Tag Archives: spiritual

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.



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.

Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 15, 2017

Psa 119-1 those who are blameless, road

Beginning a Meditation on Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is a psalm that talks about the Word of God. Scripture, the Law, God’s decrees, His way, commandments, statutes, promises, and more. Each verse of this acrostic psalm mentions God’s Word in some way. What a natural passage for Bonhoeffer to write about and concentrate on, since he was so devoted to praying and meditating on the Scripture.

How sad it is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer only finished commenting on 21 verses of this lengthy psalm. Yet, these beginning verses (of 176 verses, divided between the 21 Hebrew letters, 8 verses in each section) give us so much of Bonhoeffer’s feeling and heart for this wonderful psalm. Such an expression of the unknown psalmist’s love and devotion to the existing Scripture of that time.

He wrote this meditation in 1939 and 1940, when he was a teacher of seminary students once more at an out-of-the-way vicarage and again in Pomerania.

Speaking of verse 1, Bonhoeffer concentrates on beginning the life with God. “God has once and for all converted me to himself; it is not that I have once for all converted myself to God. God has made the beginning; that is the happy certainty of faith.” [1] Yes, indeed, all of us are addressed as those who are walking on the way with God. We are all on the journey.

Happy are they—these words speak of the happiness and blessedness of life in the law of the Lord. It is God’s will that it should go well for those who walk in his commandments.” [2] Ah, Bonhoeffer admits there are certain Christians who wish to show that they are more spiritual than God…that they are super-spiritual and holier-than-Thou. Renunciation, suffering, the Cross, all of these are part and parcel of their lives. And, it is true that some people’s lives in this world are not all that easy. Yet, these super-spiritual Christians “lose the full joy of their Christian calling and deny God the thanks they should give for his great friendliness toward us.” [3]

Yes, God’s rich gifts to each of us encompass so much more than anyone can ask or imagine. Thanks be to God, who gives to all abundantly.



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, 95.

[2] Ibid, 100.

[3] Ibid.

George Fox’s View of Simplicity

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, March 21, 2017

simplicity, cursive.jpg

George Fox’s View of Simplicity

The Society of Friends is an example to me of great simplicity. George Fox founded that Society (also known as the Quakers), and the reading for today was a small selection of passages from Fox’s Journal.

His Journal is an experiential memoir and a spiritual and religious recounting of his travels (and travails). Amazing recounting at times, including a situation where Fox healed a woman: “I was moved to speak to her, and in the name of the Lord bid her to be quiet; and she was so. The Lord’s power settled her mind, and she mended.” [1]

This is Pentecostal power, indeed. Not often seen nowadays, here in the United States. However, I fully believe that God could manifest healing power in that way (if God chose).

Yes, this Journal has many instances of personal communication of our Lord Jesus with George Fox, without benefit of an intermediary. This cemented the opportunity of personal interaction with God even more thoroughly in George Fox’s mind. He preached that opportunity, and was repeatedly thrown into prison.

However, I am equally impressed by Fox raising up the statement of heavenly power through healings: “Many great and wonderful things were wrought by the heavenly power in those days; for the Lord made bare His omnipotent arm, and manifested His power, to the astonishment of many, by the healing virtue whereby many have been delivered from great infirmities.” [2]

There is an older meeting house in my town, a suburb of Chicago. (One of the original buildings here! A lovely, mostly wooden structure.) Yes, I have worshiped there with the other Friends, and yes, I would do it again, like a shot. Marvelous place of worship. Wonderful powerhouse of prayer. Incredible legacy, started by Fox in England, carried across the Atlantic, and brought to the Midwest more than two centuries ago. I hope that peace and peaceable-ness may increase. Lord, may it be so!



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), 130.

[2] Ibid.

Phoebe Palmer and Her Study

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, March 17, 2017

bible studies

Phoebe Palmer and Her Study

I don’t know quite how to say this, but I couldn’t get into Phoebe Palmer. I sort of understand that she is a big deal, and considered an awesome spiritual and religious writer. Except, her writing and I just did not connect in a meaningful way.

Hypothetical question: what happens if you have no idea of what is going on in the short reading you have for homework? That is, other than following the very bare bones outline—sort of. What then? What if you need to write a one-page response about that reading?

Well, one way to handle it is to do kinda what I’m doing: talk about how it’s difficult to talk about an article you did not quite understand.

I agree with Richard Foster. “To us today Phoebe Palmer’s ‘shorter way’ seems terribly convoluted and torturous. We simply do not have the history of searching and struggling to enter ‘the way of holiness’ that characterized the ‘saints’ of Palmer’s day.” [1] Now, I have read some rather obscure Christian writings, and enjoyed them. (Some people wouldn’t read those various types of writing. I was glad to!) I tend to be accepting, even of alternative topics. Not, I suspect, like Ms. Palmer. She seems a bit esoteric and distant to me. (Sorry, Ms. Palmer.)

Gee, out of sixteen writers, only one did not connect with me. I consider that pretty great! Perhaps tomorrow will bring a different kind of writer. Lord willing!



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), 105.

Something Completely Different—In Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 1, 2015

Step 11 coin

Something Completely Different—In Prayer

Prayer and meditation mean a lot to me. I try to do one or both on a regular basis. Recovery principles also mean a lot to me. (Did you know that I have a certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, certified by the state of Illinois?) Helping people in recovery and their loved ones is also important to me.

That is why I am devoting the month of November to prayer and meditation, as seen through the lens of people in recovery. Since November is the 11th month, in many daily reading books Step Eleven is a natural focus for the month. What is Step Eleven, you wonder? I am glad you asked.

I will be looking at “Keep It Simple,” a daily meditation book from the Hazelden Foundation. Here are my thoughts from the reading for November 1st.

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him … “ – First half of Step Eleven. For people in recovery and their loved ones who practice the Twelve Steps, Step Eleven is an important part of the spiritual side of recovery.

As I have talked with people early in recovery, they often are distant from any idea of God or a Higher Power. Many of these people are hesitant to accept the concept of God, even as each individual understands God. That is perfectly all right. Two important words for recovering people are “willing” and “open.” People who are willing to work the Twelve Steps need only to have the willingness to be open to the idea of a God or a Higher Power. That is all, one step at a time.

Conscious contact means knowing and sensing God in our lives throughout the day.” [1] This is the next step. Once a recovering person is open and willing to God, then comes the possibility of conscious contact with God as each person understands God.

Dear Lord, gracious God, I thank You for this excellent reminder to concentrate on You. And, with today’s meditation, I pray that our relationship does grow stronger, day by day. Amen.


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 1 reading.


Regaining Soulfulness

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, June 26, 2015

SOUL be the soul of that place

Regaining Soulfulness

Ah, for the old days, when a high percentage of Americans attended church on a regular basis. (I am only being partially serious.) I’m talking earlier in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Actually, by today’s standards, church and synagogue attendance has gone down. However, more people are saying they are “spiritual, but not religious.” Whatever that means—because it means different things to different people.

The author of today’s chapter, Phil Cousineau, said that many more Americans do not associate with a specific house of worship today. (This is borne out by reports made about spirituality and the “nones” in various recent newspapers and news magazines.) However, Cousineau was interested in the expressions “divine spark” and “soulful.”

What do you think of when I say “divine spark?” Do you think of something like “the measure of the depths of our lives”[1] when I mention that? This can be contemplation. Slowing down enough to enjoy writing a letter. Attentiveness, thoughtfulness, mindfulness. These are the areas in which I find some suggestions. Good suggestions, too, I may add.

Moreover, according to Cousineau’s chapter in the Handbook for the Soul, there is some kind of American myth that aids in isolationism. Regardless of this tendency to isolation, many people are drawn toward connecting, meeting together, in a cohesive matter. Whether associated with a faith tradition and meeting place, or not. And, that is a welcoming and positive thing! Amen!

Whether you or your loved one believe in connecting, whether contemplating the mysterious continuity that is this world, or the spark inside of you and me is made to go higher and higher, we can say amen for that!

Please, God, help me—help us to become more and more like God. Less and less like the world.


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] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 162.

Is Mindfulness Soulful?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, June 18, 2015

mindfulness - stone and leaf

Is Mindfulness Soulful?

Meditation. Mindfulness. Soul work. Soulful.

Not—as Jon Kabat-Zinn might say, “spiritual.” In today’s chapter in Handbook for the Soul, Kabat-Zinn shies away from that word. He prefers the term “truly human.”

Spiritual, soulful. Regardless of exactly how and why a person does soul work, Kabat-Zinn considers that work nourishment for the soul. (He says that he isn’t sure about how or why it does whatever it has been found to do. But—it does!)

Kabat-Zinn was fortunate to work for the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He has found something that greatly assists many who come to the clinic. Or, perhaps I’ll let him tell you himself:

“We train people in formal and informal ways to cultivate greater nonreactive, nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness—what the Buddhists call mindfuless.” [1] This manner of meditation is so beneficial. Instead of spacing out, or depression, or hopeless and helpless thinking, the author of the chapter thought we could generate positive thoughts and commends. Lo and behold, he was correct, in the best possible way.

How to reduce stress, anxiety, worry? Meditation–mindfulness. Take advantage of this positive method, and get rid of frustration, anger, sadness, and a whole host of other negative feelings and emotions. God willing, we have an opportunity to be free of whatever prison is locking us in.


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] Handbook for the Soul, Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, editors. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.), 109.

Getting Ready For a Facelift—in our Condo

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, April 3, 2014

LOVE work is visible love

Getting Ready For a Facelift—in our Condo

Getting all my ducks in a row! I am in the process of preparing to have my living room painted in a week. Oh, and a facelift done to the bathroom (new tile, vanity, medicine cabinet, and paint. That’s next week, too. And, in case I forget, a third thing. New carpet will be laid in twelve days. On top of everything else. (Well, not on top of—more like in addition to.) Talk about spring cleaning!

It’s a good thing I started about ten days ago. Giving myself some amount of time. Our agreement with the people who will lay the carpet is that our family will move all our books beforehand and get them out of the apartment. All four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and six waist-high bookshelves. That’s a lot of books. My daughter and I have been gradually packing them up. My son’s been bringing them down to the basement. That’s the problem with having so many books. I mean, books are marvelous! But, books are also heavy, and can get dusty, and need to be moved from time to time. (Since I have an allergy to dust, I’ve been sneezing regularly, too.)

Amidst all of this uproar in our home, I’ve been considering spring cleaning in other ways, too. God, I am sure I need some spring cleaning in my spiritual house, too. One problem: I am so busy preparing for the workers (coming soon!) that I have difficulty thinking about my spiritual fitness. Thank God that I am praying on a regular basis. (Yay, me!) God, You know how much I have struggled with that, for years and years. Now, it seems to be going fairly well, on a regular basis. At least, for now. I think I’ll take that one day at a time, if You don’t mind. If my prayer life is working, I won’t mess with it.

God, please point out to me an area of my spiritual life that You would like to pay some attention to. For that matter, show it to me, and I’ll try to focus on it. With Your help, You and I together can tackle most any problem. And if I really need help, I have some good friends who also walk this journey with You, too. I think one or two would be happy to give me a hand. Thanks for the push, God. You know I need a push sometimes. Even most of the time.

Let’s pray! Dear God, thank You for spring, and the time for spring cleaning. Forgive me—forgive us—for forgetting about You, or getting too busy to even think about You. Thank You for good friends, who will help me in any spiritual house-cleaning You want me to do. It’s in Your blessed name we pray, Amen.

(also published at http://www.matterofprayer.net Shortlink:

Practice Makes Perfect? Following Lenten Practices

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lenten word cloud

Practice Makes Perfect? Doing Lenten Practices

Lenten disciplines can be a blessing! But I find Lenten disciplines also take time and effort. And sometimes, diligence. I’m pretty good at the time-part. Yes, I’ll willingly spend time doing a set spiritual practice. I’m also fairly good at the effort-part. God knows I am willing to serve, to lend a hand, to lift someone or something up in prayer. And, I certainly pitch in to write a bible study or sermon if needed.

However—it’s that diligence-part that frightens me. Well, not exactly frighten, but diligence makes me hesitate. Take a deep breath, and consider. The thought of diligence causes me to take a step backwards. Maybe two steps. As two of my children used to say when they were toddlers and preschoolers, I’m shy of diligence. I could say that I’m a chicken, at heart. (Chicken-hearted, perhaps? No, that doesn’t sound good, either.)

It’s a good thing that there are so many helps today. Bible studies, Scripture verses-of-the-day, prayers that come straight to a smart phone or as tweets on Twitter. These helpful tools make things a good deal easier than they were even as few as twenty or thirty years ago. Even then (when I first made my baby-steps toward spiritual disciplines and practices), there were booklets or even books of Lenten devotions. Also Lenten prayer calendars, similar to my 40 Days & Ways to Serve.

(Shameless plug: if you haven’t signed up for the calendar of service, it’s not too late! You can sign up now at the right of this very blog post, and I’ll rush it straight to your email box!)

As a part of my Lenten practice, I am using one of these devotional booklets, a selection of snippets from the collected writings of Fr. Henri Nouwen. I find it helpful. Inspiring. But then, Nouwen’s books have been amongst my absolute favorites for many years.

But let’s turn back to diligence—even though I wish we wouldn’t. I get uneasy when I consider diligence too long. I went to Webster’s Dictionary to find out exactly why, and I turned to a related word: “diligent.” Not surprisingly, the meaning makes me duck down in my seat. “Perseveringly attentive. Industrious.” God, the definition of this word makes me shrink. And perhaps, even want to hide myself under the blankets. True, not all the time. But enough to make me wonder. (Light bulb moment: maybe this is something to bring up with my spiritual director next time we meet! Food for thought.) My Lenten practices are going pretty well, considering. I hope and pray yours are, as well.

Speaking of prayer, let’s pray! Dear God, thank You for practices to help each of us get closer to You. Thank You for this time of preparation before Easter. Forgive us when we fall short, or fall asleep, or fall away from You—and bring us back. Hold us close, and help each one know how special each of us is to You. In Your mercy and by Your grace, Amen.


Internal Life? Or External Walk?

matterofprayer blog post for Monday, December 30, 2013

winter road

For the past few years, I’ve been concerning myself with—myself. I have been striving to maintain some kind of spiritual balance, working on my internal, spiritual component. I pray regularly (or at least, try to). I visit my therapist and spiritual director regularly, work out on a weekly basis at the local YMCA gym, and I even practiced relaxation and meditation in an intensive way for several months. In all of this, I have been working on the inner “me.”

I have also been intentional with my prayer life. Not only have I been praying on an increasingly regular basis, but I’ve also started a prayer chain and prayer blog, so we all can be encouraged in our personal prayer lives. This helps my inner relationship with God prosper, too.

But, what about my relationship with others? How about my family? Friends? What about those at church, or at the gym? What about my co-workers, or strangers I meet on the street? Have I been as studious and diligent at developing my relationship with them?

Yes, I am called by God to be in relationship with God—the vertical relationship.  But I am also called to be in community, as well—the horizontal relationship, one with another. One of my spiritual gifts is helping people. And by nature, I am kind and compassionate in my relations with others. It’s my relationship with others and with my local community (as well as their relationship with me) that I want to work on in 2014.

That’s why 2014 is my year to be kind. To help. To be of service. Intentionally.

(I will explore my thoughts and experiences of my year of service throughout 2014. I’ll do this at a new blog— www.ayearofbeingkind.net, starting on January 1, 2014. I’m excited! Visit me there, too.)

Let’s pray. Dear God, as the old year ends and the new year begins, I see new hopes ahead. New opportunities. New experiences. God, be with me as I begin a year of intentional service. I pray that this service be God-honoring. I ask You to lead me into places and experiences that You intend. Even challenging and difficult things. Protect me, guard me, guide me. I know You will be there, holding my hand. Thank You for my friends and prayer partners, who will be right by my side (in prayer!). God, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.