Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pray to Know the Heart of God in Yours

"In the Mist," Elizabeth Chapman

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.

3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.

4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.

5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

“God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it be that of the greatest sinner in the world, and this union is natural.”

Let us come in prayer. Let us come asking that our hearts be opened to their most intrinsic truth, that their truest nature is in most merciful and tenderly intimacy with the Indweller whose knowledge of them exists far beyond any they might claim for themselves. Let us pray to know these hearts of ours, as woeful and wanting, as distant and deceiving as they are. Pray to search them with tender mercy, and know them in such intimacy of compassion as they are already known; pray for the grace of coming to know them in that blessed Union which sustains and in which they dwell. Finally, let us pray to come to know all other hearts as we are praying to know our own. Amen.

Friday, July 30, 2010



The focus of prayer is not the self. Prayer comes to pass in a complete turning of the heart toward God, toward His goodness and power.

Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let His will prevail in our affairs.

We go hopelessly astray if we think of prayer as a selfish endeavor to persuade or inveigle, or browbeat God to do us a favor, or win us a victory, or even help us in some dire distress.

He is not some kind of divine bellhop, to be summoned, as by the pressing of a button, to the service of our passing whims.

God does not come to us, but we to Him – and prayer is the high road to His presence.

Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.

Prayer cannot mend a broken bridge, rebuild a ruined city, or bring water to parched fields.
Prayer can mend a broken heart, lift up a discouraged soul, and strengthen a weakened will.

Prayer digs the channels from the reservoir of God’s boundless resources to the tiny pools of our lives.

Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be.

If I recite my wants, it is not to remind You of them, but only that I may be conscious of my dependence upon You.

Prayer is answered when it enables us to act as God desires.

If you would have God hear you when you pray, you must hear Him when He speaks.

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue.

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks.

True worship is not a petition to God: it is a sermon to ourselves.

By benevolence man rises to a height where he meets God. Therefore do a good deed before you begin your prayers.

Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered.

Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you.

Thought from: Abraham J. Heschel, John Holmes, Søren Kierkegaard, F. Ibserhan, E. Strangy Jones, Morris Adler, Bahya Ibw Pakuda, Ernest F. Scott, Thomas Brooks, Adam Clarke, Helen, Keller, Emil G. Hirsch, Hai Gaon, George Meridth

"Prayer" was given to me by a coworker. Her father was a Rabbi. After his death, she found “Prayer” among the many papers her father had saved from his many years in ministry.

“Prayer” is an anthology of sorts. A collection of quotes on the nature of prayer from great men and women of faith and thought across many years. It is a sort of contemporary piece of Wisdom Literature echoing some of the literary traditions which can be found in the Hebrew Bible.

My friend was gracious enough to share it with me and I am delighted to share it here.

For your own personal spiritual growth, you might find some value in reading each line of “Prayer” slowly, over time and sitting silently with each line's particular wisdom for a while, allowing it to connect most deeply with your own spiritual longings.

If you know where this came from, you are invited to leave a comment. Heck, you are invited to leave a comment anyway. How do you connect with this modern piece of Wisdom Literature?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Graces and Compassion of Unknown, Nameless Women

Today, in the Outpatient Behavioral Health Women's Group on Spirituality I facilitate: In the midst of lives overflowing with the most profound grief and suffering, brokenness, abuse and betrayal  there is witness to an incomprehensible depth of love and compassion, kindness, mercy and gentleness. God beyond God incarnate in the lives of women, who if the story of the people of God were told, would remain nameless and unknown. Today, I am humbled to have shared their sacred space.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pray to Open to The Dwelling Place of God

(Psalm 84: 1-2)
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

“Open unto me -- light for my darkness.
Open unto me -- courage for my fear.
Open unto me -- hope for my despair.
Open unto me -- peace for my turmoil.

“Open unto me -- joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me -- strength for my weakness.
Open unto me -- wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me -- forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me -- tenderness for my toughness.
Open unto me -- love for my hates.
Open unto me -- Thy Self for my self.

“Lord, Lord, open unto me!”

“Concerning Disciplines of the Spirit: Concerning the Presence of God,”
(Link above to
(Link above to more on Howard Thurman at

Bring your yearning soul, your fainting heart; bring them to the only dwelling place they can ever truly call Home. As they cry for light and courage, hope and peace, may they open and find there their truth. As they long for joy and strength, wisdom and forgiveness, tenderness and love, may they open wide to the home Dweller, finding in the courts of such grace their own true life with the living God. And may they live then opening to light and courage, hope and peace, joy and strength, wisdom and forgiveness, tenderness and love for all who seek safe dwelling in courts of their own. Amen.

Image: Anasazi Granaries on the Little Nakoweap River delta. The Little Nakoweap is one of the largest tributaries of the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. The granaries, built between 900 and 1150 CE, are 500 feet up the cliff face. (Link to for more information about the Anasazi.) 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prayer for the Grace of Faith Which Surpasses All Understanding

(Job 38:4-5)
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!”

(Psalm 102: 25-28)

“Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away; but you are the same and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall live secure; their offspring shall be established in your presence.”

“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy fathoms of water still preserving my faith.” Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments.

Let us bring our hearts in prayer this week.  Let us bring with them our knotting stomachs, our sweating brows, our trembling hands. Let us bring the longings, and the questionings, and the secret uncertainties that lie buried so very deep within. Let us pray to finally give them rest before the vastness of the horizon and the magnitude of the stars. Let us pray them gentle surrender to the mysterious and unfathomable depths of the seas and the eternity of incalculable mountain heights. Let us pray for the grace of faith which surpasses all our understandings. Amen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Job and the "God beyond God"

This week I begin leading our three weeks of study of the book of Job:

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears god and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.’” (Job 2:3)

Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
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?

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain~

Let us bring our forgotten hearts this week. Bring our abandoned souls. Bring them in study and in prayer. Bring them by the slim-thread by which we are, somehow, barely able to continue to endure. As sorrow overflows and enemies over run, bring our hearts and souls. Hold nothing back from the God whose very essence is to seek the depth of us which lies beyond the deeps of barrenness and abandonment within; whose very substance is made real when we have nothing left to show for the emptiness of our pain but the loneliness of our sorrow. Attend most diligently to the conversation. Attend when these raw truths are all we have. Attend when to do so seems for all but naught. Attend. Do not give up. For, somewhere beyond the bounds of all that we can understand, God is longing for us to hear words of tenderness and intimacy we cannot now begin to comprehend. Somewhere outside of all that we could ever dream or hope words of mercy and compassion for our living abound. Bring our prayerful hearts, our longing souls. Come. Sit. Pray and cry until we have no more to speak. Attend, then, gently, listening for the kind-intimacy of unimagined words of grace, and hope and love. Amen.

I've been very fortunate in my academic training: I was enough to study Job, in the early  '80's with Robert Boling (author of the Anchor Bible Commentary on Judges and with G. Ernest Wright on Joshua) at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, who taught Job as a comedic teaching device for theological students in the rabbinic academy of the day.

At the same time, I was lucky enough to study with Walter L. Michel, at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, who was between authoring vols 1 & 2 of Job in the Light of Northwest Semitic.

Two and a half years ago, over Thanksgiving weekend, my Jesuit Spiritual Director opened me to the challenge of praying and working through Pierre Wolff's, May I Hate God, a spirual exercise not for the faint or timid hearted.

To all three gentlemen, I am deeply indebted.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4th of July Parade Garage Sale Wisdom

By way of India: Celebrating the 4th and this country's blessings...

Best post 4th of July Parade garage sale-ing find: “….we women, especially after menopause, are much closer to God. A man, if his child is in trouble is moved to protect, but we women are moved to compassion, to want to take it on and take on their suffering…. I told my husband four years ago that he had made enough money. He is a PhD in computer science and has a big job. I told him, ‘I did not marry a pile of money’, I married him to be my companion, it is time now, we can’t eat all this money, he must quit. In six months we will get in that camper over there and give back to this country that has been so good to us (they are both emigrants). There is so much trouble and suffering and we have benefitted so much from what is available here it is our phase of life now give back. This is the divinity of women….”

I would only add: Amen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Psalm 17:6-9

6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.

7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

8 Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,

9 from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

“Prayer at the First Continental Congress,” 1774, Philadelphia, PA
“The Liberty Window,” Christ Church, Philadelphia, PA

“…What shall we say? Human nature is intolerant whenever it has power. Trust power then without a counterpoise to no church, to no sect, to no Party. Amen and Amen.”
John Adams, June 5, 1812.

As we bring our hearts in prayer looking forward to the joyful celebrations of the Fourth, to family and friends, fireworks and frankfurters on the grill, let them spend some few quiet moments in recall of the prayerful hearts of uncounted men and women through the years who have sought diligently the inclination of our Sovereign’s ear in times of adversity and darkness, in times when wickedness and enemies surround. Let them give thanks for these and recall gratefully as well, the struggles of their own where they have found safe refuge and kind easement when that which is worst among our natures seems too willingly to prevail. Let them rest gratefully in the only Power in which any human heart can fully rest; and trust fully in the only Heart of Power by which to guide the use of any human-earthly powers entrusted to their care. Amen.

Stay safe and be happy on the 4th….