Tag Archives: praying

Remembering. Praying. Again.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 12, 2017

prayer stained glass, Balliol College, Oxford

Remembering. Praying. Again.

So much to pray about. So much to break our hearts—not only in the past, on September 11, 2001, but recently, with the natural disasters and devastation of the past few weeks.

At the church where I am pastor (St. Luke’s Christian Community Church in Morton Grove, a suburb of Chicago), I hosted a regularly-scheduled monthly Interfaith Gathering last night, the second Monday of the month. We held an informal time of remembrance of 9/11. And, towards the end of the hour, we also lifted thoughts, hopes and prayers for those who are in the midst of natural disasters right now.

Last night, I read several paragraphs from a contemporary article found in the edition of TIME Magazine, published on September 14, 2001. Just three days after these horrific events. Here are a few sentences: “Terror works like a musical composition, so many instruments, all in tune, playing perfectly together to create their desired effect. Sorrow and horror, and fear. The first plane is just to get our attention. Then, once we are transfixed, the second plane comes and repeats the theme until the blinding coda of smoke and debris crumbles on top of the rescue workers who have gone in to try to save anyone who survived the opening movements. And we watch, speechless, as the sirens, like some awful choir, hour after hour let you know that it is not over yet, wait, there’s more.” [1]

I encouraged people to remember, back to that Tuesday in September 16 years ago, and the aftermath. I invited them to turn to their neighbors, and talk about something that is strongly imprinted on their minds from that time. The heroism of the first responders, the loss of someone dear to you, the trauma of the idea of attack, the unity of many people throughout this country. Whatever was significant, I invited people to share. And, share they did. Such a buzz of conversation, as significant experiences and feelings were shared among this diverse group of people from different faith traditions and different backgrounds.

This is why I continue to host the Interfaith Gatherings. This sharing of our human-ness, our commonality, and what binds us—different individuals from different families and different places on the globe—together. We are all human. We all breathe the same way. Our hearts beat the same way. Our digestive and circulatory systems are the same.

Yet, we all live in this world where such natural calamities happen. Not only that, many of us live in communities where many people are cruel and heartless and thoughtless in their treatment of others. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said when considering Psalm 34:19 and 1 Peter 3:9, “You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out, despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope, we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come upon you; may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world, for you belong to your creator and redeemer.” [2]

In the face of such a time as this, Pastor Bonhoeffer brings words of blessing and hope. What a blessing to anyone who strives to follow God, even through such challenge, difficulty, and sorrow. Even pain and suffering. Thanks to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his bittersweet words of blessing and encouragement, even while imprisoned by Nazi Germany.

@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] http://time.com/3313113/if-you-want-to-humble-an-empire/?xid=time_socialflow_twitter&utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social  “If You Want To Humble an Empire,” article by Nancy Gibbs, TIME Magazine, September 14, 2001.

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 1, 2017

Psa 34-19 afflictions, script

Praying, Suffering, with Psalm 34

When I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison, the companion thoughts of suffering and deprivation also come to mind.

I could shake my fists, cry out to heaven and ask God, “Why?” Except, I do not think I would receive any sort of an answer. I know, many righteous people have been unjustly imprisoned throughout the centuries.

Looking at Psalm 34:19, “The righteous person must suffer many things; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Bonhoeffer also meditated and prayed at length over this verse. (I secretly wonder how much comfort he found in it?) “The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others seem only natural and unavoidable. The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness, because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.” [1]

Senselessness and absurdity. That is certainly true, and has been true for thousands of years.

And yet—and yet—“the Lord delivers him.”

God is always present, all over the world. The righteous person is always with God, no matter where, no matter what. Bonhoeffer had the unshakeable belief that “God allows him to suffer so, in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake. In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.” [2]

I am afraid I am a far weaker person than Pastor Dietrich. I do not know whether I would have been able to suffer such deprivations as he did. I read his writings and am in awe of such faith and devotion. I pray that I may be able to display just a small part of Bonhoeffer’s resilience and faithfulness.

Lord, in Your mercy, help me in my journey through life with You, whether difficult or not. In times of suffering and pain, or times of calm and serenity, You are with me.

@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, 88.

[2] Ibid.

Praying, Helping, As God Would Have Us

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HELP help people even if they can't help back

Praying, Helping, As God Would Have Us

Hurricane Harvey touched down on the Texas coast several days ago. Since then, catastrophic winds, wild weather, and especially flooding have overwhelmed southern Texas. And, Harvey is not done yet. By no means.

As Harvey continues to wend its way north and east, the deluge of rain continues, all up and down that part of the United States. I pray for all of those affected, and their loved ones. I pray for all first responders. I pray for all of those who are working in logistical support. And especially, I pray for all health care personnel. Those caring for physical health, yes! Also for those who care for mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

I am going to interrupt my reflections on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Meditating on the Word, instead considering a passage from a short book Bonhoeffer wrote for and about the young men in the secret seminary in Germany, Finkenwalde. Life Together.

Let me say, first of all, that I have not seen accounts of very many people in Texas acting in the way Pastor Dietrich describes. Being so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good, so to speak.

The passage from Life Together: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks…” [1]

However, as I read this passage myself, I realized how tempting and how needed this reminder is. Not only for pastors and seminary professors, but also for Joe and Jane Christian. “It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they allow nothing to disturb them.” [2]

Pastor Dietrich is correct. Sometimes, I suspect many people just do not see what is in front of their noses. Therefore, Bonhoeffer felt strongly that he needed to make this warning. As I considered Hurricane Harvey and many well-meaning religious people near and far, I reflected on their tunnel vision. Yes, even these folks consider their work, their business, so important that they allow nothing to turn them from it. Even a hurricane.

The tremendous outpouring of compassion, caring and love for the people of Texas and surrounding affected areas is something we all can get behind. Yes, we can pray. Certainly! Prayer is a way of showing love and concern, of that we can be sure. In addition, we can do what Jesus did and show love with our actions—with time, talent and treasure. Please, consider donating to some worthy disaster relief ministry. (My church and I are contributing to UCC Disaster Ministries. I also know that Presbyterian Disaster Relief and Catholic Relief are also excellent choices.)

Dear Lord, we do pray for all those affected by this hurricane and its aftermath. Lord, be the refuge and strength for many, many people to run to. Thank You, dear Lord. It’s in Your mercy we all 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] Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 99.

[2] Ibid.

Praying Vengeance in Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, August 26, 2017

Psa 58-10 vengeance

Praying Vengeance in Psalm 58

More evil. And, even more evil. That’s how much vengeance-praying King David is doing in this psalm. I know it is an “imprecatory psalm.” [1] But, I did not realize how many horrible things David was praying in this psalm.

Yes, I know King David faced some awful situations in his life. However, I also thought the Lord told God’s people to forgive, and to pardon, and to confess their sins. And, especially “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

“The righteous will be glad when they see the vengeance; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” Seriously? Lord, are You serious? I need to look closely at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s explanation of this. He says, “Once more we shudder as we read this psalm….My dear congregation, if we avoid this we have understood nothing. This concerns God and His righteousness only….Whoever shrinks from this joy in the vengeance of God and in the blood of the wicked does not yet know what took place on the cross of Christ.” [2]

I need to sit back and take a long breath. God, I am reminded again that Your righteousness has been fulfilled by the cross of Christ. And, it is only through His death on the cross that I can even lift my head above the ground in anything less that abject guilt and shame.

Yes, I am still horrified by such bloodthirsty talk on David’s part. However, I also need to consider those last words of our Lord Jesus on the cross. He prays, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And then, truly, I can say with Bonhoeffer, “When we behold Him, the crucified one, we realize God’s wrath against us wicked ones. And in the same moment we experience His deliverance from this wrath.” [3]

It is then I experience what Isaiah experienced in the temple, in the sixth chapter of his book. The angel flies to me with the coal of holy fire and burns my sin away, too. Lord, here am I.

Yes, there is judgment at the cross of Christ. Yet, there is pardon, too. “There, my burdened soul found liberty—at Calvary!”

@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, 82.

[3] Ibid, 83.

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.

Praying Like Father Louf

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, March 5, 2017

la-musique-lute

Praying Like Father Louf

Amazing man of prayer, Father Louf. Comes from the Catholic faith stream, Belgian by birth, from a Cistercian community. He wrote a short book, Teach Us to Pray: Learning a Little about God. In this compilation, Richard Foster makes a judicious selection from Fr. Loef’s writing.

Is Praying Difficult? Ah. If you ask ten different people that question, you will probably receive ten different answers to that exact same question. Let’s allow Fr. Loef to give an illustration: “The lute-player bends over his instrument …. The lute has turned into music; and the man who strums upon it is taken out of himself, for the music is soft and entrancing…. The lute is his heart, the strings of which are the inward senses. To get the strings vibrating and the lute playing he needs a plectrum, in this case: the recollection of God, the Name of Jesus, the Word.” [1]

If I tried to explain exactly why prayer can be difficult, I would probably get my tongue all tied up in knots. But, Fr. Louf was able to describe this illustration in a vivid word picture. The strings of the heart are strummed in prayer. And, this illustration works on many levels. “You need only … persevere in the Word and in your heart, watching and praying. There is no other way of learning how to pray.” [2]

This coming alongside of each other is truly a remarkable way to get our hearts to be awakened. “That Word has been turned over and over in our heart. It has purified us, cleansed us, and we have grown familiar with it.” [3]

Just so. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, continue to show us how to pray and meditate in Your word.

@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), 31-32.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Praying in Contagious Peace

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, January 4, 2017

peace-and-quiet

Praying in Contagious Peace

Finding a place and space of calm and contentment? It can be challenging, even difficult. Yet, I am striving to do this during my time of prayer. A worthwhile challenge, indeed!

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, serves as my guide for this month. His slim volume called “How to Sit” will be my guide book.

Today’s short reading was that peace is contagious. No matter what, if I pay attention to my breath, that is. I must insist and make this post about peace, and calm, and quiet—just as much as I try to make my prayer time a time of contagious peace.

As I sat and prayed, I sat still and calmed my breathing; that is, I tried my very best to stay quiet and center my mind on peace.

God willing, we all will strive for peace.

@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