September 16, 2015 · 8:31 am
“A brother said to Abba Anthony,’Pray for me.’The old man said to him, ‘I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.’“
——sayings of the Desert Fathers
The real question is when we ask others to pray for us are we in prayer also. The Abba seems to imply that we must be in fervent prayer when we ask for the prayers of others. The question we ask of ourselves when we ask for prayer is – Have I been in prayer FIRST? We cannot rely upon the prayers of others until we have brought our needs to God.
Without an active prayer life we are like rudderless ships. Each of us must take seriously our responsibility to keep in touch with God so the when trouble comes, we will be able to function. No one can pray enough for you so as to make up for your own spiritual lifelessness.
We are compelled to develop ongoing and effective spiritual disciplines. As we practice spiritual disciplines we build a true relationship with God that allows us to be confident in the midst of the most difficult of times. The wisdom of the desert tells us that we must have our own relationship with God to receive His mercy.
August 5, 2015 · 9:55 am
A devout man happened to be insulted by someone, and he said to him, ‘I could say much to you, but the commandment of God keeps my mouth shut.”’ Again she said this, “A Christian discussing the body with a Manichean expressed himself in these words, “Give the body discipline and you will see that the body is for him who made it.”’
— Amma Theodora
I think we all believe in sacred silence, but the desert advice is a bit different. This sort of silence is as important to our Christian witness as prayer. In this silence we embody the “turning of the other check, going the second mile, doing unto others as you would have them do unto as you.” Those sayings and many other red letter words of Jesus are practiced by simply keeping our mouth shut.
We underestimate the importance of training our bodies so that we may naturally function as God intended. We are made in the “image” of God and as we surrender our whole being to Him, He gives us the ability to do great things. Mark Twain said, ”The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the fellow who can’t read a line.” In that same vain, a person who does not control his body may as well be an animal who acts through raw instinct. The God stamp that dwells within us is our ability to think and reason and strive to change.
The wisdom of the desert tells us to practice the silence of the closed mouth and to discipline our bodies in a way to bring us to spiritual wholeness.
April 5, 2015 · 5:52 am
Many are familiar with the beautiful poem, “Footprints.” In this story, a man dreams that he has a talk with Jesus about his life. Like all of us, this man had a life full of triumphs and tragedies, love and loneliness, happiness and sadness. And like all of us, he had a lifelong relationship with God that was at times close and committed and at times distant and unclear.
The man and Jesus were walking along a sandy seashore and having a conversation that reviewed that man’s life. The man noticed that many times there were four footprints in the sand as the walk of life progressed. Jesus explained, “These are the times when we walked together. The times you shared your life with me, and I stood beside you every step.” But the man became troubled when he noticed that in his most painful, dark times of life there was only one set of footprints. He questioned the Lord as to why he had been abandoned and left to walk those times alone. Jesus explained these times, also. “My child, the reason that you see only one set of footprints is because those were the times I lifted you into my arms and carried you because you could not walk alone.” All was explained to the man except the occasional places along life’s walk where there seemed to be many footprints going in all directions in a hectic pattern in the sand. Jesus smiled and replied, “My son, these are the times when we danced!”
This Easter, remember those marvelous occasions when you have rejoiced in life. Those overwhelmingly happy moments of life when your Lord “danced” with you! Take every opportunity to put on your dancing shoes!
PRAYER: Father – Help me to remember with joy marvelous moments in life, and help me now to “dance” with wonder at the blessing you give me.