Our faith should lead us to humility and a definitive change in lifestyle. I talk about that in this next of my series in Galatians. https://youtu.be/0R5WpXqinGA
Sunday, August 21, 2016
This is the fourth of my twelve prayer strategies found in my book, ‘Prayer Strategies – A Series of Helps.’ These tools help keep me focused when my mind starts to drift, and energized when boredom begins to settle in. These strategies can help energize the prayer life of anyone who seeks to grow closer to the Master. The book can be found on Amazon at this link: http://tinyurl.com/hvc7skx
Strategy Four – Scripted (canned) Prayer
By Richard Maffeo
I used to think “scripted prayer” was an oxymoron, that scripted or "canned" prayers, like those in prayer books, are less meaningful (read: less spiritual) than spontaneous ones.
How foolish of me. Men and women of God have prayed scripted prayers – such as the Psalms – for millennia. And what of those offered to God by spiritual giants such as St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, and A. W. Tozer?
For example, when offered from the heart, doesn't Tozer's prayer carry a sweet savor to the Father?
Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to You and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see You but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Your own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon You all the days of my earthly pilgrimage.
Or this one by John Wesley: I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.
Or St. Augustine: Narrow is the mansion of my soul; [please] enlarge it, that You may enter in. It is ruinous; [please] repair it. It has that within which must offend Your eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? Or to whom should I cry, [except to] Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy.
Or St. Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon, Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is despair, hope, Where there is darkness, light, Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood as to understand, not so much to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
Speaking of scripted prayers, here’s one that dropped into my thoughts one morning while preparing to publish this prayer booklet. You might be familiar with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet, How Do I Love Thee? As I reflected on its beautiful message, I modified it and used it as a prayer to God. I include it to give you an idea of how you also can modify poems or songs to fit your own heart cry to God.
How Do I Love Thee?
I want to love Thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, even when I feel I’m out of your sight.
I want to love Thee to the end of my being. I want to love Thee above the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I want to love Thee freely. I want to love Thee purely. I want to love Thee with a passion put to use for Thy kingdom, even in my griefs and with a child-like faith.
I want to love Thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life; and if You permit, I want to love Thee even better after death.
And finally – there really isn’t a “finally” when it comes to the kinds of prayers we or others can write – here is part of a prayer written by Jeanne St. John Taylor, an Internet acquaintance of mine. You can find many of her prayers on her blog (copy this link into your browser – http://weeklyprayer.blogspot.com/)
O God of the Ineffable Name, the Great I AM, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You are a God who hides himself -- for our protection since human flesh is not capable of looking on your face and surviving. But because you want us to know you, you continuously reveal yourself in Creation. The changing colors of the clouds, the thunder of waterfalls and the multitude of stars have shouted your name since the beginning of time.
We hear you in the whisper of breeze in the trees. Sense your presence in the sweet incense of cherry blossoms. We long for you even if we don’t know what we’re longing for . . . .
Come fill us with the flow of your love, Holy Spirit. . . . Show us how to quiet our hearts and trust you to handle things we can’t handle. Pry our fingers loose from control of our own lives and those around us. Teach us to empty ourselves of self-effort and open ourselves to you so you can heal us in mysterious ways we don’t understand. Give us your peace that passes beyond understanding. Remind us that when we don’t have words to express our deep ache, your Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words – and you hear. And answer . . . .
Like prayer lists, acrostics, or alphabet prayers, scripted and self-authored prayers can become the means of a deepening relationship with Jesus. Such prayer strategies can help us focus on our communication with Him.
Next: Prayer Strategy Number Five
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
So, I’m reading of the poor widow who placed her two pennies into the treasury plate at the Temple. If you’ve attended church for more than a couple of years you’ve probably heard her mentioned at least a few times.
Two pennies. All she had.
Among the wealthy and spiritually superior residents in first century Israel, poverty suggested God’s disfavor. To be a widow and poor compounded that perception. And don’t think for a moment she was unaware of the snickers behind her back, or the way some people gave her wide berth as she shuffled along the dirt roads. But there she was at the Temple treasury, giving to God all she had to live on.
My wife and I have been in difficult financial positions in our past, and I can tell you it is not uncommon for some who live in quiet desperation to wonder if God is deaf to their prayers. I wonder if this widow wondered the same thing from time to time.
As I closed the Scriptures for the morning I thought about two people I know whose lives contrast for me the widow – and of those unlike her.
Thirty-eight year old Thomas (he pronounces it, Toe-MAS) has a chronic and slowly debilitating medical condition. He can still work at an office job completing menial tasks, but knows his days are numbered because of his deteriorating health. And he worries about his future.
Thomas has not been in a church in years. Decades, actually. Not because he doesn’t believe in God. He does. It’s just that (so he told me) he’s always been made to feel like an outcast by others each time he visited one church or another – until he just gave up trying.
Yet, despite the disapproval and disregard of church-goers, Thomas has not given up on God. He still prays, reads the Bible, and supports those in need as often as he can.
Trent, though, is a different story. Barely forty, the corporate executive pulls in a six-figure income and is married to another corporate executive also pulling in a six-figure income. Trent hasn’t been in a church in years. He doesn’t believe in that ‘nonsense,’ as he calls it. He and his wife spend their Sundays relaxing by their home pool, or visiting weekend vacation spots within driving distance of their home in the suburbs of New York. The thought of contributing any of their abundance to the work of God is as far from their worldview as, well, as east is from west.
Back to the poor widow.
Without wealth, without family, without social support or interaction – she was one of her society’s invisibles. But she would serve her God as best she could, even if her best was a couple of pennies.
Thomas reminds me of that widow. He lives near poverty, alone, working a menial job, and discarded by religious folk he’s met. He told me he sometimes wonders if God even knows his name.
Trent reminds me of those in this gospel story who thought themselves too self-sufficient, too self-important to even acknowledge God, or to notice what He notices – the invisible among us.
Whatever our position in life, whatever our health, wealth, or talent – we can live with the faith of a Thomas – faltering and hesitating as it might be; Or we can live with the spiritual and material arrogance of a Trent.
Two thousand years after Luke recorded this story, who do we remember best?
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