Why do we pray scripted prayers?

daily prayer book cover

Last week we handed out a simplified version of our Anglican Book of Common Prayer called Praying through the Year. We’ve loved hearing the ways many of you are integrating this booklet into your daily life. We will have more copies of this resource available on Sunday in the narthex, and we’d love for you to take one home.

But some of you may wonder why we use scripted prayers at all. Why not pray from our thoughts and feelings and impressions? Isn’t scripted prayer needlessly rigid and archaic? Two responses come to mind.

The first response is that both modes of prayer are great and have their place in our lives. In fact, The Book of Common Prayer always leaves space for “free intercessions” in its liturgies, a place for the extemporaneous prayer to which many of us are accustomed. Using scripted prayers doesn’t replace unscripted prayers or all the wonderful, surprising ways the Holy Spirit shows up in them. Instead, it complements them, rooting them in the words of Scripture and of Christians who have prayed before us through the ages.

The second response, though, is a story from my own experience. A little over a decade ago, I nearly abandoned my faith. I was consumed by doubts I couldn’t reconcile; I was tired of Christians whose lives were squeaky clean but who cared little about justice and mercy; and I was crowding God out of my life by pouring myself into a career that tempted me with moral compromises. For over a year, I didn’t read scripture and I didn’t pray. And I didn’t care. I told God that I barely believed this stuff anymore, but that if it was true, he was going to need to convince me himself.

And he did. Late one night, I was anxious and sleepless and found myself really wanting to cry out to God, but I realized that I’d forgotten how. A phrase from the Sunday liturgy popped into my brain: “whose property is always to have mercy” (we now use the words, “who always delights in showing mercy”). That seemed as good a prayer as any, so I simply prayed it, over and over, to God: “Your property is always to have mercy. Your property is always to have mercy.” As I did, I realized that if God’s property is always to have mercy, then he had mercy for me in that moment, and in every faithless, cynical moment that had preceded it.

That sustaining thought carried me through a long night of anxiety to the morning. And it carried me through the next night, and the next. It marked the beginning of my returning to God, re-discovering that ‘the stories are true,’ and re-learning how to pray. It also marked the beginning of my use of The Book of Common Prayer as a regular part of my prayer life.

For someone like me, who easily lives inside my thoughts, the pressure to manufacture extemporaneous prayers can feel like a chore and a performance. And when I’m tired or uninspired or consumed with doubts, it’s barely possible. Instead, I found a liberating self-forgetfulness in The Book of Common Prayer, as I began to lean on the words and faith of the millions of Christians who had gone before me, who had prayed these prayers for centuries to sustain their faith. One of the gifts of being Anglican has been discovering this weird and wonderful fellowship with Christians throughout time and space whose prayers support my own.

These days, I do both: I pray scripted prayers in a more-or-less regular rhythm, and I pray extemporaneous prayers that vary from the transcendent to the absurd (“help me find a parking spot, Jesus!”). I think both kinds of prayer delight God, both draw me into a pattern of daily dependence and closer relationship, and both connect me to a global community of other praying Christians.

This Advent, we’d love for you to join us in adding scripted prayer to your daily rhythms. Pick up Praying Through the Year on Sunday!

Common Prayer…Simplified

advent table

Hey Restos! It’s me again, that woman who can’t seem to make it to church on time and talks an awful lot about toast. I was overwhelmed by the response to my recent blog about running late for church. So many of you reached out and shared stories of how you, like me, are hungry for the feast that God is offering us, but can’t quite figure out how to show up for it. To everyone who kindly commented or emailed me: thanks. I’m so glad we’re in this together.

And one of the ways that we are really, truly, profoundly in this together is through prayer. I love that we are a community that prays, and I know that many of us are constantly longing to grow in our habits of prayer. As Anglicans, we have a rich prayer resource in the Book of Common Prayer, a centuries-old book crammed full of scripture, statements of faith, and prayers. We hold these prayers in “common” with one another at Restoration, and with other Christians all over the world and throughout history. And these prayers are “common” in another sense: with practice, they become commonplace rhythms that shape our everyday lives. But what does that practice look like? How do we engage with our prayer book in a way that is life-giving and doable, when the book itself seems so complicated and intimidating?

Restoration has created two resources to help. The first is a RestoKids Advent daily devotional called Almost…Not Yet…Already…Soon. It’s full of space to doodle, simple explanations of this season of waiting, and peaceful invitations to enjoy God’s presence with us through prayer, scripture, stillness, and creativity. If you live in a house with kids, or if you’d like to approach God in a kid-like way this season, we would love for you to take one home on Sunday.

The second resource is a simplified version of the Book of Common Prayer called Praying through the Year, which takes you through the entire Christian year, beginning in Advent 2017 and ending just before Advent 2018. Each season contains short prayer guides for morning, noon, evening, and compline (bedtime), as well as daily daily prayer book coverreading plans and helpful prayers for a variety of circumstances. It includes explanations of the liturgical seasons and guidance on how to use the prayers. Everything in this book is taken straight from our Anglican Book of Common Prayer, but the confusing elements have been removed and the order has been rearranged to facilitate easy daily use. This book can be used alone or with others, around your breakfast table, at your desk, or on your nightstand — however works best to make these ancient prayer rhythms more “common” in your daily life.

If you have young kids at home, you may want to set aside this longer prayer book during Advent, and use our RestoKids devotional instead (they actually contain a lot of similar language!). Then, as Advent concludes and you find you want to continue the simple daily rhythms, pick up the prayer book again and adjust the daily prayer times in whatever way works best for your family. When my own children were young, we used these same liturgies around our breakfast table. We’d light a candle, get out paper and markers, and I’d read just a few fragments from morning prayer while they colored. Over time, my kids naturally absorbed a lot of scripture and theology (as did I!). But what works in my house might not work in yours, and that’s okay. This Advent, we would love for everyone to engage with these resources and find what works best in their own context, so that we can practice praying in common as a Resto community. We invite you to pick up one or both prayer guides this Sunday!

Women Unscripted: Tuesday September 26, 2017

Prayer Painting - Prayer by Angu Walters

Calling all RestoWomen: would you like some fresh energy and ideas for your prayer life as you head into Fall?

New season. New habits. New workout program…. New prayer life?

This Tuesday, September 26, we will have our first Women Unscripted of the season 7.30pm – 9pm – and we have an incredible line-up of women who will lead our time together.

There will be six workshops, including 

• praying for our parents,

• praying for others with the Book of Common Prayer

• praying for and with our kids, 

• praying for the persecuted church 

• praying for our families

• praying for the nations

Each workshop led by an AMAZING RestoWoman (or two)!

Will you join us? You will get to go to two workshops out of the six in the time we have… and you will WANT to go to all six. Each workshop will give you some ideas, tools and a chance to practice.

It will be fun. And you will learn new ways to pray… Do come!

And bring a friend.

So looking forward to re-connecting with you, 

~Liz

Oh and by the way: three more notices!
1. Do you want to be a mentor? Email Liz and she will connect you to Cindy and the team ( all women welcomed, special place for those 40+) No skills needed… just lived experience!

2. Nov 7: gatherings in homes. Save the date – and would you like to be a hostess? Email Liz and she will connect you to Kara Stevenson for more info

3. The Retreat: Feb 9-11, 2018 Save the date and sign up after the fall retreat. Email Liz and she will connect you to Jennifer if you would like to be involved in planning.

Listening

Sainsburys-supermarket-shelves-2014-460

Yesterday, while I was in the grocery store, I was starkly reminded of how hard it can be to listen. I was pushing my daughter around the store, trying to grab everything that was on and was not on my list while also somehow avoiding hitting other shoppers with our mondo car shopping cart. And trying to accomplish all of this in time to get home to unpack everything and then pick up my son from preschool. The store was playing music, people were talking, workers were stocking the shelves, kids were making noises. Then all of the sudden, barely audible because of all the noise, a clerk came over the intercom and asked all the workers and shoppers to observe a moment of silence for September 11. It took me a second to process what the voice was saying and to stop walking down the aisle and turn off my headphones, an additional noise on top of everything else. The store music ceased. Other shoppers that heard the announcement stopped in their tracks.  

The normally bustling grocery store was suddenly quiet, a unique, almost unsettling, scene. For perhaps 30 seconds, everyone participated in the moment of silence. Then the music came back on and everyone started going about their busy business again, with all the noise that went along with it.

Not everyone heard the announcement- perhaps because it was too noisy in the store or they thought it was another “commercial” from the grocery store or they simply didn’t listen/pay attention- and did not stop to observe the silence. Some did stop for the silence when they visually noticed the other shoppers not shopping and became aware of the lack of noise. But others continued to go about their way, unaware of the invitation and opportunity to engage in this solemn moment. In fact, I barely heard the announcement to be silent over the loudspeaker because of all the other noise going on around me and the noise that I myself was creating.

Listening to God can be difficult and requires discernment. We know what types of things to be listening for and the ways that God can speak to us: scripture, times of prayer, community, circumstances, Holy Spirit encounters. But more fundamentally, in order to “hear” or “see” any of these things an intentionality is needed; a posture of listening and watchfulness is assumed. How can we know what we are to do or what God is saying if we have not listened? If we have not taken the time and space to listen? If we have not removed our headphones? If we have not been watchful to the situation around us?

Taking time for silence is an opportunity for us to assume this posture of listening and watchfulness. We can be sure that God is speaking; He is living and active. He has given us His Holy Spirit to direct and comfort us. It is hard to hear, to be watchful, especially in our busy Washington D.C. pace of life. Join us for a time of listening to the Lord during “Be Still and Know,” a contemplative prayer night, on Wednesday, September 13 at 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary.  Intercessors will be present to pray silently for you as you pray and seek the Lord. Bring your thoughts, bring your questions, bring your expectant heart to hear what the Lord might say to you.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people;

Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who

calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with

you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever

and ever. Amen.

~Lauren

Interested in learning more about listening to the Holy Spirit and pursuing a posture of listening? Ladies are welcome to join Rebecca Reck and Lauren Lessels’ small group on Fridays at 10 am in the Church for Priscilla Shirer’s “He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear from God” study.

Be Still and Know: Wednesday 04/19/2017, 7.30pm

8-he-qi1

 

We don’t like being still. We do not like doing what could be interpreted as nothing or inactive. We don’t like being silent. We want to take action, save the world, speak up for ourselves. We don’t like practicing silence. We want to fill the void, and our mind quickly rushes through to-do lists and other things we forgot to remember. It is difficult for us to allow 15-30 seconds of silence during prayer time at church for the time of confession before we say the corporate confession. Silence, being still and being silent is just awkward and seems like a waste of time and space, especially when there are so many other more meaningful things we could be doing or doing more efficiently. And yet, we are told in scripture to be still.

Psalm 46:10 is the reference for the recognizable “Be still and know that I am God.” The context of Psalm 46 is anything but still and silent and peaceful. Instead the earth gives way, waters rage, mountains move. There is great turmoil here! And yet God is in the midst of the disquiet; “a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God it there and he is there in a powerful a way.  The focus of this Psalm is not on us, the reader, but on the power of the Lord. Only a few actions are given to describe our stance in this tumultuous scene: we are to not fear, behold the works of the Lord, to recognize his presence with us, to be still and know he is God. But, on the whole, these are not “active” words in the way we normally think of action; they are words of waiting and trust, words that are reflective and dependent on the power and action of another.  Our action is to pause, to watch, to listen, to be in the Lord’s presence and see what action the Lord is doing and what action he might call us to take with him.

Does this Psalm sound familiar? Do you hear the psalm whispering in Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4: 35-41)? The disciples are on the boat and the waters are raging, their world seemingly collapsing. The voice of the Lord cries out once again “BE STILL” and speaks to their fear (“Why are you so afraid?”).  The interaction leaves the disciples with a question to recognize God’s presence with them (“Who then is this…?”) and behold his works (“… that even the wind and the sea obey him?”).  And the passage encourages them forward to know him and have faith.

Do you hear the Psalm whispering in your own life? Our lives are neither still nor silent and we don’t want to to be silent about it. Sometimes our lives feel like they are in a state of crisis, sometimes we are seeking to discern a certain topic and questioning, and sometimes things are going OK.  Wherever you may be, there is an invitation to pray and simply be in the Lord’s presence, to discern what the Lord may be speaking to you, and to give an intentional space for him to speak.   images

Come practice being still and knowing he is God with us. On Wednesday, April 19 from 7:30 -9 p.m. Restoration will be open for a time of silent, contemplative prayer. Bring your questions, bring your weary not-so-silent heart, bring yourself. We practice silence because we want to be in his presence.  We practice silence because we need to know more of who he is and what he would speak to us.  We practice silence because we recognise that we are dependent on his action.

Come, and see what the Lord might speak to you.

~Lauren and the Prayer team

a prayerful lent — EASTER

EASTER

Sunday, April 16, 2017

PRAY  Heavenly Father, we thank you!  You are generous and loving and so powerful!  We ask that you continue to help us see our sin and to remember that you are the one to save us.  Thank you for living and dying and rising all because you love us.  Amen.

READ  John 20:1-18

SING 

1. Happy Day     

The greatest day in history – death is beaten, You have rescued me!
Sing it out: Jesus is alive!
The empty cross, the empty grave, life eternal, You have won the day.
Shout it out: Jesus is alive. He’s a – live!

Oh happy day, happy day, You washed my sin away.
Oh happy day, happy day, I’ll never be the same.
Forever I am changed.

When I stand in that place, free at last, meeting face to face,
I am Yours, Jesus, You are mine.
Endless joy, perfect peace.
Celebrate: Jesus is alive.
Earthly pain finally will cease.
He’s a – live!

Oh, what a glorious day, what a glorious way
That You have saved me

DO  Read the story of the Resurrection three times.  During the first reading, choose a color of paint that shows what you are feeling.  Paint a page that color.  During the second reading, write on your paper a word or words that God is whispering to you.  During the third reading, add more doodles with paint or pens to show more about what you are experiencing with God.

 

a prayerful lent — PALM SUNDAY and HOLY WEEK

PALM SUNDAY and HOLY WEEK

Beginning Sunday, April 9, 2017

PRAY  Almighty God, you love us so much that you sent your Son Jesus to die for us – “to get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness”1 – to make all things new.  Help us to understand how you suffered for us all because you love us.  Thank you, Jesus!  We love you!  Amen.

READ

John 12:12-15

John 13:1-20, 31-35

John 18:1-11

John 18:15-18, 25-27

John 18:28-19:16

John 19:16-42

SING 

1. You Alone Can Rescue     

Who, O Lord, could save themselves
their own soul could heal
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your grace is deeper still

You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise.

You, O Lord, have made a way
The great divide You healed
for when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still.

We lift up our eyes, lift up our eyes, You’re the giver of life.

DO  This is it!  The BIG WEEK where we see God’s great rescue plan in action.  As you read a bit of the story each day, listen as God whispers to you words and ideas that make your heart flutter.  Write them down.

 

1Lloyd-Jones, Sally. The Jesus Storybook Bible. Illus. Jago. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Quiet Time Redefined: a midweek Eucharist homily

imagesA little over two years ago I was slowly emerging out of survival mode.  I had my first child the previous year and life beyond diapers and nursing was starting to appear again.  While at the playground one morning, one of my dear friends bravely asked me the challenging question that had been plaguing me in my own consciousness for months postpartum:

What do you do for your quiet time?

Quiet time, that phrase I grew up with in my conservative, evangelical Christian home that stood for the time you set aside to spend with God through bible reading and prayer, to practice being in God’s presence.  I was honest with her and told her that “right now nothing much I’m just trying to survive motherhood, little sleep and working part time.” I asked her what she did. She told me about an app on her phone and we moved on in our conversation.  But I still felt the condemnation and weight of shame over not having a better status report.

If she had asked me pre-kid I would have had a glowing response but now all I had was “nothing much” and a healthy dose of guilt regarding my lack of quiet time.  I knew it was important and something that I should do as a “good” Christian, and that in fact by not doing it I was robbing myself of opportunities for God to minister to my weary heart.  Especially in the midst of such an important transition in my life- motherhood- and the new responsibilities that it entails.

I don’t think this shame over a lack of quiet time is limited to the experience of being a mother.  I’ve experienced this feeling before especially at other points of transition: when I started college, started into the working world, got married, climbed up the success ladder at work.  We are- as Erica put it beautifully several weeks ago- “in the midst” of many situations, seasons and demands on our time and energy.  How can we maintain a relationship with God when we are “in the midst” of so much with seemingly no time and a burden of shame from not living up to a Christian ideal?

After the conversation with my friend, I started attending a bible study and was challenged by a statement from the leader. She very honestly and candidly told our group of moms:

You are more in control of your time than you think you are.

I was incredulous. Doesn’t she realize how hard it is to do what I do and that I have no time? I’m lucky if I can get away by myself just to get a shower most days!   But then my heart softened and I realized her point. Yes my life is very full and sporadic at the moment. But I do still have a modicum of control.  I do still have time, even if it is very little, to give to something.  

I am encouraged afresh by the parable of the woman with the mite (Mark 12:41-44), or as it is in the ESV, the two small copper coins. Usually when I’ve heard this passage discussed it has to do with tithing but I think it can also be understood beyond monetary devotion to describe the offering of ourselves. The woman gave two mites which we are told were worth essentially nothing in that culture. We are also told that she is a poor widow, again, something that was worth essentially nothing in that culture.  And yet Jesus praises this picture of sacrifice and worship because this seemingly insignificant amount that she gave was all that she had to live on, all that she had to give for her seemingly insignificant life to exist.  And it was not worth nothing to her; it was costly and significant to her (2 Samuel 24:18:25).

The Lord knows how much time I have in my day. How I chose to squander it in escapism on my phone or by submerging myself in my part time job.  How I relish it with a nice shower or quality time with my husband and kids. How I choose to sleep rather than do the dishes not out of slothfulness but out of necessity. And He knows that when I choose to give him my seemingly insignificant block of fifteen minutes of undivided attention that maybe all I have to give that day. And it is costly to me.  And he loves it and rejoices in it.  The Lord sees the heart; my intentional gift matters, not because of the quantity or size of it, but because I am freely giving this costly gift and He wants to be with me.

The point I am trying to express is not the need to make time in and of itself, creating another legalistic check list for shame.  The point of carving out this time is to be with Jesus; talking to him, listening to him, just being with him.   Quiet time and devotions are terms that carry a lot of guilt and shame baggage because it has become a place of legalism in the Christian community.   Kristen Terry beautifully liberated many of us during the women’s retreat by encouraging us to consider changing the way we talk about spending time with God. She told us, simply and plainly, in the moments we spend with the Lord to:

Just allow God to love you

That’s all quiet time is supposed to be about anyway, not our achievement or failure of completing another check off our list.

May we not forget the intent of quiet time in the first place and confuse the execution of this discipline as the means of grace.  Quiet times are a tool to connect us with our loving God who wants to hear from you and speak to you.  I believe the Lord would look us in the face, look me in the face and simply say:

I just want to be with you, whatever that looks like right now, and love on you.

God knows our crazy lives. He knows how much time we actually do or do not have. He loves you and wants to be with you. Come to Him free from shame with whatever offering of time you may have to give and allow Him to love you in it.

~ Lauren L.

Need some time and space to spend some time with the Lord? Join us on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. for a time of silent, contemplative prayer.  Bring a Bible, journal, blanket/jacket and an expectant heart.  

 

Give Us this Bread Always: a midweek Eucharist reflection

Every Wednesday lunchtime this year we have been gathering in the sanctuary to celebrate the Eucharist. There are just two more – today and next Wednesday (04/12/2017), so if you haven’t been to one yet do think about coming! 12.15pm – 12.50pm in the Sanctuary. Meanwhile, here is Amy’s homily from last week ….

images

John 6:25-35

Today’s gospel reading is a conversation between Jesus and a crowd beside a lake. But to really enter into all that is happening here, we actually need to first back up a little bit to get some context.

If we rewind to the day before, we learn that Jesus started out right where he is now – on the other side of the Sea in Capernaum. We learn from Matthew’s gospel that while in Capernaum yesterday, he received the horrible news that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist. Imagine how Jesus must have felt – lonely in his work of proclaiming the kingdom. Vulnerable to the whims of a violent ruler. And just really, really sad. And so Jesus decides he’s got to get out of here and find some solitude with God. He decides to cross the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, to go up a mountain that Matthew calls a “desolate place” – a landscape that matches his own emotional state.

So he does. He crosses the sea, he climbs the mountain, and he sits down rest in his Father’s presence. But as soon as he does, he looks down. And there below him are swarms of people, following him up, because they have heard that this man has the power to heal.

And of course Jesus knows that the people rapidly approaching them are hungry and that his disciples have no money to feed them and are getting nervous. And so he takes the bread and fish offered by a little boy and blesses it and breaks it and distributes it to every last person – thousands of them – and they sit in this desolate place and feast together. And the people are so amazed and satisfied that they want to make him king right then and there – but remember what Herod’s been up to? Clearly, that’s a bad idea. And so Jesus retreats even further up the mountain for a few moments of solitude.

That night, his disciples set out their boats to head back across the Sea of Galilee. (And oh, by the way, Jesus also walks out to them on the water in the midst of a storm. But that’s a story for another day.)

The next morning, Jesus and his disciples wake up on one side of the lake, back in Capernaum, while that crowd of thousands wakes up on the other. And they quickly realize that Jesus isn’t there, and neither is his boat. And they put two and two together and jump in their boats and row across the lake to find him. And that’s where our story picks up.

This context is important, because we need to know what kind of people are asking Jesus questions in today’s passage. These are people who have climbed a mountain and crossed the sea just to be with Jesus. And these are people who have already feasted on his miraculous provision of bread. Everything about these people’s actions suggests that they are hungry in their souls. But for what?

Well, leave it to Jesus to find out, and not in a terribly gentle way. He chastises them for following him. He’s suspicious. He says, “I know what you’re after. You just want some more of that free bread. Well free bread’s never going to satisfy you. You’re wasting your effort working for something that’s just going to leave you empty.” But they don’t just shrug their shoulders and disperse. They persist. They press in. They show that maybe they’re not just looking for a free lunch after all. They say, “Okay, Jesus; if we’re working for the wrong thing, then tell us what to work for instead. What is the work of God and how can we do it?”

And then Jesus tells them that the work of God isn’t really work at all: it’s believing. It’s trusting him with our hunger. What is the work of God? It’s showing up hungry, and believing he alone can feed us.

But the crowd doesn’t really get it yet. They press in again. They ask: “Okay. But if that’s our ‘work’, then who’s going to, you know, actually do the work? What’s your work, Jesus? How are you going to prove to us that you’re really working for us? That we can trust you with our hunger? Are you going to give us manna, like Moses did?”

And Jesus patiently corrects them. He reminds them that it was never Moses who gave their ancestors manna, it was God himself. He reminds them that for 40 years God fed their ancestors every day, while they didn’t plant or water or harvest, while their only work was to show up hungry every morning and receive from the hand of God. And Jesus goes on to tell them that this bread of heaven, this manna, is in their midst again. It’s him!

And then the crowd says one of my favorite sentences in the bible: “Give us this bread always.” We actually prayed this recently in the collect on the 4th Sunday in Lent: “Evermore give us this bread.” It’s a request that feels so demanding, so desperate, so hungry; it feels like something a child would say.

Remember that these are people who have already eaten miracle bread from his hands. And these are people who have climbed a mountain and crossed a sea because they are hungry and hope Jesus can feed them. So when Jesus tells them he is the bread of life, they know what it’s like to be hungry, and to they know how good it feels to be fed. They can say to one another, “Remember those barley loaves that we ate together yesterday? When we were hungry and penniless and so desperate for healing that we climbed a mountain to be with a stranger? Remember that mysterious bread that was more than enough, that tasted so good when we needed it most?”

Jesus is like that bread. Except that Jesus will satisfy them not just for an afternoon, but forever.

And just like this crowd, we are also people who have already feasted on this miraculous bread. The bread of life has already come down from heaven, blessed by God in the person of Jesus. It has already been broken on the cross and given to us to feed our deepest hunger and give us life forever. We have already feasted on God’s provision for us in the desolate place of our own sin and brokenness.

And so what is the work of God for us today? It’s showing up hungry. It’s trusting this bread with our deepest hunger. It’s saying no to all the empty filler calories that tempt us – stuff like financial security and control and affirmation – that temporarily takes the edge off our appetite but ultimately leaves us empty. Instead, we can show up hungry and receive this bread of life: blessed, broken, and given for us, again and again, forever.

“Give us this bread always.”

Father, thank you that you are our bread of life. You are barley loaves in a desolate place, and you are manna in the wilderness. Show us where we have been numbing our hunger with food that does not satisfy. Help us to show up hungry and to feast on your life-giving provision. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, we pray for our world, that your wisdom would guide all our leaders, and that your Spirit would move powerfully to bring peace and healing in places of poverty, conflict, disaster, and pain. We pray particularly for refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and other places of great suffering – people who are quite literally hungry in desolate places and wandering in the desert. Strengthen and uphold and protect them on their journey. Generously provide for their hunger and thirst. Settle them in places of safety and abundance. And stir our hearts to see and care and pray and act on their behalf. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

~Amy Rowe

Pausing to pray in lent

Week by week we have been hearing some wonderful reflections during our Lenten services. Here Eric reflects on the discipline of prayer.imgres

The older I get– the more I find myself a creature of habit. I wake up, I work, I spend time with my family, and I go to sleep. Each year passes more swiftly than the last. My body ages more quickly than my spirit matures. All too often it feels like I am on autopilot, going through my days with reaction not intention.

In the same way, the older I get– the more “past” and the more “future” I carry with me. The “past” has many names: memory, home, regret, missed, forgotten, I did, I didn’t, did I? Didn’t I?. The “future’s” names I know almost as well: wish, dream, danger, promise, anxiety, fear, should, I will, I won’t, I must, I must not, maybe. Unexpectedly, the past and the future have become my friends. I know them, I’ve nourished them, I’ve courted them. And these constant companions crowd out my present.

Each day, I am faced with choices about how to live, how to love, how to parent, how to work, how to succeed, how to fail, how to forgive, how to be forgiven. In those many moments, I am tempted to let my habits, or my perspectives of the past and the future speak for me. They whisper in my ear, “let us decide for you, we’ll take good care of you.” During those moments, I may think that I’m in my living room with my kids, or at a meeting with my boss, or unable to sleep in the dead of night…

I may think I am, but I’m not.

I’m actually standing in a garden with a man, and a woman, and a snake, and a tree. The sky is a cloudless blue, and the sun is radiant, the fruit is there before me, and it looks just about perfect and The Father’s voice moves the leaves of that Sacred Tree like a breeze, and He says to me, simply, “Will you trust me?”

One of the great joys of having kids is praying together. Before nap-time, we pray the At Noon Daily Devotional for Families and Individuals from the Book of Common Prayer. The Devotional’s reading from Isaiah articulates best the freedom God gives me in prayer:

O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength.

Prayer makes me pause. Prayer gives that moment for God to nudge me to come to myself.

When I am a man who prays, I have clarity. In prayer, God pulls me from yesterday and tomorrow into the present. In prayer, God frees me from the easy to choose the good. I can say no to the fruit, and trust that the food The Father provides thereafter will not only nourish and satisfy but will give the real life for which I hope.

~Eric Lessels

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