Tag Archives: Prayer

My Take on Julian of Norwich

In our world of narrowing down what God does or who he loves, I share with you some of my observations from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.

  • God still does miracles. He intervenes actively in our lives. These are usually preceded by very rough times.
  • God cannot be manipulated by prayer. Asking the intercession of saints, and trying to make prayer more effective by citing arguments or mentioning special things or events, are not helpful. Prayer is effective when it is the result of God wanting a person to receive something, and putting the content of the prayer into the person’s mind. Julian seems well-aware that this sounds as problematic as all other accounts of the power of prayer.
  • God still issues calls to individuals. Apparently He does not call the “beautiful people”, whose lives and abilities seem perfect, for special assignments. Instead, he chooses the obviously flawed individuals, peopleJulian-All-is-well who get ridiculed for some reason by others through no fault of their own.
  • Christ reveals Himself to living persons.  When He does, He is always a warm, intimate, and “courteous” friend. This increases their faith tremendously, and they in turn are called to share this revelation with others. Julian was one such person, and she expressed the hope that people would not consider her a celebrity or focus on her, but on Christ.
  • The Jewish people will be saved. Julian asked about the good Jewish people and whether they would be saved. It is clear that she was told “Yes”, because right after she mentions this, she adds a few paragraphs saying how she was sure that nothing in the revelation contradicted anything she’d been taught in church

    Prayer

     

    Lord give us hearts of inclusiveness that allow us to live with people as you love them. The world seeks to splinter and divide your creation and  we know that you came to bring us together and show us a better way.

    You want all who are called to serve you.

    You offer miracles of grace and healing to those who seek them.

    Lets us open our eyes and just see.

     

    Amen


“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying Julian-in-her-cell-1in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

 

In this little thing I saw three properties.

  • The first is that God made it.
  • The second that God loves it.
  • And the third, that God keeps it.”

—–Julian of Norwich

Read more of about Julian of Norwich

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Kingdom Humility

 

‘There was a spiritual old man who lived a secluded life. He was held in high estimation in the city and enjoyed a great reputation. He was told that a certain old man, at the point of death, was calling for him, to embrace him before he fell asleep. He thought to himself, if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honor, and I shall not be at peace in all that. So I will go in the evening in the darkness and I shall escape everyone’s notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps to give him light. The whole city then came out to see his glory. The more he wished to flee from the glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished that which is written: “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” ‘

——-Abba John the Dwarf

Every person who seeks to be a fervent follower of God wants to be seen as humble. Humility is the identifying hallmark of Jesus our Savior. No matter how hard we try, we are still driven by the human desire to be recognized and appreciated. Much of our spiritual journey is spent trying to control our need to succeed. After much prayer and determination we may arrive at the point in life where we really don’t want the spotlight and recognition. Then the new journey begins. Our challenge now is how do we avoid worldly affirmation and acclaim?

The spiritual old man was struggling with that very challenge. He, no doubt, had put much prayer and work to arriving at place in life where he shunned the notice of others. He wanted to comfort the brother who had reached out to him, but he devised a plan of making sure that his act of kindness would be done in the dark of night. That way, he thought, no one would notice, but God had another plan. God decided to send angels to light his path. This display of spiritual presence brought a torrent of attention on the spiritual old man. The very attention that he had sought to avoid was what he received. What does this mean?

Abba John uses the scripture: “He who humbles himself will be exalted” as a way of expressing why such attention is thrust upon the spiritual old man. The truth that I would like to point out is that acclaim only has value if God is the source. The world recognizes worldly values, God recognizes kingdom values. Perhaps if we all sought to be anonymous purveyors of blessing, we may find ourselves more valued by God and the world than we ever dreamed or imagined. The key to getting all the acclamation, success and self-esteem we can handle is found in the ability to be truly humble. That is kingdom humility and it is the goal of every follower of the Christ.


Prayer

Lord instill in me the form of humility that is not derived in self depreciation and doubt but one that is spiritually placed by you. I ask you today to give me the insight to understand what you mean by humility so that I might be one who is gifted with kingdom humility. With that gift we are allowed to be tremendous servants to the world. Lord I pray for this gift and with it I may be your faithful servant.

Amen

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The Divine Window of Escape

Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told an old man this; ‘I find myself in peace, without an enemy,’ he said. The old man said to him, ‘Go beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.’ So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’

–Sayings of the desert

There is not one among us who does not long for the day when all of our trials and tribulations will be behind us. We spend great amounts of time and effort to build for ourselves perfect utopian lives and somehow we always fall short. The monk thought that if he could just overcome his passions, then life would be grand. Much to his, surprise his elder monk told him that his quest was not the ultimate goal of the Christian journey. Without temptation the soul makes no progress. Temptations are the building blocks of spiritual fortitude. They are the spiritual formation tools of God.

Paul tells us in his Corinthian letter: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The assertion is that in the midst of our greatest trials we can rely upon God to strengthen us. If we take on this way of thinking, we need not fear being left to our own devices or becoming overconfident in our own victories. Our strength, our power, come from God who is always with us no matter what we face. The divine escape window is our greatest hope.

When the monk said that he was at peace without an enemy, he faced the danger of being presumptive upon God. With such a presumption we could perhaps begin to think that we have arrived. People who have arrived no longer need help on the journey. The Christian journey is one of learning, endurance, and always striving for new and better ways to follow God. Our passions, our trials, our setbacks, are all part of the glorification process. Learn to pray the prayer of escape rather than the prayer of perfection and you will draw closer to perfection each day.



Prayer

Lord it is very tempting to ask you to remove all obstacles from our lives and then fool ourselves to think that we are doing much for you. Remind us that in our endurance we learn who you are and what you do for us. Teach us today that trials are a normal part of the journey. They are special points that bring us closer to you. In our trails we learn what Jesus endured for us. Protect us this day and give us the window of escape.

Amen

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Finding Your Way

Amma Ammonas was going to pay a visit, to Abba Anthony, one day, and he lost his way. So sitting down, he fell asleep for a little while. Upon waking, he prayed thus to God,’ I beseech you, Lord my God, do not let your creature perish.’ Then there appear to him as it were a man’s hand in the heavens, we showed him the way, till he reached about Anthony’s cave.

—Amma Ammonas

In the days of the built in phone GPS, Google maps, and a host of other apps and programs, we can find our way to just about anywhere. That is good, but it can Lost 1leave a very deep hole in our souls. We feel as though nothing is impossible and God gets thrown out like those maps you use to have in your car. The Abba had to find his path to his friend by sight and memory, and he lost his way. There is not one among that has not lost our spiritual way. We lose or way when we run out of options. No new self-help books or apps to guide us along. Running out of such options can take a while in 2015. When that process is exhausted, we may turn to God.

The wise man of the desert gives us a different scenario. As soon as he woke up from his rest, he asked God for help. There is nothing written about him retracing his steps or anything else. In this very mundane of needs, he simply asked God. How hard is it for you to go to God first? First, before you have done all you can do out of shear pride. First, when full credit for the solution would have to be given to God. I am reminded of a prayer from an old movie that encapsulates the attitude of many.

“Lord, we cleared this land, We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t Be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”                Shenandoah (1965)

That little prayer may be shocking to you but is your attitude truly that different? If we are honest with ourselves, we are reminded of two things on a Finding Your Waydaily basis. The first is that we cannot find all knowledge on our own. Secondly, we really can’t do it all. . Lingering in our shadowy places are points at which we lose our way. And we, like the monk, must turn to God and allow His hand to lead us.

Lord allow me to put aside the many things that cause me to put You on the back burner. Relieve me of the curse of self-reliance .May I be enlighten by your Spirit this day and look to the place from which my help comes. Lord, guide me in my lostness. Amen

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Having a Prayer

Some years ago, when Leonard Griffith was pastor of the famous City Temple in London, he wrote a fascinating book entitled Barriers to Christian Belief. In that book he dealt with some problems that have over the years been real obstacles and stumbling blocks for people in their faith pilgrimage… specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people… and keep them away from the Christian faith. One of the barriers he listed was…”unanswered prayer.” It does seem to be a fact of our experience that many people do get discouraged and they do give up and drop out on the faith because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life.

This leads us to ask then… “How do you pray?” “Why pray at all?” “When do you pray?” “Is there a special formula or a sacred language that should be used?” One thing is clear. There are many questions and there is much misunderstanding about how you pray and why. In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, “I think I’ve made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.”

Prayer must be more than an emergency magical lamp rubbed in a crisis. The truth is that many people give up on prayer because they never understand what prayer is. Much that passes for prayer is irrational, superstitious, and self-centered, and is therefore unworthy of the pattern of the prayer that Jesus offered to us his disciples.

How do you pray and why? We are not the first to ask. The disciples of Jesusyoungmanpraying w quote

came to Him one day and said, “Lord, teach us. Teach us to pray!” Notice something here. When did the disciples ask for this? When did they make this request? Was it after Jesus gave a lecture on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus led a seminar on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus preached a powerful sermon on prayer? No! None of these. Remember how it is recorded in Luke 11… “Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” They saw the power of prayer in Him. They saw how important prayer was to Him. See the point. Harry Emerson Fosdick stresses it in his book, The Secret of Victorious Living. “Note that this awakened interest in prayer came not at all from new arguments about it, but from a new exhibition of its power. Here, before their very eyes, they saw a personality in whom prayer was vital and influential! The more they lived with him, the more they saw that they could never explain him or understand him unless they understood his praying and so not at all because of new arguments, but because of amazing spiritual power released in him by prayer. They wanted him to tell them how to pray.”

The disciples sometimes were slow to learn, but at this point they were quickly and precisely on target. They saw in Jesus the answer to this question: how do we pray and why do we pray? And they learned from Him what the elements are that lead to a meaningful prayer life.

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Relationship Matters

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.

Sad-Man-in-PrayerWithout 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.

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The Art of Solitude

English: A young Marine finds a moment of quie...

It is a difficult

lesson to learn today,

to leave one’s friends

and family and deliberately

practise the art of solitude

for an hour or a day

or a week.

For me, the break

is most difficult …

And yet, once it is done,

I find there is a quality

to being alone that is

English: Carmelite Monastery, Eccleston The Ca...

incredibly precious.

Life rushes back into the void,

richer,

more vivid,

fuller than before!

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

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Discovering the Desert of My Soul

( This is a repeat of  a previous post but I believe it could be helpful in your Lenten Journey.)

I don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct others by sharing these experiences. God is a mystery, and He is best seen in a mystical way. In the desert they would find the Spirit that had apparently left the organized church, and indeed, they did. They were the first mystics.

Monk PrayingMany factors prohibited this mystical movement from being the major driving force of the church. All throughout history there have been famous mystics. Notable ones are, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ignatius of Loyola. I wanted to learn as much from them as I could, but in the middle of that experience something happened to my own way of thinking. Suddenly, the idea of certainty of belief was replaced with a deep, abiding appreciation for the mysterious nature of God. After all belief in God is mystery, not certainty, and can best be understood through the eyes of the mystic.

I don’t claim to be a Christian mystic at the level of the people I have mentioned, but I do contend that thinking as a mystic can open new panoramas of faith. These panoramas can lead to a much broader view of the work of God, and a more intimate involvement with Him. Things like meditation, Lectio Divina, silence, and icons have taken on a new meaning in my life. They have become invitations to spiritual portals that I never knew existed.

Major realities I discovered by embracing Christian Mysticism:

· God does live within me

· God really speaks to me (not audibly)

· God protects me at all times

· God gives me strength beyond my ability

· God owes me nothing

· Evil wins sometime

· Suffering is a spiritual discipline

· Scripture is the Word of God and it still lives

· Silence is the loudest prayer

· Silence is a portal to God

· There is more than one right answer

My journey into mysticism has not so much brought me closer to God, as it has helped me to understand how far I have to go. Jubilantly, I can say that I am not alone on the journey. He is with me! The mystical, monastic journey brought me to the desert of my soul, and there I found the face of God. I continue to travel through that desert with the traveling companions I have discovered. Thanks for reading this story and the other stories that I have written about these mystics who have become my friends.

The Desert Fathers were a movement of men (and some women) who chose to flee from all distractions of life by seeking the barrenness of the desert. These men lived in a time that they thought that life in the world was so complicated that only by retreat could they experience the fullness of God’s presence. In this setting they could deal with self and only self. The photo in this post is of a present day desert monastery in Egypt. It was in this type of setting that the early fathers sought oneness with God. I will begin to post some of the “sayings” of these holy men in this blog. I will share my thoughts on what we can learn from these men and invite you to do the same.

It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert at Scetis with an old man of Thebes. His Abba, taking a piece of dry wood, planted it and said to him, ‘Water it every day with a bottle of water, until it bears fruit.’ Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the evening and return the following morning. At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore fruit. Then the old man took some of the fruit and carried it to the church saying to the brethren, ‘Take and eat the fruit of obedience.’

Are any of us patient and dedicated enough to devote three years to what would seem an impossible task? My first answer would be-no. The journey that God has given me in New Orleans has given me cause to rethink that answer. Arriving shortly after the city had received its devastating blow, it was evident that growth would be slow, patience would be required and most of all deep commitment would be necessary. In our fast pace, instant world Abba John teaches a great lesson.

Let God work out the timetable

Do you allow God to work in His time or do you insist that He work in yours?

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Day 6–February 24

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 3: 1-19

Prayer Thought

Lord we serve you because you  understand and love us. You always are looking to help us even when it doesn’t make sense to the world. Amen

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Peace and Prayer

Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.’

—– Sayings of the desert

Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on theMandela evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?” The love of enemies concept is what makes Christianity special. Praying for your enemies is a demanding call of the Christian path and a defining sign of taking Jesus seriously. Abba Zeno tells us that this love is a portal to answered prayer. Until we can reach out in the spirit of the love of God, we cannot know the love of God. His love allowed Him to die for us when we were sinners.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to live in this spirit today and every day.

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