Tag Archive: prayer


Sunday after Ascension Day

To begin with his disciples were at a bit of a loose end. That is not to say that they had no chores to get on with. Think of it like this: someone you are close to has just left town. You have said your last ‘good bye’ and now the train/plane/taxi has disappeared from view and you have the rest of the day to yourself. You know that it is likely that the next time that they will come and visit will be for your funeral. In your heart you wish it were not so, but you realise that with the difficulty of the journey it is so. I dare say most of us as some point or other in our lives have had to say ‘good bye’ like that.

Then what? We should get on with the rest of the day whether it’s going back to work, finishing the weekly shop, doing the household chores. But if we had set aside the whole morning then there is no rush. What do we, their family and/or friends, do now? Isn’t there a kind of listlessness; we are not yet quite ready to get back to normal – or rather to the “new normal” that we have begun to realise?

I sense it would have been a bit like that for Jesus’s disciples except for the fact that he had given them a task to do: to pray and wait together; to pray for and to wait for the Holy Spirit.

Today’s novena topic is prayer for the marginalised. We might have a specific group in mind but I suspect that in every walk of life we may be surprised to find out who are the marginalised in our sphere life.

A Prayer for the Sunday after AScension Day

Risen, ascended Lord, s we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, so that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (Common Worship: Additional Collect)

Saturday 16th May

I suppose it is OK to pray specifically for men given that women are included on another date. Men and women are different (at the very least, biologically so!) but I hesitate to explore questions of skill, abilities and temperament. This is because while there are, I believe, differences that go beyond physical appearances, we tend to over-simplify. While something may be true 9 times out of 10, we behave as if it were true all the time and talk as if the majority way must by definition be the only right and normal way. It just ain’t so.

For example, it is true to say that there are more men mathematicians than women mathematicians and it may be true to say that over the whole population men score more highly than women in that subject. That is not the same as saying that all men are better than all women at mathematics, nor is it true to say that women are not good at mathematics. It would be quite wrong to assume that the person is good or bad at maths simply on the basis of whether they are a man or a woman.

So, I would say it is OK to pray specifically for men and any particular issues you choose to highlight may naturally be appropriate for many of them. Please, do not assume that they apply to all men; and please realise that it is normal for some people to be different to the majority.

A collect for “all conditions of men” from the Book of Common Prayer (1662)

O GOD, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men: that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholick Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those, who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [*especially those for whom our prayers are desired;] that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen

Ascension Day, 14th May

Previously, I mentioned the Novena which starts tomorrow. Today in the church’s calendar, Ascension Day, we remember the day Jesus went back to heaven some 40 days after being brought back to new life (Easter Day).You can read about it in the last chapter of Luke’s gospel (chapter 24) and in the first chapter of the book Acts.

The particular emphasis today is on triumph. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated his victory over the forces of darkness, over sin and death. The battle was won, and his new, risen life observed by a number of people. Now, he returns home to heaven, victorious. In art Jesus is depicted as sitting on a throne because Jesus is King of the whole world, of the whole known universe. A king who won without the force of arms but through the power of God’s Spirit.

Sometimes it feel like that Ascension Day is simply a little be of tidying up of some loose ends in the story. It is not. I tend to think of it as being end of part 1; part 2 continues after a brief intermission

A prayer for Ascension Day

Risen Christ, you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven. Help us to seek and serve you, so that we may join you at the Father’s side, where you reign with the Spirit in glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Common Worship, Additional Collect)

 

Nine days of Prayer

On the one hand, this idea might seem superfluous. I guess that while some of us pray every day, the rest do not feel the need to at all. So, if someone comes up with a suggestion for nine days of prayer, some of us may say “but I pray anyway” and to the rest the suggestion is irrelevant.

Even so, I think it does help sometimes to have something that helps focus the mind. And there is something to be said for praying with others – either at the same time, same place or with the same intention – it gives us a sense of solidarity (or “fellowship” or “catholicity” depending on your tradition).

Anyway, I was intrigued to read that Premier Christian Radio (broadly Evangelical) was inviting us to join in a novena of prayer. A novena is firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition but the basic idea is quite straight forward. Nine days are set aside to pray with a particular intention in mind. On those days we make an extra effort and are reminded to take prayer seriously – it is too easy to end up just “going through the motions” (or “vain repetition” as the gospel puts it).

On this occasion the nine days take us from Ascension Day to Pentecost Sunday which mirrors the period of prayer and waiting that Jesus’ disciples undertook. After Jesus went back home to heaven the disciples prayed together until the day, 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a new, powerful and inspiring way – see the first chapter of the book of Acts. There is a tradition, therefore, in some churches to regard these days as being particularly appropriate to pray especially for the coming and/or renewing of the Holy Spirit in our world and in our lives.

I think I shall give this novena a try, and see how the days go. You can sign up for resources (see link here) or simply include the suggested topics among your own prayers.

Novena 2015
Day 1: Friday 15th May
Prayer for the elderly
Day 2: Saturday 16th May
Prayer for men
Day 3: Sunday 17th May
Prayer for the marginalised
Day 4: Monday 18th May
Prayer for young people
Day 5: Tuesday 19th May
Prayer for women
Day 6: Wednesday 20th May
Prayer for those suffering from mental health issues
Day 7: Thursday 21st May
Prayer for singles
Day 8: Friday 22nd May
Prayer for leaders
Day 9: Saturday 23rd May
Prayer for children

It may well be you’re thinking that you would not have chosen all these particular topics – you are at liberty to choose your own, of course.

The New Serenity Prayer

made me smile and wince in equal measure

Picture Me

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the people I cannot change,

which is pretty much everyone,

since I’m clearly not you, God.

At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,

please give me the courage

to change what I need to change about myself,

which is frankly a lot, since, once again,

I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself

than to worry about changing other people,

who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,

I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up

whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter

than everyone else in the room,

that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,

or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,

grant me the wisdom

to remember that I’m

not you.

Amen

(Written by…

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Ash Wednesday 2014

For this year’s Lent I thought I would look at some of the Psalms as part of my discipline. To help me do this, I have set out to read a psalm every day and to post a verse or two each week (usually Wednesday).

Today I have been looking at Psalm 51. Tradition has it that King David wrote this to express his remorse and sorry for his own poor behaviour (see 2 Kings chapters 11 and 12 for the full story). The psalm is also associated with the rites and services that  mark the beginning of Lent.

Verse 17 is the one that caught my attention: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” I suppose it is one of my favourite verses in the Bible as it can be a comfort when life is going awry, and maybe you even realise that it is all/partly your own fault. You are upset to put it mildly. If you are broken-hearted, God still finds your heart acceptable. That is to say, an honest, yet broken, heart is preferable to an intact, but proud, one. A broken heart can be mended. A proud heart needs some serious re-working.

A prayer from Common Worship

Holy God, our lives are laid open before you. Rescue us from the chaos of sin and through the death of your Son bring us healing and make us whole in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect for Ash Wednesday)

Ash Wednesday 2013

lent 2013 001bFull of the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…When the Devil finished testing Jesus he left him until a favourable time.

(Luke chapter 4 verses 1 &13)

So Lent begins and as I write I’m not quite sure how best to mark it. We have our usual Ash Wednesday liturgy and the reminder of our mortality and the need to repent of our sins so I shall be at church for the official beginning of Lent. But then what?

One discipline I have decided upon is to look at the readings for Sundays during Lent as found in the Book of Common Prayer – often referred to by its date of first publication, 1662. I looked at some reviews on Amazon and one person was most disappointed because they were expecting a facsimile of a 17th century book. In fact the Book of Common Prayer (aka BCP or 1662) is still in use today in the Church of England so the 21st century edition is slightly different from previous ones. An obvious example is that in prayers for the monarch it is Elizabeth II who is mentioned, not Charles II! However, the language and doctrine are firmly rooted in the 16th and 17th centuries, which for some is an attraction but for others a disadvantage. It is not a book I regularly use but it has been part of Anglican culture for centuries so worth at least a second look.

Meanwhile, here I am at the beginning of Lent thinking of giving up chocolate (again), and planning on attending the parish Lent course. Yet, I am struck by a familiar question, “What would Jesus do?”. If He were in my shows, what would he do? And I find I am not sure: I don’t think I am expected to travel to the Holy Land to spend 40 days in the wilderness to be tested. I suspect that “ordinary life” will provide temptation enough. One thing I do want like Jesus: to be led by the Spirit to and through the wilderness. Because if we are not led into the desert by the Spirit we might as well go as tourists. Just a thought.

A Prayer from “Common Worship”

Heavenly Father, your Son battled with the powers of darkness, and grew closer to you in the desert. Help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer that we may witness to your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Additional Collect, Lent 1)

“Dear Lord, so far today I’ve done OK.

I’ve kept my mouth shut, I haven’t gossiped or been selfish. I haven’t been untidy, lazy, greedy, grumpy or nasty.

I hope you’ll be glad about that. I am.

But in a few minutes, Lord, I’ll have to get out of bed, and from then on, I’ll probably need a lot more help. AMEN.”

(anonymous)

It seems to me that there seem to be two common misconceptions about prayer. The first, particularly among those who do not think of themselves as being particularly religious, is that you only pray when you are in trouble. The second is that prayer is a kind of add-on to the real business of leading a Christian life: we pray for God’s blessing on our endeavours but do not necessarily ask his opinion beforehand about what we should actually be doing!

Prayer is the heart-beat of the church. It is not so much important as essential – better to pray badly than not at all – and you don’t always have to use words.

To be sure there are as many ways of praying as there are Christians – the ways you find helpful might not be the same as mine. Some people are particularly called to intercessory prayer: that is to pray for God’s help and blessing for particular people and situations (e.g. praying for those who are ill or worried; praying for justice and peace etc.). Some may spend time reflecting on God’s word in the Bible, while for others sitting in silence, listening out for God’s voice, will be their particular calling. For most of us it is likely that there are two or three ways we find most natural. Part of our discipline of prayer, I think, should, if possible, include praying with others – whether in church, in the park or in someone’s home.

The world in a pebble

“To  see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour” (William Blake, 1757-1827)

In a previous post, in “Random photos“, I spoke, perhaps slightly disparagingly of “experts” who might look daft staring at a bit of rock. Well, at a workshop at the “Bishop’s Bible Day” (diocese of Peterborough, UK) we were asked to do exactly that.

And it sort of worked. A Benedictine sister did a kind of “worked example” of prayer that began with taking a good, long, careful look at a pebble. Each participant in the workshop had picked up a smooth pebble from a pile that had been brought into the room specially. The one I chose happened to be the only one that was broken but never mind. Something about “the stone the builders rejected” came to my mind. I can’t remember much of the meditation – as usual my mind wandered and I spent most of the time coming back to what we were supposed to be paying attention to. Still, I could see that others in the group were getting something useful out of the exercise.

It was one way of thinking about a phrase used referring to Jesus by Peter in his first epistle “Come to him, a living stone” (1 Peter 2 verse 4), I suppose. I may come back to this topic later.

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