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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

And he longed to eat his fill of the
pods on which the swine fed, but nobody
gave him any.

This line from Luke’s version of the story of the prodigal son stood out to me this morning.

What if someone had given him some of the pods to eat? What if someone had provided nourishing food? Would the son have ever “come to his senses” and returned home? It appears that having plenty did not move the young man; it was being in want that humbled him and turned his heart and mind toward home, toward love.

I wonder how his father prayed for him. Did he beg God to protect his son? To keep him healthy, safe, well-fed? Or did he simply pray “for” his son, and trust God’s will? The father does not seem like a controlling man – he gave the son his inheritance and let him leave; he didn’t really chastise the older son later, but pleaded with him. I suspect he prayed and trusted, and then waited and watched.

I think sometimes we try to be controlling in our prayers, telling God what He needs to fix and precisely how we expect Him to go about it. We present a list as if He were Santa Claus. But I am learning – from my own life and from scriptures – that if we simply express our hearts to Him, He replies in ways we’d never have expected.

Lord, help me take each day as it comes and simply walk with you. Help me stay close to you in prayer and trust your plan for me and for all of the prodigals and lost sheep whom I love. I know you love them too, far more than I.

Jesus, I trust in you!

 

 

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It is no little thing for a poor human creature of Mine to prefer My Eucharistic love to an hour of sleep in the night … By nocturnal adoration you will obtain from My Heart things which cannot be obtained from Me in any other way, especially the liberation of souls from the influence and oppression of the powers of darkness. More souls are saved and liberated by adoration made during the night than by any other form of prayer: this is the prayer that unites you most closely to My own nights passed entirely in prayer during My life on earth.

This passage from In Sinu Jesu¹ gave me pause. I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on it. It speaks deeply to my heart and answers some questions I’ve been pondering in my own life.

It is an invitation to me personally to spend time with Him in the night. I leave it to Him to awaken me; and indeed we’ve passed our hour sometimes at 1 a.m., other times at 4:30 a.m. We spend it together in prayer for many intentions beginning with my own family but also extending to His priests, His church, and to many people and situations that He brings to my mind and heart.

This hour so spent in the quiet of the night has made real for me the passage: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own'” (1 Peter 2:9)

A priest makes offerings to the LORD on behalf of the people. We are ALL called to be priests in that sense – offering our time, talent and treasure for the people God places before us. My offering is prayer – thoughtful, heartfelt, purposeful prayer for the good of others.

I feel like all the stumbling I’ve done these last 12 years finally has direction and purpose. Prayer is my vocation for this season in my life. I am so grateful for His patience bringing me here, preparing me and giving me a heart that desires this so deeply. To me, it is both simple and profound, a great blessing.

¹In Sinu Jesu When Heart Speaks to Heart, written by a Benedictine Monk

 

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Absurdity

Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I’ve blogged about this passage before, about how 15 years ago (!) I had just read and journaled about it when I learned my dad was in ICU. It’s remained a powerful passage for me ever since in both trials and blessings.

It truly is a remarkable thing to ponder. Over the years it’s come to mind repeatedly in very different circumstances:

  • as I traveled through the darkest time in my life dealing with depression and loss
  • as I struggled in my marriage and through the process of rebuilding & growing closer again
  • as I walked with my mom through serious health and mental struggles
  • as I’ve given up some very big and long-held dreams for myself
  • as I’ve looked at the messy world around me and have been angry about politics and news and actions of my fellow man

Am I really supposed to embrace that passage and to rejoice always? In each of those circumstances am I to truly give thanks? Are they really God’s will for me?

How absurd!

And yet … there it is. What does it mean, really? How can I truly believe it, embrace it, and integrate it as part of my life of faith?

The thing is, I do believe it – at least at some level. I do know that God brings good out of evil; that all people have blessings and trials and “what we do about them” shapes who we are. I do believe the poem, The Plan of the Master Weaver (found here) is wise and that dark threads are important in our lives.

The challenge for me is learning to live it, to trust God. That brings me back to prayer – and maybe that’s the point of it anyway.

More and more I understand how little control we really have. Anger and worry always makes me more miserable but don’t solve the problem. I’m learning (over and over) to just take care of the things that God has placed before me, to offer kindness and mercy to others, to try to make my little corner of the world a better place, and to leave the rest to God. He’s got this … really.

And somehow over the years, that passage has come to seem more possible and less absurd.

 

 

 

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Sometimes the little blessings God places before us are simple and beautiful and very personal.

This morning I sat on my porch swing and started a novena, praying for the upcoming marriage of my son Joseph to his fiancée Amber.

As I was praying, a purple finch alit on a branch in front of me. He was soon followed by a female and they perched together, either grooming each other or sharing food.  finches

They sat there together for the longest time before flying away and I thought how appropriate and sweet it was to observe the pair even as I prayed for Joe & Amber.

Then the male returned and I don’t recognize a finch song when I hear it but he was directly in front of me, so when he opened his mouth I learned that he has more of a chatter than a song, and it’s a long burst.

And that made me laugh because Joseph is a very chatty guy. So I continued my novena, praying a Hail Mary and then stopping as the finch burst forth its chatter-song and we traded off that way for quite a long time.

And it was wonderful and a blessing and it was just for me alone. Because to whom would I try to describe it? With whom could I share it? Who wouldn’t roll their eyes at me and think me a little nutty?

Yet without a doubt, I was given this gift by our kind and loving Father. His creation – His little finches – joined me in prayer this morning and we gave glory to God, together.

 

 

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I love the story of Jesus in the boat. He is sleeping on a cushion when a storm so frightens the disciples that they wake Him in fear for their lives. His words, “Peace, be still” silence the raging storm.

It is a story of His power and command even over nature’s terrifying violence. I love it so much that I have a print depicting the event hanging in my home.

Peace Be Still by Stephen Gjertson

Peace Be Still by Stephen Gjertson

Today I was blessed with a new look at that scene and how it applies to our lives today. Many saints have written about their struggles with a “dark night” in their lives when God seemed very distant from them; when prayer seemed dry and the human feelings of being close to God evaporated. I have gone through such a time and it is very painful; it’s a struggle to continue crying out to Him, wondering if He’s turned His face away or if you’ve done something wrong.

Since that time in my life I’ve read more about the dark night and have come to understand that it is a time of testing, of teaching one to walk by faith and not by feelings.

This morning I read a passage by St. Therese of Lisieux during her dark night. She wrote:

“[The retreat] was far from bringing me any consolations since the most absolute aridity and almost total abandonment were my lot. Jesus was sleeping as usual in my little boat; ah! I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them … He will undoubtedly awaken before my great eternal retreat … “

That just made me smile, seeing how she connected the passage in Mark with the dark night.

There are times in our lives when Jesus is sleeping in our little boat, or appears to be. But He most certainly is not uncaring. Have faith; in an instant He can calm the most violent storm.

“A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
(Mark 4:37-40)

May I always allow the Master to sleep peacefully within.

 

 

 

 

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I began a novena this morning and read this passage from Matthew:

“… and now she will bear a son.
You shall call him ‘Jesus’ for he will save
his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21)

Is this really the first time I noticed?

“He will save his people …. ”

Not from other people on this earth – to this day His people are being killed for their love of Him and their faith in Him. Since His death Christians have been hunted and hated “the world” has tried to eliminate them.

Not from petty discomforts on this earth, nor was He born to elevate us in an earthly way with wealth or comfort or earthly power.

Not even from terrible suffering in this life, even from oppression or slavery or starvation.

No!  “… for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross to save me from other enemies, real or imagined. He did not die to shower me with earthly blessings (though He certainly does that).

He died to save me from my own sins – the very things I have chosen that harm me and others around me, that are killing my soul and separating me from Him.

That’s a lot to digest this morning. It’s so easy to look at how messed up this world is, to observe how much evil is in it and devouring people every day and to pray in earnest for those people and against those great evils. And that is important to do.

But it is also important to remember to reflect and to pray: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Advent reflection today included the story from Luke 5 about the friends who brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed. Because of the crowd, they lowered him through the roof before Jesus who then healed the man.

This morning  my attention was drawn to the first and last paragraphs of that story: the “bookends” that together tell a surprising story of their own.

It begins with:

17 One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.

We know who the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are, right? They are self-righteous; they aren’t really there to listen to Jesus, but rather to find ways of tripping Him up, discrediting Him before the people, and eventually seeking a way to take His life. Jesus said the world will hate us because it first hated Him and I guess these were some of the first people in the world who hated Him. They didn’t like His message, they didn’t like Him, and they didn’t like His followers.

In today’s world, I think an equivalent may be the “angry atheists” who openly mock Christians, watching for us to make mistakes and then pouncing upon them. They try to discredit Christianity and they certainly seek to kill Jesus once and for all.

The Holy Spirit often leads me to pray for some of the most public of them and sometimes I do so reluctantly. It’s not easy to pray for Bill Maher, Dan Savage, Madonna or Rosie O’Donnell when they are so cruel and ugly in their mockery of Christians and of Christ.

But I also realize that their celebrity status would make them wonderful witnesses for God in this dark world. A true conversion … can you imagine how beautiful that would be, how the angels would rejoice and how many people might take notice?

That’s why the last paragraph of today’s reading struck me so:

26 Then astonishment seized them all
and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

ALL were seized and glorified God! It’s happened before … it can happen again. Nothing is impossible with God and I’m so grateful for this reminder and encouragement to persevere in prayer to Him, for them, for their sake and for His glory. Amen!

 

 

 

 

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