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Lord, teach us to pray…but how do we handle the silent times?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

1  Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (NLT2)

For the person who loves Jesus, prayer—even prayer without consolation—is the sweetness that always puts an end to all sorrow: he goes to pray with the eagerness of a child going to the sugar bowl after taking a bitter dose of medicine.

The words from Luke’s gospel above lead to the Lord’s Prayer.

As I read them, I feel great gratitude to the unknown disciple, for he asked something we all needed him to ask.

Lord, how do we talk with the Father?  How do we pray?  What do we pray for?  How does this all work?

Teach us…

And so He does.

Luther’s small catechism does a great job explaining how each of the petitions helps our trust in God, what we pray for and what it means to know God is answering that request in our lives, in our world, in our time.

These times become such a blessing, as we realize the promises of God, that as we open up to him, the relief and peace is amazing…

And even, as St Josemaria notes, times where God seems silent when we aren’t immediately comforted, become times where peace pervades, for we know He is at work.  The more we pray, the more our eyes are opened up to God at work in our lives, the more we trust Him when we don’t hear or see the answer immediately.

But that takes time, time to see that confidence build, time getting used to seeing God in the unexpected, in the broken, in the moments where reconciliation is needed.  Getting used to seeing Him working in ways unexpected, and in ways that leave you in awe.

As we get used to that, then we run to Him more frequently, we do so with greater expectation, like the child St. Josemaria describes.

It is hard to explain, this desire to run to God our Father, to just pour out our pain and anxiety, ot talk of the future, to hand over our sins and failures, things that He promises to deal with so that we can live in peace with Him.

That doesn’t mean prayer is a perfect art, or that we still don’t struggle.  We do.. and yet that is a blessing as well… for then we learn again – He is there.

So pray, let it all out..and enter His peace.

AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Drop Everything! Come!

cropped-will-new-camera-12-2008-167.jpgDevotional Thought of the Day:

Jabin’s army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the LORD for help.  Judges 4:3 CEV

Jesus told the people another story:
What will a woman do if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? 9 Then she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found the coin I lost.”
10 Jesus said, “In the same way God’s angels are happy when even one person turns to him.”  Luke 15:8-10

790    Don’t you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart and very often degrade it…. Leave all that and come with us in search of Love!

I see the scenario played out in Judges all the time. People who need help, who refuse to ask for it from God. They go years, even decades without praying about things, without looking to God from whom all help must come.

We struggle along, depressed, moaning about the brokenness we have to endure. Despising our own weakness, and yet, for some reason, unable to cry out for help.

We forget all the illustrations of God, who like the woman, search diligently for the coin. (Think one worth $500)  Or we think it is about us, trying to find the answer we cannot provide. We think we have to get to God!

We struggle with the fact that we have ot deal with this sin, or that anxiety, this problem, that temptation, and then we can walk into God’s presence.

I want to struggle with St. Josemaria, “Fools! (myself included) drop all that stuff that is crushing you! look – a cross! You are loved! I am loved. (Josemaria knows it is not a hard or long search – for God is the one searching us out, even as He did Adam and Eve!)

For only in that place, where we are stunned by His love, can we see Him at work in our lives, and in this broken world!  We need to start our days there, we need to start over and over again there, in the place where we find life. We need to run there when things are broken.

In Christ! Living out what the sacraments help us experience – the incredibly, intimate, love of God for you and I, revealed in all that is Jesus Christ!

Lord, in the midst of our brokenness, help us redefine life based on this simple truth.  You love us more than we can ever know!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will You Catch Me, Lord?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of my day:

The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back.  Deut. 32:11 CEV

The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God

This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.

In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.

That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!

Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.

It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true.  God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.

Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash.  I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.

But in the midst of falling, He is always there…

And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.

Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence.  Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98

Praise… and Prayer: Which comes first?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

22 People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest. 23 Also set aside ten percent of your wine and olive oil, and the first-born of every cow, sheep, and goat. Take these to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, and eat them there. This will teach you to always respect the LORD your God.
24 But suppose you can’t carry that ten percent of your harvest to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped. If you live too far away, or if the LORD gives you a big harvest, 25 then sell this part and take the money there instead. 26 When you and your family arrive, spend the money on food for a big celebration. Buy cattle, sheep, goats, wine, beer, and if there are any other kinds of food that you want, buy those too. 27 And since people of the Levi tribe won’t own any land for growing crops, remember to ask the Levites to celebrate with you.
28 Every third year, instead of using the ten percent of your harvest for a big celebration, bring it into town and put it in a community storehouse. 29 The Levites have no land of their own, so you must give them food from the storehouse. You must also give food to the poor who live in your town, including orphans, widows, and foreigners. If they have enough to eat, then the LORD your God will be pleased and make you successful in everything you do.  Deut. 14:22-29

Fifth, your trust must not set a goal for God, not set a time and place, not specify the way or the means of his fulfilment, but it must entrust all of that to his will, wisdom, and omnipotence. Just wait cheerfully and undauntedly for the fulfilment without wanting to know how and where, how soon, how late, or by what means. His divine wisdom will find an immeasurably better way and method, time and place, than we can imagine.

714    Yours is a desire without desire, as long as you don’t put firmly aside the occasion of falling. Don’t fool yourself telling me you’re weak. You’re a coward, which is not the same thing.

Prayer is hard.

Very hard.

Every week, with 50-80 people, I pray for about 150… Some are just people we need to pray for – those in government, those serving people and responding to protect and heal.  Others are grieving, or are ill, others are facing a struggle that cannot be discussed.

And we pray… I attempt to lead us in putting all these people, and their concerns, in the hands of God.

There is a balance between telling God what to do and having the faith that God not only will act but is acting at this moment. Part of me wants to say with Jesus, “not my will, but Yours.” and part of me wants to be the old lady that hassled the judge.

And to this I hear the words, “you aren’t weak, you are a coward..” and I wonder if it is true, at least when it comes ot prayer. Am I afraid to really let God have everything in my life? Am I willing to let Him answer my prayers in His time, in His wisdom, in His way? Luther advocates this, but how hard is it to do?  And how the heck did he learn to wait “cheerfully and undauntedly” without even the slightest bit of knowledge or control?

That’s why I asked which comes first, true prayer or true worship?

I think it has to be worship!

And we can’t worship until we know why we worship!  That is how the Old Testament passage relates. One of the major tithes the people had to gather, 10 percent of their harvest, and all the firstborn of their flock was to throw a party!  What kind of party? A party to “respect” the Lord- to realize His presence, to realize how He provides and cares for you. To celebrate the fact you aren’t alone.

With that knowledge, prayer seems… easier, it seems more natural, it seems to be how we are to relate to God, for it is in response ot how He cares for us.

I only have thoughts about whether prayer is effective when I am not thinking about God, when I am not in awe of His presence, of His love, of His care. When I am focused on that, such as during a worship service, prayer flows, it works, it is…

So, if you are struggling, if you aren’t sure God is with you, get with some other sisters and brothers in Christ. Be reminded of God’s love and mercy, and His presence… and praise Him for that, together.  Then pray about what stresses you, what causes you anguish, anxiety, stress, pain…

And leave it in the hands of the Lord who loves you.

 

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 89.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Please! Please! Don’t let this happen!

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27 This time the LORD made the king so stubborn 28 that he said to Moses, “Get out and stay out! If you ever come back, you’re dead!” 29 “Have it your way,” Moses answered. “You won’t see me again.”  Ex 10:27-29 CEB

Indeed, no one should depend on his heart and presume to pray without uttering words unless he is well trained in the Spirit and has experience in warding off stray thoughts. Otherwise the devil will thoroughly trick him and soon smother the prayer in his heart. Therefore we should cling to the words and with their help soar upward, until our feathers grow and we can fly without the help of words. I do not condemn words or the spoken prayer, nor should anyone spurn them. On the contrary, they are to be accepted as an especially great gift of God. However, it is wrong when the words are not employed for their fruitful purpose, namely, to move the heart, but are only mumbled and muttered with the mouth, on the false assumption that this is all that is necessary. Not only is there no fruitful improvement, there is a corrupting of the heart.

I am pretty sure that none of us would intentionally become like the Pharoah. We would tell someone sent by God to never come back.

But how many of us, for a moment, would be willing to hear God say, “Have it your way!”

Most of us would say, with Peter, “Even if everyone deserts you, I will never desert you!” (Matt 26:33) Most of us would vehemently deny being like the Pharaoh, at least actively.

But what about passively?  Do we ignore the signs God sends us in life?  Do we ignore the calls to repentance, the urging to reconcile, both with God and with those who would offend us.? Do we ignore the times God would call us to come and spend time with Him, or worse, do we prevent others from doing it, as Pharoah did?

Yeah, we do.  More than we want to admit. God and his people often sink to our lowest priority.  Don’t worry about missing worship – you deserve a rest!  Why do you have to go tonight to Bible Study, didn’t you do enough last week?

Thirteen years ago, I bought a devotional book.  I was amazed when there was a simple set of daily liturgies, prayers that over the years have become memorized for me, and for my son now as well. I work diligently to not take the words for granted, and part of me is amazed at how these words have found a place in my heart and soul.

I think Luther’s discussion on prayer notes why, if I simply let my prayer be based on my heart, I ould have shorter prayers, filled with more distractions. When I engage my heart and soul with my mind and tongue which intones the words, the words of the psalms and prayers written from them become precious, leading into deeper moments of prayer, guiding and giving limits for prayers that keep it focused on Jesus.

Without them, I think of the challenges of the day, of those who are broken who I need to help. I go from entrusting these people in God’s care, to attempting (vainly) to figure out how I will fix their problems, to despairing of the situation. As Luther pointed out, such smothers the life of prayer. and rather than praying “Lord, have mercy”, I begin to struggle with despair and depression.  It is all too easy for the devil to do this, he just opens the door, and we begin to crash.

We begin to realize the silence of God letting us have it “our way.”

Not because of active defiance, but being so passive we become apathetic, and ignorant of God’s compassion, and His presence.

This is easily taken care of, simply start praying, ask the Holy Spirit to empower and sustain you, even when you don’t know what to pray.  After all, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this, 26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. “Romans 8:26-28 (NLT2)

So pray, use guides, or just simply pray the psalms, or the Lord’s prayer. Ask the Spirit to guide you and protect your focus in the prayer, especially as you attempt to listen to His glorious message to you…

“I am here… I forgive you… I love you… let me begin your healing..”

Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 25–26.

Sometimes it is so good, you have to share

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him…..

The scripture passage above was one I included in a blog a few days ago. It is something I am dealing with, something I, to be honest, am struggling with, as I observe some disconcerting things in the Church, and as I observe some stress and pain, and as I see people who are immune to seeing that stress and pain.

I know that desperation, and the fire burning in the guy. (Jeremiah knew it too – check out Jeremiah 20:7)

There is a tendency to fight or flee. TO argue till they see our side, until they follow our holy rules and acknowledge our superior wisdom, or to take the ball, our ball, and walk away. We don’t see a third option, and to be honest, we often do not want to see that option.

Because it means we lose, that our agenda is set aside, that we have to humble ourselves and work with our adversaries, not only do we have to work with them, we have to listen to them… and instead of winning or losing, instead of compromising, we have to seek God together.

Tony Campolo used to tell the story of walking from a parking structure in Philadelphia to a big meeting, some major players were going to donate a large sum of money to back some mission efforts he was developing. Important stuff, millions of dollars on the line. He was late, and as he walked down the street, he noticed a homeless guy walking toward him. He did what most of us would do, he tried not to make eye-contact with him. After all, he was in a hurry, to do something incredible for God!

Every once in a while he would look up – and the guy had zeroed in on him. I think he used the word, “crap” or perhaps something stronger. He realized he only had a $20 in his pocket, and didn’t want to waste it. The guy approached, Tony got anxious, nercous, tried to think of something to say.

“mister, I want to give you something”

“HUH????”

“Here, you need this, as he tries to hand Tony the cup in his hand”

Tony accepts it, he can feel the heat through the cup. Then he looks and it is a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He’s like “how much do I owe you”

The guy explains, “Nothing Mister, someone gave me enough for two cups this morning, and mine was so good, I had to give the other to someone else. You looked so stressed out, I had to give it to you. Haven’t you had something so good that you needed to share it with someone else?

I’ve heard Tony tell that story, of that horrible cold, wet Philadelphia day probably 5 or 6 times. Each time he does it with a tear in his eye, as he remembers the swirling feelings of guilt and joy.

Back to my original point.

Paul describes us too well,

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Here is the cup of coffee we need to savor,

Look back u to the words of Spurgeon in purple.

Go ahead…

no really – and if you did ,,, think about it again. really work through it.

Now that is your cup of coffee, and you and your adversary, you and the person in the church who is causing you pain, the one you think you struggle with, that is inconvenient, needs to know this.

Now go and share you cup of coffee…

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Knowing He Hears You: A sermon on Luke 20

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus Means Knowing He Hears You!
Luke 20:1-8

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ lead you to understand that God is present in your life, listening…

Is the lesson that we are to be a pain in the neck?

When I read the gospel story about the widow who consistently stood before the self-centered judge, I think I should make the case for a different sermon title. That one would simply be,

Walking with Jesus? Get what you want by BEING A PAIN IN THE NECK!

At first glance, that is what the passage seems to be saying, isn’t it? Jesus is teaching us to pray and never give up, so just keep on bugging God till we get what we want, right?

You want a new car?  Bug him.

You want the bills paid, just keep on bugging him, and never give up.
You want to stop people from making stupid decisions, and then watch them as they

You want to feel better, be less tired, have less back pain, stop feeling old. just keep praying and never give up making a pain in the…. neck of yourself.

That seems to be what Jesus is talking about, when he tells us about the lady, isn’t it?

If it is that, then I think that the lesson in the story is simply.  And most of us, have no problem in making ourselves a pain in the neck, when we want to be!

Ready for communion?

O wait, the story isn’t about the widow… .

So back to the beginning, or maybe to the end.

What about the question… Will God find people trusting in Him?

At the end of the passage, Jesus asks a great question:

“when the Son of Man* returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Will God find people who trust in Him, will he find people who will depend on Him, who will find in Him the hope they need to live in this broken life?

Will we, in the midst of the good times or the bad find the ability to cling to God, knowing that only in Him do we find hope?

Or will we walk away, like all but the apostles did, when He talked of His body and blood being their true food and drink?

Will we count on Him listening to us, or will we give up?

I’ll be honest, there are times where giving up seems like the option. As we get tired of being broken, and we look round and see that the world is more broken. And oh boy, this week, did it appear broken!

In those times, I am not sure I want to hear Jesus say – Just always pray and never give up!

There is a tendency to want to fight or flee, to struggle or simply walk away. Those reactions, whether choices of not, are sinful, and we need to hear once again that our sin is forgiven. We need to hear that though we didn’t move toward God, that we didn’t put everything in His hands, we can now… including our weak faith…

The example in the story isn’t the lady…. But the judge!I mentioned earlier that Jesus focus wasn’t on the nagging widow. The story isn’t about her. It is about the unrighteous judge, and the fact that even someone like him would eventually hear the person calling for justice, calling for righteousness.

If an unrighteous judge would listen, how much more likely is it that a good, loving merciful God listen to those whom he dwells with?

That’s the point of this parable, this story Jesus tells. When we cry out to Jesus to make us righteous, to make the situation we struggle in something good, He does.  The challenge is seeing it, something we can’t do if we are trying to fix it ourselves.

Our confidence needs to be in the fact that God does exist, is present in our lives, that He loves us and is acting to defeat our enemies, Sin, Satan and the fear that death brings. He’s taken care of it all, as He has cleansed us of all sin, as the Holy Spirit dwells with us, as we are never alone, as our cry never goes unheard.

Prayer, as odd as it sounds, benefits us more than we can ever imagine.  Not because of how well we pray, and its not about the burdens we lay down. 

The key is that as we pray, as we reach out to God, we remember His promises, we remember all He is done to make this relationship happen, and we begin to realize that “the Lord is with you” is not just a polite greeting, it is the truth we have to depend upon. HE is with you and He hears your cry to for righteousness, for justice, and Christ died to give you that justice! To bring you back to the Father, to make everything right!
The more we do pray, the more we seek His face, the more we will trust Him, for we will experience His love, we will see Him at work in our lives, making our lives a masterpiece. The more we will treasure the hope we have. 

That is what this passage is teaching us, that to walk with Jesus means we know He hears us, and makes our lives righteous.

Do We Realize What is Going On Around Us?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)

We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.

THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.

We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.

Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.

THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.

It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.


Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.

We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.

Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!


Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

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

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

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.

Maybe the Church Should Try This….Maybe We Should

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” 4  But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” Luke 4:3-4 (NLT2)

In India following a big earthquake some years ago, relief teams came from all over the world. They asked that a few of our sisters be in each relief camp to organize the work. To their surprise the sisters insisted on beginning each day with prayer and Holy Mass and that there be times to withdraw for meals and prayers. Some did not agree but those who remained saw the wisdom of it. Because there was reliance on God, the teams could continue. Another proof that our strength comes from Him Who said it clearly: ‘Without Me you can do nothing’.
I speak in the name of our sisters everywhere and from my own personal experience: without the strength provided by the Eucharist, it would not be possible to live our vocation.

And now that they no longer have to chatter the troublesome [breviary’s] seven hours, it would be much better if morning, noon, and night they would replace it by reading a page or two of the catechism, prayer book,4 New Testament, or something else from the Bible and pray the Lord’s Prayer for themselves and their parishioners! In this way they would again show some gratitude and respect for the gospel, which has relieved them of so many burdens and difficulties, and they might feel a little shame that, like pigs and dogs, they do not get more out of the gospel than this lazy, harmful, scandalous, fleshly freedom. Sad to admit, the rabble has too low a regard for the gospel, and, even when we have tried as hard as we can, we do not make much of a difference. What can we expect if we want to be as idle and lazy as we were under the papacy?

The battle in my denomination is no different than the battle in so many others today. Ultimately, it doesn’t boil down to worship style, or missional strategy. It isn’t about being traditional, or seeker-sensitive (though there are new terms to describe such, they are still the same battles). It isn’t even about long divisions that are more about personalities and generations of disciples who held grudges. It is even, as I have long thought, about power and control.

Well – not about us controlling versus them controlling.

Simply put, it is about letting God be God, and sitting at His feet, as Mary did. It is about living a life in a deep and intimate relationship with God, realizing that He is as incarnate in our lives as in Mary’s, and that the sacramental life is one which makes all the difference in the world. For a life, spent in communion with God, in prayer and meditation is what makes the difference in us, in our personal lives, in the lives of our parish/congregations. and in the life of our Church.

The temptation is no different than when Jesus was tempted. “Go do this, use your power to provide for yourself, do what is right in your own eyes, in your estimation, according to your studies and theories based on studying what others have done” and assuming that what we see as success, actually is successful. And yet the “missional” types, and the “confessional” types do this, and even do it somewhat triumphantly.

And yet, the passage Jesus is quoting is so contrary to that kind of idea.

2  Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3  Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT2)

That is the life described in the quote from the Roman Catholic nun in the first article. One of the leaders from the order of Mother Theresa, whose work among the poor is legendary. They needed the mass, they needed the sacramental time with God in order to find the peace that would enable them to serve others. This is the life that Luther had hoped would develop as he preached the gospel. Yet, whether from laziness or temptation the freedom to actually pray in a non-mechanical way didn’t develop, and sermons that were more quotes of scholars that actually matching the word of God to the needs of people, revealing the grace and love of God that they needed to hear.

We must, as the people of God, spend time with Him. We have to spend time in silence, enough that the world drifts away, and we can hear the word of God. We need to struggle to understand what we receive in communion, to realize that this IS the Body and Blood of our Lord, given for us, given to us. Learning to desire this time, which is uncomfortable at first (see Isaiah 6 or Ex. 3:2 ) but grows on us, and becomes the most precious time we have.

And in that time, as we gaze on Christ, we do not realize the transformation that happens. We don’t notice our ability to show mercy grow, and to care for those around us. Yet it idoes…

This isn’t about a methodology about saving the church. It is about learning to let God provide as He has promised. It is about walking with Him, trusting and depending on Him. Hearing His voice.

My dear readers, I beg you, invest the time, push through the distractions, they will fade, and spend time, individually and in groups, learning to adore the Lord in whose presence you dwell. Listen to Him, through the word, through considering your baptism, the our communion together, through the words your pastors and priests share, declaring your are forgiven! And hearing Him guide you in your day….

The Lord is with you (all)!

Lord Jesus, help us to seek Your presence, even as Your Spirit dwells with us. For no other reason that to spend time with You, and to realize what You are doing in our lives. Help us to pray, and to meditate on Your word, and on Your love. AMEN!

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 179). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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.) (pp. 185–186). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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