Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

A 12 minute guided meditation on Lovingkindness (metta) with brief instruction. Led by Lyndon Marcotte of Cenla Meditation Group

Metta is my favorite type of meditation and the one I find least distracting. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much because intercessory prayer was always a challenge to me.

It wasn’t hard to know how to pray or to genuinely want people to get better when I prayed, but I was never quite sure of who was on the receiving end of those prayers, if they would answer, or even cared at times.

For whatever reason metta comes natural to me. It feels right; actually it feels good. Metta is compassion. It is meditating on a mantra rather than your breath or footsteps.

The most awkward part of metta for me initially was wishing myself well. You begin by saying:

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.

Then you repeat that for someone close to you that you love:

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.

Next you repeat that mantra for someone you encounter but may not know, like a waitress, a guy who jogs on your street every morning, or someone who works in the same building as you do.

Finally and most difficult you repeat that mantra for someone you have problems with, someone you may not get along with at the moment.

What happens with metta is that you learn to be gentle with yourself and others. You learn to treat people like fellow human beings, even those you may have problems with. You develop empathy for others.

I like to say each phrase on the exhaled breath. It’s important to put your full attention and intention behind each mantra. Mean what you say, or “fake it till you make it.” Eventually, you’ll find that you do mean it, and it will show up the next time you speak to a stranger on the street.

~ Namaste

This is a corner of the world where I go to sit, to escape, to wander, to do nothing, and to do everything.

Where do you go?

Sermon
Easter 7A, June 5, 2011
John 17:1-11


This is a prayer of last requests. While not a death bed prayer, it might as well be. Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He will soon be arrested and be put be death.

“He’s in the middle of an eleventh hour crash course on “everything you need to know before everything goes berserk between Good Friday and Easter.” It’s crunch time, and in this moment Jesus offers up a prayer for his followers, mindful of what they will have to endure (and with an eye toward all of us who will come long after them).” Danielle Shroyer

It’s a very hard text to dissect into pieces and force into a sermon. We should hear it and feel the heart of the one who prayed these words. It’s deeply personal. You can hear the anguish in the prayer of Jesus knowing everything that awaits Him. You can hear of His deep love for His Father, for His disciples, and for those who were yet to come to know Him.

Last words carry a special weight to them that lingers in the air when we hear them. This prayer reveals the heart of Jesus and the burdens that weighed on Him most in His final hours. There are three themes that run all the way through the prayer that we must pay attention to. May we listen carefully for God’s good word to us.


God May Be Glorified

First and foremost, Jesus prays that God will be glorified in His life and through what will soon took place. Even as He prays for God to glorify Him, He asks only so that He may in turn glorify His Father. God the Father and God the Son are mirror reflections of each other.

Specifically, Jesus prays that God may glorify Him the way He was before the world began. As much as He is divine, Jesus is every bit human. This was going to be almost too much to bear. Because of His love for His Father and His love for us He endured the cross that He would have to bear. He prayed that God would be glorified even in His death.

Jesus’ signs and miracles reveal God’s glory by displaying divine power, the crucifixion reveals God’s glory by conveying divine love. The crucifixion completes Jesus’ work of glorifying God on earth, for by laying down his life he gives himself so completely that the world may know of Jesus’ love for God and God’s love for the world.

Everything that God gives to us, our talents, our time, and our treasures should be used to bring glory to God. Even Jesus looked at His power, His time on Earth, and His disciples as gifts from God, (vs.6-10). He was faithful with all that God had given Him up until the end. He prays for all of us that we may also be faithful and that God would protect us (vs.11,15) so that others would come to know Christ through our message (vs.20).

Jesus glorified God on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do (v.4) and by revealing God’s power. We can glorify God by finishing the work He has given us to do, to use our lives as instruments of His grace, to share His love with others. As we love others the way Christ loved us, we make the invisible God visible in the flesh through our lives.


We May Have Eternal Life

“Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven.” Matthew Henry

It’s interesting to realize all the things that Jesus didn’t pray for in this moment. No, He didn’t pray for us to all be rich, powerful, and have everything we want, but He did pray for us to have the one thing we needed above all else… He prayed that we would know God, specifically to know God the way He knows God.

Jesus prayed that we may have eternal life, (v.3). He prayed that God would bring us to be with Him where He is going, (v.24). He wanted us to have that assurance of reunion with God and His Son, but He also said something else about what eternal life really is, (v.3).

He said that eternal life is “knowing you, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (vs.3). “According to John’s gospel, eternal life comes from a relationship with the eternal God,” Craig Koester. Eternal life is now. This is part of eternity right now. The kind of life that God wants for us doesn’t start when we die. It begins now as we follow Christ and come to know the eternal God. Jesus didn’t pray for God to take us out of this world but that He would protect us and use us for His glory in this world, (v.15).

We can experience the full measure of God’s love and His grace here and now in this life. We don’t wait till we die to know God.


We May Be One

The blessing Jesus prays for is: That we may be one as Jesus and God are one. That’s a very important distinction in the kind of unity that Jesus wants for us. He doesn’t just want us to get along and not kill each other. He actually wants us to love one another selflessly the way He loves His Father and the Father loves Him.

We don’t have to get to Martin Luther, or even to the East/West schism of 1054, to know that Christian unity hasn’t lived up to Jesus’ prayer for us. Peter bailed on Jesus and his friends just a chapter later. Paul and Barnabas parted ways halfway through the Book of Acts. And us? If you checked the blogosphere right now, you’d find thousands of examples of Christians arguing over the fine print of our faith. We aren’t one as Jesus and the Father are one. We spend most of our time competing with one another, finding scapegoat enemies on whom to blame the world’s problems, and yelling.  We’re running a repetitive grinder of anxiety in our collective stomachs.

If Jesus is praying on our behalf for us to attain a higher, more lofty sense of togetherness, we sure haven’t listened. So what does that say about us?

What does that say about Jesus’ prayer? For all those who were taught that their heartfelt prayers would be heard and answered, it is quite problematic to see the Son of God’s unanswered prayer staring us in the face.  What does it mean when even Jesus’ prayer isn’t answered?

– Danielle Shroyer

We believe that there is nothing that God cannot do, but why hasn’t Jesus’ prayer been answered? We know that God doesn’t force us to do anything. He leads us, prompts us, convicts us, challenges us, but if we don’t listen, if we don’t follow Him, a part of God’s good plan for us remains unfulfilled. I believe that “God gets what God wants.” He will accomplish His purposes, but the frightening thing is that we may miss out on what He is doing. We may miss the blessing that could have been ours when we fight and argue rather than love and serve. Worse yet than missing out is that we may be a stumbling block for others. Rather than being a conduit for God’s love to be shown to a hurting world, we may actually drive people away from God and His Son by the way we claim to represent Him.

Jesus isn’t just asking God for something. He’s asking us for something. He’s praying to us, pleading with us also… “be one with each other, as We are one.” Unity and love in the body of Christ is far more important than being right. It seems for the last century the major thrust of Christendom is about who’s right and has the answers. We’ve lost something when we fail to love one another and love others who may be difficult to love. Can we really call ourselves Christians just because we believe certain things and go to special places, if we don’t truly love people. As the old hymn reminds us, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

I read somewhere that “people may not always remember what you say, but they will always remember how it made them feel.” I pray that we make people feel loved, wanted, believed in, and hoped for. May we bring out the best in one another rather than the worst in each other.

As we come to the close of Jesus’ prayer, we must turn our focus to our own prayers. How shall we pray? “What if we spent less time praying about being right and more time praying about being one?” Danielle Shroyer. What if we spent more time praying for the grace to love those who may be difficult to love? What if we spent more time praying for opportunities to show God’s love to others, whether or not we have the chance to explain it.

May God be glorified in us. May we experience life eternal and the love of an eternal God. May we be one as the Father and the Son are one. May Christ’s prayer be answered in our own. Amen.

May God bless you with discomfort

At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships

So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears

To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,

So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and

To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

To believe that you can make a difference in the world,

So that you can do what others claim cannot be done

To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen

(Source: Unknown)

For years I pillaged the Bible in search of sermons. I did my share of devotional reading too, but it was always hard to hear the text on a personal level separate from how it speaks to a congregation. When I left the pastorate, my reading of the Bible went the way of my church attendance for a while, but I did maintain devotions through the readings in Celtic Daily Prayer which had daily texts from the Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament.

A lot of the reading that I’ve done lately has challenged me to go back to the text with a fresh pair of lenses with which to read, especially Marcus Borg’s book Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. There is a difference in reading devotional selections and wrestling with hard texts to flush out their context and bridge the gap to apply them today. I guess that is the one thing I miss most about being in the pulpit every week.

In the pursuit of fairness and balance I thought it might be best to begin with the lectionary selections and a weekly post on my struggle with the text. In particular I think I’m going to be using the gospel readings, because I’ve got unfinished business with the historical Jesus vs. evangelical Jesus. We’ll see what happens. It may generate discussion, but surely it will keep my edge sharpened.

I’ll try to have each post up by Saturday, just in case some of you guys still in the saddle want to bum some ideas from me to get your “Saturday night specials” ready for Sunday morning. Just kidding, I want to have my ideas in print before I hear a sermon that biases me towards the text. I make no promises, just giving you a warning for what’s coming.

Psss.. lean forward a little bit. Everyone is asleep, so we can’t talk too loud. Many of you night owls like me may still be up, but some of you early birds may be reading this before 7:00am. God bless you. I’ve always enjoyed being up early enough to see the sunrise, but I only do it if I’m going fishing. 99% of the time I stay up late and get up when I have to, which is usually when my boys are screaming in the living room or jumping in my bed.

I’ve always stayed up late as long as I could get away with it. Back when I had a bedtime, I would lay in my bed staring at the ceiling while my mind raced full throttle sorting the events of the day and the problems of the world. I love the night. It’s sooo quiet. I love silence. I crave it.

Most of my late night hours are whittled away watching television and surfing the net. Sometimes I read a book. Sometimes I do all three, and there’s always a snack involved. I get hungry after 11:00am. My favorite late night food is a bowl of cereal, cookies and milk, or ice cream, oh, and alcohol. I usually don’t drink straight spirits or mixers until after everyone else is asleep. Drinking makes me sleepy. For the nights when I’m stressed to the max or pacing over tomorrow I’ve found melatonin to be helpful in knocking me out.

Almost every night that I’m home, I watch the Evening Mass on the Catholic network EWTN that ends at midnight. It just ended. It’s a private personal ritual, at least till now. It’s very peaceful and helps me to find my center in a way that’s hard to explain. The music is often ethereal. I don’t let theology or doctrine ruin it for me.

Often after watching a movie I get very contemplative and philosophical, so I’ll blog, like I am tonight, or I’ll read a book before I close my eyes. Usually, I’ll read and pray the Evening Prayers and Complines from Celtic Daily Prayer.

Tonight I thought I’d share a few moments of the most sacred time in my day with you. I’m off to get a bowl of cereal to end my day but hoped that you might share these prayers with me:

My soul waits for the Lord
more than those
who watch for the morning,
more than those
who watch for the morning.

I will lie down and sleep in peace
for You alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

My dear ones, O God, bless Thou and keep,
in every place where they are.

Be it on Thine own beloved arm,
O God of grace,
that I in peace shall waken.

The peace of all peace
be mine this night
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

The New Year has been a great opportunity to go deeper in my faith. It has had a tremendous psychological benefit to start fresh with new practices to strengthen my faith. My friends and I have been discussing the three major emphases of the emerging church, as I understand them: Inward Journey (spiritual formation), Corporate Journey (community formation), and Outward Journey (missional action). While we have committed to meet weekly in a small group environment to further our pursuit of Biblical community, we are also trying to hold each other accountable for the Inward Journey. All of us may be utilizing different devotional practices, but we are all united in making time with God a priority in our daily lives.

For a couple months I have been enjoying the online daily prayer site, Sacred Space, provided by the Irish Jesuits. My only reservation is that it is very short. I have felt compelled to join the tradition of so many other Christ followers in Morning and Evening prayer. There is something about the rhythm of devotion that is very meaningful to me. This led me to research Celtic Spirituality more, hoping to find something akin to the Book of Common Prayer used by our Anglican and Episcopal brethren. I discovered Celtic Daily Prayer which is prayer and readings from the Northumbria Community.

The Northumbria Community is actually a dispersed community with Companions all over the United Kingdom as well as internationally. They describe their community as “a conscious attempt to find a practical modern expression of a new monasticism, which preserves an uncompromising allegiance to the imperatives of the Sermon on the Mount.” They are united by three fundamental commitments. The first common commitment is taking vows of “availability and vulnerability” both to God and others. The second commitment is to their “Rule, ‘A Way for Living,’ which embraces a dogged fidelity to the Sermon on the Mount as an expression of Christian discipleship.” The third commitment is to pray the Daily Office.

The Daily Office is primarily marked by Morning and Evening Prayers, but they also include Midday Prayer and the Compline (bedtime) which are optional. I would spare you my inadequate description of the Daily Office and urge you to pray it for yourself for a day, a week, or a season, as a fresh approach to your own spiritual formation.

You may be wondering like myself, how a former Southern Baptist pastor came to a structured repetitious prayer life. For me my prayer life has never been disciplined. It has often been taken hostage by my feelings and the circumstances of the day. While my conversation with God has always been ongoing in whispers throughout the day, I have been craving a deeper walk with Him. These devotional practices predate our modern program Christianity by hundreds of years. Though I have been guilty of being dogmatic in my beliefs in the past, I am not so arrogant as to believe we all have it right and the saints of the ages had it all wrong. There is a measure of comfort and strength in walking down a well trodden path, when you know it leads to the garden.

I am not promoting anything to anyone, just sharing where I am in my own personal journey. Today is the first day since I received my copy of Celtic Daily Prayer that I have actually prayed the Daily Office completely from Morning to Midday to Evening to Compline. I want to encourage you to find whatever works for you. Whatever time using whatever tool that helps you to prioritize and realize your time spent with God. I share this old Celtic blessing as a prayer for you:

O God, make clear to us each road.
O God, make safe to us each step;
when we stumble, hold us;
when we fall, lift us up.
When we are hard-pressed with evil,
deliver us;
and bring us at last to Your glory.