Mindfulness, Prayer

The Two Sides of Prayer

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A prayer written by Dag Hammarskjold

“Give me a pure heart–that I may see Thee, a humble heart–that I may hear Thee, a heart of love–that I may serve Thee, a heart of faith–that I may abide in Thee.”*

St. Teresa of Avila–Carrying Out God’s Work

God of Love, help us to remember that Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours.  Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world.  Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now.  Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.

~ ~ ~

Prayer’s Two Sides: Personal and Communal:  “We need both personal prayer and communal prayer.  Our prayer isn’t really prayer without both.”**

Prayer is a mystery. Prayer is a matter of faith.  Prayer is not for the “faint of heart”–yet it is precisely for the “faint of heart.”  To me, the mystery is the connection between personal and communal prayer. One does not live and thrive without the other. It’s a matter of faith, trusting that someone is listening and acting on my personal prayers and the communal prayer of those gathered together in worship. Prayer opens us up to vulnerability, not only to ourselves and God, but to those we gather with for prayer on a regular basis.

I am reminded of what Bishop Morneau has written on prayer. “Three key qualities of personal prayer are humility, charity and honesty; and three qualities of communal prayer are objectivity, support and solidarity. . .”**

My personal prayer life is vital to my relationship with God–it is where I fully open my heart and soul and bask in God’s presence and the spirit’s direction, but if I am all there is, it can quickly turn into some self-centered diatribe of either my deplorable faults or stunning qualities.  If I am all there is, I block out the myriad of people praying for me and for the entire needs of the world.

When we enter into our prayer, let us enter into it with humility, charity and honesty.  God knows our every fault and failing, every fear and worry, every joy and happiness, but God wants us to open our entire selves–to be vulnerable–to be openly receptive to all of God’s abundant love and guidance.

We also enter into prayer as a community. When we gather with others at worship we join our personal prayers to the prayers of the worshiping community  and to the needs of the world.

“Personal prayer has a partner, the prayer of the community.  We call this ‘liturgy,’ the public expression of our faith in word, song and gesture.  . . .Prayer, alone and together, is a spiritual menu that nourishes our soul, the community and the world.  Three qualities underlie communal prayer, this communication with God that we do together.”**

“Henri Nouwen writes, ‘Without community, individual prayer easily degenerates into egocentric and eccentric behavior, but without individual prayer, the prayer of the community quickly becomes a meaningless routine.'”**

When we enter into the other side of prayer, we bring those qualities and add objectivity, support and solidarity.  We expand our horizon to see the hurting world around us, the needs and joys of fellow believers. We have support in our journey through life.  People who know what we are going through and who pray for us. We pray for each other. We belong to a global village, a community of believers. We are all members of God’s family.

This week in our journey, keep in mind who is praying for you. maxresdefaultRemember in your prayers those around you who are in need, those you don’t even know who is in need. Pray for the needs of our country and our world.  We are all connected and we need each other’s prayer and spiritual support.

When we gather for Mass, or other prayer opportunities, let us always be mindful of who and what we pray for.  Let us give thanks for this mystery of prayer, let us grow in our faith and trust in God’s presence and let us grow stronger as we become more vulnerable and open to each other and God’s loving presence in every moment of prayer and worship together.

*Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966.

**Robert F. Morneau, Paths to Prayer, Cincinnati, OH, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998.

 

 

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Mindfulness, Prayer

Prayer: A Journey of Discovery

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Ps. 4:2:  Answer when I call, my saving God.  In my troubles, you cleared a way; show me favor; hear my prayer.

Ps. 5:2-3:  Hear my words, O Lord; listen to my sighing.  Hear my cry for help, my king, my God!

Ps .16:11:  You show me the path of life.  In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Ps. 17:6: I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; Incline your ear to me, hear my words.

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Regardless of style, prayer is always to be holistic, involving the mind, heart and hands.  It is also to be inclusive, in that prayer embraces all of creation as we attempt to respond to a God who continually blesses us and calls us to full maturity.*

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Prayer takes on many forms–vocal, contemplative, communal, individual, liturgical, musical. Within each form there are many varieties of prayer. Essentially prayer is a journey of discovery–of God, nature, ourselves and our fellow human beings. At any given moment in our life, we may use a different form of prayer. When I am anxious, I may be calling out to God asking him to relieve me of my anxious thoughts. I may move into a form of contemplative prayer to calm my anxious mind and focus on all the goodness that flows into my life through the abundant goodness of God. I may pray for others and with others.

In this journey of life we all pack  a variety of tools to help us navigate the winding roads, superhighways, barely visible trails and practically impassible mountain passes we encounter. Those “prayer tools” allow us to discover more about ourselves and our God who loves us.

Take a moment as you read this blog and think about the prayer tools you have packed for your journey. What do you turn to mostly? One means of prayer which I find very beneficial is the “Ignation Examen.”**  It’s a beautiful means to remain in the presence of God on this journey of life.  Here is just a brief description of the examen, and I encourage you to use it in your time of prayer and see how  it allows you to be more mindful of God’s presence on your daily journey of discovery and more mindful of the many indescribable ways God accompanies us on our journey.

More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
  2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?  God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to them in some way.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
  5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Our Father.**

God be with each of us  on our prayer journey.

*Robert F. Morneau, Paths to Prayer, Cincinnati, OH, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998.

** http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen

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Mindfulness, Prayer

What do you mean there is no right way to pray?

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, Most High. Psalm 92:1

Have you ever heard, “Just tell me the right way to do and I will do it.” or, “There is always a right way and a wrong way to everything.”

Many times we want situations, decisions, life, to be black and white.  We want to know the right way to speak, live and interact with others.  Just show me, just tell me…

Well, it is not exactly that way when it comes to prayer. There is no one right way to pray.  There are as many ways to pray as there are people on this earth.  Prayer is a very personal matter.  The manner in which I pray may not be the most edifying way to pray for you.

I find comfort in that fact that  God is able to listen and act on our prayers. God  understands each and every prayer we offer up, no matter how we offer it up to God.

God knows our prayers even before we pray them!  God wants to be in relationship with us.  God wants us to be open and receptive of everlasting love, peace, goodness and abundance. How we communicate with God, whether through traditional prayers, meditation, centering prayer, saying the rosary, whatever.  God wants us to be mindful and prayerful–filled with prayer.

No pressure–God is there waiting, listening, sitting beside us. God is beside us when we meditate, legs crossed, breathing in and out.  God sits next to us in the pew, on our prayer rug, on the bus and in the taxi–ready to listen whenever and however we want.

So, as we walk this journey into prayer, let us be open to the kinds of prayer that help us grow closer to God.  I look forward to this journey of discovery and growth.  May God go with us always and everywhere.

Peace and happy praying!

 “The beauty is that God takes us just as we are and speaks to our heart.”*

*Robert F. Morneau, Paths to Prayer, Cincinnati, OH, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998.

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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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