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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

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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Who of us has anyone … even one person … who prays for us each day? Not only at times when we ask for prayer or when people know that we are struggling, but who simply prays for us every day by name for God’s will and blessings on our lives?

I don’t know that I do. But I want to be “that person” for others.

Two years ago I set out with the intention of praying for each of my immediate family members by name every day – my mom, husband, children, brothers, sister, brothers-in-law, and each of my nieces and nephews and every spouse of those family members.

That’s a long list! But I have been oh-so-blessed by it. The core of my prayer is that God forgive our sins and bring us into everlasting life.

As I started the book of Philippians this morning, I was struck by Paul’s prayer and I think it’s a perfect prayer for me to pray for my loved ones!

For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. ( 1:8-11)

 

 

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I often ponder all of the beautiful, wonderful people God has placed in my life from the day of my birth. As God has shown me the power and the importance of prayer, He has led me to feel a great and very joyful obligation to pray for many of them by name each day. I feel that in a way, He has entrusted them to me and the best thing I can do for them is to pray for them and place them right back into His holy care, knowing and believing and trusting that He will answer my most heartfelt prayers for them. And those prayers are both simple and impossible for anyone but God – that He forgive our sins and leads us into everlasting life.

Imagine my surprise as I was reading The Story of a Soul, written by St. Therese of Lisieux, and found that in her life, God had shown her the same thing. I was given wonderful, deeper insight as she expanded on this, teaching me and sharing her Wisdom, written over a century ago!

I have read and re-read the following paragraph many times this week, pondering and excited by what it is saying to me.

“One day, after Holy Communion, He made me understand these words of the Canticles¹: ‘Draw me: we will run after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments.’ O my Jesus, there is no need to say: ‘In drawing me, draw also the souls that I love’: these words, ‘Draw me,’ suffice. When a soul has let herself be taken captive by the inebriating odour of Thy perfumes, she cannot run alone; as a natural consequence of her attraction towards Thee, the souls of all those she loves are drawn in her train. Just as a torrent carries into the depths of the sea all that it meets on its way, so, my Jesus, does the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Thy Love bring with it all its treasures.  My treasures are the souls it has pleased thee to unite with mine; Thou has confided them to me, and therefore I do not fear to use Thy own words, uttered by Thee on the last night that saw Thee still a traveler on this earth. Jesus, my Beloved!”

St. Therese then proceeds to use this passage from John 17 … using Jesus’ own words for His disciples … to pray for the souls God has entrusted to her prayerful care! I found it amazing and wonderful and I will be returning to this many times, I’m sure, as I ponder this and grow in understanding.

6 “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
8 because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,
10 and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.
11 And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m
22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
26 I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

¹Song of Songs, 1:3 or 4, depending on the version

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