Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, TItus 3:3-4 NLT
In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…
Revival and blessing come to the church when we stop looking at a picture of God and look at God Himself. Revival comes when, no longer satisfied just to know about a God in history, we meet the conditions of finding Him in living, personal experience.…
No one knows the Father like the Son because He emerged from the bosom of this Trinitarian Mystery that John says is love. Notice John doesn’t just say God shows love. God is love. This is a huge distinction. The love of God is God. That means it’s not sentimental. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s ruthlessly determined. It’s determined to give itself away at any cost. And one problem we will have with the God who really is, is that he’ll invite us to do the same.
As I write this, I feel rushed, I feel anxious, there are so many things to do to prepare for the weeks to come, there are people I need to see now, there are things I need to figure out how to defuse, and move past.
I didn’t want to do my readings and prayer this morning, or maybe it was I was tempted not to. (Last night Bible Study was on the Lord’s prayer and “lead us not to temptation!”) Satan would love me not to break and spend time…and my own flesh is weary.. and the pressures of the world… well lets not go there.
In the worship service, what some call the mass, there is a phrase often repeated that we need to correct. It sounds like a blessing in modern English, yet it was a statement of fact in the old days.
“The Lord BE with you!” Is how it sounds in most Lutheran and Anglican Hymnals, and in the missals our our brother and sister Roman Catholics.
We need to hear that as “The Lord IS with you!” (and us who guide worship – desperately need to hear, “and also with you!”)
Tozer had it right – to often we enter worship and go all the way through it without giving a thought to the presence of God. That He IS with us, in that moment, a participant in worship–more active even than we are. (side note: as I write this, my grammar checker tells me that the words “the presence of” are not needed for clarity! I think the church has unknowingly done the same! ) We must recognize that we are standing on holy ground.
This is the God of whom Keating is speaking, The God who IS love. A love that is powerful, ruthlessly determined to make Himself known, and willing to give up everything for the benefit of those whom He loves.
I need to know that – as do you. And there are days we desperately need to know this!
We need to know what Paul told Titus about..
We need to see God reveal His kindness and love…and in order to do that, we have to be drawn into His presence. He needs to clean us, teach our hearts and souls and minds that He loves us. If we don’t get that point right, everything else we do as a church is worthless, hopeless, and pitiful.
We have to get HE IS HERE. HE IS with you and me. RIght now, at our desks, or in our work places. He is here to heal, forgive, comfort, lift up, and give us hope. Hope for this life… and for eternity.
He is with you my friends.
The Lord IS with you!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 251.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)
Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.
“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.
As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.
Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..
Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.
Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.
That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!
God is with us… meeting us where we are at.
It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.
But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!
For the Lord Jesus is with us….
We just need to learn that… together.
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)
When you want to do things well, really well, it’s then you do them worse. Humble yourself before Jesus, saying to him: Don’t you see how I do everything wrong? Well, if you don’t help me very much, I’ll do it all even worse! Take pity on your child: You see, I want to write a big page each day in the book of my life. But, I’m so clumsy, that if the Master doesn’t guide my hand, instead of graceful strokes my pen leaves behind blots and scratches that can’t be shown to anyone. From now on, Jesus, the writing will always be done by both of us together.
One of the greatest challenges in life has been living up to the standards I have set, to live up to my expectations. As a result, I’ve battled self-esteem issues. and I’ve felt like a failure in a lot of things I do.
Or at best, I am a jack of a few things, master of none. Barely competent. and knowing that is incredibly frustrating.
I never ever thought that the problem was with my expectations, I always blamed it on what I did. And so I would push myself more, and fail more. I would read books of people that were successful, and try to emulate what they did. Or at least what they looked back and saw themselves doing right.
The passage from Paul, read out of context, added to my stress. It is one of those upon which the mythical protestant work ethic is based. Work hard, gee approved b God. Overcome, adapt, succeed. If you have enough drive – you can do anything! Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get er done.
But the context of service there is, the diligence is focused on our relationship with God, keeping His message, the gospel correct.
Or in the words of St. Josemaria, depending on God, and welcoming His participation in our life. His work in keeping us righteous, His guidance working through us in our ministry, whatever that is, wherever it is.
Even if it is at home during a virus. …
Life is too important to do our work alone, struggling through it, trying to keep up with images that we cannot hope to attain. The stress alone will destroy our effectiveness. The times of failure, of guilt and shame, even of inactivity will shatter us.
But as we relax, as we focus on God’s presence with Him, as we walk with Him, it changes how we work, as we begin to enjoy it, even the rough parts. It becomes like a child’s play! Not that we are any less enthusiastic, in fact, we might be more so, as we depend on God’s presence, as we work with Him.
But the work isn’t the primary focus – it is all about Him….
For the Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign LORD, then the nations will know that I am the LORD. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Ezekiel 36:23-27 (NLT2)
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT2)
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . James 5:16 (NLT2)
Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ,33 which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church.
18 A sacrament is a ceremony or act in which God offers us the content of the promise joined to the ceremony; thus Baptism is not an act which we offer to God but one in which God baptizes us through a minister functioning in his place. Here God offers and presents the forgiveness of sins according to the promise (Mark 16:16), “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” By way of contrast, a sacrifice is a ceremony or act which we render to God to honor him.
I saw a friend share part of the Ezekiel reading the other day, and my mind flashed back to a baptism 5 years ago this week,
A pastor I know and admire posted about baptizing someone yesterday in their front yard with family looking on from an appropriate distance.
I’ve talked to pastor and priest friends, who all agonize over not being able to provide the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper to those whose faith is so challenged in these days.
Sacraments are not some magical incantation, the words accompany the promise, and the means God promised real to those whom HE blesses in that moment.
That water, because God promised, because He is pour/sprinkling/immersing people with it, give what He promised – the cleansing of our sin, the change of heart (and mind) that we need, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
That bread that we place in their hands, it is the Body of Christ – given and shed so those people can realize GOd’s love, His mercy, His presence in their lives.
The words of forgiveness, which ring out, not because the pastor likes you, but because God wants you to hear them – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
This isn’t about us doing the work, about our obedience, about our religious acts. It is about God coming into our lives, about God doing His work.
Those who are ordained to make sure these gifts are delivered are crushed, because we hear the need across phone lines, through texts and messages, and in the posts on social media. We can and are responding to some of those cries in person, but it is another thing to celebrate it all in person.
We look forward to the days when services and masses are the gatherings they should be. But this time helps a little I think. For we begin to understand a little more clearly what it means to cry out for Christ to return, for the great gathering that will happen, when He welcomes us home.
I think we take heaven for granted at times, as we might the Lord’s Supper or our baptism, or that moment when you hear your shepherd tell you that you are forgiven because Jesus said so. One has seemed so far away – a lifetime. The others, the sacraments have always been there, they always should be. Their removal, and the threat of death, combine to help us think of the biggest reunion.
We learn to yearn for the future, because of the absence of the present. We learn to look to eternal life, as we are reminded that this life is easily threatened. We long to have Jesus return to us in the sacrament, even as we are learning to yearn for His second coming!
Let me say it again, for it is worth saying! I long for the day when the people I pastor can re-gather, and celebrate Christ’s feast together. But even more, I am understanding why I should long for the feast to come when all of God’s people are welcomed home…and the celebration begins.
May God’s peace, poured out on you in Christ, nourished through word and sacraments, sustain you until the re-gatherings. This will happen, for He has promised, and He is faithful! AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 289.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 252.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. 2 The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’S splendor, see his greatness and power. 3 Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. 4 Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Isaiah 35:1-4b (TEV)
At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things. Yet, not knowing them even now, they go to baptism and the sacrament and use everything the Christians have, even though those who go to baptism should by right know more and have a more complete understanding of all Christian teachings than children and pupils chasing their ABC’s. To be sure, for the common crowd, we have not gone farther than the three articles,16 which has been the custom from ancient times in Christendom, but seldom rightly taught and practiced.
Once when I arrived at a new mission, fresh from experience of painful and humiliating failure, feeling heavy and useless; on the first day my Superior introduced me to a man we were caring for. He immediately took my hand and led me to another, who was dying. He said; ‘Norman, we have a new Sister and she understands us’. In that moment, I became aware of how my own personal sufferings bonded me to them in their suffering. I saw the cross as precious, a sign of greater love. Miracles happen in the times of our greatest sufferings. This is true even if we do not suffer well.
As a pastor, I love what Luther encourages (the purple quote) that the head of the household invest time in building up the faith of those in his care. Not only those who are his children, but those he works with, who are his “employees”. He does so, not by lecturing, but by questioning them, helping determine the places where they need to grow.
It is a different form of “teaching” a form that must be different, for what is being taught is different. It is not doctrine that is being taught, but faith. It is not data, but that we can trust and depend on Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit who is active in our lives. It is something that is experienced not just memorized, it is something that is shared with those we love, not just drilled into them.
It is what Isaiah refers to, the lessons of faith that enable us to see the Lord’s glory, which is actively giving strength to the tired hands, and the trembling weak knees, It is the life lived within the truth that discouragement is not conquered by determination and inner-strength, but rather in the fact that God has come to rescue us.
That is what the young nun realized, as she went to minister to those who were suffering. That is what the moms and dads, the employers, the teachers are called to “teach” by asking the questions that reveal the lack of knowledge of God’s presence and His work in our lives, for that is what is revealed in word and sacraments. It is that work, that love that causes us to trust, to depend on, to have faith in God.
Is this what we teach? Is it what we work and guide people in developing? Is it what those we count as mentors and pastors, teachers and “fathers” in the faith give to us? Will we/they walk alongside those (including us) understanding the broken, for we have seen God work in our brokenness?
Will at the end of the day, and at the end of life, they know they can depend on God, for they know His presence?
If they do, then we have taught them well…
Lord Jesus, help us to teach those who are part of our “homes”, the people who are family by blood, and those who are just family. Help us stimulate their trust in You, asking them the questions that help them find themselves in Your presence, and rejoice in Your caring work in their lives. AMEN!
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. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 185). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
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
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (TEV)
273 Dear Jesus: if I have to be an apostle, you will need to make me very humble. Everything the sun touches is bathed in light. Lord, fill me with your clarity, make me share in your divinity so that I may identify my will with your adorable Will and become the instrument you wish me to be. Give me the madness of the humiliation you underwent, which led you to be born poor, to work in obscurity, to the shame of dying sewn with nails to a piece of wood, to your self-effacement in the Blessed Sacrament. May I know myself: may I know myself and know you. I will then never lose sight of my nothingness.
A long time ago, the first church that entrusted me with the responsibility of being their pastor, their guide, had a motto. Simply, what they wanted to be, as a church, was the place that taught Christ-centered living.
A fairly narrow mission statement, yet one I think we still need to see happen in the church.
It came to mind this morning as I was bombarded with political adds and texts. As I also was bothered greatly by some emails that spoke of politics inside my denomination.
After trying to clear my email and my mind of all this crap, I tried to settle down into my normal devotion time. And only as I opened my last book, did I see something that reminded me of what I have tried to teach for decades… to be humble like Mary, and sit at Jesus’ feet, and know the peace that comes from this “madness of humiliation” that St. Josemaria speaks of so well.
For it is there, being centered in and on Jesus, being able to identify with His will, (not mine, not democratic or Republican, not the United List’s or Congregations Matter) that I find the healing I need to begin the day. It is when I come to see the glory of His self-giving in the sacrament, where He invites us to share in Him, in the love that permeates and defines the communion of the Trinity, as He draws us in, and cleanses us, and we start to adjust to living in His glory, and His peace.
When I say I need ot be narrow-minded, I am not talking about set in a political view, or in some narrow theological paradigm. My mind needs to be centered on Jesus, as does my very life, heart, soul’ mind, and strength learning ot love even as I experience the love of God too incredible to understand.
Only then, knowing His love, can I toss away the idols and sins that so easily draw my attention away from the Lord, who creates, restores, and makes me (and all His people, the church) holy and healing of their brokenness.
So set aside everything else for a little while, and think about the love of God, which is visible in your life. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1341-1347). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (TEV)
182 What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.
There should be, within each of us, the self-awareness that is seen in St. Paul’s words above. The realization that each of us is the worst of those who sin.
We struggle with the guilt and shame that comes from reflecting on our day, and realizing the people we may have hurt, either intentionally, or whom we neglected. The time where we should have helped, and like the priest and Levite on the road, passed by those who are broken and wounded. The times where we wanted what we want, and worked to make it happen, not counting into the equation, their need, their pain, and the fact that God put us there to minister to them.
But if I am, if we are the worst of sinners, barely saved, are we too broken for God to use? St. Josemaria describes it as being a miserable creature, who knows grace, who sees the world passing that offer of love by, unable to see it.
Could God use us, the admittedly broken? Those who sin haunt us, even as we struggle to trust that because of Jesus, we are righteous in the Father’s eyes? Could God use you and me? I mean, it is incredible that He saves us, yet how can we make a dent in the evil and injustice that has people so entangled that they can’t see God? Can God use us to change all that?
Indeed, He can, and does! He has always planned to share with us His incredible work of renewing all of creation. Ephesians 2:10 tells us of this, even verse 8 and 9 assured us of His delivering us from sin. Romans 12:1-8 describes it as well, as we consider the mercy He shows us and then urges us to lay our lives before Him, doing what He has gifted us to do.
It is a miracle, as great of one as God’s delivering us from sin. And it happens to all who depend on Him, all who trust to go where He places them. All who are willing to be humble, and to communicate with God, hearing His voice.
Here is your God, let Him work through you!
And then be amazed, as they find God in their daily lives.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Lk 21:36 — Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
Ro 12:12 — Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Eph 6:18 — Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Col 4:2 — Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
1Th 5:17 — Never stop praying.
Lk 11:5-9 — Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
“To be with him”—this “with him” is needed not just for a certain initial period so that it can be drawn upon later. It must always be at the heart of the priestly ministry. But it has to be used, it has to be learned so that eventually it will have acquired a certain ease and we can take for granted that it will not fail us in times of trial. It is important that we do not cultivate prayer only when we find joy in it. Just as nothing important can be attained in this life without discipline and method, so, too, our inner life has need of both of these
The quote from Pope Ratzinger above comes out of a quote that starts with a serious question. Back when he was a bishop, he was trying to determine why those who enter the ministry with zealous, that many had high expectations of, why would these potential superstars in ministry collapse, burn out, losing the zeal, only to replace it with emptiness.
It is a good question for us, not just for those in “ministry”, but for all who are in the priesthood of all believers.
And I think the answer is the same.
it is the lack of prayer, the lack of fellowship time with God.
We have to get away from the idea that prayer is something we have to do, or that prayer time should be a time of great joy and being uplifted. We have to realize that the times where prayer is a lament, the attempt to vent and leave God with all our burdens. To pray with the tears running full, even to the point where our prayer ends in exhaustion and a release into sleep.
That is why Jesus and the apostles kept encouraging people to pray, to speak, to listen, to communicate with God. You see it over and over, through the psalms, throughout the New Testament, there are invitations to walk in the presence of God. There are the invitations to give Him all of our burdens, to find peace in His presence, and to know we are safe there.
And if the lack of pray results in burnout and loneliness, then prayer, these times of fellowship with God, allow us to see how He sustains us. To know He is there, to know He is listening, to know we can enter into those hard times of prayer with ease, confident of His love. This is what we need, this is what keeps us going, even in the darkness.
This is our guard against burnout, against losing our zeal, against the feelings of emptiness and loneliness in the storm.
Prayer helps you to know this… God is with you!
So keep praying my friends!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 291). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.