Tag Archives: Prayer

If you are God’s child…—Lent 1, 17 February 2013 (Year C)

Readings
Deuteronomy 26.1–11
Luke 4.1–13

 

Today, we heard the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, but—what happened just before that?

Jesus was baptised, that’s what. This is how Luke tells that story (3.21–22):

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

In the Gospel stories, “a voice from heaven” is the Voice of God. God says to Jesus, “You are my Son…”

And just over the page, the Devil says to Jesus in the wilderness:

If you are God’s Son…

“If” is a big word. The seeds of doubt are trying to be sown. But Jesus responds with words of Scripture. He says,

It is written…

One does not live by bread alone.

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Jesus counters temptation with Scripture in the wilderness. He is God’s Son, and he comes through unscathed.

Today, we baptised E and E, and in doing that we declared that they are united with Jesus Christ and therefore daughters of God. And we can say the same of every baptised person here today.

But sooner or later, everyone who has been baptised finds themselves in the wilderness. Am I really a daughter of God? Could I be part of God’s family? Surely I’ve done wrong things, I’ve doubted too much, I’m not good enough. Soon it becomes It’s a load of hooey, I don’t believe all that kind of thing any more.

When Jesus was baptised, God declared him to be God’s Son. And we have authority given by God to declare E and E to be adopted daughters of God.

We’re declaring this right at the beginning of Lent. Lent is the forty-day period that we set aside for self-examination. Why is Lent forty days long? Because Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days.

So in this time of self-examination the question is not, Are E and E really children of God? but How are God’s children meant to live? How are we going to teach E and E?

In Christian Tradition, there are three ways we mark the time of Lent: prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need (or almsgiving).

In more contemporary language, these things are all about reassessing our priorities. How do we reassess our priorities in Lent?

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No other name…but other sheep (Easter 4, Year B, 29 April 2012)

Readings
Acts 4.5-12
1 John 3.16-24
John 10.11-18 

I was sitting in my office one day. Not here, it was a few years back when I was head of the Pastoral Care Department of The Wesley Hospital. I’d just picked up the phone. There was a very angry woman on the other end, who was a member of the Uniting Church.

Let me start at the beginning. The chapel at ‘the Wes’ is open 24/7. As you’d expect—people want to come in and pray in a hospital chapel at all sorts of times. Sometimes, staff came in to pray too. There were a couple of staff members who at that time were coming daily to pray.

One had been coming for some time; she was almost part of the furniture. The more recent ‘pray-er’ was a student in the hospital. Like the first, she’d come in around mid-morning to pray. Unlike the first, she’d unfold her prayer mat, kneel and bow low to the ground. You see, unlike the first, she was a Muslim.

Sometimes, the two women would be in the chapel at the same time, the Christian and the Muslim each at prayer in their own way. The angry woman who rang me thought we were setting a very bad example to ‘young people’ by allowing this student to use the chapel to pray her Muslim prayers. She wanted to know why we hadn’t forbidden her.

I told her we were showing hospitality to a stranger in our land. That’s quite a biblical value, by the way, and to her credit she realised straight away that it was. She didn’t give up her objections, but she did eventually run out of steam.

What do you think our responsibility was in this situation? Especially in the light of Peter’s confession of faith to the leaders of his people:

There is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

If there is ‘no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’, should we have done something different? Should we have offered her another space to pray? Should we have told her that Jesus is the Saviour of the world? I’m comfortable with what we did, though I do understand that for some people it’s not clear that we were right.

‘There is salvation in no one else…’ What does that mean?

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Praying in weakness

On holidays at the moment, so no sermons… I’ve been re-reading Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands, an absolute gem of a book on prayer. I love this section, which speaks of the necessity of praying always from within our weakness. I take it as commentary on 2 Corinthians 12.9:

[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

We males especially have to listen to this; I think the first few words apply to males more than humans (my copy is from the 70s, and the language is exclusive; I’m sure the latest edition will have changed this).

In the thinking of modern, active, energetic man, praying and living have come to be so widely separated that bringing them together seems almost impossible. But here lies the central problem: How can your prayer be truly necessary for the welfare of your fellowman? How could it be that you should “pray always” and that prayer is the “one thing necessary”? The question becomes important only when it is posed in its most exacting form. The question of when or how to pray is not really the most important one. The crucial question is whether you should pray always and whether your prayer is necessary. Here, the stakes are all or nothing! If someone says that it’s good to turn to God in prayer for a spare minute, or if he grants that a person with a problem does well to take refuge in prayer, he has as much as admitted that praying is on the margin of life and that it doesn’t really matter.

Whenever you feel that a little praying can’t do any harm, you will find that it can’t do much good either. Prayer has meaning only if it is necessary and indispensable. Prayer is prayer only when we can say that without it, a man could not live. How can this be true, or be made true? The word that brings us closest to an answer to this question is the word “compassion.” To understand this, you must first examine what happens to a man when he prays. Then you can comprehend how you can meet your fellowman in prayer.

The man who looks prayerfully on the world is the man who does not expect happiness from himself, but who looks forward toward the other who is coming. It is often said that a man who prays is conscious of his dependence, and in his prayer he expresses his helplessness. This can easily be misunderstood. The praying man not only says, “I can’t do it and I don’t understand it,” but also, “Of myself, I don’t have to be able to do it, and of myself, I don’t have to understand it.” When you stop at that first phrase, you often pray in confusion and despair, but when you can a so add the second, you feel your dependence no longer as helplessness but as a happy openness which looks forward to being renewed

If you view your weakness as a disgrace, you will come to rely on prayer only in extreme need and you will come to consider prayer as a forced confession of your impotence. But if you see your weakness as that which makes you worth loving, and if you are always prepared to be surprised at the power the other gives you, you will discover through praying that living means living together.

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Spiritual Practices 2 — Prayer

When you pray…

Readings
Psalm 25.1-5
Matthew 6.5-15

When you hear the word ‘prayer’, what pops into your mind? A child kneeling by her bed at night; someone at sea in mortal danger, calling out to God for help; a group of people in a church, with candles and incense… Prayer is all these, and much more besides.

I was talking to an atheist acquaintance some months ago. He was about to go into hospital for surgery, and he earnestly asked me not to pray for him. I said I’d respect his wishes.

But you know, I broke my promise. I did pray for him. I tried to respect his wishes, but I found that whenever I thought of him in hospital, part of my mind was focussed on God. I couldn’t help it; there God was, and part of my attention was directed towards God. I was linking my friend and God together. I realised that I was in fact praying, and I just could not help but pray for him.

I’m convinced that people pray more than they realise. A sigh, a hope for better things, a desire for peace. Each one can be prayer. God doesn’t even have to be named. I believe that even people who profess not to believe in God let out an unnoticed prayer from time to time. Unnoticed by them, that is—God notices, God hears.

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Friday fragments—12.02.10

Prayer

In our series on spiritual practices, we’re looking at prayer this week. Here are a few links:

Everyday Prayer (http://www.lca.org.au/worship/devotional_resources.cfm)
From the Lutheran Church of Australia

A Short Guide for Daily Prayer (http://assembly.uca.org.au/worship/resources/9-prayers/24-dailyprayer.html)
From the UCA Assembly

Church Resources: click ‘Quiet Space’ or subscribe to daily email. An Australian Catholic resource, but there is nothing sectarian here

Sacred Space: Another Catholic-yet-not-really resource; more meditative

Pray as you go: Yet another Catholic-yet-not-really resource! An mp3 resource, also podcast. Could be used in the bus or car

ReJesus: A not-Catholic resource, which uses flash

Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre: A good selection of links to some of these and more

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Quantum physics, wavy cows and us

The ‘strange facts’ of our universe and their religious implications.

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Let’s not forget our Pacific neighbours

Tuvalu faces rising sea levels and drought.

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Great news! The G7 to cancel Haiti’s debts.

Read it at Sojourners.

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And finally… Who was St Valentine?

Read Journey Online to find out.

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