I have been thinking (or should I say “reading about”) posture in prayer. In the mystical tradition is there is an emphases on standing for prayer. I read an article about Julian of Norwich that made the point of “receiving in prayer” with hands open.
I admit that I am often more interested in telling God what to do than receiving anything from Him in my own prayer life. Receive, yes, but after I have told God what I want and need. I really like the above gesture during prayer – open to receiving from God. Being open and empty before the Throne of Grace. Simply allowing myself to be in the presence of Jesus.
I have also watched a couple of YouTube videos on Mount Athos – the self-governing monastic island. I was struck by how the monks simply pray while they work. They recite the Jesus Prayer or a single word. Not long complicated requests of God but simply begging for His mercy.
So I would like to emulate openness and simplicity in my prayer life.
Prayer was the very heart of the desert life, and consisted of psalmody (vocal prayer – recitation of the Psalms and other parts of the Scriptures which everyone had to know by heart) and contemplation. What we would call today contemplative prayer is referred to as quies or “rest.” This illuminating term has persisted in Greek monastic tradition as hesychia, “sweet repose.” Quies is a silent absorption aided by the soft repetition of a lone phrase of the Scriptures – the most popular being the prayer of the Publican: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!” In a shortened form this prayer became “Lord have mercy” (Kyrie eleison) – repeated interiorly hundreds of times a day until it became as spontaneous and instinctive as breathing.
Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, 20
The repeating of a single phrase while breathing is a great way to pray. I find, especially at night, it is super relaxing but it also focuses me on Jesus. But what I really like about the above quote is that “sweet repose” and liturgical prayer live alongside each other. As it should be!
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Paul writes about his journey to Jesus. How is was far away but Jesus’ love overflowed for him. And he summarises it all but saying, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord”.
I am anxious about the coming week. I am not sure what is going to happen. But, like Paul, I am grateful to Jesus.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
I wait in silence! I wait for God to “do His thing” in silence. This is not about me, it is about Jesus. Just shut up and let God be God – let Jesus reign in glory. Stop telling God what to do and just watch for Him in silence.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I have been meaning to write about the Jesus Prayer. A couple of books I have been reading have reminded me that it used to be part of my devotional life. I have two prayer ropes that I find very helpful. As an aside, the prayer ropes have helped me with my depression. In the darkest moment just holding one is like a prayer for me. I know that does not work for everyone but it really has helped me.
The Jesus Prayer is often associated with Orthodox spirituality. I guess the Roman Catholic equivalent is the Rosary. In essence, it is the repeating of the name “Jesus” while controlling your breathing. The longer form can be used with one breath – inhaling on the first part and exhaling on the second. Now, from experience, allow it to be a natural breath otherwise you will get all light-headed.
One of the books that I have been reading has been the Ancrene Wisse – a rule of Anchorites. It recommends using the Jesus Prayer while getting ready in the morning. I have used it when I cannot sleep or when I am really stressed. But, since reading the book, I like using it in the morning while I get ready. I like the simplicity.
Anyone use it in their devotional life? Anyone have a prayer rope?
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?
One of the psalms for Morning Prayer today was Psalm 56. My life gives context to the psalms I pray during Morning and Evening Prayer. They become my prayer. I am always struck by how the psalms are extremely human – they embrace the whole of human experience, including a life with depression and anxiety.
Verse 8 really struck me as appropriate to my life at the moment. In uncertain and complicated situations God is present. I can try to control things – I can work through the millions of options. And God knows how stressful life can be. Yet, the good news is that God is not distant or removed from my life. He is right in the midst of it. In fact, He is “in me”. The intimacy of the relationship is echoed again and again in the psalms. God is right there in my stress and tears.
One of the things I love about being Anglican is the tradition of prayer. Yes, all Christians pray – or should, at least. And praying the Canonical Hours is not an Anglican only thing. Catholics have the Liturgy of the Hours and the Orthodox have their version. I think what sets Anglicans apart is the tradition of praying together. I like the tradition of daily morning and evening prayer as a community activity. Anglicanism is priest and people gathered around Jesus to pray every morning and evening.
While the ideal of a congregation at prayer is somewhat removed from the modern context, I like praying using a book other people are using. I like the community that uses the same Prayer Book as me. I like that I am united to my priest and clergy at my parish through the Prayer Book. And I like that while I am alone – and, let’s face it, I like being alone when I pray – I am with people around Jesus.
So as I pray today, I pray for you. The people who read this blog and the people in my life who support me. And the people who do not support me but that I pray for anyway. That Jesus’ love may strengthen you in faith, and that your heart may be open to Him.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The first psalm at Evening Prayer was Psalm 13. I thought I would share as it really spoke to me tonight. My life gives context to the words of the psalm. My disappointments and pains is what the psalm is all about – it speaks for me to God. And it speaks for God to me.
A lovely person emailed me this video today. I have been thinking of Ignatius’ Surrender Prayer recently. I have been trying to consecrate the day to Jesus before I get up – a sort of spiritual wake-up call. And I have been wondering whether I should use my own words or something like the prayer above. I am not against either option – I am formed in a liturgical form of Anglicanism and that is my natural home, and I have no problems with using tears to pray.
The video is a little on the long side but it is worth watching. Even only for the first 6 minutes or so.
I like the tradition of prayer the Prayer Book gives to me. The rhyme of prayer – morning and evening – is central to the Anglican expression of the “catholic faith”. I have always appreciated that the psalms are part of this daily cycle of prayer. The psalms, more than any other part of Scripture, embody how the individual feels before God. Maybe because the psalms, unlike the rest of the Bible, do not have a particular context. Yes, they were used in the temple but often my life sets the context for the psalm, sets the context for my prayer using the psalms.
So this morning Psalm 143 was one of the psalms. I was struck by these verses, especially in the light of my previous post:
For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
I identify with the darkness about which the psalmist speaks. I know that feeling of my heart dropping. And my spirit faints within me – I am overwhelmed and have no more energy to go on.
This psalm is my prayer today. Like the psalmist I am sitting in darkness crushed to the ground. And, like the psalmist, I look for the Lord to come to me and refresh me like the rain does to a parched land. I remember the mighty acts of God in Jesus and how He is my Helper now.