Category Archives: Prayer
St. Ephrem of Syria is the patron saint of spiritual directors and spiritual leaders. I’m sitting down to finish a prayer book (breviary) for the University Ministries at Samford University, so I thought his prayer would be appropriate for the day. Here’s my translation:
Lord and Master of my life,
Don’t give me a spirit of laziness,
nosiness, arrogance, or gossip,
but give me a spirit of integrity,
humility, patience, and love.
Lord and King,
Let me see my own mistakes,
and not judge my brothers and sisters.
Blessed are You from age to age.
Whether you’re a church leader or not, perhaps pray this a few times today as a reminder and request. It’s easy where we are to sit in judgment under the guise of discernment or even justice, so take a moment to pause and reflect.
Have a blessed day.
Last night, I stood with several other students out in the cold around a fire singing Christmas songs and praying for peace (and there is no more fitting a season than Advent for such things). A little idea came out of the mind of one of my friends at Samford University out of her commitment to the Gospel of Peace. Caroline Noland organized a gathering that would serve as an all-night prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East. Caroline invited Aaron Carr (of Church of the Malcontent) and myself to participate and help plan the event, and it was perhaps the most worthwhile thing I have done this semester. I poured over liturgical texts from an array of traditions to put together a common prayer book for us to use throughout the night. It was full of Scripture, responsive readings, songs, stories, and quotes from fellow Christians about what the Church has to say about peace. And so we read, prayed, and sang all night long from 10 p.m. on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day) to around 7 a.m. on December 8th.
A lot of people asked us why we would do such a thing, and for a while I didn’t have a great answer. What I would say to that now is that we did it because we are part of a Church that believes in the good news of peace brought to earth by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We did this because we are a peculiar people who do peculiar things to accomplish rather peculiar goals in a world that doesn’t understand what we really believe. Students did not get together to protest or yearn for some idealistic world like the anti-war rallies of decades before our birth. We gathered together in the hope of a world that we know is real and is coming. We gathered together because we believe in the mystery of faith, that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. What we did by praying out in the cold around a fire on the Quad for a night was a small rebellion that doesn’t mean much in the world’s eyes. But in participating in such an action, we sort out what we believe and we give it form. It is in participation that the Word and Sacraments are given meaning. It is in the kind of community that gathered last night that we see the Church. So, that’s why we did it.
Not everyone was able to stay the whole night to hear everything that we did, so I’ve attached a copy of our prayer book to the end of this post, and below is the sermon I preached at around 4:30 a.m. before we began to turn our faces toward the Table and take communion together at sunrise. As you read, have a note card and pen handy so you can participate like the group did that night. I hope these words challenge you in the same way they challenged me. Read the rest of this entry
This is the original document I wrote from which I preached at McKenzie Baptist Church in McKenzie, Alabama. During the course of the sermon, I deviated from the document, emphasizing the grace to the traitor. There was no audio recording of the sermon, so, regrettably, those paragraphs are absent from the original document cannot be reproduced as they were given. I cannot hope to reproduce these additions in such a way as to do them justice, so I leave you with this: Remember that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). As the tax collector was a traitor, so were we, but we have been offered grace, which is freely given and freely chosen. Remember grace, extended to all, in light of all the words below, grace which is scandalous, prodigal, and free.
Text: Luke 18.9-14, NRSV
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Nothing Jesus preaches in any of the four Gospels should be taken just at face value. All of it should be examined in the context of what comes before it and what comes after it. The eighteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel is very interesting in this respect. Parallels can be drawn from the individuals in the parables to actual characters in the chapter’s narrative. For example, the passage immediately preceding this one is the parable of the widow and the unrighteous judge. The widow is persistent in her petitions to the judge and he finally grants her justice. This is how Jesus says we should pray and seek after him. Likewise, at the end of the chapter, we see the blind beggar live out the parable. The beggar shouts to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” but Jesus does not hear him at first, but he is persistent in his cry: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus then hears and heals him for his “faith has saved” him. His relentlessness at the end of the chapter is exactly what Jesus describes in the beginning of the chapter. When we get to the end of examining this particular passage, we will see how those relate. As for now, consider the Pharisee and the tax collector.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4, NRSV
This has been the next Beatitude for a while now. It’s been over a week since I wrote about the poor in spirit. Granted I have moved back to school and begun my coursework since then, but that is not what has been keeping me from writing. I have not written on this subject because I want to be honest. And in order to be honest, I have to admit I do not have words for this post, not like the others. I can dish out nice little Christian platitudes for comfort and security, but I am unsure that they mean all that much. They do not help me understand what is written.