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

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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!

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