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On prayer books and reading prayers

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I was raised in a conservative holiness tradition.  No one read prayers!  Somehow reading prayers, to me was a sign.  Now, how I processed this, or I came to the understanding of this—I haven’t a clue.  If you read prayers that meant you really didn’t know God—you were pretending.  If you knew God in a personal manner you would never read something someone else had written.  That was tantamount to taking your special someone on a date to a fancy restaurant and reading out of a book all evening long rather than sharing your heart.
At least—that’s what I thought, or I was told—or I concluded.


John Brownhill broke the rules for me.  John was the rector of the Anglican Church in South Porcupine and became a personal friend of mine.  I can’t quite recall how we initially met, but I recall his story.  He was sick—very sick—I believe with cancer and found his way into a Pentecostal church where he was healed.  Afterwards he was called into the ministry and became an Anglican priest.  At the ti…

Praying the Offices—The Divine Hours

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David said:  I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. (Psalms 119:164 NLT). If you take a 24 hour day and divide it by seven, David was thinking about praising God every 3 1/2 hours.  Some of the early monasteries took this literally.  Every 3 1/2 hours they would proceed to the chapel and recite the next portion of the book of Psalms—their prayer book.  In one week’s time they would have recited the entire book of Psalms.  For seven days they would recite seven times a day about three Psalms.
Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer.  This was the time of the evening sacrifice, which was 3 p.m.  Remembering that a day for a Jewish person would begin at 6 p.m. through to 6 p.m. the next day.  The morning sacrifice was at 9 a.m. (the third hour).  The afternoon sacrifice was at 3 p.m. (the ninth hour) which, coincidentally was the time Jesus died!
Acts 10:30-32 (NKJV)  So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hou…

The Jesus Prayer

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The Jesus Prayer
In the middle of the 19nth century the story is told of a young man in his 20’s, who after his wife had suddenly died—left his little village and began traveling around his native country Russia.  He was unable to find work primarily because his right hand was withered from a childhood accident.  He wandered around seeking spiritual guidance.  He happened upon a monk one day and approached him with a question: “Is it possible to pray without ceasing?”  The monk replied: “Yes!  Follow me.” The monk led the way up to a monastery where the old monk taught the young man the power of ‘The Jesus Prayer.’ The words of  The Jesus Prayer are: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.”  There are some variations—all based on a variety of scriptures.

Psalms 6:2 (NKJV)  Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
Luke 18:38 (NKJV)   And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Matthew 15:22 (NKJV)  And behold, a woman of Canaan c…

Meditation

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Meditation
I realize as we move on with this series that there are two things that need some clarification.  We already looked at the idea of silence and quietness—this week we will look at meditation.  Let’s begin by giving you the descriptions of the differences between these two disciplines.  Although from an outsider’s position there may be little or subtle differences, I want to help you process the vast difference between these—-and the immense benefit from both of these disciplines:




Silence/ Quietness:
Here the idea is shutting out your active mind —leaving lots of space for two things.  First, space to give your mind a rest, relaxing your mind.  It is a stopping of your mind from racing around solving all the problems of the world.  Second, giving space to hear from God! It is laying aside your agenda.  It is putting aside the debris, hurriedness, and hectic pace to relax in God’s presence.  Often music can help you with this.  Using the “Jesus prayer” (more on this in the future)…

The practice of silence and quietness

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About four years ago I had the privilege of being on Iona Island just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland and participated in a two day spiritual retreat.  It was all part of a Celtic Christianity tour I was participating in.  One of the evenings we were attending the night prayers at the local abbey.  This was a beautifully restored cathedral originally built in the late 1100’s but restored in the mid 19th century.  The leader of the prayer gathering that particular evening stood at the podium to begin the prayer service and said: “The first 20 minutes will be in silence.”  And, with that he sat down without another word spoken and the silence began—for 20 minutes. 
Now, by that time I had had enough practise in silence that I simply began my prayer of silence along with everyone else.  Silence is not something I was ever taught or ever practiced—and certainly did not entertain using it in a public gathering.  I had however begun to experience and love the discipline of…

The Examen

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Praying the Examen I grew up singing a hymn that went like this:



Coupled with this hymn was the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  My dad put such a mortal fear in me of ‘partaking in an unworthy manner’ I would repent of every known possible sin during the distribution of the emblems.  But, in all honesty, that was the extent of my confessing.  I’ve since become aware of and use liturgies of confession.  I believe confession is now part of my spiritual walk, but we seldom hear of it, unless we worship in a liturgical setting. Enter The Examen. The Examen is a historical practice of setting aside a specific time for examination.  This is an intentional setting aside sacred space to hear God, and receive from God. Now don’t think of The Examen as only a test.  It’s not so much a test as a time of reflection.  What the Examen is meant to provide is an opportunity for you to purposefully and intentionally look for God—in action in your life.  This is more than evening or morning devot…

Is Church the place I do my spirituality?

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As a certified spiritual director I spend time with clients on a one to one basis.  The one common thread I find in all my ministry with clients (directees) is as follows.  Most have difficulty on the ‘relationship’ level with God.  Now let me explain briefly.  This doesn’t mean they are not followers of Christ, are not saved, not born again, not a Christian—or whatever introductory level of commitment language you choose to use.  But what it does mean is that after the initial conversion experience, outside of a couple of basic things, people are stuck.  The basic things most of my directees get are going to church and stopping noticeable sins.  But after that…they are stuck.
Hello coronavirus!  This now presents a HUGE problem to us in every conceivable way.  Most are watching the news channels to find out the latest concerns.  This coronavirus is affecting us powerfully!  Forced closings, financial issues, sickness, and a plethora of issues and difficulties are arising out of the co…