness to others.” [2] And, again. Fr. Nouwen is exactly correct. There is nothing demeaning, disgraceful or debilitating about acknowledging openness, even dependence upon others.

Is this mistaken attitude a fault of the gradual breakdown in communication across generations here in the United States? I suspect not totally, although that must have some bearing. Although, Fr. Nouwen wrote this little book some decades ago. This prescient understanding of an almost universal desire and longing for communication with the Holy, with that which is beyond humanity, and which some call “God” is what this book With Open Hands is all about.

I feel sorrow in my heart for those who cannot give themselves permission to feel a dependence upon others. Even upon one or two others. I realize there are those who have been shockingly damaged by truly evil treatment, and I deeply mourn with them for their losses. However, as Fr. Nouwen would surely say, God is there. Even though some are fearful at reaching out, that makes no difference. Even though some may be so pain-filled and snarl at people who reach out to them, God is still there. God will always be there.

As our mentor and pathfinder Fr. Nouwen tells us, “if you see your weakness as that which makes you worth loving and if you are always prepared to be surprised at the power the other gives you, you will discover through praying that living means living together.” [3] (italics mine)

@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), 86.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Does Prayer Matter?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, September 10, 2018

man kneeling in prayer

Does Prayer Matter?

Oh, Lord. This is such a pertinent question. Just what I was talking about with an older friend of mine today. (Yes, another minister, not that that makes it a negative thing.) Yet—this question of “Does Prayer Matter?” only served as a corollary to the overarching question we discussed, which is “Why Suffering?”

Neither of us—me or my friend—came up with anything deeply profound. We simply brought up two options that have been discussed for decades (referring to the wars and conflicts of the 20th century). Such catastrophic events, on the large scale. Such horrific experiences, ahappening to so many individuals. On all sides, of all conflicts.

“If we say that it’s good to turn to God in prayer for a spare minute, or if we grant that a person with a problem does well to take refuge in prayer, we have as much as admitted that praying is on the margin of life and doesn’t really matter.” [1]

Oh, dear God, I so want prayer to matter! Why does it seem so much as if people only dabble in prayer? (Even me, sometimes. Forgive me, Lord, for my inattentiveness in prayer.) I suppose with me, as with many others, when things are going well, or even moderately okay,

“If we think that a little praying can’t do any harm. We will soon find that it can’t do much good anyway. Prayer has meaning only if it is necessary and indispensable.” [2]

Why do people forget You, or forget what we ought to be doing, which is thanking You for all You so graciously give to each one. I want to walk with the Lord, yes, and sit with the Lord, too. Dear God, please forgive me me for my uncaring attitude towards You, and towards prayer, which is a simple wy of communicating with You. Dear 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 84.

[2] Ibid, 85.

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

 

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), 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

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

Prayer of Little Faith…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 31, 2018

bad days, good days, every day

Prayer of Little Faith…

Ouch. Really.

Ouch, Father Nouwen! You hit a little too close to the bone. I am afraid I might make prayers of little faith, every now and then. Maybe even more often than that.

Father Nouwen’s description of a prayer of little faith is quite telling. Less on the spiritual side, and heavy on the concrete. Almost like a person is really skeptical of “getting” anything in prayer, or that they expect too much on the material end of things.

I realize that people go through stages like this, especially when they have recently been introduced to Christian faith. However, what I have understood for decades is that Christianity is a relationship. I don’t walk up to God, bold as brass, like the younger son in the parable of the Prodigal, and demand stuff like I am entitled to it. And, heaven forbid that I shouldn’t be able to get any old thing I ask for. (At least, I dearly hope I am not like this. If I am, God, forgive me…)

As Father Nouwen says, “People of little faith pray like children who want a present from Santa Claus but who are so frightened of the “Holy Man” that they run away as soon as they have their hands on the package…All the attention is on the gift and none on the one who gives it.” [1] Oh, isn’t that the truth!

We are reminded that the prayer of little faith is a prayer of no hope, a prayer of despair. Even, “The prayer of little faith is carefully reckoned, even stingy, and is upset by every risk.” [2] Bullseye! I hide my head in shame, fear, and trembling. Why on earth we have been fingered, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because we sin regularly. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” [3]

Dear Lord, gracious God, forgive my prayers of little faith. I want to seek after You with my whole heart. Thank You for loving me—loving us, and holding all of us in Your everlasting arms of comfort and care. 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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 70.

[2] Ibid, 71.

[3] “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” (NETTLETON). Words by Robert Robinson, 1735-1790.

Prayer? Of Petition.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 26, 2018

immeasurable prayer power

Prayer? Of Petition.

I often pray prayers of petition. Honestly, I do. I know I “shouldn’t” pray these asking-for-things kinds of prayers, but that’s okay.

(“Shouldn’t,” according to whom? Seriously!)

According to certain people, prayers of petition are not as deserving of the title of “prayer” as prayers of praise. Frankly and personally, I consider this attitude nonsense. So what if I am “trying” to get something for myself? If I make a request of God, I am communicating with God, just as much as if I were making a prayer of praise to God.

Apparently, prayers of thanksgiving are supposed to be more “worthy” of the name of prayer than prayers of petition. And, prayers of praise are totally directed to God, and are therefore the most “worthy” kind of prayer.

All of this sounds awfully legalistic and Pharisaic to me. But, I am just a mere person, not even designated with the title of “theologian” or anything. What does Father Nouwen have to say about this? “The important thing about prayer is not whether it is classified as petition, thanksgiving, or praise, but whether it is a prayer of hope or of little faith.” [1]

Father Nouwen is right when he mentions that the prayer of little faith “is filled with wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment. This kind of prayer has a Santa Claus naivete and wants the direct satisfaction of very specific wishes and desires.” [2]

Yes, I can see why God would not be that wild about such Santa-Claus-prayers. But, when someone is afraid or shy or very young or even filled with naivete, what other kind of prayers are they expected to pray? (Just asking.)

Dear Lord, gracious God, forgive me when I pray those Santa-Claus-prayers. I know I do it, sometimes. When You hear those kinds of prayers, thank You for honoring them—sometimes. Thank You for being a loving Heavenly Parent (which You totally are), telling Your children that You love them, regardless of the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, or petition that they bring to You. Thank You so much, Loving God.

@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), 68.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer: Whatever Fills the Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, July 22, 2018

candles, votive prayer

Prayer: Whatever Fills the Heart

Sometimes, it seems that God might be a big vending machine in the sky. At least, that is the way some people pray. They put in their order, just the way they like it, and when God does not deliver in precisely the way requested, these same people become quite upset.

I do not believe God works that way.

Certainly, according to the Bible, God is concerned about us humans. God dearly wishes to enter into a relationship with us. However—God is not a short-order cook. I cannot even imagine twisting God’s arm to get what I selfishly want.

Yes, we pray when we go on vacation, or for the weather we prefer, or when friends are sick, or even when they die. As Father Nouwen says, “Our prayer emerges from the midst of our lives and is interwoven with everything else which busies our day.” [1]

When I allow prayer to permeate my life and my way of being, of course prayer becomes more genuine. When I allow my relationship with God to become more intimate and loving and caring, of course what I request becomes less of a spoiled whine or anxious fear. When I climb onto Jesus’s lap, He comforts me, just like His beloved child.

When we live in the world, God can act sovereignly to deliver us. Or not. This can be a challenging thing. All the same, “if we pray, and really pray, we can hardly escape the fact that our cares for the moment, big and small, will fill our prayer.” [2] If we pray, we open the door to God,  and allow ourselves to have the chance for friendship with our Heavenly Friend.

How wonderful that God wishes to develop that kind of close, loving relationship with all of us. Thank You, God.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 65.

[2] Ibid, 66.