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Prayer

On Prayer

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“Many of the difficulties in prayer come from too much attention to ourselves –
our moods, our feelings, our fitness to pray. But prayer is paying attention to God.
We Christians need theologians far more than we need psychologists. Keep a
therapist/counselor in the wings for those times when you need help untangling
your self from yourself, but make sure you get a theologian to walk by your side.”

Excerpt from Eugene Peterson, “Are You Ready for a Real Theologian” –
Theology Matters

Three Postures of Prayer

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Brother Lawrence described how he considered himself “before God, whom I behold as my king.” (The Practice of the Presence of God, Second Letter, pp38-39)

As Subject

the Posture: kneeling, prostrate

“I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruption, and who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Touched with a sensible regret, I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask his forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what He pleases with me. The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embrace me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite…”

Kneeling or prostrate we pray: “As your Subject, redeem me – and converse with me as friend.”

As Son

the Posture: embracing, leaning, expressing need (Ignatius, the “prayer of embrace”)

“My most useful method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard for God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s breast; so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there.”

Embracing, leaning we pray: “As your Son, embrace and nurture me.”

As Stone

the Posture: sitting, desiring change and transformation

“As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone; presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself.”

Sitting, we pray: “As your Stone, form me into Your image.”

An Easter Poem (John Updike)

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Seven Stanzas of Easter

Make no mistake, if He rose at all

it was as His body.

if the cells disillusion did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

 

It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and befuddled eyes of

the eleven apostles.

it was as His flesh: ours.

 

The same hinge, thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that pierced, died, withered, decayed and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.

 

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

 

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.

 

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque

in the dawn light, robed in real linen,

spun on a definite loom.

 

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, for our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.

 

(Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church of Marblehead, MA) Taken from John Updike, Seventy Poems, Penguin Books, 1972.

When Prayer Is Hard (George Macdonald)

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My prayer-bird was cold – would not away,
Although, I sat it one the edge of the nest,
Then I bethought me of the story old –
Love-fact or loving-fable, thou knows’t best
How, when the children had made sparrows of clay,
Thou mads’t them birds, with wings to flutter and fold
Take, Lord, my prayer in thy hand, and make it pray.
George Macdonald

Prayer Is Sharing In God’s Power (Henri Nouwen)

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“Christ is the one who in the most revealing way made clear that prayer means sharing in the power of God. Through this power he turned his world around. He freed countless men and women from the chains of their existence, but also stirred up the aggression which brought him to his death.

Christ, who is fully human and fully divine, has shown us what it means to pray.

In Him, God became visible for the fall and rise of many”

-Henri Nouwen

Three Postures of Prayer (Leighton Ford)

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Brother Lawrence famously wrote of “the practice of the presence of God” – one of the finest descriptions of attentiveness to God. In his book of the same name he described how he considered himself “before God, whom I behold as my king” using three images: subject, son,  and stone.

As Subject

the Posture: kneeling, prostrate

“Touched with a sensible regret, I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what He pleases with me. The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love…and treats me in all respects as His favorite…”

Kneeling or prostrate we pray: “As your Subject, redeem me – and converse with me as friend”.

 

As Son

the Posture: embracing, leaning, expressing need

“My most useful method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard for God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s breast; so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there”.

Embracing, leaning, we pray: “As your Son, embrace and nurture me”.

 

As Stone

the Posture: sitting, desiring change and transformation

“As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise. Sometimes, I consider myself there as a stone; presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself”.

Sitting, we pray: “As your Stone, form me into your image”.

You Are Where You Are Meant To Be (Richard Halverson)

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Wherever you go, God is sending you.
Wherever you are, God has put you there.
God has a purpose in your being right where you are.
Christ, who indwells you by the power of his Spirit,
wants to do something in and through you.
Believe this and go in his grace, his love, his power.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Dr. Richard Halverson (for many years chaplain of the U.S. Senate)

A Prayer of Trust (Thomas Merton)

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MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I am following your will does not mean that in fact I am doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

Give Us, O Lord, A Steadfast Heart (St. Thomas Aquinas)

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Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

—Thomas Aquinas

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