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Pray… even if you don’t have the words.. (A lesson re-learnt)

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.

I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.

To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope. 

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”

I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.

I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.

I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.

I had no more words.

That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…

26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT

Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.

This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.

Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.

To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.

After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.

God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

How Do You Lead? How Are You Teaching People to Lead?

Leadership is like waiting tables

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22 After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler—you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites.”
23 Gideon answered, “I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The LORD will be your ruler.”
Judges 8:22-23

With those we lead in any way (sometimes we lead by simply asking the right questions), we are to be “the servant of all” (Mark 9:35), “eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Redemptive mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) is achieved in this way.
So much current religious work is not lined up with these scriptural injunctions. This is bound to be if those who lead try to control the flock through their own abilities to organize and drive, yet clothed in a spiritual terminology. They do not rely on Christ’s power. As their faith is, so shall their leadership be. It will be “my group,” “my ministry” and “my children”—and those who follow will never experience how completely God is Lord of each person.

Leadership is a tricky thing.

Especialy for those who serve Christ by serving the people of God as leaders.

Once upon a time, I was in management. Went to the seminars, did all the team building excercises. Especially loved the idea of the inverted triangle, that a leader is not at the top, but rather at the bottom of the structure. Learned about different styles and tempraments of leadership and had some excellent leaders who had authority over me, but saw it as responsibility for my work.

Dallas Willard’s comments are striking in this, that a leader that leads based in their own ability to organize and drive those that follow is not truly doing their job. They are neglecting the very reason for their being in leadership.

Willard describes what is missing as “those who follow will never experience how completely God is the Lord of each person.”

This is not about questioning the sincerity of those in leadership. Many of us sincerly want to do the best we can, and train and learn to be leaders of the people of God. We try to adapt what we know, but sometimes it falls short, simply because we forget that we aren’t leadiing to success, or to a short term goal. As a result, we often find ourselves manipulating people rather than guiding them. We get them to “do” rather than experience.

We need to remember that LORD is the way the Jewish people respectfully used a title instead of God’s name. The name, YHWH, simply means I AM. (rememer Moses and the burning bush?) That is what our people need to experience, that is what we are tasked with revealing to them, shepherding them in experiencing the love of God who is present.

My job as a pastor, the job of the elders and board members is to help people experience God’s mercy, His care, His presence in their lives. That is the role of every Christian leader.

And that is why so much of secular leadership strategy is challenging. Because if relies on us, because it doesn’t tale the attitude of Gideon, who points to them to the Lord (even though he was the most effective of the Judges)

“No, not me… look to God…” the same kind of leadership that John the Baptist, that the Apostle Paul and so many others have modeled for us.

So this day, I have a challenge for you who lead.

Your challenge is this, find someone to guide, and the place you need to guide them to is a place of stillness, a place of peace, a place where they know God is present, (and that you are not God!)

Go in His peace, and I pray you experience your LORD’s presence, and so in awe of that, help others know that He is with them!


Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

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