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Certainly, I believe, the selected passage below speaks in that regard:
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.” Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln wrote this to a friend after the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), which was a stinging defeat of the Union Army by General Robert E. Lee.
“On my knees,” “no where else to go,” and “insufficient wisdom” are certainly precursors to prayer. In this venue Lincoln looked to prayer or prayers when hope dissolved, despair arose, and all paths appeared fraught with abject failure.
We know, of course, that prayer has no boundaries. Prayer and the Living God are always with us. Nothing could be more profound, nothing more certain.
When I first read this passage it immediately struck home to me albeit in a far different context than what human conflict suggests.
During my first year of college I received a call from home that my parents could no longer afford to pay for my education. I was now on my own financially. I could relate in a similar manner: “on my knees,” “no where else to go,” and “insufficient wisdom.” My “assured” world had crumbled to nothingness.
At the time I was a rather infrequent collegiate attendee at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Seeing my anticipated future dissolved with one telephone call, I turned to the church.
What lead me to the church? God did! I can distinctly remember going to the church, sitting in an empty sanctuary, praying for help, praying for answers, and praying for a path. Why me God? What now God?
And all the barriers faded away. I walked out of the church knowing that I need not worry. It would all work out. You see, God was with me. How could I possibly fail? THANKS BE TO GOD.
Dearest Lord, during this holy time, we pause to remember that your light can never be extinguished. Help us to live lives that remind us that you are the light and that you are with us always. AMEN.
Today’s reflection was written by Duke Griffey, a member of First Presbyterian Church.
Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Today’s prayers comes from An African Prayer Book, edited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In the beginning was God,
Today is God,
Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is the word which comes out of your mouth.
That word! It is no more,
It is past, and still it lives!
So is God.
Asithi—Amen, Baba, Amen, Baba
Amen, amen—Amen, praise the name of the Lord,
Amen, amen—Amen, praise the name of the Lord,
Amen, amen—Amen, amen, Amen, amen,
Amen, praise the name of the Lord.
Zulu, South Africa
All shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see,
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end which is no end.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?”
Luke 18: 1-7
What motivated this unjust judge? Not God. Not respect or concern for others. Not principles of right. With no concerns beyond himself, he ruled in the interest of his own comfort and routine. The widow apparently had the resources to continue to bother the unjust judge and make his life uncomfortable. He knew she would not go away until she got the justice she wanted. With nothing more important than preserving his way of being he followed the path of least resistance. His lack of belief in anything other than himself was consistent with his action. The squeaky wheel got the grease.
In a court ruled by persistence can there truly be justice? Have you encountered the judge and justice in this parable? Often the loudest voice with the most money seems to sway the court of public opinion? Is it possible we are all from time to time the unjust judge? Do we ever take the easy way out in dispensing our justice because we do not want to be bothered with change or learning about emerging realities? How much of our lives are shaped by the path of least resistance?
We can be certain of God’s justice. Our persistence with God changes us, not God. Through prayer and petition we grow in relationship with God. Seeking through prayer is often a journey of finding and resolving our own hypocrisies. “You must be the change you want to see in the world” was Gandhi’s expression of the pathway to align our beliefs with our actions. In the prayerful embrace of God’s love we become “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. God guides and God provides.
God, become bigger in me so I may grow more in the likeness of your son. AMEN
Today’s reflection was written by Kim Mitchell, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport
Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Today’s prayer comes from Augustine, an influential Roman Catholic churchman and theologian from the fourth century.
According to St. Augustine, we need not pray for what we need because God already knows what we need before we even ask. Instead, we ought to pray, he suggests, to increase our desire for God, and so that we might be able to receive what He is preparing to give us.
“The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive the gift, which is very great indeed. …. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruits. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:16), he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him alone who is able to give it.”
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen
The material for this post comes from the website of Villanova University http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/mission/campusministry/spirituality/resources/spirituality/restlesshearts/prayers.html
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
The disciples ask, “Lord, teach us to pray”, and Jesus responds with the Lord’s Prayer and this parable. Pray, says Jesus, with the same audacity and the same persistence as an unprepared householder who, when his guest arrives in the middle of the night, thinks nothing of rousing his friend (and his friend’s family) from a deep sleep to pester his friend into giving him not one, not two, but three loaves of bread…such an audacious request; such an extravagant response. The friend, who would be within his rights to send the pest away, gets up and “gives him whatever he needs.”
We may not be in the right, we may not be blameless, we may deserve to be sent on our way empty handed…but pray with the audacity and persistence of that unprepared householder, Jesus says, and God, who hears and answers prayer, will give us, not necessarily what we want or ask for, but according to the parable, what we need.
Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that despite our unworthiness, you invite us to lift up our hearts to you in prayer and that you have promised when we pray to you to give us what we need. AMEN.
Today’s reflection was written by Frank Dodson, a member of First Presbyterian Church.
Chris Currie and Sarah Cooper Searight are preaching a sermon series on The Lord’s Prayer during Lent. To prepare us to hear those sermons, Musings will be posting an alternative setting of The Lord’s Prayer (or a non-traditional approach to The Lord’s Prayer) each Saturday in Lent in the hope that the postings will help us approach this most familiar of prayers with fresh eyes and ears. Today’s setting of The Lord’s Prayer comes from Human Rites: Worship Resources for an Age of Change by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild.
our Father and Mother,
in whom is heaven,
hallowed be your name,
followed be your royal way,
done be your will and rule,
throughout the whole creation.
With the bread we need for today,
In the hurts we absorb from one another,
In times of temptation and test,
From trials too great to endure,
From the grip of all that is evil,
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
Now and forever.
Prayer is a practice we share with our brothers and sisters of other faiths. Here are examples of morning and evening prayers from a contemporary Jewish prayer book–Mishkan T’filah, A Reform Siddur.
We are called unto life, destiny uncertain.
Yet we offer thanks for what we know,
For health and healing, for labor and repose,
For renewal of beauty in earth and sky,
For that blend of human-holy which inspires compassion,
And for hope: eternal, promising light.
For life, for health, for hope,
For beautiful, bountiful blessing,
All praise to the Source of Being.
Baruch atah, Adonai,
M’kor nefesh kol chai.
* * * * *
In the morning before this day’s journey begin.
I offer thanks before you, God,
That just as You found me worthy
to gaze upon the sun in the east,
So I will merit seeing it in the west.
And when darkness descends,
May it be Your will to grace me
with another dawning of light.
Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Our prayer today comes from the great 20th century novelist and short story writer, Flannery O’Connor. In her early twenties while she was a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Flannery O’Connor kept a prayer journal in which she entered this intensely personal prayer about herself, her relationship to God, her own prayer life, and her vocation and ambition.
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.
I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God, please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask You with resignation—that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind, realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.
Oh God please make my mind clear.
Please make it clean.
I ask You for a greater love for my holy Mother and I ask her for greater love for You.
Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.
I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them. My attention is always very fugitive. This way I have it every instant. I can feel warmth of love heating me when I think & write this to You. Please do not let the explanations of the psychologists about his make it turn suddenly cold. My intellect is so limited, Lord, that I can only trust in You to preserve me as I should be.
The Prayer Journal of Flannery O’Connor is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This prayer also appeared in the September 16, 2013, issue of The New Yorker.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Happy is the believer who approaches the throne of grace with clarity of thought, fully emptied of self. Deserving of judgment but confident in forgiveness…speaking for those in distress and then waiting for a signal to launch…or to be still.
But prayer isn’t always a mountaintop experience. Sometimes “I come to you in prayer” is really “I stumble to you…’’
We enter our prayer closets blind to our needs, self-deceived about our motives, lamenting but unmoved to help a world in hurt. Yet given the opportunity, God can work in us a miracle of revelation and repair.
Will I let the Spirit pull and prod me toward an honest encounter?
“Lord, give me patience …”
Do you mean forgive your presumption that your solutions are My solutions?
“Open my heart to your will…”
Open your calendar to make more time for Me.
“Show me where you are at work that I may join you…”
Look again, even in the most routine episodes of your day.
These encounters can be like praying at a keyboard altar…writing and deleting as God guides me toward a more precise word or truthful moment. Or if you prefer, record and rewind as you edit your prayer. Either way, and even as we fall short, the Holy Spirit is always there to re-mix groans into worthy petition.
Gracious Father, we give thanks for those times when our prayers carry the ease of intimacy. But let us also find reassurance in those times when You overpower our inertia to guide us to a deeper understanding of You and of ourselves.
Today’s reflection was written by Craig Durrett, a member of First Presbyterian Church.
Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent, Musings will be posting prayers from a variety of pray-ers as well as thoughts and comments on prayer. Our comment on prayer today comes from Rabbi Abraham Heschel and is a reminder that prayer is not necessarily limited to words or silent contemplation but can also be found in action.
The Writer’s Almanac for March 21, 2014 (firstname.lastname@example.org) noted that it was “on that day in 1965 that thousands of marchers, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., left Selma, Alabama, headed to Montgomery, to protest the disenfranchisement of black voters. They had attempted the march twice before, earlier in the month, but the first time they had been badly beaten by state troopers and deputies, and the second time they were ordered to turn back. This time, under court order, they were allowed to proceed, and by the time they reached the state capitol in Montgomery, there were 25,000 marchers, many answering King’s call for people across the country to come and join. One of the people marching at the front of the line, arm in arm with Dr. King, was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, King’s friend and colleague. Heschel said: ‘For many of us, the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.’”