Tag Archives: Prayer

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton (a Book Review) [Meditation and Contemplation Explained!]

Merton provided words for what I was experiencing and what I wanted to nurture in the life of prayer. More than devotional stick-to-it-ive-ness, I felt and wanted to continue to feel drawn to simply be with God.

But, while my heart desired more than accountability or discipline, I’ve also known by experience that, for me, the sense of being aware of God’s presence often occurs within the frame of my disciplined life. When I am making space, clearing time, attentiveness to the God who is always present occurs more freely. The opposite happens when I slip out of disciplined rhythms or Continue reading

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Examen”

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Examen”

“Examen” (ex ‘ah men) is an ancient practice of examination of oneself in the light of Christ. The idea is to attentively draw close to Christ, the Light of Life, who will in a singular moment illumine his great love for us and illumine the darknesses of our hearts which have failed to notice his love and his calling.

The practice is a formative and comforting practice and fits well in the liturgical prayer rhythm of compline or late-evening prayer, which is where forms of such have been practiced for many, many years.

The prayer of examen can flow smoothly in this rhythm: Continue reading

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Lectio Divina”

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Lectio Divina”

Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading Scripture that intends to lead the reader into a participation with the text. It is slow, filled with intent, and rich for laying one’s being toward the presence of God. I feel this is a great way to start the day.

Step 1: Lectio (Read)
This step is the simple reading and listening to the word of God. This reading is done slowly, perhaps even two or three times over a passage. The goal is to Continue reading

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

I picked up this book in hopes for a simple guidance from a trusted source. Like he mentioned of students in a letter to Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer said, “The kind of questions serious young theologians put to us are: ‘How can I learn to pray? How can I learn to read the Bible? Either we can help them do this, or we can’t help them at all.’”

I felt like a young student of Bonhoeffer as I read along, eating up his simple answers.

The little section I resonated most with was written like a short catechism in question and answer.

1.) Why do I meditate?

Because I am a Christian.

Because I am a preacher of the word. I cannot expound on the Scripture for others if I do not let it speak daily to me.

Because I need a firm discipline of prayer. … Prayer is not a free will offering to God; it is an obligatory service, something which he requires. We are not free to engage in it according to our own wishes.

Because I need help against the ungodly haste and unrest which threaten my work as a pastor.

2.) What do I want from my meditation?

We want to meet Christ in his word. We turn to the text in our desire to hear what it is that he wants to give us and teach us today through his Word. Meet him first in the day before you meet other people. Every morning lay upon him everything that preoccupies you and weighs you down, before new burdens are laid upon you. Ask yourself what still hinders you from following him completely and let him take charge of that, before new hindrances are placed in your way.

His fellowship, his help, his guidance for the day through his Word – that is the goal.

3.) How shall I meditate?

[Meditating on Scripture is preferable to free meditation.]

Just as you would not dissect and analyze the word spoken by someone dear to you, but would accept it just as it was said, so you should accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart as Mary did. Do not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would a sermon! Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you! Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.

This is not the place for the Greek New Testament, but for the familiar Luther text.

We begin our meditations with the prayer for the Holy Spirit, asking for proper concentration for ourselves and for all who we know are also meditating. Then we turn to the text. At the close of the meditation we want to be truly able to say a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart that is full.

What text, and how long should the text be? 10-15 verses and meditate on it over a period of a week. Whatever you do, don’t take the sermon text for the next Sunday!

The time of meditation is in the morning before the beginning of our work. A half hour is the minimum amount of time which a proper meditation requires. It is, of course, necessary that there be complete quiet, and that we intend to allow nothing to divert us, no matter how important it may seem.

4.) How do we overcome the problems of meditation?

The first rule is to not become impatient with yourself. Just sit down again every day and wait very patiently. Incorporate thoughts that come at you into your prayer later on; connect them to the text.

Read the same passage again and again, write down your thoughts, learn the verse by heart. …recognize the danger of fleeing once again from meditation to Bible scholarship and the like. Behind all our uncertainties and needs stands our great need to pray…

On Morning Prayer in Community

Before our daily bread should be the daily Word.

…an hour of quiet time and common devotion.

Although we are often not “in the mood” for it, such devotion is an obligatory serve to the One who desires our praises and prayers, and who will not otherwise bless our day but through His Word and our prayers.

…Grounded in the Scripture, we learn to speak to God in the language which God has spoken to us. We learn to speak to God as the child speaks to its mother.

…Above all, we should read the Psalms together. Then a not-too-modest portion of the Old and New Testaments should be read in series. The songs of the Church will place us in the great congregation of the present and the past. The prayer which one person speaks for the whole fellowship will bring the common concerns of the little congregation before God.

[Quotes, some modified and shortened, but meaning retained, are taken from Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 29-41]

What Were the First Disciples Praying for Behind Those Locked Doors?

Jesus had been crucified; the followers fulfilled their role (and broken their promises) – they fled; they hid. Gathered together behind a locked door, filled with fear, I imagine them praying. I imagine these friends finding comfort in prayer together (as well as fishing together). Not knowing what else to do; they pause and bow heads.

I wonder what came to mind. What did they pray for in a moment like that – a moment filled with fear and failure?

I wonder if they prayed: “Father, bring Jesus back to us.” My curiosity comes from John 16 —

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:16-24 ESV)

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The Yesteryear Country Parish

The sanctuary is small, close together, and chilly. The light coming through the ancient, simple stained glass, provides a mystic but ordinary aura. I have to pause, sit in the pew for a minute.

I see the yesteryear women and men dressed in their Sunday gathering clothes, sipping coffee, talking about the weather, a few talking about the sermon, but not too many. The pastor mills around, smiling mostly, and listens to stories.

I watch from a yesteryear distance.

The sanctuary is silent today. I’m alone, but not alone here. I’m surrounded by the communion of saints – the people who worshiped here before their current state: living and worshiping in the direct presence of God.

Their stories, rituals, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals fill this place; the pews where these families sat still seat their stories.

…and I watch and absorb from a distance of time, seeing the Artist’s work progress from then to now, still working on the same painting.

I cannot critique the Artist’s work; he has made it to be what it is today; though it seems like vandals have slipped in and scratched his canvas when he went away for dinner – to let the painting simmer for a moment.

Something inside me looks back at what the painting was a hundred years ago. I think about the beauty it was then; just a few simple strokes. Now, the painting has become more complex, but more full, as the Artist has pressed on.

…and I wonder, a hundred years from now, what people might wonder and see in their yesteryear, my today. Will they also desire this simple day, this day that feels complex to me? When they think of theology and interpretation, will they admire where we’re at today, or find it too simple, too wrong, or too misled?

I for one, today, will pause and be thankful for the Artist’s work in the yesteryear and in today. I pray my sons grow in this same affection, a simple appreciation of God and his work, that seed that has been planted in my own heart and soul.

Father, cause the intent to see my sons be with you to germinate within. Water this intent, cause it to be.

Praying Common Prayer with Friends

Last week, friends gathered. The clock’s fingers touched 6:30am. We prayed, “O Lord, my soul rises up to meet you : As the day rises to meet the sun. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen…”

We’ve been gathering ever since. Monday’s at 6:30am, Tuesdays at 5:30pm… The rhythm goes back and forth.

The guide for our time together has been the wonderful collection of prayers and songs called Common Prayer. It was put together by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. My friends and I appreciate the rhythm of prayer, song, Scripture, and being sent to express the compassion Jesus expressed (though we have a long way to go to be molded like Jesus).

If you’re curious, the content of the book is mostly available online: www.commonprayer.net. If you’d like to join us, give me a holler.