Tag Archives: sorrow

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)



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.

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.



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.

More About Mental Illness, Mental Wholeness

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, October 8, 2016


More About Mental Illness, Mental Wholeness

Tomorrow I am preaching about mental illness.

Some people are afraid of mental illness. There is a stigma about it. A fear, an anxiety. Let’s face it—we are afraid of what we do not understand. And, individuals who suffer from mental illness is something people so often shun, or exclude, or make fun of.

Jesus wouldn’t exclude these people.

Whether we are talking the first or the twenty-first century, we can praise God—Jesus has come to heal our diseases, to free us from our bondage. Whether from sin, from demons, from mental illnesses. Jesus knows our sorrows and carries our griefs. Jesus comes alongside of us—all of us—and helps us to bear our heavy loads.


Whether the load is physical or mental, psychological or spiritual, Jesus gives a helping hand. Jesus shows up. All of which suggests that God is willing to go absolutely anywhere to come alongside, to free, sustain and heal those who are broken and despairing.

Praise God. Thank You, Jesus.



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

On Taking the Joy with the Sorrow

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 11, 2015

JOY today I choose joy

On Taking the Joy with the Sorrow

I need to get used to living life on life’s terms. Yes, life comes my way, complete with joy and sorrow.

I can so relate to today’s reading from Keep It Simple, the reading that says so many people in recovery want the joy from life without getting any of the sorrow. In other words, all of the up sides of life, without any downs. But—what will happen if life is all sunshine and flowers?

“ … we can learn from hard times, maybe more than we do in easy times. Often, getting through hard times helps us grow.” [1]

Wow. I know that, first hand. I have been through some challenging, even difficult times. Even though I have always had a belief in God as my Higher Power, a belief in God as I understand God, my life has not always been a bed of roses. Sure, I have had hard times. (For several extended periods in my life, too.) But, God has been there.

There have been times when God seemed far away. Or ignoring me. Or powerless to help me. Those are the times when it was like God was behind a cloud. Or, hiding. Or, completely silent.

This reading lets me know that this may very well describe our “conscious contact” from Step Eleven. Yes, “as this constant contact grows, our courage grows. And, we find the strength to face hard times.” [2]

God willing, I will be able to depend on my Higher Power. I will find the strength to have faith in God, as I understand God.

Praise be to Your name, O Lord Jesus Christ.


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] Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal. (Hazelden Meditation Series) (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989), November 11 reading.

[2] Ibid.

Sorrow, Healing, Forgiveness—in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, May 30, 2015

FORGIVE thanks for the beautiful life, forgive me for not loving

Sorrow, Healing, Forgiveness—in Prayer

After spending the last few days with my daughter in Washington D.C., I am back at home. Preparing for service tomorrow, and getting ready to preach a sermon for Trinity Sunday.

However—I need to give another installment of Ignatian prayer, meditation and spirituality. I know we have barely scratched the surface of Margaret Silf’s book Inner Compass and the helpful ways she lifted up St. Ignatius and his manner of prayer. We are almost finished with the month of May, and another mode of prayer awaits us for June.

We will take a closer look at the next step in what Silf imagines as St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen, the examination of the internal workings of our intellects, feelings, our very souls.

The next step is Sorrow. “With hindsight you may realize that much of your reaction to the events of the day has been centered on your own kingdom. . . . Whatever inadequacies you find in your day’s living, let them be there before God now, not for judgment, but for His Spirit to hover over the mess, bringing wholeness out of brokenness. Express your sorrow to God, and confidently ask for His healing and forgiveness.” [1]

I see this as a healthy sorrow, not a constant or continual recitation of every single, minute sin ever committed (or omitted). God’s grace and mercy are wider, deeper, and more comprehensive than anything I could have ever imagined.

Yes, we can discuss this tremendous grace and mercy, but I suspect this needs to be felt. Not just intellect, but feelings and emotions, too.

Praise God. Help me to see my inadequacies and sinful behavior, dear God. As John 3:17 says, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Thank You, Jesus, for extending Your grace and mercy to all those who are anxious and worried. Thanks, God!

. @chaplaineliza

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] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 59

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, July 17, 2014

PRAY more things are wrought by prayer

Prayer for Those Who are Sick

People ask me to pray for them sometimes. Either when they are sick, or when their loved ones are sick. It depends on how sick, and for how long, and what their emotional state is. Sudden onset? Chronic illness? Serious accident? Baby or small child? End of life concern? It depends.

But what does not change is the seriousness of this prayer request.

I am not going to discuss deep theological thoughts in this particular post. But what I am going to do is remark upon—ponder—the large number of people I have heard of with cancer, in the past nine or ten months. Quite a number. I haven’t been asked to pray for all of these, but I have prayed for most of them. And although most were middle-aged or older, a few were young.

I believe in prayer. I really do. I have faith that God does indeed listen to every prayer that is prayed. When patients (or their loved ones) with cancer cry out to God from a deep, dark abyss of fear and unknowing, that is an emotional cry, indeed. I know. My father died of testicular cancer, a number of years ago.

God can and does come alongside of people. Again, I know, experientially.

A number of people I know are sick. I can try to alleviate their loneliness, spend some time with them, and pray with and for them. I can journey with them—and their loved ones—for a little way down this anxious, fearful, even angry or despairing, road. And, it’s a road I’ve traveled myself, with close relatives and other loved ones. I do not know how prayer works. I simply know it does work. I do not know how God heals, but I understand there are many healings available—not only physical, but spiritual, mental, emotional, and psychological. God is in the midst of all. All of these facets of us complex human beings.

Even when I feel downhearted and depressed, or despairing and dreading the next medical communication—I recognize the fellowship of compassionate friends and other loved ones, joining in prayer with me. I hope I can help others to understand this love and concern in prayer. And, it’s also encouragement. Encouragement even amidst tears and sorrow. Grief. Anxiety. Pain. And yet, hope. Faith. Love. God’s presence.

Let’s pray. Dear, loving, gracious God, we come before You. We do not know how to pray as we ought. Help us to come before you in trust and in truth. Touch all of our desires as well as our diseases, both inside and out. Heal each one where You know we need to be healed. Thank You for Your presence. In Your grace and mercy we pray, amen.


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net