Lord, I’m tired, worn out and if i’m honest, a little scared. There seems to be so much you are calling me into–it looks like too much for me to handle. But I can’t deny you’ve given it to me. It’s huge and awkward, like an over-sized beach ball, but it’s not heavy. In my quiet moments, I marvel at what you’ve entrusted to me. But today is not a quiet moment. Today I am feeling the chaos of to-do lists, detailed emails, articles to type, jobs to quote, family to attend to. I’m not able to make myself present to you. Would you, in your grace, dear Lord, make yourself present to me? Calm my flighty heart and speak peace to my whirling thoughts. Speak to the little fear, and give me greater love. Let me attend to you as you tend me and embrace your quiet and compassionate presence so that the works of my hands would be strengthened to do your will. Amen.
I can’t rise from my chair to reach the door.
Seeking sounds like work.
“Come to me when you’re weary and worn out.
You’ll find real rest with me.”
I roll from this lazy-boy into a loveseat with you.
You take my troubles, you calm my fevered thinking.
Is this what an easy yoke is?
“I’m standing at your door. I’m knocking.
I’m calling your name. Won’t you come?”
I will answer the door, but I’m not sure I can leave the house.
Are you wooing or cajoling me?
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Watch and pray with me.”
“Lord, your disciples couldn’t stay awake for a single hour!
What makes you think I can?”
“Parents on this planet know how to give good gifts to their children.”
“We’re talking fish and bread here.”
“How much more will our Father in Heaven give
the Holy Spirit
to those that ask?”
…How much more…
I will ask, I will seek, I will knock, I will pray.
Come Holy Spirit.
This is a post I wrote for Light of Christ Anglican Church in Kenosha, WI as part of a Lenten call to prayer for our church. Click here to read the original.
Today I found myself dwelling on this point on our prayer card:
“Ask [God] to help all our elders follow the example of Christ in wisdom, knowledge, compassion, reconciliation and servant leadership.”
Though we’re praying this for our leadership, reconciliation is something we all need, because what matters most in our lives is our relationships–be they with the Lord or with our human family and friends. There’s our relationship and integration into Christ’s bride, the Church, which can also be fractured. These are key relationships, and reconciliation is the mechanism we need to reconnect when we have turned from them in some way. Reconciliation isn’t just about confession of blatant sins, it is attending to what is strained, stressed, fatigued or broken in our relationships.
Let’s look at this first from a positive angle: Any improvement we make in a close relationship makes an improvement in our other relationships. For example, when John scrapes the frost off my car window on Sunday morning, I come to church feeling loved. When I feel loved, I enter more easily into praise and worship of God. Conversely, if after walking the dog, pulling all my Sunday School materials together and heaving them into the car, I still need to scrape my windows, I may or may not feel anything against John, but I may feel “burdened” by this long winter…and that may translate to how I’m feeling about God. Is this fair to either John or God? No, but if John had not expressed his love for me in scraping my car window, I would have had greater difficultly entering in to worship. (It goes without saying that the reverse is true as well–when I’ve felt “met” by God in prayer or worship, I have more patience, love, compassion, etc. available to John.)
Reconciliation comes in where something we have done or not done strains a relationship. Let’s say that John had not scraped my car window, but rather buried my Sunday School materials under a pile of sound equipment that I had to dig through, making me late. Maybe he did this because he was running late himself and was digging for a specific cable needed that morning and unintentionally buried my materials. It doesn’t matter to me if he had a good reason or not–I am hurt by his actions and must talk to him to clear the air and potentially extend forgiveness to him. After we are reconciled, there is restoration of the trust in the relationship and love can flow unobstructed again.
Our leaders have been working hard to be reconciled and keep short accounts with each other so that God’s love can make its mark between us. Are you doing the same? Are you feeling dissatisfied or distant from someone who should be close to you? Are there any relationships that intrude when you sit down to pray? Do you feel disgruntled with God? These are all signs that something may need mending in your relationships. Pray this prayer and include yourself in it. Look for things you can do that will make love increase between you and others. Where there is a broken relationship, pray and seek God’s healing that love can flow unobstructed again.
Breath prayer is a simple way to practice the presence of God. It can be used as a regular spiritual discipline or to work towards the goal of “praying without ceasing” (I Thess 5:17). It’s a great way to learn to rest in God’s presence, to learn let go of compulsive management of your prayer time and to give God the opportunity to do some unexpected work within you. If you need to practice surrender as a discipline, this could be a good practice for you.
To begin, find a comfortable place and position to sit or lie down in. As with the deep breathing exercise, you might want to set a non-intrusive timer for 5 or 10 minutes if you find that helpful.
Choose one of these short prayers or lines of scripture that resonates with you as your breath prayer.
- Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. | Lord, have mercy. | Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.*
- O Lord, make haste to help us.
- Whenever I am afraid I will trust in you.
- I am God’s beloved child.
- Be still and know that I am God.
- Nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus.
- Make up your own based on a verse that has been sticking with you lately.
Inhale slowly and say the first part of the prayer and on the exhale, say the second part. For example:
Inhale: Whenever I am afraid,
Exhale: I will trust in you.
Continue breathing and praying. Pause if you need to breath regularly, but remain quiet and in a prayerful frame of mind. If you find your mind wandering, release the thought to God without beating yourself up about it, and concentrate on your breathing.
After your time is completed, take a moment to reflect on how you feel now as opposed to when you started. Did God make anything apparent to you in this time? You may wish to note it or thank God for it before continuing on in your day.
Other Ways to Practice Breath Prayer
Breath prayer has the benefit of being a flexible discipline and one you can do with only part of your brain, which means you can use it while engaged in tedious tasks, such as your commute, cleaning the house, walking the dog, changing a diaper, opening your stack of mail, etc., etc., etc, I would suggest that as you begin, you make sure you get a 5-10 minute window of time each day; it will act as a foundation for building times of prayer into regular life.
Other Resources on Breath Prayer
*One of my favorite books is The Way of the Pilgrim. I have this edition, but there are many good translations available. This book has much to do with the popularity of The Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner). It is written as a folk tale and illustrates the way one moves from the discipline of that prayer into prayer without ceasing. It is delightful, and I don’t often use that word.
(As I was searching for an image, I discovered this book review, which should give you a good idea of the flavor of the story. The reviewer also freely discusses some things about the whole concept that she’s wrestling with, so if you’re wrestling with “what’s the point of this kind of prayer?” you might find it helpful.)
The blog Ten Ways to Pray has an article on breath prayer that includes the use of prayer beads in a more structured form of this prayer. If you’re a sacramentalist, you may find this method helpful.
Evangelical? Cooperative Baptist Fellowship page on Breath Prayer
We have had very little snow this winter. If you live in a four-season climate you know that snow makes winter bearable. A covering of snow softens the starkness of the landscape, like a blanket wrapped around the world offering a chilly but welcome comfort.
Being without snow has made the starkness of the landscape communicate a hopelessness and death. We Christians know that death is not without hope, but when the view outside your window is of a colorless world, the hopelessness gets a toehold. And when you step into a beautiful sunny “fall” day and are chilled to your bones instantly, you feel deceived and robbed. Winter wears you down and wants you to think that death is the ultimate reality.
Yesterday morning, In the midst of this deceitful weather, I yoked up Roxie for a walk and left the house full of the slumber and ache of winter. Almost immediately, I saw a few small flakes of snow falling to the ground, like a stray flecks of glitter suspended in the frigid air. “Thank you Lord, for the snow,” I prayed, my being frozen, body, mind and spirit. As we crossed the street into the park, I looked into the distance. I could see what looked like mist in the distance–but it was too cold for mist. It was a snow so fine and delicate, it looked like a garland of mist hanging over the pond. “Thank you Lord, for the snow,” I prayed again, my heart lifting a bit at the sight. As we continued walking, the density of the snow mist increased, so that I could tell it was snowing by looking only a few feet ahead of me. “Thank you Lord, for the snow,” I sighed, enjoying the feel of it on my face, the swirls and movement of the air that the snow was reflecting.
As we finished our walk and I stood in front of the kitchen window preparing breakfast, the snow flakes became bigger, came on more quickly, and actually started to accumulate. As I cooked, I was able to watch the snow fall and swirl, dance on the roof of my neighbor’s purple house, decorate the fences and driveways with sparkling powder. I sat down to eat, and the sun came out with the snow still falling, lighting the flakes with blue fire. Throughout it all, I kept thanking God for the snow and let that gratitude lighten my heart.
As I finished my breakfast, I checked a weather radar for our area. There was a tiny patch of precipitation showing right over Kenosha. I felt as though our little snowstorm had been staged just for me. And I thanked God and was glad.
Lord, send your Holy Spirit to light my heart today by whatever means necessary! Thank you for the sun, the snow and the reminder that death itself is not without life because of your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to remember, help me to rejoice. Amen.
Thank you so much for your continued support of me and this blog. As I close in on a year as a blogger, I’m conscious of the discouragement that I’ve struggled with that you, my dedicated readers, have always talked me out of. Thank you for your encouragement in both my writing and in keeping this commitment My heart “takes courage” when I think about it.
Last year I noted the lack of devotional materials for right around Christmas. Most of my daily prayer books didn’t offer any kind of special meditations on the meaning of Immanuel–God with Us–to have come right on Christmas day. So I compiled a few scripture readings and prayers for my own use, made them available to you and was once again encouraged by you!
So I offer them again this year in a nice, neat PDF format with a decent layout and cover. (It always helps me to read something that is well designed.) I hope you and your family are able to make use of them.
May God grant you many times over the encouragement you have heaped on me in this year. Have a blessed Advent and a joyful Christmas.
These reflections were commissioned by Church of the Ascension in Elmhurst, Illinois and are also being used by Light of Christ in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are a member of either congregation, I’d love for you to read these from those websites–it helps them know that someone actually finds these reflections helpful.
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
As we peer forward to the birth of Christ, this mansion we prepare within us stands in stark contrast to the humble stable cave in which Christ entered the world as a human being. Yet I think if most of us were honest, we’d have to admit the mansion we are preparing for Jesus is a bit neglected, perhaps a little dark and possibly quite cramped. It is time to purify! Open the windows, sweep up the dust; some of us may even have an encounter with God this Christmas season that will renovate and add a room or wing on to the mansion in our hearts.
It certainly stands to reason that if Christ were a regular visitor to our hearts, it would be in a better state than we might normally keep it, when we aren’t expecting visitors. As we move from Advent into the Christmas season, may we find ourselves visited daily by Christ in expected and unexpected ways, that we would keep the mansions of our heart ever ready for him.