Prayer

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—The Sense of Measure by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 18, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Stonehenge, the mysterious monument in England, more than three and a half thousand years old, is a circular arrangement of enormous rock pillars.  There are scores of them up to thirty feet in height and fifty tons in weight.  No one knows by what ingenious means they were moved to this place from a quarry twenty miles away or how they were capped with huge slabs of rock for lintels.  No one is even sure who accomplished this feat.  Neither the ideas that bound them together nor the ideals that inspired their common effort are known to us.  All is shrouded in the darkness of pre-history.  We look at the intricate pattern of pillars, ditches, banks, and pits as we would look at runes inscribed [...]

PRAYER: A Hermit’s Desire attributed to Saint Kevin

September 18, 2017

I wish, ancient and eternal King, to live in a hidden hut in the wilderness. A narrow blue stream beside it, and a clear pool for washing away my sins by the grace of the Holy Spirit. A beautiful wood all around, where birds of every kind of voice can grow up and find shelter. Facing southwards to catch the sun, with fertile soil around it suitable for every kind of plant. And virtuous young men to join me, humble and eager to serve you. Twelve young men – three fours, four threes, two sixes, six pairs – willing to do every kind of work. A lovely church, with a white linen cloth over the altar, a home for you from Heaven. A Bible surrounded by four candles, one for each of the gospels. A special hut in which to gather for meals, [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness—Genuine Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast

September 11, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Once we realize how the interplay between prayerfulness and prayers builds the temple of our prayer life, we should be able to ask the right questions to see where we stand in this process and how we need to proceed.  Our prayers have a twofold relationship to our prayerfulness, as we have seen.  Prayers both express and reinforce our prayerfulness.  Hence we need to ask two basic questions: Are my prayers a genuine expression of my prayerfulness?  Do they make me more prayerful? Since these two questions go to the heart of the matter, we can use them to check both prayers in community and prayers by ourselves.  The context will be so different, however, that we shall here test these two areas [...]

PRAYER: A Pilgrim’s Plea attributed to Saint Brendan

September 11, 2017

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and my face towards the sea? Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame and honor? Shall I throw myself wholly on you, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on? Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under your yoke? Shall I pour out my heart to you, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land? Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny coracle across the [...]

PRAYER: A Hymn Of Praise by An Irish Monk

September 4, 2017

Hail to you, glorious Lord! May chancel and church praise you, May plain and hillside praise you, May the three springs praise you, Two higher than the wind and one above the Earth, May darkness and light praise you, May the cedar and sweet fruit-tree praise you. Abraham praised you, the founder of faith, May life everlasting praise you, May the birds and bees praise you, May the stubble and the grass praise you. Aaron and Moses praised you, May male and female praise you, May the seven days and the stars praise you, May the lower and upper air praise you, May books and letters praise you, May the fish in the river praise you, May thought and action praise you, May the sand and the earth praise you, May all the good things created praise [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

August 28, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The Art of Prayer We need only watch little children in their playpen to realize how perfectly they combine concentration with wonderment.  Often they are so concentrated on sucking the ear of a toy rabbit or simply on wiggling their toes that you might have a hard time trying to divert their attention to something else.  If only our children could grow up without losing their power of recollectedness.  How often adults destroy that gift with the best intentions.  Children have a need to stand and look.  A simple thing may absorb their attention for a long time.  But then you see everywhere adults pulling children out of their wonderment and concentration.  “Let’s go.  We have no [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Understanding by Athanasius

August 28, 2017

Anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds.  Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the Kingdom of Heaven. Of that reward it is written: “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared” for them that live a Godly life and love the God and Father in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom and with whom be to the Father himself, with the Son himself, in the Holy Spirit, honor and [...]

PSALMS: The Blessing Of Morning Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 22, 2017

From Psalms The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity.  This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer.  It is confirmed in work.  The morning prayer determines the day.  Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer.  Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God.  Decisions, demanded by work, becomes easier and simpler where they [...]

PRAYER: Prayers And Prayerfulness (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

August 21, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Making Prayers Prayer May we presume that everyone knows what prayer is?  From one point of view the answer is, “yes.”  Every human being knows prayer from experience.  Have we not all experienced moments in which our thirsting heart found itself with surprise drinking at a fountain of meaning?  Much of our life may be a wandering in desert lands, but we do find springs of water.  If what is called “God” means in the language of experience the ultimate Source of Meaning, then those moments that quench the thirst of the heart are moments of prayer.  They are moments when we communicate with God, and that is, after all, the essence of prayer. But do we recognize these [...]

PRAYER: Prayers Of Antony Of Egypt

August 21, 2017

When the holy Abba Antony lived in the desert he was beset by despair, and attacked by many sinful thoughts.  He said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction?  How can I be saved?”  A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Antony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray.  It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him.  He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.”  At these words, Antony was filled with joy and courage.  He did this, and he was saved. When the same Abba Antony thought about [...]

PSALMS: Petition For The Spirit Of Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 15, 2017

From Psalms We have taken this short stroll through the Psalter in order to learn to pray a few psalms a bit better.  It would not be difficult to arrange according to the Lord’s Prayer all the psalms mentioned.  We should have to change only slightly our arrangement of the order of the chapters.  But this alone is important, that we begin to pray the psalms with confidence and love in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Our dear Lord, who has given to us and taught us to pray the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer, grant to us also the spirit of prayer and of grace so that we pray with enthusiasm and earnest faith, properly and without ceasing, for we need to do this; he has asked for it and therefore wants to have it from [...]

PRAYER: Devotion To The Holy Name

August 14, 2017

From the Franciscan Litany of the Holy Name. Jesu, dulcis memoria Jesu, the very thought of thee With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far thy face to see, And in thy presence rest. Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame, Nor can the memory find, A sweeter sound than thy blest name, O Savior of mankind! O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, To those who fall, how kind thou art! How good to those who seek! But what to those who find? Ah! this Nor tongue nor pen can show. The love of Jesus! what it is, None but his loved ones know. Jesu, our only joy be thou, As thou our prize wilt be; Jesu, be thou our glory now, And through eternity. Wherewith I longed for thee, And left my Father’s throne; From death to set [...]

PSALMS: The End by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 8, 2017

From Psalms The hope of Christians is directed to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.  In the Psalter this hope is not expressed literally.  That which since the resurrection of Jesus has divided itself in the church into a long line of events of holy history toward the end of all things is, from the viewpoint of the Old Testament, still a single indivisible unity.  Life in fellowship with the God of revelation, the final victory of God in the world, and the setting up of the messianic kingdom are objects of prayer in the psalms. The Old Testament is not different from the New in this respect.  To be sure, the psalms request fellowship with God in Earthly life, but they know that this fellowship is not completed in [...]

PRAYER: Heart And Mind (Part Three) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

August 7, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Meaning Here, another prayer from Rilke’s Book of Hours allows these intuitions to crystallize into poetic images.  Once more Rilke starts out with the polarity of noise and silence.  This time it is the crowd of contradictions in our life that fills the palace of our heart with a riotous feast of fools.  It is impossible, of course, to eliminate contradictions altogether from our life.  Life itself is contradictory.  But we can reconcile contradictions in the great primordial symbols, like the symbol of the heart itself.  When we succeed in this, a great silence begins to reign, serenely festive and gentle.  And in the middle of that silence stands God, as guest, as silent core of our [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Deliverance by Clare of Assisi

August 7, 2017

I pray you, O most gentle Jesus, having redeemed me by baptism from original sin, so now by your precious blood, which is offered and received throughout the world, deliver me from all evils, past, present, and to come. By your most cruel death give me a lively faith, a firm hope, and perfect charity, so that I may love you with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength. Make me firm and steadfast in good works and grant me perseverance in your service so that I may be able to please you always. [...]

PSALMS: The Enemies by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 1, 2017

From Psalms No section of the Psalter causes us greater difficulty today than the so-called imprecatory psalms.  With shocking frequency their thoughts penetrate the entire Psalter (5, 7,. 9, 10, 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, 31, 35, 36, 40, 41, 44, 52, 54, 55, 58, 59, 68, 69, 70, 71, 137, and others).  Every attempt to pray these psalms seems doomed to failure.  They seem to be an example of what people think of as the religious first stage toward the New Testament.  Christ on the cross prays for his enemies and teaches us to do the same.  How can we still, with these psalms, call for the wrath of God against our enemies?  The question is therefore: Can the imprecatory psalms be understood as God’s word for us and as the prayer of Jesus [...]

PRAYER: Heart And Mind (Part Two) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 31, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Restless Is Our Heart The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke celebrates both our longing for healing and wholeness and our primordial conviction that God’s healing power wells up in our own innermost heart.  He finds God in “the spot that is healing,” while we, like children picking on a scar, keep ripping it open with the sharp edges of our thoughts.  If only we could quiet all that agitation within and around us, the din that distracts us.  In our silence a thousand scattered thoughts would be gathered into one.  And in the thousandfold power of that concentration we would be able to hold God one smiling moment long in a single thought.  Just long enough to give that divine [...]

PRAYER: Praise To God Most High by Francis of Assisi

July 31, 2017

(Found on the other side of the parchment from St. Francis’s blessing of Brother Leo.) You alone are holy, Lord God, you do wonderful things. You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High. You are the almighty King, the holy Father, King of Heaven and Earth. You are Trinity and Unity, O Lord God, all goodness. You are good, all good, the supreme good, Lord God, living and true. You are charity and love. You are wisdom. You are humility. You are patience. You are serenity. You are peace. You are joy and gladness. You are justice and self-restraint. You are our wealth, our treasure, and our satisfaction. You are beauty. You are mercy. You are our protector. You are our guardian and defender. You are strength. You are [...]

PSALMS: Guilt by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 25, 2017

From Psalms More seldom than we expect, the prayer for the forgiveness of sins meets us in the psalms.  Most psalms presuppose complete assurance of the forgiveness of sins.  That may surprise us.  But even in the New Testament the same thing is true.  It is an abbreviation and an endangering of Christian prayer if it revolves exclusively around the forgiveness of sins.  There is such a thing as the confident leaving behind of sin for the sake of Jesus Christ. Yet in no way does the Psalter omit the prayer of repentance.  The seven so-called repentance psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) but not only they (also Psalms 14, 15, 25, 31, 39, 40, 41, and others) lead us into the total depth of the recognition of sin before God.  They [...]

PRAYER: Heart And Mind (Part One) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 24, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Together Gratefulness is a mindful response, as we have seen.  Our intellect, our will, our feelings are all engaged when we are grateful.  But when we say mindful, someone might still get the impression that we want to stress the mind over against the rest of our person.  It might be less misleading to speak of the heart rather than the mind.  Gratefulness is a full response.  We sense that.  And we sense also that this kind of fullness cannot go together with halfheartedness.  Gratefulness is always wholehearted.  Our whole person is engaged in it.  And this is precisely what the symbol of the heart stands for – the whole person. When lovers say to one another, I will give you my [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom

July 24, 2017

The Trisagion: Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy on us. The Cherubic Hymn: We who in a mystery represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us now lay aside all Earthly cares, that we may receive the king of all, invisibly escorted by the hosts of angels.  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Before Communion: Let us pay attention: holy things for those who are holy. Only one is holy, only one is Lord. Jesus Christ, in the glory of God the Father. Amen. Before Receiving Communion: At your mystical supper, Son of God, today receive me as a partaker; I will not speak of the mystery to your enemies; I will not let my lips touch your body with a Judas-kiss; but like the thief I will [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: Praying For Someone With No Knees

July 22, 2017

Lately, there is something that I have been forced to sit quietly and consider: the act of praying for someone who doesn’t pray for themselves. On the surface it’s a no-brainer.  Someone is in need of God’s grace and mercy, and so we pray for him.  No matter what the need. No matter the person’s relationship with God. We pray. Right? Right.  That’s what we do. But what exactly are we doing when we do that?  Get down on our knees.  Find the words we are looking for.  Make our petition. Again and again and again. For a person who has no knees of their own. No faith. No belief in any power other than themselves. That shouldn’t matter to us, should it? Perhaps it’s not a matter of matter. Perhaps [...]

PSALMS: Suffering by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 18, 2017

From Psalms Where do you find more miserable, more wretched, more depressing words than in the psalms of lamentation?  There you see into the heart of all the saints as into death, even as into hell.  How sad and dark it is there in every wretched corner of the wrath of God. (Luther) The Psalter gives us ample instruction in how to come before God in a proper way, bearing the frequent suffering which this world brings upon us.  Serious illness and severe loneliness before God and men, threat, persecution, imprisonment, and whatever conceivable peril there is on Earth are known by the psalms (13, 31, 35, 41, 44, 54, 55, 56, 61, 74, 79, 86, 88, 102, 105, and others).  They do not deny it or try to deceive us about it with pious words.  [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy Of Saint Basil The Great

July 17, 2017

O Lord, the helper of the helpless, the hope of those who are past hope, the savior of the tempest-tossed, the harbor of the voyagers, the physician of the sick; you know each soul and our prayer, each home and its need; become to each one of us what we most dearly require, receiving us all into your kingdom, making us children of light; and pour on us your peace and love, O Lord our God.  Amen. Complete and perfected, so far as in us lies, is the mystery of your redeeming work, Christ our God.  We have made the memorial of your death, we have seen the symbol of your resurrection, we have been filled with your unending life, we have tasted your inexhaustible joy, of which, we pray, you will count us worthy in the age to come, through the [...]

PSALMS: Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 11, 2017

From Psalms Many earnest Christians are struck as they pray the psalms by how often the petition for life and good fortune occurs.  From a glance at the cross of Christ there comes to many the unhealthy thought that life and the visible, Earthly blessings of God are in themselves at least a questionable good, and in any case a good not to be desired.  They take, then, the corresponding prayers of the Psalter to be an incomplete first stage of Old Testament piety, which is overcome in the New Testament.  But in doing so they want to be more spiritual than God himself. As the petition for daily bread includes the entire sphere of the necessities of physical life, so the petition for life, health, and visible evidences of the friendliness [...]

PRAYER: Surprise And Gratefulness by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 10, 2017

From Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer A rainbow always comes as a surprise.  Not that it cannot be predicted.  Surprising sometimes means unpredictable, but it often means more.  Surprising in the full sense means somehow gratuitous.  Even the predictable turns into surprise the moment we stop taking it for granted.  If we knew enough, everything would be predictable, and yet everything would remain gratuitous.  If we knew how the whole universe worked, we would still be surprised that there was a universe at all.  Predictable it may be, yet all the more surprising. Our eyes are opened to that surprise character of the world around us the moment we wake up from taking things for granted.  Rainbows have a way of waking us up.  A [...]

PRAYER: The Liturgy Of Saint James

July 10, 2017

From The Apostolic Constitutions Almighty God, whose glory the heavens are telling, the Earth his power, and the sea his might, and whose greatness all feeling and thinking creatures everywhere herald; to you belongs glory, honor, might, greatness, and magnificence now and for ever, to the ages of ages, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. O Lord our God, the bread from Heaven, the food of the whole universe, I have sinned against Heaven, and before you, and I am not worthy to receive your most holy mysteries.  But, in your compassion, grant me by your grace uncondemned to partake of your holy body and your precious blood, to remission of sins and life eternal.  Amen. Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and stand with fear and trembling, [...]

SATURDAY READING: Introducing A Way Of Prayer by H. Paul Santmire

July 8, 2017

From Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality Saint Francis, that great medieval lover of nature, attended Mass every day throughout much of his life.  Dorothy Day, that great American witness to peace, nonviolence, and justice for the poor, did the same.  As we continue to consider the journey before us, I will not ask you to emulate such saintly practices – at least, not exactly.  But I will ask you to think about the importance of spiritual practices more generally and of one spiritual practice in particular: saying the Trinity Prayer.  Why?  Because, we can learn from great spiritual forebears like Francis and Dorothy Day.  And, more particularly, because today most of us live in a culture of secularity, which makes it [...]

PSALMS: The Church by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

July 4, 2017

From Psalms Psalms 27, 42, 46, 48, 63, 81, 84, 87, and others sing of Jerusalem, the City of God, of the great festivals of the people of God, of the temple and the beautiful worship services.  It is the presence of the God of salvation in his congregation for which we here give thanks, about which we here rejoice, for which we long.  What Mount Zion and the temple were for the Israelites the church of God throughout the world is for us – the church where God always dwells with his people in word and sacrament.  This church will withstand all enemies (Psalm 46), its imprisonment under the powers of the godless world will come to an end (Psalms 126 and 137).  The present and gracious God, who is in Christ who in turn is in his [...]

PRAYER: Aliveness And Wakefulness (In Place of an Introduction) by Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 3, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer This book is about life in fullness.  It is about coming alive.  I could summarize it in two words: Wake up! A poet like Kabir is able to say these two words with a freshness that makes us sit up.  Kabir’s poems have power.  They wake us up to an aliveness we never thought possible. Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch! Go out and walk in the rain! If you are in love, then why are you asleep? Wake up, wake up! You have slept millions and millions of years. Why not wake up this morning? In my own way, I try to get the same message across.  And people are hungry for it.  All around the world I have been invited to speak about it.  And people always ask, “Why don’t [...]