Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pray Big

St. Columba’s has a tradition of doing a book study in the Lenten season. We are reading Rediscovering New Testament Prayer by John Koenig. This volume is a real jewel and has produced great conversation in our study group. Originally, I had intended to do a weekly post based on the chapters studied. Time, however, has been in short supply. Now, I hope to do a few short posts in the time left.

The subject of prayer raises all manner of questions. Chapter 5 of Rediscovering New Testament Prayer is titled: Whatever You Ask for in Prayer. Chapter 5 deals with several pertinent issues. The title for the chapter itself is based on Jesus assurance in the Gospels that God answers prayers grounded in faith. This is a bold pronouncement and is one that doesn’t always feel true to us. We feel, at times, that our prayers go unanswered.

There are several possible ways for believers to consider this. Perhaps, we don’t see or grasp the answer to our prayers. Sometimes resolution to a situation occurs in an unforeseen way. The timing of event and resolution can be such that we are unable to connect the dots.

It could also be that we are being told not yet. Maybe the time is not right, for us or for others involved. It very well could be that other elements have to shift for a situation to come together. So maybe, the answer is not no, but not now. There may be more to do or more to let go of, before we are ready to have a particular answer.

Of course another possibility is that we are being told, no. No is not an easy message to receive. Most of us like having our desires met. Our individual desires, however, might not be in our best interest or the best interest of all involved. Part of practicing faith is trusting that we are part of something larger. We trust that God is in a position to see a larger view than we are.

Koenig raises an interesting possibility related to the perception of unanswered prayers. He suggests that maybe we are told no or not yet, because we are not asking for enough! It could be that we are not getting what we want because God wants to bestow more than we currently desire. We need to grow into God’s abundant vision of life in the Kingdom and grasp that bold vision. Maybe we are told no because we are not living up to God’s grand vision for us!

Morning Prayer ends with a couple of possibilities. Following the dismissal, there are three sentences from the scriptures with the provided instruction that one of them could be read. The last option really says it all. “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen Ephesians 3:20, 21





Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ashes

Father Jones has a thoughtful piece over at the Anglican Centrist.
Sin is pervasive and we all participate. All need repentance.

Ashes, Ashes We All Fall...

Lenten Practices

With ashes imposed and the Great Litany prayed, Lent is upon us. I must confess that in many ways, Lent is my favorite season of the Church year. As we tend to meander along through the year, Lent serves as a giant "stop" sign, forcing us to consider our next steps.

Lent is about being conscious and attentive to our relationship with God and one another. The various practices of Lent are focused on increasing our awareness and consciousness. Prayer, self-denial and study have long been part of this holy season.

Prayer is somewhat obvious. It is about maintaining an ongoing conversation with God. Prayer is not only speaking, but it is also listening. I suspect few of us take the time to listen. Try making some quiet time that you might hear the whispers of God.

Self-denial is probably the most misunderstood practice of Lent. We tend to equate it with punishment, which could not be less helpful. Self-denial is about recognizing the ways we willfully satiate ourselves to mask the reality of the human condition. We gorge, literally and metaphorically, to avoid feelings of emptiness and isolation. Lent is the perfect time to remove the anesthesia, and look for God to fill the emptiness we mask in so many unproductive ways.

Finally, study is a hallmark of lenten devotion. Historically, Lent was a time of preparation for Baptism. Converts spent the season, leaving worship before the Eucharist to receive instruction in the mysteries, and then received communion at the Great Vigil of Easter. The Church still has plenty of mystery to contemplate. Hopefully, many will attend our book study or commit to another form of inquiry.

Times and traditions change. Yet, there is substance underneath changing forms and practices. My prayer for us is that we mine for substance and grow in awareness, consciousness and faith.