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Simple Prayer: Monotonous or Savored?

20170124_103703Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

6  An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. 7  Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. 8  In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9  They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10  Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.      1 Timothy 3:6-10 (NLT)

825    Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment. That work—humble, monotonous, small—is prayer expressed in action, which prepares you to receive the grace of that other work—great and broad and deep—of which you dream. (1)

Not being a fan of monotony, I struggle with what St Josemaria calls the “obligations of the moment”.  Those tasks that are the adult equivalent of a third graders math homework, doing 50 or 60 problems to learn the present lesson.  Give me the process, let me try it, (as opposed to it trying me) and let me move on!

It’s taken a long time to learn the difference between vain and repetitious and beneficial and repetitious. I always thought repetition was vain.

Such an attitude made prayer a challenge.  Because it seems repetitious to offer the same prayers, to ask God to intercede with the same names, day after day week after week.  Can’t I just entrust the person once to God and then move on to the next person in crisis?

And the Lord’s prayer, let me turn it into an outline, let me use it as a guide, let me find something to do to make it more special, more pious, more holy.  What good is it if I simply pray it in a rote manner, time after time?  ( never mind that rosary!  Even if Luther used it, how monotonous is that!)

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that repetition and vanity are not synonyms.  That those names I gave to God yesterday, I became anxious about, that the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart are so broken that my words fail me.  That is when the words of the Lord’s prayer become my life preserver, tossed to me so that I can still use the Lord’s name in a way that is not vain.  So that I can use them to call out to Him and ask Him to revealed His comfort, His love, His mercy.

When all other words seem beyond my ability to form, His words, given to me for such times, becomes words I savor, that become more than beneficial, that become precious.  I realize that as they are answered, they express His plan, they reveal His desire.  This brings him delight, as I call out to Him, trusting him to fulfill what He’s promised.  They are what I need in that moment, not just because I am obligated to pray, but because they remind me of His obligation as my Lord, as My Savior,  as my God.

Then, at peace, I might find the strength for something else,  the ministry of which I have dreamed, the works that will be exciting, but no more glorious than simply knowing He is here, listening, comforting, sustaining, loving me!  This is the nature of our faith being tested, of becoming mature enough to realize that we start and end, and live conversing with God. 

Even if things are of what I’ve dreamed, those simple words, no longer monotonous, are precious, and savored.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is, in heaven!  Give us this day our daily bread!  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not to temptations, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and glory, for ever and ever, Amen!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1893-1895). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Ignore This Prayer, Because We Do Not Want It Answered?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

13  No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never be impossible for you to bear it.      1 Corinthians 10:13 (Phillips NT)
“And lead us not into temptation.”
18 What does this mean?
Answer: God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.

201      In a Christian’s life everything has to be for God—even personal weaknesses, once they have been put right! The Lord understands and forgives them.

As my devotions seem to be focused on prayer this morning, I once again find myself analyzing my prayer life, measuring it against that of scripture, and those like Luther and Escriva, men whose dependence on God I wish I could emulate. 

Not because they were giants in knowledge, but rather because their ability to express their needs simply, to be honest about their thoughts and feelings. And because there are days where despair is my greatest temptation, as it seems they understand. 

So when I came across, this portion of the Luther’s Small Catechism, I thought, besides in praying the Lord’s prayer, when was the last time I prayed that God would lead me not into temptation but give me the strength to endure it?  

Not only when was the last time I prayed this petition for myself, but for my leaders? 

Perhaps it is simply apathy.  Said that, God promised it, time to move on, nothing to see here?  Perhaps it is worse, the things I am tempted to do, to say, to think, I am too comfortable with, even as I realize they betray my weaknesses?  

Do we consciously or subconscious omit this from our daily prayer because we want to avoid confronting that which tempts us, that which ensnares us, those sins that are all too common in our lives?  Do we too easily give place to lust, or despair, to doubt God’s promise?  Do we become to comfortable with being broken?  Is it too easy justification for not living life in Christ?  Is that why this is only prayed in our repetition of Christ’s prayer?

Are we afraid, that if we truly pray, truly desire that God would not lead us into temptation, that He will answer that prayer?

I like the point St. Josemaria makes, that we need to realize these weaknesses, yes even these temptations can be used by God, even as He is putting them to right.  As we confess them, as we plead for Him to not lead us into them, we give Him the authority over them. Even as we realize we can’t overcome them, as we depend on Him, we find out that He has give us the victory! We will prevail not by avoiding the temptation, but by allowing Him to lead us through the temptation, showing us the way out, as we are crucified with Christ.

For at the cross is where sin and temptation lose their power, as Paul instructs the Galatians,

24  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. 25  The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.
Galatians 5:24-25 (TEV)

As we pray lead us not into temptation, what we are praying is the we realize that the Holy Spirit is not just the Giver of Life, but the Lord of it as well.  That the Spirit calls us to know what Christ has taught us, that we are family, treasured enough by God that the cross becomes the revelation of that love.

The peace that God desires we know shatters the power of temptation and the sins that temptation would have us treasure, even as we learn to pray.  This too is included in our prayer, Lord Have Mercy!

Amen!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 347–348). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 896-898). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can I Really Be Holy on the “PERFECT” Monday?

Devotional Thought On ANOTHER MONDAY……photo(35)
22  They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. Acts 14:22 (TEV)

“May Your will be accomplished, as it is Heaven, so may it be on Earth.
What does this mean?
Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well.
How does this happen?
When God destroys and interferes with every evil will and all evil advice, which will not allow God’s Kingdom to come, such as the Devil’s will, the world’s will and will of our bodily desires. It also happens when God strengthens us by faith and by His Word and keeps living by them faithfully until the end of our lives. This is His will, good and full of grace.”

77 Sometimes you feel that you are beginning to lose heart and that everything is getting on top of you. This kills your good desires, and you can hardly manage to overcome this feeling even by making acts of hope…Never mind: this is a good time to ask God for more grace. Then, go on! Renew your joy for the struggle, even though you might lose the odd skirmish.  (2)

Have I mentioned before that I hate Mondays?

Probably, once or twice.

I get to my office, knowing that my office manager is out sick,  A little frustration there, anxiety more ( I pray no little preschoolers get sick…) and I get to answer phones.  Sigh

Go to turn on my computer – blue screens of death – call to help desk – their jammed – seems the new windows 8.1 update has some bugs?  Sigh…

Finally get to my devotions… a time of peace, of calm.. (interruptions begin)

How the heck on a day like this, am I supposed to be holy, set apart to God, and example for those whom I pastor and shepherd towards His grace?

How can I trust that God’s will, will be accomplished, that He will be in charge, (that He will reign in MY life)  Or will I be tempted to cuss and rant and basically act like I don’t believe He is here?

Grace – we have to keep remember the gifts, the promised and fulfilled gifts of God. We have to know He is here. That beyond our ability, beyond even our ability to conceptualize, He is working within us, through us.  We don’t set ourselves apart to Him!  He has already done this – in the very cross of Christ (read Rom 6:1-8) In His death, which is why we proclaim it as we commune with God.

That is how the Apostles strengthened the church, appointing pastors to care for them, encouraging them by pointing them to Jesus, helping them realize what happens in baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, What happens when we are assured that nothing separates us from God.  For they taught we are His children, adopted, cleansed from the filth of the world, forgiven, loved.

We don’t have to do anything to earn this, but oh, how easily this knowledge can fade from our minds, can escape our lips, can be hidden in the depths our our heart… forgotten for the moment. We too easily let the comfort of knowing His presence fade as the challenges of the day overwhelm us…..seemingly crush us, distract and disillusion us.

Perhaps it would help if once an hour – I prayer the Lord’s prayer?  Not that it is a holy act, but that I would remember that His kingdom has come, He is in charge here, that His will is being done here, among us, as Luther taught – among us.  We need that.  That God will provide, that He will show mercy and strengthen us against temptation and save us from evil.  Again – this isn’t my act of piety, but my need to be reminded of the work God is doing here….the work we rejoiced in yesterday, as God makes a masterpiece, and reveals to us that we walk in Christ.

Prayer, especially this wonderful prayer that Christ taught us… the anti-dote for Mondays….

Lord, help us to realize you mercy… even…no, especially on Mondays!

(1)  Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 543-546). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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