Today I am going with one of my most faithful friends to the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts (check it out on line; it is an amazing place). I will spend time praying in front of one of the beautiful icon that God will draw me to. I will pray that those who who carry a weapon of violence will lay it down and pick up the weapon of love.
We know about starting everything with gratitude. St. Paul begins many of his letters giving thanks. Gratitude is a popular idea these days. But, I forget. It’s not that I’m not grateful; it’s not that I’m complaining, although that does happen. No, I forget because I am busy going onto the next thing, the next activity that fills my life.,
Right now, as I sit in the Angel Room writing, I glance up at a sign in my window. I wrote it; I put it there. Thank you God!
I feel, I believe, I know that prayer works. I don’t know how, nor do I know that even though I don’t get the result I want or even pray for, I still believes prayer works, or to be specific, it is working.
Wow, what a wordy sentence! I’m not even going to attempt to edit it. It is the best I can do to explain about prayer, because, in my heart, I know that prayer is unexplainable. My heart also lets me know when prayer is making a difference. My heart, touched by grace, tells me that I have to pray, and so I do.
Theophan the Recluse (1815-94), saint in the Russian Orthodox Church expresses it this way.
“—the turning from the outside world to one’s inner self, and the subsequent turning from self toward God." Theophan the Recluse say we can do this 'when we are quickened by grace,' but WE HAVE TO DO IT.
I want to tell you what I have recently learned about prayer. Not only what I learned about prayer but what I now know! Prayer works. Prayer makes the difference in the hope we can feel and in what has actually happened.
Last week my grandson was randomly attacked in broad daylight on a city street. The assailant got away, my grandson was helped and taken by ambulance to a hospital to get stitches. He is now under the care of a skilled physician and will be back at work this week. That is only the skeleton of the his story, but it is enough for my purpose here. One might say that his story is my testimony.
When I heard this news I started praying and then I began contacting my prayer friends—a group in my church and a small group outside of church. When I say prayer friends, I mean friends who really pray. That’s what was needed, PRAYER. The responses from these friends showed me their different prayers, wording, emphasis. One was not better than the other. Each was from the heart, human heart to the heart of God’. Intercessory prayer, heart to heart, prayer working.
In the November issue of ‘Raven’s Bread’ we readers were invited to respond to the following question for the February 2023 issue:
Do people find being in private vows liberating or do they find the lack of recognition upsetting? How were they professed? Who witnessed their vows?
Here is my response: When I read the question for the February 2023 issue, I was intrigued. I longed to respond, to say something, to have an answer. But I have never taken vows, private or otherwise. As I prayed on the question, it came to me that this might be something I want to do—privately, not publicly, perhaps with God as my only witness. But it is not what I want, but what God wants of me. I will know what to do by how often and with what intensity this idea of professing vows keeps coming to me.
I think it fair to say that everyone is offering their own version of thoughts and prayers for Damar Hamlin. This outpouring of love began the minute Darmar fell on the field from cardiac arrest. It started with his teammates, then to the other team, the fans in the stands, those watching on TV. The news media picked it up and the story kept going, way beyond the usual life span news of a football injury.
So why did the outpouring of love move beyond that moment on the field? Why were Darmar’s first words upon become conscious, “Did we win the game?” Why are people contributing to Damar’s charity toy drive? Why has Darmar just told his teammates over a video meeting, “Love you guys”? Why is this still as story on the top new shows?
Why? Because while the medical corp was doing its job, everyone else on the field started praying as they formed a human prayer box around Damar. The fans on the field saw this and they prayed. Viewers saw this on their TV screen and they prayed. As the news spread, the news of Damar and the news of the prayer box, more people prayed. And this prayer is continuing , prayer of love, not just for Damar, but for good to happen in the world.
I am offering the Christmas Day worship service at my church. It won’t be a large group, maybe just two or three, but that will be enough. Jesus tells us that when two or three are gather in his name, he is with us.
Why will people come? There responses might include:
I believe people will also come because of what we have in common, which the angel told the shepherds: ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’
Perhaps you want to pray with what Madeline L’Engle tells us about the Incarnation. This was shared today by Richard Rohr on email@example.com on his morning message.
Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.
Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God’s image. Jesus, as Paul reminds us, was the firstborn of many brethren [Romans 8:29].
I stand on the deck of my cottage, looking at a sky full of God’s children, knowing that I am one of many brethren, and sistren, too, and that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Bathed in this love, I go into the cottage and to bed.
Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star: Mysteries of the Incarnation (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1997), 9–11.
If you need encouragement to pray with ceasing The Jesus Prayer--Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me—here it is from Theophan the Recluse.
Remembrance of God is something that God Himself grafts upon the soul. But the soul must also force itself to persevere and to toil. Work, making every effort to attain the unceasing remembrance of God. And God, seeing how fervently you desire it, will give you this constant recollection of Himself.
Silent retreats offers me much more than I could ever hope for or imagine. I always expect and am given time to pray, read, walk. And yes, silence. But when I open my heart to trust in the mystery, which I finding is where God resides and speaks, God moves past the praying, reading and walking and transforms the silence.
On this retreat at SSJE in Cambridge, God is speaking though my eyes. I see the brothers deeply connecting with God as they pray their daily worship schedule—Morning Prayer, Holy Eucharist, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. This not a mindless formality or routine for them; rather it grounds and reinforces their assured belief that God’s mercyleads them to follow Jesus and do God’s work out in the world. How do I know this? By their demeanor, and that they show up in this chapel five times a day, seven days a week..