Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Hallowed Be Thy Name

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Image by EJP Photo (via Creative Commons)

Some words cannot be said fast. Whether singing and speaking or thinking the Lord’s Prayer, it seems “Hallowed be Thy name” always brings pause. Ha-llowed. This odd word does not want to be rushed. We don’t say “hallowed” very often. This makes sense because the word has to do with otherness. Not the ordinary. Not the common. Rather, the set apart. Specifically, relates to things or places or even people set apart for Temple service.

The articles in the Temple cannot be used anywhere else. They are holy. Set apart. The priest goes through consecration process as he enters to serve in the Temple. He is set apart.

So I’m sitting back at the coffee shop, re-hearsing, re-membering, re-citing the Lord’s Prayer yet again. “Hallowed be Thy Name” almost always brings the prayer to a standstill. In the middle of the common, every day, secular space, I am uttering “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

The Lord dwells in unapproachable light, yet I dare approach Him in the midst of lattes and laptops. I’m aware of the warning from the third commandment, “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain.” Yet here I am praying, “Hallowed be Thy Name” while voices chatter and the Beatles sing “Hey Jude” in the background,

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you begin to let her under your skin
You begin to make it better.

The song reminds me of our longing for restored relationships, and our struggle to make that a reality. Even as the Beatles were singing a song about healing a love relationship, they struggled with their own breaking bonds.

The Beatles mirror the weakness of each one of us sitting here today. It is in my absolute weakness, I appeal, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” I’m lifting up the name, holding it up above me and above all those around me. I may actually be moving closer to the third commandment.

For this command is warning about “bearing the Name in an empty way.” But if we lift up the Name, acknowledging our Lord as the only refuge from ourselves, we might we be bearing the name faithfully. Lifting up our voices and our hearts to the only faithful and true One. Praying “Hallowed be Thy Name’ in the midst of the chatter and the music could be a speech-act of speaking, turning, facing, seeking, longing for His faithful Name to be revealed in our midst. I think of Jesus eating with the sinner Zacheus. The Word Made Flesh, the Holy One goes to eat, dwell, commune with an evil man. In so going, he may be enfleshing Isaiah 57:15,

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)

So even as I lift up His Holy Name in worship, I am asking Him to remember us lowly humans. We cannot stand in a high and holy place. “We cannot come to you Lord. Might you have mercy upon us and come dwell in the midst of fretting and failing, our broken relations and wounded souls? Might you come and sup and heal us like you did Zacheus? Might this little coffee shop be a place of Your Presence and Your Glory for a just a few moments?”

I worship and entreat, “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

Categories: prayer

Who Art in Heaven

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Image by ImageMD via Creative Commons.

After praying, “Our Father,” the words “Who art in heaven” slip out almost unaware as I say “hallowed be Thy Name.” I’m sipping on coffee, gazing at a room full of strangers. Each person in the room is facing something different.

A woman is apparently texting on her phone behind me because her husbands keep saying, “Who do you keep texting!” Each time he raises his voice slightly. After the third exclamation, she practically shouts back, “I’m checking on our daughter.” Silence. Then I notice both of them talking sweetly to a grandchild who sits between them.

People struggle.

Bound in relationships that intertwine love and anger. Searching for jobs. Trying to work up the strength to face the stress of an unpleasant work environment yet another day. Awaiting news from the latest round of medical testing. Finances, health, relationships, and beneath all the surface troubles a deeper anguish that lacks description.

So I sit drinking coffee quietly praying “Who art in heaven” in the midst of people who need a God that is here, present, answering their griefs and not off in heaven. Tom Waits moans,

God’s away, God’s away
God’s away on business

Praying “Who art in heaven” has an inherent tension. Our Father, our Creator is present in some way, but He’s also absent. We don’t always see Him. We often feel alone and thrust back upon ourselves to survive. We wonder why is He in heaven when people are suffering?

If I pause over “Who art in heaven,” I see the Grand Inquisitor thrusting his ticket to heaven back in my face, rejecting the God who is silent to his accusations. Dostoevksy doesn’t answer the charge, but he does not ignore it either. He confesses human doubt alongside human faith. Alyosha, the true believer, remains present to his brother’s story of unbelief. He continues to love unceasingly.

Remembering Dostoevsky’s story of faith and unbelief, I hold the confessions of those who doubt, those who struggle, those who grief, alongside my confession of faith. Even as I utter “Who art in heaven,” I cry out silently for those who feel abandoned in absence. I know that absence. I’ve lived in it and practically died in it. But I have also known the piercing light of our Father’s love in the midst of my brokeness.

Even as I mumble “Who art in heaven,” I am addressing the Lord who created this world, who relates to this world, who loves this world. He loved this world that rejected Him so much that He sent His Son into the suffering of this world to redeem it and us. He is well aware of suffering and struggle and pain. He understands depths that I cannot grasp.

And yet, He overcame and in the mystery of His grace, He promises that all the evil will be vanquished in the end. As I meditate on the story of the cross, on Christ who bears the evil of the world, who suffers, who dies and who is Risen even now, I have hope that evil does not have the last word. “Who are in heaven” becomes a promise that there is a hope hidden in some ways behind the veil of this life. But this hope is an assurance that death shall die.

The voices that question and struggle and search for God in darkness are not abandoned. Even as I pray “Who art in heaven,” I realize that by His Spirit, Jesus is already present in their cries and that He is inviting me to pray alongside Him.

He is inviting me to love and to enter a love that is not afraid of suffering or success. He is inviting me to embrace the world around me. He is inviting me to see and to hear and to love the people in this coffee shop, on the highway, in the store and even on the phone.

“Who art in heaven” is promise that there is a place where evil cannot enter. Love does and will conquer. Trusting in His faithfulness, I pray to Him and in Him and through Him, I love those around me even in this moment.

Categories: prayer

Praying “Our Father” in the Coffee Shop

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Image by Andrew Griffith via Creative Commons

Some mornings I start my day listening to the hum of people in the coffee shop. Sitting quietly in a corner, I read and listen. The stir of people meeting, getting their morning coffee, greeting one another, and ordering drinks helps keep me alert. Recently, I’ve taken to quietly mouthing my morning prayers. Something about reading words aloud (even at a low, low-level) is different from simply reading silently “in my head.”

One day recently, I softly mouth the Lord’s Prayer. I feel the words change meaning. Lifting up these words in the coffee shop cause me to hear them as prayer in the midst of the earthi-ness of the world. The words leave my mouth. Step outside of me. Echo back to me. They seem to take in and take up the environment in prayer.

“Our Father” is present in this room. I am lifting up this simple prayer on behalf of every person standing or sitting around me. For this moment in time, we are present together, and I am saying, “Our Father.” Not simply “My Father.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). All people were created in and through Him. Even as I lift up my own weakness and needs, I am lifting up the beautiful and beloved people all around that have been created in and through the Word.

All of us were called by the Father above into existence. Even as the word “Our” rises, I hear the blessing of “Father” for the single mom struggling to contain her child, the rowdy businessmen behind me, the tired Barista leaning up against the bar. Now even as I continue praying, I realize that I am also praying in concert with the saints across the ages. In some mystery, we join together and pray “Our Father” in relation with and on behalf of a wounded and weary world.

Prayer cleans the eyes and opens the ears. A moment ago, I was sitting in the midst of chattering room. Now I am beholding light shining upon and out from these creatures of wonder that our Lord created for His glory. I catch but a momentary glimpse of “on earth as in heaven.”

To be continued.

Categories: prayer

Praying Our Father

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis (via Creative Commons)

I’d like to offer a series of reflections/prayers in and through the Lord’s prayer. While I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing, how this will turn out, or even if it will make sense, I press ahead in my own foolish exuberance, hoping that something will connect and stir our hearts together.

In writing these simple meditations, I would hope that I might encourage you to write/pray your own reflections in and through the Lord’s prayer. For me, this is a way of soaking and waiting and listening.

This is not simply method or technique I am suggesting, but rather a position before the Lord. We humble ourselves before the Word of God. We pray God’s Word back to Him. For our words fall before His Word. In our helplessness, in our weakness, in our failures, we wait, listen and trust in the faithfulness of our Father who speaks to us through the Son by His Spirit. So come. Let us wait before the Lord of the Word.

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 trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
(wording from Book of Common Prayer)

Our Father, who art in heaven
When teaching us to pray, Jesus does not offer secrets to penetrating the mysteries of heaven. He does not lay out a method for gaining favor with God. He reminds us that the Father knows what we need before we even ask, and then he offers a simple prayer.

He begins by addressing God as “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Blessed be the Lord Creator of Heaven and Earth. Amen. In these words, sweet Lord Jesus teaches us to pray “in communion.” He invites us into the direct and glorious intimacy he shares with the Father. Our Father.

Thanks be to God. Thank Lord for welcoming us into your household. Thank you that when we pray, we do not pray alone. You’ve not left us to pray out of our own miserable weakness. In the mystery of your love, you’ve welcomed us into the sweet communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even as the words, “Our Father,” rise up from our mouths, we’re joining the prayer of Jesus by the gift of His Spirit. We do not stand alone, but we come before your throne in and through the love of Jesus Christ.

All praises to the goodness of your grace. Who are we to be welcomed into the loving community of your love? Yet in the depths of your love, you’ve not simply raised us up, you’ve raised us together with all the people of God. For as we pray “Our Father,” we join in the chorus of voices arising across time and space from the mouths of your great and glorious communion of saints. We join in the prayers of men like Polycarp who suffered and died at the hands of those who sought to silence the good news of your love. We join in the prayers of farmers, housewives, scholars, and children. We join a great throng of people, stretching across the ages, calling upon you, echoing the simple cry of the Bride and Spirit, “Come!”

Even as your Spirit gives us the breath to say, “Our,” he gives us the grace to say “Father.” We are not orphans. We’ve not been forsaken. We’ve been grasped, loved enclosed in the outstretched arms of “Our Father who art in heaven.” Blessed be your name O great and glorious Father. Amen.

In your immeasurable goodness, you O Father spoke this world into existence. You called us forth from our mother’s womb. In your glorious and wondrous grace, you gave us life. And in your great mercy, you called us into life again by redeeming us from the death of ungodliness. We live in the sweet life of your lips. Blessed be the Holy One forever. Amen.

We’ve known the corruption of this world all to well. We’ve known the weariness of earthly sorrows and fleeting joys. We’ve known the anguish of doubt, the pain of loss, the regret of anger. We’ve lost friends to the manifold distractions of time. We’ve lived in the pain of our own human failures.

Yet You O Father dwell beyond the corrupting corruption of this world. You O Glorious Lord dwell in unapproachable light. You dwell in love uninterrupted; you dwell in fullness; you dwell in perfect joy; you dwell in Eternal Communion. Blessed be your name forever. Amen.

Thank you O gracious Father that you’ve not abandoned us in to die in the corrupting corruption on this fading life. But you have healed us in Christ. Truly healed. Fully healed. Even now we glimpse the light of your unfading heavenly communion shining into the frailty of our own earthly hearts.

We praise you. We come to O Lord. We bow. We cry out to you in your unending mercy, “Our Father Who Are in Heaven.”

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Thank You Hans Urs Von Balthasar

May 15, 2008 Leave a comment

I am grateful to Hans Urs Von Balthasar for writing about the riches of God in ways that both challenge my mind and stir my heart to worship. The Beauty of Jesus captured Von Balthasar soul, and his writing carries the sweetness of a beloved child entranced by the riches of his heavenly Father.

I first discovered Von Balthasar while ambling through a used bookstore in Knoxville. I found a small, stained book with only one word on the cover: Prayer. For three dollars I purchased his classic theological devotional that wounded me with God’s love. Since then I have been enriched and mentored by many books from this man who wrote with a heart to stir God’s people to prayer.

Here is a small excerpt from this rare treasure:

“We yearn to restore our spirits in God, to simply let go in him and gain new strength to go on living. But we fail to look for Him where He is waiting for us, where he is to be found: in His Son, who is His Word….we fail to listen where God speaks; where God’s Word rain out in the world once for all, sufficient for all ages, inexhaustible. Or else we think that God’s Word as been heard on earth for so long that by now it is almost used up, that it is about time for some new word, as if we had the right to demand one. We fail to see that it is we ourselves who are used up and alienated, whereas the Words resounds with the same vitality and freshness as ever; it is as near to us as it always was. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom 10:8). We do not understand that once God’s Word has run out in the midst of the world, in the fullness of time, it is so powerful that it applies to everyone, all with equal directness; no one is disadvantaged by distance in space or time. True, there were a few people who become Jesus’ earthly partners in dialogue, and we might envy them (in) their good fortune, but they were as clumsy and inarticulate in this dialogue as we and anyone else would have been. In terms of listening and responding to Jesus’ real concerns they had no advantage over us; on the contrary, they saw the earthly, external appearance of the Word, and it is largely concealed from them the divine interior.”

Here is an excerpt from another stunning classic, The Heart of the World.

Meditation, Martin Luther and the 10 Commandments

April 17, 2008 1 comment

Martin Luther, the great Doctor of Grace, gave the 10 Commandments a place of prominence in the oral instruction of Christian truth alongside the ancients standards for training: the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed. As Luther’s heirs many of us have lost connection with his emphasis upon the commandments. We may fight to place them in public places, but we rarely pause to meditate upon the convicting wisdom of God revealed in these words.

Without the unchanging foundation of the 10 Commandments, many words in the Christian faith like love and fear of God are reduced to an undefined subjective experience. As a result, we struggle to understand what is means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Or worse, we pit the fear of God against the love of God, because we cannot grasp how the two are at work in our lives (with limiting them to some personal feeling toward God). The Word of God links the fear of God and the love of God to the 10 Commandments, and as we meditate upon them, the Holy Spirit changes us by this holy reflection of God’s truth upon our lives.

Luther’s simple advice for praying through the 10 Commandments might be helpful for all of us as we seek to learn how to meditate upon the commands. He recommends four ways to approach each command:

1. Instruction – We ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what the command is intended to be and how does God require me to act in response.

2. Thanksgiving – We thank the Lord for the grace and blessings of the command, and His power that is at work in me to fulfill and embody the command fully.

3. Confession – We confess our own failure to obey the command and our sins related to that command.

4. Prayer – We pray for His guidance and strength in obeying the command.

Luther suggests that we pray through each command in the above manner. We may not always pray through all the commands because the Spirit may choose to bring one particular command into focus for our prayers and meditations. I believe that as we take time to meditate and pray through the commands, the Spirit can reveal how these commands unfold throughout the Old and New Testaments.

You may find great benefit from read Luther’s Simple Way to Pray online.

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Responding to the Killings at Va Tech

April 20, 2007 Leave a comment

I posted this over at Floydville and thought I would put it here as well.

Yesterday I received an email from a co-worker who is also an alumnus of Virginia Tech. The email told the stories of one of the families who lost daughter in the on-campus killings earlier this week. Since I don’t usually watch the news, I had only read a few headlines about this painful event. Her email put a human face on this story. By humanizing this story, I could enter into the grieving at the loss of lives. Below are a few thoughts that came to mind as I reflected. I would hope that we would not simply observe the pain of those grieving families but may we also weep with those who weep.

There are pains so deep, so crushing, so horrible that our thoughts cannot contain them. We think if we can just explain them, define them, categorize them, or even spiritualize them, we will somehow gain power over them.

But we won’t.

Evil is real. The dark terror of evil cannot be contained by our minds, our media, or even our government policies. In a world of enlightened ideas and unlimited progress, the reality of evil continues to strike. And if we’re honest, we know that evil strikes through even our own hearts.

What do we do when a horrid evil is unleashed before our eyes? How do we respond? If we were still human, we would respond by grieving, moaning, and crying out in agony and despair. But we’ve forgotten how to mourn. We’re too sophisticated for lamentation.

Instead, we watch the news. We collect information, analyze it, dissect it, and reduce the horror of evil to some manageable bit of data that is stored with all the other bits of data that crowd our mechanized brains. God have mercy on us and teach us to weep with those who weep.

Facing the sudden tragic loss of lives, we are mystified. Questions cloud the heart and mind: Why? Why the suffering? Why the obscene evil? But there are some questions we simply cannot ask. The book of Job reveals the futility of asking, “Why must we suffer?”

Sure we can theorize and theologize and spiritualize, but all our wrangling brings us no closer to real answers that feed the human soul. Instead of asking “why suffering” and “why evil,” our souls long to ask another question, “Where are you God?”

Where is the absent God in our despairing heart of darkness?
Despised and rejected.
Stricken and afflicted.
Wounded and bruised.
Hanging on a cross.

He is bleeding and dying and entering into the deepest depths of human pain and suffering. Though we fall under the weight of suffering, we cannot fall lower than the “Man of Sorrows.”

He embraces us in our suffering. He enters into our mourning. He teaches us to pray rightly, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

For just a few moments, let go of the need to know; the need to answer why; the need make sense of tragedy. Let go and follow the pattern of Jesus who truly weeps with those who weep and suffers with those who suffer.

Jesus can teach us to mourn, to grieve, to ache at the pain within us and around us. He can restore our humanness. He can free us from the tyranny of information without love and restore us to loving bond with brokenhearted. He can teach us let go of our need for quick empty, solutions to evil and pain. He can teach us to cry and grieve and wait upon a comfort that can only come from the Spirit of God.

O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah (Psalm 88)

My eyes flow and do not cease,
Without interruption,
Till the LORD from heaven
Looks down and sees. (Lamentations 3:49-50)

Dancing in the midst of the fire

November 6, 2006 2 comments

Suresh offers a nice reminder today:

Are you living? Is there a dance in your life? Are you moving, growing, risking, taking the challenges of dangerous paths? In the acceptance of the danger, in the acceptance that anything can happen any moment, life comes to its best, to its fullest.

His irreverent spirituality reminds me of Hafiz . As the wheels of E-Commerce are spinning around me, I am spinning inwardly in a dance before my Creator like a whirling dervish.

Sing Out!

October 25, 2006 2 comments

Here’s a nice little quote I came across while reading Anthony Esolen’s “Hearts Uplifted” in Touchstone.

He who sings prays twice. – St. Augustine

I tried to track down the original wording and according to the Church History Forum, this is apparently the original quote:

For he that singeth praise, not only praiseth, but only praiseth with gladness: he that singeth praise, not only singeth, but also loveth him of whom he singeth. In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving.”
(St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 73, 1)

Now while I like the theological accuracy of Augustine’s actual wording, I must admit it doesn’t pack the pithy punch of the traditional rendering.

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Hollywood Monastery

August 28, 2006 1 comment

“I’ve heard of Alex Presley, but I wouldn’t know any of his music.” Sister Mary Pia

A longtime resident of Hollywood, Sister Mary Pia lives completely separated from this “Babylon of the USA.” She spends her days cloistered away in prayer at the Monastery of the Angels. Having entered the novitiate in 1950, she completely missed the rock-and-roll revolution: not to mention other earth-shattering culture shifts.

This little piece on the Monastery of the Angels in today’s NY Times sheds light on a population that lives separated from the cultural overdrive that most of us experience on a minute-by-minute basis. I find it refreshing to encounter folks who choose to live intentionally as opposed to living driven. While I may not take to the cloistered life (although it can be deeply appealing), I can learn from their simplicity and willingness not to give into the “needs” of our current cultural fixations.

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