Tag Archives: relationship

Prayer: Restoring Relationship

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, October 4, 2018

relationship, definition

Prayer: Restoring Relationship

People get all kinds of ideas about prayer. What prayer is, and what prayer is not. Good ideas, not-so-good ideas, off-the-wall ideas, and on-target ideas. Father Nouwen had some excellent ideas about prayer himself.

In this evening’s reading, I was amazed to read that “To pray means to stop expecting from God the same small-mindedness which you discover in yourself.” [1] Oh, my. How true that is! I am somewhat ashamed of having to admit that. (Well, all right. Downright ashamed, actually.)

How could Father Nouwen know me so well? Sometimes, his words hit home in a new way, or in a way that seems sadly familiar.

But, wasn’t he just speaking to the human condition? Don’t I simply have that same human tendency? And sometimes, more fallible and more fallen than others? Even though I try and try to pray, walking in the full light of God, I definitely am fallible. Isn’t sin simply separation from God? Mea culpa, dear Lord.

Nevertheless, Father Nouwen does not leave us in that desperate, sinful state. Sure, we are sinful. Yes, I admit that. Yet, he lets us know that God is faithful. God will be there, for us and with us. God with show up, even when we do not deserve it.

What is it that God wants most of all? The Lord wants a restored relationship. Not just a surface subterfuge, “hi, how are ya?” said wearing a nicely-nicely mask on my fallen face. But, that is me, and my side of the argument. Or, prayer.

What about God? What does God want out of this special time of prayer? (Yes, God wants every time to be a special time, every conversation to be intimate.) The Lord dearly wants a restored relationship. I do not know why, since I am a sinner, and therefore are unable to get over my sinful self. Except—that does not matter to God.

Our Lord wants a restored relationship, even though a deep-down propensity of sin causes people to fail. Fail God, and fail themselves. What a wonderful thing to discover that God wants a restored relationship, too? God’s arms are open wide. We are all welcome in God’s arms. From the Lord’s viewpoint, we are all God’s best friends. Praise 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), 90.

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. All By Myself.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 17, 2018

monk kneeling at prayer

Prayer. All By Myself.

Father Nouwen says some intriguing things on these pages, in discussing inner silence—or, not so silent. Oh, how difficult it is to turn off that internal dialogue! Many people cannot stop that chatter, that constant whispering or commentary or even that committee in their own heads. “When there is no one to talk to, and no one to listen to, an interior discussion starts up which almost seems to get out of hand.” [1]

Yes, when I was a tween and teen, I disliked being alone. I liked to be with people. Even into my twenties, I wanted to be with people almost all the time, and did not care to be alone for very long. (By the way, that aspect of myself has changed.)

Have I changed, all that much? Sure, I enjoy, even relish being alone today. I can be silent sitting next to my husband, while both of us are working on the weekends. It’s a companionable silence, between the two of us. Dear Jesus, is that the kind of thing You are looking for? Is that the relationship You would like with me?

I am sad to say that I still feel some awkwardness in prayer. Yes, I have prayed for decades, and I still occasionally have deep and significant times of prayer. However, the prayer interactions are not always comfortable for me. Sometimes, it seems too stressed and forced (on my part, not on the other end).

Dear Lord, help me to feel comfortable with You, more regularly. Thank You for the possibility to be silent before You. Thank You for the love and caring You show to me, on a regular basis. I know I am not in a good situation…but as long as I am here together with you, Lord, I don’t have to worry. Father Nouwen is certainly correct; being calm and quiet takes a great deal of attention, but it is worth it. A relationship with my dear Lord Jesus? Thank You, 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, 1972), 19.

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.

Soul Athirst for God, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, July 21, 2017

Psa 42 deer, soul

Soul Athirst for God, and Psalm 42

I haven’t ever been in a desert. I haven’t ever been really, truly thirsty. However, I know much of the land where the Bible was written is either desert or semi-arid. Lots of people in the Bible were seriously thirsty, some more often than not.

Yet, Psalm 42 talks about thirst on at least two levels. Yes, actual, physical thirst. The kind that is a physical need. However, the psalm also speaks of thirsting after God. “As the deer longs for the water brooks…” The psalmist’s soul is thirsting after God, after some knowledge of the Almighty. Yes, even thirsting after the close relationship with God.

Do I do that? Can I say that I have a close relationship with You, O God?

With Dietrich Bonhoeffer I earnestly pray, “Lord God, awaken in my soul a great longing for You. You know me and I know You. Help me to seek You and to find You. Amen.” [1]

Along with the sons of Korah, I can readily say that my soul is athirst for the Lord. Sometimes.

Lord, why am I so wishy-washy? I only too well know, as Bonhoeffer says, “the thirst of our passion for life and good fortune.” [2] From time to time, I even cringe when I think of how I have left You behind, thoughtlessly tossed You aside to go after my own affairs and interests.

Dear Lord, forgive me. Help me to amend my ways. Help all of us to walk in Your ways. 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 55.

[2] Ibid.

God’s Law and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, June 3, 2017

Exod 20 ten commandments word cloud

God’s Law and Meditation

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had some fascinating words to say about the Ten Commandments. Just two paragraphs are quoted in this chapter of Meditating on the Word, but they give us a glimpse of what Bonhoeffer was thinking. “It is grace to know God’s commands,” he said.  Knowing God’s commands—God’s laws—helps us to understand conflict. What is more, God’s laws help to set us free from “self-made plans.”  Intriguing!

Of great important is the beginning of the commandments, for we are messing up that relationship in Exodus 20. “I am the LORD your God.” According to Bonhoeffer, the “I” of the commandments is the Almighty God, and we are called into intimate relationship with God.

When we break one (or more) of God’s commands, the rules are not just of human origin. Bonhoeffer reminds us that we transgress against God. We break God’s commands in our disobedience, not mere human ones, and it is serious, indeed.

If we add to the law God is certainly in charge of, we see Bonhoeffer’s amazement; God dispenses grace through the Ten Commandments, as well. The Ten Commandments ”are not detachable, as if we could  somehow separate God’s will from God Himself.” [1]

God’s grace comes to us from God’s word. This—Exodus 20—as   is as surely God’s revelation as punitive sections of the Mosaic Law as well as many of the Prophets and their writings. God is revealed with mighty power throughout this interaction.

Dear Lord, help me to understand Your abundant grace. Even in the midst of diversity. Dear God, thank You for being on our side, with grace, with love, and with Your open arms of compassion and forgiveness. In Your mercy, hear us as we pray.

@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), 13.