Pastoral Series

Prayer: Nobody Knows

In Anne Tyler’s terrific novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Pearl Tull reminisces about what it was like to be married to Beck. Over a beer in the evening, he liked to sing – and his favorite song was “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve Seen; Nobody knows but Jesus.” Pearl “supposed it must be true….

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Prayer: Love God, Love Neighbor

The German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg offered a keen insight into what it means to pray for others:  “By prayer, love of neighbor is integrated into the believer’s relationship to God as participation in God’s love for the world. Prayer prevents the practice of neighborly love from becoming simply our own moral work.” When asked which…

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Prayer: Choosing Again What I Chose Before

   Today, Lisa and I celebrate our 32nd anniversary. I’m a lucky dog. I’ve been thinking about marriage and prayer – but not anything like “the couple that prays together stays together.” I know couples who’ve prayed plenty, and the marriage splintered; and I know couples who’ve never once prayed together, and they have thrived….

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Prayer: Showing Up

   Sam Wells, a friend who is vicar of St. Martin in the Fields in London, has published a new book, Incarnational Ministry, in which he declares that all of us are called to ministry, and that the beginning of this ministry is prayer.  But prayer is no magical incantation; it’s not a matter of…

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Prayer: Learning to be Astonished

On Monday, we mentioned two poems by Mary Oliver.  Here’s another one, entitled “Messenger,” in which she reflects on her vocation as a poet, and in my mind also on ours as human beings. My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird… Here the quickening yeast, there the blue plums. Here…

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Prayer: darkness

This evening (at 6:30), Justin Perry and I will have a conversation about mental illness.  “Darkness” is a word that seeps into how we think about inner struggles.  The novelist William Styron wrote of his fierce depression in Darkness Visible (a phrase he borrowed by John Milton in Paradise Lost); Elizabeth Greene-McCreight’s book about her…

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Prayer: Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day

   How interesting: Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day!  I remember as a child dreading that classroom swap of little red cards and candies with messages like “You make my temperature rise” or “Be Mine” or “Hugs & Kisses.”  Retailers report that Americans spend $18 billion a year on Valentine’s day dinners, flowers, chocolates, and…

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Prayer: Changing Things

We think of the Bible as the inspired word of God – which doesn’t preclude us from noticing thoughts and viewpoints in the Bible that simply are wrong and not of God.  Genocide: biblical people felt sure God wanted them to slaughter not just men but also women, children and livestock – but this is…

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Prayer: Darkness is my only companion

Years ago, I led a group of pilgrims on a visit to the stone dungeon where many have thought Jesus spent his last night, under arrest, awaiting trial and then crucifixion.  It’s literally stone cold, and when the lights are turned off, it’s utterly dark.  With a little flashlight, someone read Psalm 88.  It was…

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Prayer: We pray with our feet and hearts

   Rev. Michael Waters, pastor of Joy Tabernacle AME Church in Dallas, is speaking at our church next Monday at 7. He has been the key leader of Christian efforts at peacemaking in Texas.  I love this: after leading a city-wide prayer vigil after the tragic police shootings in Dallas, he said, “We pray with…

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