Rhythm of Prayer


I have grown up in a tradition that tends to be skeptical of “pre-formed” prayers.  On a good side, I think they just don’t want prayer to be rote and something we do without really engaging our being in.  On the ugly side, our prayers tend toward narcissism and an inordinate fascination with ourselves.   I love to talk to God, but find sometimes I just don’t have the words and one of the saints who have gone before me does.

Today I borrow a prayer from one of them.

We, without a future,

Safe, defined, delivered

Now salute you, God.

Knowing that nothing is safe,

Secure, inviolable here.

Except you,

And even that eludes our minds at times.

We did not want it easy, God

But we did not contemplate

That it would be quite this hard

This long, this lonely.

So, if we are to be turned inside out,

And upside down,

With even our pockets shaken

Just to check what’s rattling

And left behind,

We pray that you will keep faith with us,

And be with us,

holding our hands as we weep,

Giving us strength to continue,

And showing us beacons

Along the way

to becoming new.

~ Anna McKenzie

Found this prayer by Bonhoeffer and it fit – as though it were the very blood passing through my heart into every vein in my body.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray

And to concentrate my thoughts on you;

I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,

But with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you there is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways,

But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,

And enable me to live now

That I may answer before you and before men.

Lord, whatever this day may bring,

Your name be praised.

Amen.

For those who come from a faith tradition like mine, you may not know what Maundy Thursday is.  I wrote a little about it here last year.  It is a call and reminder to walk in obedience to God – to put our lives into action.  And yesterday as I was roaming the blogshpere, I was also really struck by a blog post by Kathy Escobar on whether we are fans or followers of Jesus.

As we enter into these next few days I am praying this prayer (written by Mother Basilea Schlink):

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My Lord Jesus,

I implore You, let me not be a Christian in name only nor a mere spectator of Your passion, but rather Your cross-bearer, following Your footsteps.  As a true member of Your Body, let my life reflect Your image.

I place myself in Your hands so that You can imprint upon me the traits of the Lamb.  Help me to endure willingly all that people do to me.  May I remain silent when I am unjustly accused.  Teach me to bless those who curse me and those who hate and persecute me.  I will humble myself beneath scorn and disgrace and patiently bear every cross that comes to me.  I know they come from Your hands.  People are just Your instruments.

I thank You that I can rely on the words of Scripture [and Your Spirit] and need no longer live for myself alone, but may let You live in me.  You are the Lamb of God, who endured all things in love.  Come into my heart anew as I meditate upon Your passion, and imprint in me Your humility and love.  As I think on these things, help me to thank You for the suffereing that You endured because of my sin.  Help me to show You my love and gratitude, not merely in words, but also in deeds.

Opening prayer:  Almighty and everlasting God, You govern all things both in heaven and on earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of your people and in our time grant us Your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Readings:

John the Baptist Murdered

Feeding of the Five Thousand

Bread of Life discourse

Walking on the Water

Prayer Focus:  this week our family will spend time praying for God’s peace around the world – particularily in the Middle East. O Lord, bring Your peace to that region of the world and allow Your people – the church – to do works of justice and healing in Your name and for Your glory!

Here is the opening prayer for the Epiphany evening prayer time (week 2).  All other parts stay the same.

“Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed Him Your Beloved Son and annointed Him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess Him as Lord and Savior; who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everylasting.  Amen”

Our stories this week will focus on:

Jesus’ baptism

The Temptation

The first disciples

The wedding in Cana

Cleansing the Temple (the first time)

Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus

(By the way, we are reading from a book called The Life of Christ in Stereo by Johnston M. Cheney.  It is an attemt “to interweave the four Gospels in such a way as to incorporate all the details into a single chronological story, without repeating any parts…”)

This is what we will read together each evening around our dinner table…

Christmas Evening Prayer

Yours is the day, O Lord, Yours also is the night….

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Call to Celebrate (Psalm 24)snow07

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.

Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Selah

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Selah

Stories _mg_4266-copy

Luke 2

Each night unwrap a book and read it together as a family

Song (Psalm 148)

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens,
And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He has also established them forever and ever;
He has made a decree which will not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruit trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and winged fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and virgins;
Old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven.
And He has lifted up a horn for His people,
Praise for all His godly ones;
Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him.
Praise the LORD!

Blessing

img_0043Sweet Jesus, King of glory!

Now You sleep in a manger, in a stable poor and cold;

But for us You are the highest King, making our hearts into Your palace.

This season is born Jesus, Son of the King of glory.

This season is born to us the root of our joy.

This season unites heaven and earth together.

This season was born Christ, the King of greatness.

This has been an interesting season for me.  Because we are traveling over the holidays, I have not put up any decorations or a tree.  I have only taken out our nativity and have made it the central focus of our time together.  Though I enjoy seeing everyone else’s lights and trees, there is a freedom I have felt to focus solely on the coming of the Messiah.  I have loved our times around the dinner table, telling the stories of Advent and participating in our evening prayer as a family!  I have some beautiful little pictures of each of the stories we have read that adorn my windows or lay on the ground of our nativity stable.  Our children have drawn the most amazing pictures – sometimes a literal representation of the scripture and sometimes more symbolic or metaphorical.  It is my delight to hear them explain their picture when they are done drawing it!

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This week our evening prayer concludes with the famous Magnificat, Mary’s song in response to Elizabeth’s joy and delight in being visited by Mary (and the Fruit of her womb).  It is a lovely piece of poetry – so majestic and almost regal.  Even our name for it, “Magnificat”, makes it sound so lofty and almost other worldly.  But I was reminded today by a friend who emailed me that “Mary’s Magnificat is a beautiful illustration of her simple faith in a God she learned about from stories passed down through her family line and from others in her faith community”. In my mind, I got the picture of a family sitting around the dinner table telling the stories of what God had done and children drinking in the words and being formed by the narrative.  (Hey!  I am slightly familiar with that idea!!)

The importance of what happens around our dinner table hit home a couple of week ago when Luc, our son, came to me in a small panic.  He wanted to know where our “prayer stuff” was.  I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about so he reminded me of “that stuff we do after dinner at night”.  (Doesn’t he say it so eloquently?)

(Let me take one more step back and say, in confession, that at the end of Ordinary Time we went through a super busy period in our family.  I was too tired to try and pull everyone back into a rhythm of evening prayer, so we went without it for about 5 weeks.  To be honest, I didn’t think anyone missed it and I was re-evaluating if it was worth the effort it takes to get everyone in sync.)

I asked him why he needed it and he was adamant that he just needed it!  I found it for him, gave it to him and left it at that.

About 10 minutes later he came to me and announced with a huge smile that he had memorized Psalm 16.  He let me know that he could remember most of it in his brain but he just needed to look at again for a few minutes!  (Psalm 16 was part of our evening prayer reading during a part of Ordinary Time).  He was so proud of himself!!  I was so convicted and encouraged again that what we do around the dinner table DOES make a difference – that my kids are “getting it”.  Mary’s Magnificat is full of phrases that she had heard over and over again from the book of Psalms and now those same words reside in the heart and mind of my children.  My kids, like Mary, are learning about God from stories passed on and talked about in our family!

What they will do with their trust in God in the future I do not know, but I know that my job is to keep sharing the stories that will little-by-little form their faith and their lives.  Who knows, maybe someday they will express their trust in God as eloquently as Mary!

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about listening.  Listening to God and then following Him in the direction He reveals.  As I enter this new year, with Advent just around the corner, I am reminded that I want this Advent to be a season of listening.  I want to be sure to not get caught up in the busyness of the world around me, but rather become a listener – listening to stories of longing for hope and deliverance, listening to the cries of God’s people for a Messiah, listening to those in my community, listening to my family, and, of course, listening to God.

I came across this prayer that I wrote a while back and again, it reminds me to listen.  (I think there is a theme going on here!!)

Lord, my world is so often abuzz with noise

My body feels the obligation to always be doing

My mind is filled with a cacophony of voices

vying for my attention

I hear people

I hear endless words

I hear discordant sounds

…I hear everything, but You.

So as I enter into this day

I ask for Your grace and mercy

to be still

to rest

to be quiet

So I may open my ears and heart to You

Father, settle me in Your stillness

Jesus, teach me to listen

Spirit, speak

Today, I will listen

To the Three, I will listen

listening

Advent Evening Prayer

Yours is the day, O Lord, Yours also is the night….

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Call to Wait (Psalm 62)

1My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
2He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. [Selah.]

5My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
6He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
7On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
8Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah.]


9Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
10Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
11Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
12And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work.

Stories

(I am using the excerpts from the O Antiphons on these certain days)

November 30 – wisdom

December 4 – Lord

December 8 – Root of Jesse

December 12 – Dayspring

December 16 – Desire of Nations

December 20 – Immanuel

Song

Week 1 (Luke 1:13-17)

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.

It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Week 2 (Luke 1:42-55)

And [Elizabeth] cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Week 3 (Luke 1:68-79)

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant–
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-
Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES,
And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Week 4 (Luke 2:10-14)

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Blessing

*God of the watching ones,

Give us Your benediction.

*God of the waiting ones,

Give us Your good word for our souls.

*God of the watching ones,

The waiting ones,

The slow and suffering ones,

Give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls,

That we might rest.

*God of the watching ones,

The waiting ones,

The slow and suffering ones

*And of the angels in heaven,

*And of the child in the womb,

Give us Your benediction

Your good word for our souls

That we might rest and rise

In the kindness of Your company.

(* denotes a change in reader)

One of the things we are trying to do consistently as a family is some fixed hour prayer.  We are trying to come together in the morning and evening around the kitchen table and start our day with some “form” prayer.  We find it much easier in the evening as the mornings sometimes get a little chaotic!!  However, we are enjoying being immersed in the prayers of the Scriptures and have discussions about “God stories”.  We are even going to write some evening prayers for each season that, if others want, they can participate in too.

However, yesterday I was reminded that it is not just in the morning and evening that we need to stop and pause.  Personally, I need it in the dead middle of my day when I am the most busy.  I need a time to stop and bring all I am doing back to God and live again within His story (not the one I am creating).

So here is the prayer that God invited me into yesterday.  It comes from the Northumbria Community in Ireland, and for me, it helps me to bring my work into the presence of the King.  I hope you will at least try to practice the rhythm of an afternoon prayer.  May you enjoy the pause.  May you enjoy the Presence of the Father.  May you remember your place in His story.

Midday Prayer –My Work

Pause for a moment or two.

Opening

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
Establish Thou the work of our hands;
establish Thou the work of our hands.

The Lord’s Prayer

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, the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen

Declaration of faith

We believe and trust in God the Father Almighty.
We believe and trust in Jesus Christ His Son.
We believe and trust in the Holy Spirit.
We believe and trust in the Three in One.

Canticle

Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days;
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy,
that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands, dear Lord.

Blessing

Let nothing disturb thee,
nothing affright thee;
all things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
who God possesseth
in nothing is wanting;
alone God sufficeth.

+ In the name of the Father,
the Son,
and the Holy Spirit. Amen