Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Authentic Conversational Prayer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 -- Holy Week, Year One

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/category/holy-women-holy-men/

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)
Psalms 6, 12 (morning)        94 (evening)
Jeremiah 15:10-21
Philippians 3:15-21
John 12:20-26

Jeremiah offers a profound example of prayer in today's reading.  He is in conversational prayer with God.  He pours out his heart -- his thoughts and his feelings.  He speaks to God about what is happening, to him and to his people. 

Then he listens.  Deep within his intuition, he hears a response. 

Then Jeremiah answers God, again from the depths of his heart.

Then he listens.  Once again he hears something from God.  He has been in prayer.

Jeremiah begins his prayer to God in utter misery.  He wishes he had never been born.  He speaks to God of his misery.  "Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!"  Even though he has dealt fairly and uprightly, he is resented.  He is miserable.

Having placed his complaint before God, Jeremiah stops speaking and listens.  We don't know whether he senses an immediate response or whether he waits.  But he feels God's response:  "Surely I have intervened in your life for good, surely I have imposed enemies on you in a time of trouble and in a time of distress."  Jeremiah then hears again from God the bad news.  God again tells Jeremiah that disaster is coming upon the land, the whole people, and Jeremiah will share in their fate, their suffering.  Jeremiah experiences God as an angry fire "that shall burn forever."

Jeremiah responds to God.  Don't let this happen to me.  Let your anger fall on the bad ones, on my enemies.  "O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.  In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult." 

Then Jeremiah tells God how much alienation the prophet has suffered in God's name, on God's behalf.  "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.  I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of you hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation."  Jeremiah's voice rises.  "Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?"  He explodes, shaking his fist toward God:  "Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail."

With that accusation Jeremiah falls silent.  He waits.  He listens.

He hears God speak back to him, with both tenderness and demand.  "Therefore thus says the Lord:  If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me.  If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth."  Jeremiah knows the way to his restoration, the path of his mission.

Then God tells Jeremiah about a future of conflict and suffering -- a future through which Jeremiah will somehow be delivered.  "It is they who will turn to you, and not you who will turn to them.  And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord.  I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless."

The prayer is over.  Jeremiah has poured out to God his deepest thoughts and feelings -- his anguish and his anger, even his anger at God's own self.  Jeremiah has heard truth.  He has been gently scolded and deeply reassured.  He leaves his prayer unreleased from his heavy calling, but he leaves confident of God's sustaining presence with him.

Jeremiah shows us a way to pray authentically.  

Lowell

__________________

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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

3 Comments:

At 11:13 AM, Blogger anglejax said...

Fr. Lowell, thank you for sharing your thoughts in this morning's reflection. It reminds me that it is okay to recognize that we may be insecure, disappointed or even angry at God at times. It is sometimes a battle for me, growing up with the thoughts that this is not okay, that I really don't have any right to be upset with God, no reason whatsoever. To do so would constitute blasphemy. It just isn't in my place.

Then again, such attitudes is not very healthy, I have found. Isn't it true that if we are in a relationship with someone that it is imperative that we are honest with how we feel? Any other way and it would be called denial. Denial is for relationships where there has been trauma of some sort, in which if abused can make that relationship turn unhealthy and insane. To deny my disappointments with God out of fear of offending him would make God out to be codependent, and to me that is the real blasphemy.

So, it is good to express those feelings, no matter how negative, because ultimately, I have no control over my emotions, no? I hurt because I hurt. I'm angry because I'm angry. I'm happy because I'm happy. Well, let me rephrase that, I do have a little control. Attitudes do help in this regard. If I'm looking for trouble, then yes I'll be angry. If I'm looking to have a wonderful day, naturally then, I'll be reasonably happy all day long. But, I don't have full control. Things do happen. If I'm angry and someone smiles at me out of the blue, then I could very well turn happy if only for a moment. Herein, I think, lies the rub.

In order to move on, I think I need a little closure. Often times, just talking about such things gets it off my chest and I'm no longer upset. I think that if I had a concern regarding the Almighty, then I must approach prayer with reconciliation as the top priority. After all, I mess up on a daily basis, so maybe I don’t have much room to talk. I am grateful that whenever I do approach God, when he sees where I have fallen, he displays love and the desire for reconciliation as well. This helps me to see how healthy relationships work. It was really good for me to see that even though Jeremiah did get a rebuttal, howbeit a gentle one, God did reassure him. Thanks for pointing that out.

Please remember me in your prayers. Again, Father Lowell, thanks for your morning reflections. I get a lot out of them…

Jack

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Lent thirty-six

"Where I am, there will my servant be also.."

Where are you Lord Christ?
Prelude to a requiem
Notes dormant and dark


peace,
janet

 
At 7:36 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Jack,

Thanks for your wonderful post.

One of the helpful things about getting angry at God, is that God is big enough to take it.

When we are angry about circumstances, injustices, or unforeseen consequences, it is so much better to take out our frustration and anger on God than on others or on ourselves, because God can take it. God listens, the gives back nothing but love and honesty.

God is perfect love, and only perfect love casts out fear.

Jeremiah has given us a great gift in letting us see the honesty of his inner dialogue with God. He is open and vulnerable to share his feelings with God, after all, feelings just are. Then he listens, and lets God move him beyond his feelings.

Lowell

 

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