Pastoral Series

Prayer: Jesus on my mind

   If you’ve read my emails for some time, or heard me preach over several months, you will have heard me share what Dorothy Day said, late in her life, when she was asked to jot down some autobiographical notes. “I tried to remember this life that the Lord has given me. The other day,…

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Prayer: Edited Documents

   “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty…

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Prayer: Better Angels

   Just before Memorial Day, I began reading Jon Meacham’s newest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels. He surveys dramatic moments in American history, times of intense division and fear, and how leaders and then the people chose to move forward rather than fleeing backward, to live into hope instead…

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Prayer: What happened to you?

   Prayer involves the confession of sin. But opening up our brokenness to God is not the same as “shame.” Having remorse over wayward living that has hurt me or others, and an urgent seeking of God’s mercy and change, is very different from “shame.” God doesn’t and wouldn’t shame us – although often, other…

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Prayer: Worry

   Prayer can be a kind of worrying in front of God – which God welcomes. It isn’t the case that if you prayer, worry will evaporate and you’ll be totally at peace. But there is a sharing in prayer – and some perspective, which always helps, and dampens the worry, at least a little….

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Prayer: the Longest Day

   The Summer Solstice, June 21, the longest day of the year. Some churches have a “longest night” service just before Christmas, attentive to those bearing grief and sorrow during the season where everyone else seems so jolly. I wonder if we should have a “longest day” service. How long, after all, is the longest…

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Prayer: Unpleasant facts

   T.S. Eliot once asked, “Why should men love the Church? She tells them of life and death, and of all they would forget. She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft. She tells them of evil and sin, and other unpleasant facts.” The most unpleasant theme…

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Prayer: Flag Day

   Today is Flag Day, conjuring up old schooldays recollections of Betsy Ross, the Star Spangled Banner, and those six soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Today is also my sister-in-law’s birthday; as a little girl she felt great delight and honor that so many people put out flags to celebrate her day. And…

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Prayer: Prayer works?

   George Buttrick once described prayer as “beating on Heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark” – which pretty much sums up the frustration and yet persistence of prayer. In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus tells of a man banging on his friend’s door at midnight, demanding bread. Rebuffed at first, he persists. He will not…

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Prayer: Clenched fists

 Henri Nouwen, in a great little book on the spiritual life called With Open Hands, reminds us that “the resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists.”  He tells of a woman in a psychiatric center who swung wildly at everyone until they had to restrain her and take everything from her….

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