PRAYER: Love—A “Yes” To Belonging (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

February 12, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Belonging In the two preceding chapters we have seen that faith and hope are always there when one is grateful.  We saw that one must have trust in the giver before one can give thanks.  But trust of this kind is the very core of faith.  And we recognized also that one must be open for surprise before one can be grateful.  Deep down, every gift is a surprise.  But openness for surprise is the essence of hope.  Faith and hope, in this sense, are two aspects of the divine life within us.  The third one, often mentioned in the same breath, is love.  It, too, is intimately tied in with giving thanks.  The ties between love and gratefulness are what we shall explore in this chapter. In getting at [...]

PRAYER: The Prayer Of Saint Ephrem The Syrian

February 12, 2018

(To be used daily through Lent.) O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk; But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother; For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. [...]

PRAYER: An Epiphany Prayer

February 5, 2018

From The Voice  Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus. As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others.  Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Seven) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 29, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Surpassing Surprise Beauty is useless, superfluous, like all great things in life.  Is not the universe itself a totally superfluous firework of divine glory, and therefore so priceless?  Useful things have a price.  But who can assess the value of a poem in dollars and cents?  Who can put a price tag on a kiss?  If God’s glory is really all that matters, then the totally useless is not to be relegated to moments of spare time once in a month of Sundays.  We may have to learn that the useless deserves prime time.  The superfluous comes first in attention anyway.  To acknowledge this truth might mean a far more drastic transformation by divine glory than we were prepared to undergo.  It [...]

PRAYER: Epiphany, Year B (Week 4): Litany For Unclean Spirits by Fran Pratt

January 29, 2018

From the website: Fran Pratt  This litany is inspired by the account of Christ casting out unclean spirits in the Gospel lectionary passage for the week: Mark 1:21-28. God we know that you have given us power And authority  To deal with unclean spirits decisively. Hallelujah. We know that you have given us freedom To be our truest selves, To face our shadow side, To live in victory. Help us to deal with unclean spirits, as we encounter them: Racism Prejudice Patriarchy Inequality Hatred Addiction Violence. Whether the unclean spirits reside in others Or in our own selves, We become aware, We exercise power in love. We commit ourselves to being people who walk in the footsteps of Christ Who tell the truth, Who create peace, Who rout out [...]

UNITY: God’s Prayers, or Smelly feet

January 28, 2018

The purpose of the church has always been misunderstood by man. Seriously misunderstood. Perhaps because Jesus ministered to us, individually and generally, we have assumed that the church takes his place and is the means for God to minister to us. We can go there to receive the sacraments, if they are available. We can go there for fellowship. We can go there to polish our self-esteem. We go there. Because the church is ours.  It belongs to us. It exists for us. When has anyone ever stepped over his church’s threshold, gotten down on his knees, and asked, What can I do for you, Father? Anyone? Ever? You see, we are supposed to be the answer to God’s prayers. It’s fine if, when we are at church, we pray for something [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Six) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 22, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer A Fascinating Aura Of Awe Silence and hope.  They do belong together.  Only in the silence of hope can we find our deepest communion.  “We are all one silence,” says Thomas Merton, “and a diversity of voices.”  How can we keep our ears attuned to the silence of our common hope when the divergent voices of our hopes distract us?  How can we tune in to their ultimate harmony, audible only to the ears of the heart?  Only by being still.  Only by nurturing in our heart a stillness that grows big enough to embrace even contradictory hopes, a stillness strong enough to go beyond all hopes in hope. Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” opens with an interplay between the two halves of a [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For The Third Week Of Epiphany

January 22, 2018

From The Church of England Almighty Father, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: may your people, illumined by your word and sacraments, shine with the radiance of his glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the Earth; for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Five) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 15, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Pure Hope Hope, as passion for the possible, gives us a realistic alertness for practical possibilities.  It gives us a youthfulness that sees the possible limited merely by an ever receding horizon.  The princely spirit of hope initiates and determines our moral engagement.  For it is rooted in the heart, where each of us is most intimately united with all others – and so responsible for all.  Everything depends, of course, on how pure our hope is, how deeply it is rooted in the heart.  There is ample room for self-deception here.  So how can we check ourselves. Maybe we could subject our hope to a simple test.  It’s not a foolproof test.  Nor is it very precise.  But it may give us a [...]

PRAYER: Epiphany

January 15, 2018

From First Vespers of Christmas in the Greek Church What gift shall we bring to Thee, O Christ, since Thou as man on Earth hast shown Thyself for us, since every creature made by Thee brings to Thee its thanksgiving?  The angels bring their song, the Heavens bring their star, the Magi bring their gifts, the Shepherds bring their awe, Earth gives a cave, the wilderness a manger: and we the Virgin Mother bring.  God before all worlds, have mercy upon us! [...]

PRAYER: Hope—Openness For Surprise (Part Four) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

January 8, 2018

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Spiritual Wholeness We must distinguish, of course, between feelings and virtues.  Hope is not merely a feeling.  Hope is a virtue, a firmly established attitude of the heart, a basic bearing of the whole person.  And yet we need only think of despair, the opposite of hope, to realize that feelings play an outstanding role in this area.  Intellect, will, and emotions are all engaged in every virtue.  The virtue of faith, for instance, characterizes every aspect of a faithful person’s life.  And yet here the cognitive power plays a predominant part.  The virtue of love, as we shall see, transforms the whole person.  Yet, at its core, love is an attitude of the will.  In a similar way, the [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Epiphany

January 8, 2018

From Celebrating Common Prayer O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the Earth. Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your holy presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Jesus Christ our Lord. [...]

EPIPHANY PRAYER: Epiphany by Martin Shannon

January 6, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 72 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! (v. 11) Psalm 72 is the culmination of Book II in the Psalter, which began with Psalm 42, called the “prayers of David,” (v. 20) – not that David necessarily wrote all these psalms, but they at least represent the spirit of David’s hopes and desires before the Lord.  They are in keeping with a heart that followed after God’s own heart, (see 1 Samuel 13:14, 16:7).  Scholars tell us that Psalm 72 probably was written for the coronation of a king of Judea and Israel, perhaps even by David himself for his son Solomon.  In any case, the prayer came to be used at the coronation ceremonies of subsequent kings, and possibly at the yearly [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 5 by Martin Shannon

January 5, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 100 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the Earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. (vv. 1-2) Psalm 100 is the final in a series of psalms (95-100) that have been grouped together to celebrate the glorious reign of God over all Heaven and Earth.  Remember that the Psalter is actually a prayer book that editors carefully arranged in order to make it most useful for worship in the temple.  (Other groupings like this include Psalms 113–118, 120–134, and 146–150.)  In some ways, the whole of Psalm 100 has already appeared in the psalms that precede it: make a joyful noise (Psalm 98:4); be glad in the Lord (96:11-12); the invitation to come into God’s presence (95:6, 96:8); we are God’s sheep and are pastured [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 4 by Martin Shannon

January 4, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 87 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. (v. 3) Every year, when we celebrate the feast of the dedication of our monastery church, the Church of the Transfiguration, we read these words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “So when you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” (2:19-20).  The imagery of a physical building as the house of God is part of what has made this passage fitting for the dedication of a church for almost two millennia.  But if we limit ourselves to envisioning only the beauty of stone walls [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 3 by Martin Shannon

January 3, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 91 My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust. (v. 2) Drawing upon an already familiar pattern in the sixth century, Saint Benedict directed in his rule for monastery life that Psalm 91 be sung at the hoursof Compline, the night service of prayer that closed every day of the week. Here, most certainly, is a prayer that “puts the church to bed,” with confident assurance in the all-encompassing protection of God. It is, above all, a song of trust. If there is a New Testament counterpart to its succinct message, it would be found in Paul’s rhetorical questions to the Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:31, 35). The self-evident [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 2 by Martin Shannon

January 2, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 46 Be still, and know that I am God. (v. 10) Sometime around 1529 the church reformer and former Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, paraphrased Psalm 46 into one of the most beloved hymns of Protestantism: Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.  Later translated into English, the opening words are: A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper he, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing. Psalm 46 is one of liturgical psalms in praise of Mount Zion, God’s “dwelling place,” (see also Psalms 48, 76, 84, 87, and 122).  The common theme running through these psalms is the incomparable beauty and unshakable security of the City of God.  The place where God makes his abode is the most glorious and [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: January 1 by Martin Shannon

January 1, 2018

From My Soul Waits Psalm 147 It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. (v. 1) When the people of Israel drew near to the end of their journey in the wilderness, Moses prepared them for what lay ahead by reminding them of what had brought them to this point.  After generations of slavery in Egypt, they were not a free people, great in number and filled with promise.  They carried with them the wealth of their oppressors and stood on the verge of possessing the land promised to their fathers.  Lest they succumb to thinking that their own hand had accomplished their deliverance, Moses reminded them of the true reason for their good fortune: “It was not because you were more in number than [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 31 by Martin Shannon

December 31, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 90 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (v. 12) There are five “books” in the collection that is the Psalter, and Psalm 90 is the first psalm of Book IV.  Both Jewish and Christian scholarship notes that the emphasis of the final two books (sixty-one psalms in all) is on God’s sovereignty and glory.  Three begin with the words, The Lord reigns (vv. 93, 97, 99), and the only ten psalms beginning with, Praise the Lord, are in these closing volumes.  Psalm 90 was chosen as a fitting introduction to these songs of praise, and its title tells us why: “God’s Eternity and Human Frailty.” For creatures of dust we are remarkably blind to matters of our own mortality.  We spend a [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 30 by Martin Shannon

December 30, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 113 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap. (v. 7) Psalm 113 presents us with the juxtaposition of two seemingly contrasting wonders about the nature of God – his incomparable majesty and his tender mercy.  To describe them, the psalmist draws upon a very familiar social concept: status.  The Lord rules in glory from on high, yet lives among the poorest of the poor. The psalm opens with a call to praise the Lord, perhaps directed by one of the temple priests to the choir of cantors, (v. 1).  Their response builds rapidly into a crescendo of sound, glorifying God for his rule over all time and space, (vv. 2-4).  Their repeated use of “the name of the Lord” shows the [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: December 29 by Martin Shannon

December 29, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 19 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. (v. 14) How are you to know and bring your life into harmony with the ways of God?  In some of the most poetically descriptive language of the psalmody, Psalm 19 unfolds a three-part answer to this question.  The varying structures and vocabularies of the psalm reveal distinct styles that have been merged to create a single voice of prayer, an eloquent triptych that moves the reader from a general acknowledgment of God’s ways to a personal commitment to live by them. In part one, verses 1–6, the psalmist describes the splendor of the heavens as a vehicle for displaying the glory of God.  Interestingly, in these verses, [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of The Holy Innocents by Martin Shannon

December 28, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (v. 1) There is probably no other psalm that has been copied, recited in worship, prayed in private, and set to music more than Psalm 23.  The tones of rest and trust that permeate its six short verses strike a resonant chord in every human heart, for they describe that world of contentment and serenity for which we all long.  It is not a world that exists out there somewhere, however.  It is a world that exists because of someone.  It is the world created for his sheep by the Good Shepherd.  The Lord is the maker of this world, and only because of his guiding hand and provision – his loving-kindness and mercy – do the sheep dwell within its blessed gates. The [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of Saint John by Martin Shannon

December 27, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 86 In the day of my trouble I call on thee, for thou dost answer me. (v. 7) At the start of Psalm 86, we are inclined to think we are reading an ordinary cry of lament.  The psalmist is in some kind of trouble and turns to the Lord for assistance.  But as we read further, we encounter a mixture of petition and praise that goes on through the entire psalm.  The psalmist’s situation may be dire, but good things have happened as well.  I am poor and needy; thou art good and forgiving, (vv. 1, 5).  I call on thee; thou dost answer me, (v. 7).  Teach me thy way; thou, Lord, hast helped and comforted me, (vv. 11, 17).  The psalm goes back and forth between calling out to God in need, and thanking God for needs [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: Feast Of Saint Stephen by Martin Shannon

December 26, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 31 Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. (v. 5) “Into thy hands I commit my spirit” is the most well-known verse of this psalm.  His own hands helplessly nailed to a cross, Jesus quoted it – with the all-important addition, “Father” – as he “breathed his last” upon the cross, (Luke 23:46).  Stephen prayed much the same as he was being stoned to death, the first martyr of the fledgling church: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” (Acts 7:59).  With these words of trusting relinquishment at its center, and read in the light of Jesus’s passion and death – really, the consummation of his incarnation – the whole of Psalm 31 takes on a depth of meaning [...]

CHRISTMAS PRAYER: The Nativity Of The Lord by Martin Shannon

December 25, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 150 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (v. 6) The Psalter is actually a collection of five books of psalms, each of which ends with a brief doxology, (see Psalms 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48).  Considering all that has been said about the Lord God in the previous 149 psalms, what else can be said?  Here, at the conclusion of the entire Psalter, what can possibly bear the weight of being the last word?  Psalm 150 – it is as if all of the previous doxologies have multiplied and expanded into one final and glorious eruption of jubilant praise. The genius of this psalm is how much it says with so very few words.  First, it answers all the basic questions about praising God: where [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Fourth Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

December 24, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 89 I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. (v. 1) Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo – the opening words of Psalm 89, as they are sung in Latin (I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever) – appear on a banner issuing from the mouth of Teresa of Ávila in a famous portrait done of the saint in 1576, while she was still living.  The painting portrays the elderly Teresa being visited by the Holy Spirit who descends in the form of a dove, a vision she had on the eve of Pentecost.  With these words taken from the psalm, the artist expresses the theme of Saint Teresa’s life: her continued response of praise to God [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Saturday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

December 23, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 42 & 43 Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (v. 5) In several Hebrew manuscripts, these two psalms are joined together, which indicates that at one time they probably were a single psalm.  The fact that they share a common refrain – “Why are you cast down, O my soul,” (see Psalms 42:6, 11, and 43:5) – is strong support for this view.  The song is the prayer of someone who is experiencing an excruciating sense of separation from God.  The psalmist uses poignant imagery: Just as a thirsty deer pants after the life-giving drink that comes from your presence, O Lord, (v. 42:1).  While the Hebrew word nephesh is translated here and elsewhere in the psalms as soul, meaning a [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Friday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

December 22, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 32 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (v. 1) There are two basic messages to Psalm 32: when we depart from the ways of God, confession of sin is the pathway to pardon; and, God will surely lead us in those ways if we will follow.  The first message has to do with the joy of forgiveness, in this case, of being forgiven.  The second message has to do with God’s willingness, even God’s desire, to forgive our wandering ways and to then keep his eye upon us.  Living in the light of these unalterable truths makes the psalmist truly blessed. The most famous description of the requirements for a blessed life is the Sermon on the Mount.  There Jesus lists nine conditions for true, [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Thursday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

December 21, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 8 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers… what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou doest care for him? (vv. 3-4) Who has stood in silence under the luminous canopy of a midnight sky and not wondered at the mysteries contained in this vast universe?  No sooner is the question formed in our minds – “How far can my gaze reach into this never-ending vastness?” – than the boundless measure of the answer provokes in us an overwhelming sense of our own tininess.  The psalmist (unlike us, the inhabitants of the electric light bulb age) probably looked upon the nighttime sky every evening.  On one occasion, the questions evoked by the starry vision took shape in a [...]

ADVENT PRAYER: Wednesday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

December 20, 2017

From My Soul Waits Psalm 103 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (v. 2) Psalm 103 begins and ends with the exact same phrase: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”  The repeated phrase is like two bookends that sum up all that is contained in a long shelf of texts and manuscripts that stand between them.  This is a call to worship rooted in specific events and experiences of God’s blessings. Counting one’s blessings: Psalm 103 conveys the depth of meaning contained in this very ordinary and often overlooked spiritual exercise.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once reminded his readers that, in times of difficulty, when we were tempted to give in to our worst inclinations, the enemy of our souls has only one goal in mind: [...]