Malcolm Guite: Prayer Walk – excellent poem and reflection on prayer

March 5, 2015

Malcolm Guite’s blog is one of my new discoveries thanks to Twitter, and I’m very much enjoying his Lent entries. I really appreciated his “Prayer Walk” entry yesterday, and encourage readers to go enjoy it in full.  I won’t post his poem here, but rather a portion of his reflection on how prayer walking has strengthened his prayer life.

I have noticed how often interesting footpaths and bridleways start just beyond the brambles at the end of tarmacked roads marked ‘dead end’. And it seemed, for me at least, that is very often where prayer starts too. I am sure that prayer should be a first resort, but for me it is sometimes the last resort when I’ve tried everything else! I’ve also noticed that the places in life where I get stuck and come up as it were against a ‘dead end’ sign, are inevitably the important places, the places where there is real stuff to deal with and that is precisely why I get stuck or find it difficult to move forward. Too often one simply shies away from these personal dead-ends and goes for the first diversion (usually Facebook!) to try something easier. But when I’m walking, the opposite is true. It gives me pleasure to walk down the apparent dead-end and find the hidden path where the cars can’t go, strike out across the fields and leave the traffic behind, so I have tried to apply this to my prayer life.

The full entry is here.

It’s interesting that he mentions George Herbert’s poem “Prayer” as his inspiration for the poem he posted.  I too have been reading and reflecting on Herbert’s poem, especially since I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s excellent book on prayer.  I’m hopting I’ll find time in the next day or two to post Herbert’s poem and some of Keller’s reflections and insights about it.


Lent Quotes. Martin Luther – Unworthy to pray?

February 23, 2015

Some say, “I would feel better about God hearing my prayer if I were more worthy and lived a better life.” I simply answer: If you don’t want to pray before you feel that you are worthy or qualified, then you will never pray again. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness or the quality of the prayer itself; rather, it must be based on the unchanging truth of God’s promise. If the prayer is based on itself or on anything else besides God’s promise, then it’s a false prayer that deceives you—even if your heart is breaking with intense devotion and you are weeping drops of blood.

We pray because we are unworthy to pray. Our prayers are heard precisely because we believe that we are unworthy. We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.

So go ahead and feel unworthy. But know in your heart that it’s a thousand times more important to honor God’s truthfulness. Yes, everything depends on this alone. Don’t turn his faithful promise into a lie by your doubts. For your worthiness doesn’t help you, and neither does your unworthiness hinder you. A lack of faith is what condemns you, but confidence in God is what makes you worthy.

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13

Martin Luther; James C. Galvin, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional


Picking up loose ends–a reflection on prayer for the Church of England

February 10, 2015

Remember when God didn’t let Moses enter the Promised Land because he struck the rock rather than spoke to it? (Numbers 20:2-20) The punishment seemed harsh, but I believe God was trying to teach Israel the power of the spoken word when instructed by God’s Holy Spirit. Joshua seems to have caught on, commanding the sun to stop in its course in the military campaign against the five Amorite kings. The speed of that military campaign was stunning. (Joshua 9-10)

Regarding the heroes and heroines of the faith, scripture says

Hebrews 11:39-40 (AMP)
And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised,
Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].

God had us in mind for the completion of His promises to the heroes and heroines of the faith. In His eyes, we are connected to the generations.

In Revelation, John described golden bowls filled with incense, which are prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8, Psalm 141:2) Even though the saints have died, God can still use their prayers! The prayers have vitality. God says that when He sends out His word, it shall not return to Him empty, but accomplish what He purposed. (Isaiah 55:11) One wonders what the implications are for prayers guided by the Holy Spirit and birthed in scripture.

When we pray the prayer of St. Chrysostom, we cannot claim Chrysostom as a prayer partner because he is dead. What happens to prayers that have been prayed by many saints through the centuries? Is there a synergistic effect created by generations coming into agreement? Based on Hebrews 11:39-40, yes. When we join our voices to their prayers, we are helping to bring their prayers to completion, to perfection.

During the religious revival under King Hezekiah, the praise team was composed of the descendants of Samuel. The revival took place hundreds of years after Samuel died, not in Samuel’s life. The generations came into agreement, and a revival was born. Our God is a God of generations, of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

The prayers through the ages are like beautiful threads of gold and azure and scarlet waiting to be woven into the tapestry of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The Church of England has a full repository of prayers for the church. In this season when the church is sore pressed, join your voices with the prayers of days gone by.

From St. Anselm, theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury:


“Hope of my heart,
strength of my soul,
help of my weakness,
by your powerful kindness complete
what in my powerless weakness I attempt.”

May it be so for Your servants in the General Synod and throughout the Church of England, dear Lord. Amen.

Some thoughts in this reflection came from “The Synergy of the Ages” by Dutch Sheets.


“Prayer in the Facebook Age”

November 19, 2014

I strongly urge all our readers to read and reflect on this article.  I know that as much as I enjoy seasons of blogging at L&B, and have been finding Twitter helpful for identifying new resources and important prayer requests, they DO make it hard to really enjoy solitude with the Lord and have a quiet heart to listen to Him through His Word.

H/T to Pat Dague who posted this at Transfigurations.

These sections of the article rang true for me:

First Things: Prayer in the Facebook Age

Too often the world draws you away from him, and so you must slough off your circumstances and address him by yourself, oriented toward nothing else, no outside distractions or commitments. The first commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Loving your neighbor comes second.

We are in danger of losing these replenishing, corrective moments of solitary faith. Silence and seclusion are harder to find, and fewer people seek them out.  […]

People awash in ­social media can’t get past the paradox that the best salve for loneliness is ­properly applied alone. They look for answers in added connections, and more-­emotional ones, but God isn’t a closer contact and better friend. He transcends the social, and you must seek him beyond the medium of “share” and “like.” In solitary prayer, the secular pleasures dissipate and the successes of social media melt into nothingness. You drop your social self. […]

[Heavy social media users tend to] spend fewer minutes alone with God, and, more damaging, they acquire a sensibility less inclined to seek him out.

Read the whole article!

 


Some excerpts from Tim Keller’s interview on Prayer

November 1, 2014

I’m eagerly looking forward to reading Tim Keller’s about-to-be-released book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.

As part of the launch of the book, Tim Keller recently participated in a discussion about prayer hosted by John Piper and Desiring God ministries.  There are several audio files from that interview available, as well as a printed transcript.

Here are a few key excerpts from the transcript:

On why Keller finds the Psalms helpful in shaping his prayer life:

The Psalms, in a sense, give you the permission to pour out your complaints in a way that we might think inappropriate, if it wasn’t there in the Scriptures. But on the other hand, the Psalms demand that you bow in the end to the sovereignty of God in a way that modern culture wouldn’t lead you to believe.

The role of meditation on the Scriptures in warming our hearts and helping us adore God in prayer:

…take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.

And it diminishes our prayer life that our hearts are cold when we get into prayer. Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.

On dealing with the issue of distractions:

How am I going to get to prayer? How am I going to deal with [distractions]? I say, maybe you don’t believe you need prayer. And that is a theological, spiritual problem, and there is nothing I can do except tell you to get your heart and your mind straight on that.

Having said that, once you determine you must do it, inside your prayer time, it is hard sometimes to keep from being distracted. That is where meditation helps. Martin Luther said that if you warm your heart through meditation on the Scriptures, so that your heart starts to really warm up, you go into prayer because you want to pray, because you want to praise him for what you see, and you want to confess your sins.

Meditation on a passage of Scripture keeps me from being distracted in prayer. You say: Okay, what does it mean to me? How do I praise God for this? How do I confess for this? How do I petition for this? Meditation warms the heart and absorbs the mind so I am not as distracted.

On the crucial importance of knowing God as “Our Father” as we pray:

And so if I forget that God is my Father, I may come to him in prayer in a mercenary way, saying: I am going to do this and this and this, and now you owe me this and this and this. First, that destroys the ability to adore God. You are basically in petition. Secondly, it makes prayer a way of manipulating God.  […]

So I would say calling God Father means, on the one hand, I’m assured of grace and assured that he is always going to hear me. So that makes my petitions stronger. But on the other hand, it also means that I have to confess my sins because this wonderful God who has done all this for me and has brought me into his family at infinite cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that I need to obey him because of his good grace.

So to call God Father enhances everything you do in prayer. If you don’t know that God is your Father, it flattens and reduces and thins out every prayer.

Read the whole interview!

Audio files can be found here:


Two ebook bargains on praying Scripture for children and teens

October 19, 2014

Tonight I discovered a sale on two books (Kindle eBook versions), on prayer that look very promising.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Children by Jodie BerndtPraying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers: Discover How to Pray God's Purpose for Their Lives by Jodie Berndt

links here:

Praying the Scriptures for Your Children

Praying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers

Both books are currently on sale for $2.99 each.   I’ve not read either myself, but the author participates in a ministry called MomsinPrayer that I’ve been discovering since we’ve been on Twitter.  I’ve been impressed by these women and their hearts for prayer and their creative ways of continuing to fan into flame a commitment to pray for children and families.

We here at Lent & Beyond are BIG fans of praying the Scriptures!

 

 


Meditative Prayer for the Weary and Burdened

October 14, 2014

Being on Twitter has allowed me to discover some new blogs with good prayer resources and helpful reflections for spiritual encouragement.  One such discovery is the blog Knoxpriest by Anglican priest Jack King, in Knoxville, TN.

He’s posted an excellent reflection / prayer resource:  Meditative Prayer for the Weary and Burdened

Here’s an excerpt:

Some of the most comforting and beloved words that Jesus ever spoke in the Gospels are found in Matthew 11.28-30.

Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

One of the reasons these verses speak comfort to the heart is the invitation that Jesus extends to us. Christ calls us to accept this invitation in exchange for the peace and rest he gives.

I believe the best way to read the Bible is to pray the Scriptures. These well-loved words of Jesus can become a form of meditative prayer for us, a way of presenting our troubles to Christ as we learn the Lord’s way of bearing burdens.

Here’s a suggested rhythm for meditative prayer adapted from Matthew 11.28-30.

1. Place all circumstances and situations that burden you before the Lord

The first step is actually accepting the invitation to approach Christ with honesty about our heaviness of heart. Just as Hannah ‘poured out her heart’ before the Lord when she was burdened about having a child (1 Sam. 1.15), so we are invited to pour out our hearts before the Lord. A sense of rest may come instantaneously, it may not. Receive Christ’s promise regardless: ‘I will give you rest.’ Receive that promise in faith, whether or not you have accompanying emotions or feelings of peace. The peace of Christ is present even when we don’t feel it.

Read the whole entry!


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