Prayer

Why Pray?

25767-praying-facebook-1200w-tn“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

“Our desire for relationship with God is matched (or, even better, outstripped) by God’s desire to connect with us…Why should God want that? I have no idea…God surely does not need us for completion or perfection. God is fullness of life and perfection. But as the bible states so boldly, the very nature of God is to love (1 John 4:16).  And the very nature of love is to share itself, to pour itself out, to seek relationship. When love gives itself, it generates hope and goodness and life in others.”*

Why pray?  I know it’s a question I ask myself from time to time? Why? Does it do any good? Is God listening, really listening?  The Gospel tells us to ask, seek, knock…but really?  Will it do any good? Why?

Why pray? One reason is relationship. We are designed to be in relationship, to be in community.  We are not created to be solitary creatures in need of no thing or no one. We are created to be in relationship and God (or however you wish to describe God) strongly desires to be in relationship with us.

It’s refreshing to hear again that God does not need us….doesn’t that poke a hole in our “fragile” egos.  We are not needed–we are desired by God.  God is complete and full and perfect and loving already. We have nothing to add to God, but God has everything to give to us. God is everything to us.  Sit with that for awhile.  We have nothing to add to God, but God is everything to us.   God is total love and abundance. Being in relationship with God affords us every good and perfect gift.  All that God has and is, is ours.

One of the most important elements to a successful and growing relationship is communication.  God communicates to us by a variety of means–through nature, people and circumstances around us, through the written word and other means as well. God wants a two-way communication with us–thus…we pray.

Another mind-blowing concept, at least to me, is that all is ours already. All goodness, all abundance, all prosperity, all love, peace–you name it–is ours.  So, why pray?  I firmly believe we pray in order to enable us to better receive all the good that God has for us.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4-6).  When all is ours, why be anxious? When God’s eternal love and presence is ours, why worry?  Talk to God, open your hearts and minds to God, and you will see that God’s love for you is beyond any love you will experience in this lifetime.

In my life, there have been plenty of times when my communication with God has been severely lacking.  I decided to go out on my own–no need to communicate to God what I needed to do (not that God didn’t already know…).  That relationship with God was not the most important part of my life–I was!  Sounds like that parable of the prodigal son, doesn’t it?  I know I am not alone in those feelings, we have all done that. We have forged out on our own, no need for God, no need for prayer.  We’ve got this!  When we fall flat though, who is there? God is there, ready to pick us up, or carry us, mending our wounds, lovingly caring for our every needs. His desire for relationship with us far outweighs our failings and attempts to edge God out of our lives.

Why pray? We pray to keep us aware and open to God’s presence and love for us.  We pray to stay in touch with every good and perfect gift God has to offer through Jesus Christ. We pray to remain filled with the power of the Holy Spirit–to be inspired with God’s amazing wisdom and counsel. We pray because God loves us…it’s as simple as that.  We don’t always love as God does, but it doesn’t end the relationship. Our prayer, our communication with God, enables us, ever so gently, or maybe not so gently sometimes, to embrace our relationship with God with more honesty and more love and more openness on our part.

Our prayers do not need to be perfectly worded. They may be one word:  Why? Or, thanks! Keep praying, keep talking with God, keep on hashing it out with God.  God is listening and loves everything we have to share and loves sharing everything with us.

Thoughts: Meditate on the ways you pray? Evaluate for yourself why you pray?  Be more mindful of what you are praying for and about.  When you are at Mass, or a prayer service, or any spiritual meeting, listen to the prayers you hear with new ears and a more open awareness of how God is communicating with you.

*Martin Pable, OFM Cap, Prayer: A Practical Guide, Chicago, ACTA Publications, 2002

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Prayer

What is this thing called prayer?

practice-Gods-presence“Be Still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46)

“When I reach for a single way of describing prayer the simplest word that comes to mind is openness. To pray, we must open our hearts. We must test first of all that God exists, and wants to know us, wants to hear from us. We must be open to interpret our experience in the light of grace.” *

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With the beginning of the Advent season, we begin another blog series on Liturgical Encounters.  In my spiritual journey, I have been perplexed by prayer. I have been inquisitive about prayer, even unsure of how prayer works. Am I using the right kinds of prayers?  Does prayer really work?  I feeling I am always asking for something in my prayer.  Is meditating just like prayer?  Do I just sit still and wait for God to say something to me?

As a child, I don’t remember having these struggles.  I said my bedtime prayers, prayed the Lord’s Prayer, always trusting that God is listening and knows what I needed and wanted. But as I grew older life experience seemed to change all that.
As we grow older, I believe we are all faced with doubts about our prayer life– what should I pray for and am I praying the right prayers and enough prayers;  God is too busy to listen to my prayers and so forth.  That child-like faith in God, in prayer, seems to drift away like the mist.  Our various challenges and struggles and even successes and prosperity seem diminish our faith in prayer, our understanding of prayer.

So, where do we begin to regain that child-like faith in the essence and power of prayer?  It might be best to start with a definition. What is prayer?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people on this planet. One definition of prayer that I have found meaningful is prayer is openness to God.  Being still in the presence of God.  Even if we are ranting and raving in our prayers to God, there still needs to be a stillness and openness deep down in our very soul. Another word would be vulnerability.  We must look past ourselves and be vulnerable to God.  We can’t pretend that God doesn’t know everything about us; every deep dark secret and every good and perfect quality of ourselves. Nothing is hidden from God.  We need to be vulnerable before God–be open to God’s omnipresence in our prayer.

Another definition I like is that prayer is a covenant relationship with God. Prayer is an act of relationship with God. Many of the great teachers of the Christian tradition and many other wisdom traditions speak of this “loving communion” with God.  John of Damascus called it “raising the mind to God;” Gregory of Nyssa–conversation and discussion with God; Augustine called it “an affectionate directing  of the mind to God.”  Teresa of Avila defined it “as an intimate sharing between friends.”  John of the Cross aptly described it as “a loving attentiveness to God.”

It all goes back to openness and being present with God–being present, in relationship with God.

This week as you journey, think about what prayer means to you? How are you open to God’s presence in your life?  How are you in relationship with God in prayer?

I look forward to taking this prayerful journey with you.  May we all gain more insight in prayer, may we learn to be still in God’s presence and open ourselves completely to God and know that God knows our every need and wants to be present with us in every moment.

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Questions to ponder: What does prayer mean to me?  What is my favorite form of prayer? How does that prayer reflect my relationship with God?

Actions: Write or find a prayer that would help you deepen your relationship with God, help you become more open to God’s presence.

Peace be with you always.

*Emilie Griffin, Simple Ways to Pray: Spiritual Life in the Catholic Tradition, Lanham, MD., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness, Peace

Go, live and serve in the peace of Christ

d8435-go2bin2bpeaceLike a mother bird gently or not so gently pushes her baby out of the nest to fly into the great big world out there, we are summoned out of the  cocoon of God’s embrace during Mass into the world.  But I am not ready! I forgot to pay closer attention to the homily while my child was squirming in the pew. Wait a minute! I must of blanked out there for a moment, thinking about my week ahead?  We are done?  I am not sure I am ready to head back out again.

Or…finally!  Mass is over–time to go back to the real world and my own life again. I can’t wait to get out of here…hopefully these are not our feelings too often…

In any case we are directed to go in peace. We are called by God to live differently outside the walls of the church.  Live transformed, thus transforming the world around you. That transformation is different for each of us, but we are transformed when we are in God’s presence and feasting at the table and listening at the feet of Jesus. It may be dramatic or very subtle, but transforming just the same.  We go in peace, transformed, equipped to transform the world around us.

How do we go out in peace–one step at a time, one conversation at a time, one relationship at a time, one moment at a time.  We are not called to solve all the world’s problems–to the world’s Savior. That’s already been done. But we can be the person who is there for that troubled teen, struggling family, dying mother, or angered, demoralized person who sees no hope or future.  We go in peace even when no one is around to see us.

We live in peace. We are peace. Allow the peace of God’s love infiltrate every fiber of your being. When we are at peace, we can be peace for others. What a blessed experience to share the peace of Christ we know and experience in each moment, with someone else who is in need of peace in their lives–through that smile, touch, acknowledgement or word of love.

We all know turmoil to some degree. We see it all around us. But, let us go out and help this world (the person next to you, or the person around the world) go in peace, no longer afraid or hopeless, but filled with the certainty of love, of a brighter tomorrow because peace is our now–not in some far off time or place.  It is ours now. Peace is ours, thus we go in peace to serve the Lord and one another.

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Go In Peace

“GO IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST…
However we came
however confused or discouraged
or afraid or alone
we may have been
before this Eucharist
we are told to leave in peace.
Presumably something has happened here:
We have found direction and courage
dispelled fear
been in communion,
thereby discovering the peace of Christ.
‘Thanks be to God.’

THE MASS IS ENDED: GO IN PEACE

However tenuously,
however unconsciously,
however fleetingly,
we have been changed
in the actions of this Eucharist,
in coming together,
submitting to God’s Word
and sharing his table,
therein learning the peace of Christ,
‘Thanks be to God.’

GO IN PEACE TO LOVE AND SERVE THE LORD…

However complicated
however full of suffering
however plain and ordinary
our everyday lives
we are told now to return there
knowing what the Lord has done for us
and what he commissions us to do:
‘The dawn from on high
has broken upon us
and has set our feet
in the path of peace.’
‘Thanks be to God.'”*

Reprinted from Liturgical Gestures, Words, Objects, Barbara Schmich in Eleanor Bernstein, CSJ, ed. © 1995 Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy.  Used with permission.

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Mindfulness, Peace

In Search of…peace

CDeEGqU“Grant us peace.”  We make this bold request every time at Mass. Give us peace in our homes, in our streets, in our hearts and in our minds. Give us peace in our relationships and in our break ups. Give us peace in our shattered dreams and fragmented lives. Give us peace in our joys and successes. Give us peace when dreams are fulfilled and life is at its best and its worst.

Peace seems so illusive these days in many respects. We have become more aware of the violence that invades our daily experience. We have become aware of the discord and brokenness in our political systems.  Violence and death are ever present. Disrespect for the human person and for differing opinions and beliefs  seems to be the norm. Where is peace?

Each of us has our own personal experience of discord and turbulence that pushes peace, inner peace, away.  We may face opposition at work, rocky relationships with our spouse, siblings, parents, next door neighbors.  Hard feelings and mistrust; lack of respect and love.  Where is peace, God?

Now I know and firmly believe that life is not all doom and gloom. We have so much, more than we can every imagine, to be thankful for and to live for and love. But still where is peace even in the goodness we have around us?

What kind of peace are we looking for? Is it fleeting, superficial peace–that is with us for a moment and whisked away unexpectedly? Is it a peace we look for outside of ourselves? Do we look for a peace that will withstand any and all storms and troubles and opposition? Do we find it within ourselves when we have the strength enough to calm our minds and breathe and be still and know God is present?

Finding peace is a challenge. It’s a challenge because often times it hides in the chaos we call daily living. Peace isn’t always some peaceful walk along the beach or hike through the woods, or a quiet moment on the front porch watching the sun rise or set.  Those are peaceful times for sure–but not always where we find the peace God gives us.

Where do we find peace? How do we make sure others find peace and that this world, our world, becomes a place of peace? We find it in the stillness. In being still and listening for God’s voice, becoming aware of God’s presence working in us and through us. Even in the midst of turmoil, quiet your mind, open yourself to God’s presence and know peace is yours right now, in this place, in this moment.  Know that peace is already yours. It not something to strive for.  It is yours now. It is here for the world now–if only people would let go of all their ego tells them is right and just and theirs for the taking no matter what. Stop “Edging God Out” and receive that peace which surpasses all understanding and prejudice and violent rage and discrimination and hateful speech. Live in God’s loving presence, no matter what or who you call God and live in the peace God offers us every moment of every day.

Grant us peace–it a bold request we make at Mass.  But in faith we know it is ours. We deserve peace because we are loved and cherished by God.  Peace resides in our lives because it was ours all along. It is right there waiting for us to see it, feel it, experience it and then give it away to others so they too can realize peace has always been theirs as well.

May we all experience God’s peace today, in this very moment and everyday. Peace be yours.

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances. ” Mahatma Gandhi

“Dear God, Please send to me the spirit of Your peace. Then send, dear Lord, the spirit of peace from me to all the world. Amen.”  Marianne Williamson

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.” St. Francis of Assisi

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Mindfulness and Mercy

Have Mercy On Us

good-samaritan-clipart-5Mercy–it’s all about mercy. Love–it’s all about love.  Oh the great love God has shown us through Jesus Christ–the extravagant love God has abundantly poured over us through God’s son, Jesus.

Sacrifice–it’s all about sacrifice. We give up our ego, our hatred, our prejudice, our bigotry, our separateness, our anxieties, our petty struggles and open ourselves to God’s mercy.

Lamb of God, have mercy on this hurting and suffering world. Have mercy on us when we struggle to make sense of the tragedy around us. Have mercy on us so that we may see ever clearer the gifts of life that manifest themselves all around us.  Have mercy on us so that we may appreciate and give thanks for the one life you have given all of us. We all–every person in the world (those like us and those not like us; those we love and those we find difficult to love)–are one. You live in each of us. You are always present even in the darkest night and darkest sorrow–you are there, Lamb of God.

Lamb of God–infuse our very being with your extravagant love so that all hatred and darkness are no more and only love, only goodness and light, are present in our every action and in our interaction with the world.

Have mercy on us–so we may show mercy always.

Lamb of God

“O Lamb:
Paschal perfect,
once unblemished, untainted, unspotted,
have mercy on us.

O Lamb:
silent before the shearers,
with no word of protest,
but mute pleas for us sinners,
have mercy on us.

O Lamb,
Splendor of the Father’s glory,
now shorn,
now drenched in the blood of life
mingled with life’s waters,
have mercy on us.

O mystic bath:
making sinners pure,
O cleansing flood
drowning death itself,
O saving tide,
gifting with abundant life!

Sinners,
now washed in the blood of the lamb,
untainted, unspotted:
Sing his praise!
Have mercy on us.

Christians,
salvation is received,
grace is bestowed,
to this Lamb of God give glory!
Have mercy on us.

With shouts of victory
in the tents of the justified,
with hymns of thanks
and songs of praise we protest.

Dark death is trampled,
yielding to life itself.

Have mercy on us.”*

*Reprinted from John Allyn Melloh, SM, in Liturgical Gestures, Words, Objects, Eleanor Bernstein, CSJ, ed. © 1995 Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy.  Used with permission.

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Mindfulness

Extravagant Peace

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Peace be with you. Really? Peace? Is that all you have to offer? Where is there peace in this world we live in?  Does this peace we share with one another at Mass make any kind of difference after we leave the four walls of the church? This world we live in needs something to bring it from the brink of collapse because of all the violence, hatred, racism, bigotry and terrorism. What help can this peace we share offer the world?

Sounds like a pretty hopeless reality–what difference will this simple act of sharing Christ’s peace make in this world we live in?  I have felt that over the last few days after hearing about the shootings and violence and hatred running rampant in this country. Can true peace be achieved here–anywhere?  Will love win out?

The peace we share with one another at church can make a difference, but we need to take it further than just giving a hug or handshake to those we know and mumble a quick “peace be with you.”  Like the “Amen” we say after each prayer. That “peace be with you” offers a lot of power–power for good in each others’ lives and in the life of the world.

To make a difference, we need to take it out to the world.  We need to offer this peace to so many more people than just the ones we know. Jesus offered this peace to a group of people scared out of their wits, worried they would be rounded up and killed all because they followed Jesus.  Jesus offered a peace full of promise–I love that description.  No matter the situation, or the person, or the time, Christ’s peace is present and active and powerful. When the storms of life attempt to drown us in sorrow and who knows what else, Christ’s peace is there to calm us and give us a sure hope that God is with us, guiding us, strengthening us for whatever challenge is coming at us.

This peace is extravagant and risky and even scary–but we can’t keep it to ourselves; it is meant to be shared with those who are very different from ourselves. It needs to be shared–in the most difficult times in our lives and in the most challenging situations. God’s peace belongs to all of us of every skin color and ethnicity, belief system, orientation, age or social and economic status. There are no qualifications for this peace–it is for everyone and resides within everyone. It is ours now and always. It’s not without cost–it costs us by putting our ego to death, letting go of judgment and us v. them. It does come with a cost. But! It never runs out–we can keep sharing this peace with every person in the world and we are still full of G0d’s peace. How extravagant and wonderful is that?

Peace is always relevant, always present, always needed and always ours. Sit with that for awhile. Peace is mine. I am at peace. I live in peace and I live at peace with everyone in the world–even those we are told to hate and despise. Peace belongs to everyone. This day and everyday, peace be with you.

Peace Be With You

THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE ALWAYS WITH YOU.

“Peace, salaam, shalom alaikum!
Ancient greeting heavy with future promise
a word worn with the interchange of centuries
of meeting and parting and passing on the road,
stranger to stranger, friend to friend.
A word transmuted in the crucible of Golgotha:
‘Peace’ — uttered from beyond the grave,
from the other side of suffering,
from the one who has traveled the road
we too must travel, from a place
we too must visit.

‘Peace is my gift to you,
my own peace I give to you,
not as the world gives
is my gift of peace to you.’

May we meet again in this place, you and I;
may we make it through safely, you and I;
for we meet on the road to Jerusalem,
city of death, city of peace.”*

*Reprinted from Mark Searle in Liturgical Gestures, Words, Objects, Eleanor Bernstein, CSJ, ed. © 1995 Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy.  Used with permission.

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Mindfulness

Teach us to pray for each other again

prayinghandsI, for one, am sick and tired of all the divisiveness that seems to infect the entire world these days…from gun control, to immigration issues, treatment of the LGBTQ community or the Muslim community.  The divisiveness and disparity in our world today takes an emotional toll on a person–much less a physical toll and more. OK–my rant is done.

It seems that we see a rise of separatism throughout the world–you and me; Republican vs. Democrat; gay vs. straight; UK vs. EU and so on.  Where is our global solidarity, our global vision. It’s everyone and every country for itself these days. Where will all this take us, where will all the uncertainty and angst take us? It takes us back to “Our Father.”

Look at the Lord’s Prayer which we pray every Sunday.  It’s not “My Father” or “give ME my daily bread.”  This simple prayer reminds us all that we are in this together. Jesus does not want us to pray by and for ourselves alone.  We are in this together. We (everyone in the world, every last person) are one!  We pray for each other, for our Muslim neighbor; our gay or lesbian co-worker; for terrorists and terror stricken alike. We even pray for our Republican or Democrat candidates.

Jesus teaches us unity in all things with this prayer. If God loves us all unconditionally, should we not also love and pray for all people unconditionally. I firmly believe that God does more than teach us to pray with “Our Father.”  God teaches us to act in peace and love for the other–regardless, no exception, not matter how difficult it may seem to be to act and pray with love and peace and unity.

When you look at the world and all its inhabitants, all of nature too, with the idea of oneness, of unity, of connectedness–divisions begin to dissipate, hatred begins to turn to love. If I am one with the person living in Iraq or China, if I am connected to the homeless person under the bridge and I am supposed to love myself as God loves me, then I ought to love that other person just as much. If we held to that philosophy, that belief all the time–where would our world be today?

Our God is a teacher of peace and master of unity indeed. May we take to heart the lessons God teaches us and live out every lesson with love.

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Our Father

“‘The Teacher of Peace and Master of Unity
did not want us to pray by and for ourselves alone.
We do not say
‘My Father, who are in heaven’
nor
‘give me this day my daily bread.’
Our prayer is common and public prayer.
It is not for an individual we pray
but for the whole people
for we are all one people
in a single body.

The God of Peace and Master of Concord
who has taught us unity
desires that each should pray for all
just as he carried the weight of us all
in his own person.”*

*Reprinted from Liturgical Gestures, Words, Objects, Cyprian, DE DOMINICA ORATIONE, 8, in Eleanor Bernstein, CSJ, ed. © 1995 Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy.  Used with permission.

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