Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

Three Weeks, Three Wishes

January 3, 2017

Trump’s scheduled inauguration is only three weeks away now, and people who fear what may happen to the people of this country, and indeed the world, are anxious. It comes to me to remind them, and myself, that we all have the option of prayer.

Now if we are not sure whether there is a God who hears and answers prayer, now is a good time to experiment and find out. If our consciences feel so unclean that we shrink from approaching God, now is a good time to ask God to forgive our sins so that we may dare to approach and ask a further request, which may be – wait, I’ll get to Trump in due time – which may be that God wash us so clean of our sins that we lose the will to sin any further.

Now, if God has heard and answered us, we’re now fit to remain in the Holy Presence and make a third request. If my readers are nervous because this is reminding them of those folk-tales in which the main character is given three wishes and makes bad use of them, now’s the time to ask God’s advice as to how to proceed: should we pray for a change in the outside world or for a further change in ourselves?

Myself, I’m inclined to ask for a further change in myself rather than any outward change in the world. Before asking stones to be turned into bread, it seems wiser to ask for the patience to endure hunger. So I’ve asked to have my faith, hope, and love increased. There’s a precedent for the first one of these requests recorded in Luke 17:5, where the Apostles, as if out of nowhere, ask Jesus: “Increase our faith.”

But why not ask to have our love increased, too? If a Trump presidency seems to threaten a four-year rule of lovelessness, who can remedy that but ourselves? Let’s do an assessment of our present capacity to love: are we finding it hard to love Trump and the people he’s intending to install in positions of power? Remember, loving our enemy doesn’t necessarily mean wanting them to get their way: their getting their own way may be the worst thing that could happen to them. To me, loving Trump means wishing for his repentance, or his speedy removal from office before he earns any more bad karma for himself.

For those of my readers who may have voted for Trump, and who think of “the enemy” as the people opposed to him, are you having trouble loving your enemies? The same principles apply.

Myself, I can see that I need an expanded capacity to love, if only because I anticipate a lot of people getting hurt under a Trump presidency. A lot of us are going to need to start caring for our neighbors more – a lot more. I can’t count on a Trump government to care for them.

As for the gift of hope, I am praying for that very earnestly now. I think you’ll understand why. But I’m reminded that Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you.”

Stopping Climate Change Will Take a Change of Heart

August 22, 2014

You and I know that these could be our last years on earth, and our children’s too. We’ve known since the 1970s that our greenhouse gas production is driving climate change. The nightmare sequels, we now know, may include global famine from cropland desertification and collapse of the marine food chain as CO2 sours the seas. To their credit, many men and women of good will are responding by innovating, protesting, going off-grid and eating more simply. Protest actions against a major coal-fired power plant have led to plans for its closure. But the mitigations put in place have consistently seemed too little, too late, and profiteers, enabled by an “anything goes” culture that cares little about truth-telling, are still generating PR claims that natural gas and plutonium are “green,” and elected officials are buying it. Global demand for an ever-higher standard of living, along with capital’s need to milk that demand for ever-higher levels of corporate profit and power, still trump any sustained and coordinated effort to intervene for the common good. Can a People’s Climate March hope to change this? Can any raising of voices or massing of numbers?

A man-made doomsday

How shall we name the situation? There are too many people on the planet saying Me first, or groups of people saying Us first. We’re choking on human selfishness. What’s looming ahead of us is a man-made doomsday attributable entirely to human greed, lying, willed inattention – let’s call it by its right name: human evil. And it’s not just the evil of bankers, fossil-fuel CEOs, and their hirelings in government that we’re looking at, but a spiritual sickness we all share: for we all try to tilt reality in our own favor, sometimes hiding the truth to protect our own skin, often turning a blind eye to the suffering of others. If we stand on moral ground no higher than the “culprits” of climate change, dare we hope to change their ways?

Another way of seeing the situation

But this scenario is built around fear, and the expectation of scarcity and death.

Scarcity and death are not God’s will for us, as the witness of God in your own heart will tell you if you will listen for it. The scriptural testimonies of humans who have known the heart of our Creator confirm this: in Isaiah 45:18, God declares that God created the world “not in vain, but to be inhabited.” The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon makes the amazing assertion that God “did not create death, but the ungodly, with their hands and their words, drew death to them” (Wisdom 1:13-16), and the prophet Ezekiel records God as saying, “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies” (Ez. 18:32, 33:11). In the Sermon of the Good Shepherd, Jesus declares, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), contrasting His role with that of the sheep-rustler whose work is only to destroy. Jesus taught that it was God’s will not to judge and condemn, but only to forgive and heal, and Jesus modeled this divine love by laying down His life for souls gone astray, forgiving even His own murderers. How perfectly or imperfectly the Jesus of scripture reflects the actual character of the God who gave you life and consciousness, again, is something you can ask the witness of God in your own heart. Expect an answer.

The climate crisis will not be overcome by forcing or persuading the “sheep-rustlers” to stop destroying the environment. Neither is there any good done by punishing, condemning or scapegoating them, not even in your fantasies, for “with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matt. 7:2), and Jesus also taught that refusal to forgive our enemies keeps us unable to receive God’s forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15).

Forgive and be forgiven

But there is a larger point to be made about forgiveness: it is the revolutionary principle that can change the world. It is the only revolutionary principle that can change the world. The social, economic and political world that is now cooking itself with greenhouse gases is one that runs on the principle of scapegoating: that is, morally imperfect persons with injured consciences (that’s all of us) seek the healing of their injured consciences by imputing evil to other people and then, to the best of their ability, driving those others out of society. This is the origin of war, slavery, the subjugation of women and countless other evils. Like an addictive drug, scapegoating numbs the pangs of conscience, but does not heal the injury. But extending universal forgiveness does, and the empowerment that comes with being healed and receiving divine forgiveness knows no limits.

Let us try, then, what love can do. Forgiveness is an act of will, not a matter of having the right feelings; anyone can do it. It does not require reconciliation with people who have hurt us, and whom we would rather have nothing more to do with. It asks of us only that we make the effort to wish them the same eternal happiness we would wish for ourselves.

How I Got to Where I Am Now

August 7, 2014

Two days ago, I posted an alert about the upcoming Hiroshima Day anniversary on the Google Group unofficially and loosely connected with my home meeting:

The website http://www.doonething.org/calendar/nonukesday.htm urges us to do one thing to eliminate the threat of nuclear destruction — like, for example, “It’s the perfect time to urge your Mayor to declare your city a Nuclear Free Zone.” But I venture to add another suggestion:

If you believe that God is almighty and listens to your prayers, take time on Hiroshima Day to pray that the whole world become a nuclear-free zone. Don’t be half-hearted or tentative; you don’t want God to be half-hearted or tentative about listening to you. Do something radical: kneel to make your prayer. Prostrate yourself to make your prayer. Sing it. Shout it. Dance it. Call up a friend on the phone and ask, “will you pray out loud with me?” and this way you’ll have a witness to what you did. Get up in the morning and fast until you’ve made your prayer. Or even better, and more to the point: ask God how to make your prayer about nuclear weapons. God likes to be asked for advice on how to pray. God is the best expert on it there is, and God is already there in the room with you. Make your prayer an event you’ll remember.

The nine nuclear powers are: The US, the UK, France, Russia, and China; India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons).

There are also “peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” meaning, mostly, use of radioactive material for the generation of electrical energy. but you may feel led to pray that these be phased out also, so that there may be no more Three Mile Island meltdowns, no more Chernobyls, no more Fukushima Daiichi disasters. (There have probably been more meltdowns than you know about: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown.)

Don’t be discouraged by the amount of money, and state power, and corporate influence arrayed against your tiny little wish. The Ruler of the universe, the Inventor of the atomic nucleus, the Ultimate Comforter of every victim of nuclear warfare and nuclear bullying is on your side. Nothing is too hard for God.

In this posting, the reader will notice, I make some statements about God that invite the question, “How does the writer know these things?” And that’s just the question that a Friend asked in a private e-mail. (The statements about God that I see as most inviting that question are “God likes to be asked for advice on how to pray” and “The Ruler of the universe… is on your side. Nothing is too hard for God.”) Now I could have tried to answer the Friend with proof-texts and exegetical arguments, but if the Friend doesn’t accept scripture as authoritative, I’m out of luck, aren’t I? And anyway it would be disingenuous, because I got these statements not out of scripture but out of the knowledge of God that I believe God planted in my own heart. So I wrote a longish letter back to the Friend explaining how I got from being a child atheist to a born-again follower of Jesus who can dare to claim some knowledge of God’s character and intentions toward us. I think that some readers of this blog may find it interesting. The only thing in it I’d correct is that I referred to my father as a “bad-tempered alcoholic.” Well, he was, but not after he got sober, when I was turning eleven; and then he stayed sober till he died, thirty years later. And even before that, he was a faithful husband and father, a dedicated teacher, and a hard worker who hungered and thirsted after righteousness. I’m inserting a little pictorial tribute to him before I go on (yes, his hands were almost that huge):

Everything I Know about Drawing Moon Faces

Everything I Know about Drawing Moon Faces

My letter follows:

Thanks for asking. I’m really grateful for the question, and hope I can do the truth justice. I’ll do my best to speak simply from my own experience. As you can see from the headline of my announcement, “Thursday, August 6 is Hiroshima Day,” I’m very fallible; August 6 is today, Wednesday.

I was raised an atheist. My mother, a gentle soul who put flies out the window rather than swat them, an admirer of Gandhi, told me she believed in the power of Love, but didn’t go into details. My father, a bad-tempered alcoholic who’d been raised by a strict Irish Catholic mother who forbade little boys to “touch themselves” (clueless me! I had no idea what Grandma was talking about). He was in violent reaction against religion, and despised it all as a huge fraud foisted on the masses by the ruling class (“but don’t tell Grandma that you believe that”). When I was nine or ten, some time before my father turned to a Higher Power, sobered up and joined AA, I knelt and prayed to God, angrily, that if He wanted people to believe in Him He shouldn’t make Himself invisible! Oh, what a fool I felt like! How my father would shame me if he’d seen me on my knees! But how I wanted to know whether or not there was a God, because I’d been cursed with a philosophical mind that had to understand the basic principles of existence!

As I grew up, I came to loathe Christianity, which, as I was exposed to it, considered everyone a damnable sinner unless they agreed with its notions, which, however, it could not prove by the ordinary rules of evidence I’d been raised to trust in. In fact it contained a wicked Catch-22 right near the end of its sacred text, The Bible: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8, King James Version). Can you beat that? First it makes me fearful as all hell, and then it throws me into the lake of fire for being fearful! To hell with that! And this Bible is supposed to be about a God who is Love?

But then came the sixties, and first the activist revolution (during which I almost converted to Marxism, but lacked faith in the right-mindedness of the working class) and then the psychedelic and “New Age” spiritual revolution. On an LSD trip I became convinced that there were invisible worlds inhabited by invisible intelligences. I wanted to know more. I read the literature of Zen, Yoga, Sufism, Theosophy, the occult, and the pseudo-shamanism of Carlos Castaneda. I wanted to open my chakras, raise my kundalini, encounter the nagual, and experience enlightenment, with a hunger that even seemed to out-burn my desire for sex and love. I dropped out of graduate school, left my first wife, and became a wandering hippie. During this time I read the Bible, having been tipped off by the occultists that it was full of hidden wisdom. I also remember telling my aunt that I felt so bad about walking out on my first wife that I’d rather die than do anything like that again.

One year after I left my wife (to the day!) I almost got my wish. My new girlfriend Deon, then three months pregnant by another man (this was the sixties, you’ll remember), asked me if I’d take her out to get a hamburger, because there were so many people standing around in our communal kitchen getting stoned that she couldn’t fix herself food there. I agreed. Two friends came along with us, John Butler and Michelle Silverman. It was night. It was the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco, on February 17, 1969. John Butler, black, and Michelle, white, were walking about twenty paces ahead of Deon and me. We’d almost gotten to the all-night diner when three bikers jumped out of a parked car, shouting the “N” word, and ran up behind John with obvious intent to do him violence. I squeezed Deon’s hand and sprinted forward, shouting “Hey, man, that’s my brother!” It would have been one of the last things John heard. The man called Crazy Mike, who’d been killing for thrills since age 12, stabbed him in the back with a kitchen knife, piercing his heart. He died on the spot. The man called Moose whirled around, hitting me on the left cheekbone with a wine bottle, breaking the eyesocket and giving me the deep-set eyes I now have. As I reeled from the impact, Crazy Mike whirled around and stabbed me in the abdomen, punching through diaphragm, liver, kidney and intestines. “Come on,” one of the murderers said to his buddies, “let’s get out of here.” As I lay on the sidewalk, a strange calm came over me. I knew that I was bleeding internally, and was in shock, which was keeping the pain at a tolerable level, and might die within minutes or even seconds. I remembered the instructions from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: Pay attention. Deon ran up to me, sobbing. I urged her to be calm; “It’ll be all right.”

And then a well-groomed young man in a trenchcoat walked up to me, knelt beside me, and asked, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” I thought very fast. I knew that, whatever God’s theology might be, He didn’t approve of liars, and I might be meeting God very soon, so I’d have to give a truthful answer to this person. And I’d need to keep it simple. I knew, from the Biblical accounts, that Jesus had laid down his life of his own accord (John 10:15), surrendering so that others might be spared (John 18:8), and was not crucified because of any bad karma of his own earning that might make him “deserve” it: therefore His death on the cross was His gratuitous gift to me. This allowed me to truthfully call Him my Savior. It didn’t mean that the Buddha, Socrates, Marx and Gandhi couldn’t also be “saviors” to me, but I wasn’t being asked about them. So “Yes,” I said. “Yes, I do.”

“Good,” he answered. “That’s all that’s necessary.” And he got up and walked away. In a moment, the police arrived, and I got taken in an ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital. I woke up full of tubes and pain. I kept that encounter with the street-evangelist pretty much to myself over the coming years. Frankly, I was embarrassed to have called Jesus my personal Savior; it was like admitting I was bisexual, or weak and cowardly, or a failure and a fool.

Seventeen years later, when my first child was almost a year old, I felt the need of a faith community to raise my child in, and found my way to Fifteenth Street Meeting. It was very tolerant and welcoming, traits I still value. But if I am to call myself a Quaker, I wondered, am I to call myself a Christian also? My biggest quarrel was with Paul who, in Romans 1:24-32, showed that he despised homosexuals, and in 1 Corinthians 14:34, that he silenced women. If I can’t accept the New Testament, I reasoned, I can’t call myself a Christian. I re-read Romans 1:24-32, continuing on to Romans 2:4, where Paul describes God’s eagerness to forgive sinners as the very thing that makes sinners repent and fall in love with God. I saw that Paul may have had his own prejudices against gay people, but their arguable damnability was not the point of his writing, but God’s magnanimity. When I got home to my son’s mom, I quietly announced that I now considered myself a Christian. To my amazement, she didn’t even question it.

Then I started having auditions. The first one was “I give ear:” said in a majestic voice, as if from the other end of the universe, entirely within my mind. Some years later, when I was tempted to commit adultery and wondered what we might do if the door were closed behind her, I heard “NO!” I obeyed at once and put the thought away. A few years later than that, as I was at worship in the meeting house, obsessively berating myself for something foolish or hurtful I’d once said or done, I heard that same voice say “That sin is forgiven! Put it away!” – and soon after that, but on a different day, “I will not let you fall into sin.”

About ten years ago I was told by a respected elder that I carried a gift of healing, which she blessed and sealed in Christ’s name. Well, I thought, people do tell me that my touch relieves headache, but I’m not going to expect cancer cures. Then one morning I woke up with my palms buzzing and a voice in my mind – that voice again – saying “This anointing is for real: don’t abuse it.” And some years later: “I give you the gift of effective prayer.” Today I wouldn’t necessarily expect a cancer cure as a result of my prayer, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

This was not the only gift or calling I believe I was given to carry, but it illustrates my experience of growing in the new life in Christ. I agree that it could all be a delusion, and that reality doesn’t really work that way, and that I need to be deprogrammed or given lithium, but I invite any skeptic to consider the saying of Jesus, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). If my inward experiences can be shown to be making me more arrogant, quarrelsome, and unforgiving, then maybe I should take lithium. But if not – if, rather, they’re seen to make me sweeter and more compassionate, then I’d say to the skeptic, let’s see where this new life in Christ leads, and if you can’t bless it, at least please tolerate it.

Recently I’ve had impressed on me the character of the God of all creation, as revealed by Jesus. Forget the questions of whether His mother was a virgin, whether He rose from the dead, and whether well-meaning people might have doctored the story to air-brush out all the warts and blemishes in the historical record. They are less important than this: Jesus said, and here I paraphrase, “Know my Heavenly Father, who is also your Heavenly Father. He is like what you see Me to be. I wish the liberation of all people from this bondage to oppressors, this fear of death, this endless ignorance and suffering. I am willing to pay for that liberation with My own suffering, even to death by crucifixion. I will forgive all, even My own betrayers and murderers, because God is Love and that’s what Love demands; so will God forgive everyone everything, if they will just come to God and be willing to receive it. Trust in God, who is eternally like this, and who has the power to give you courage, and patience, and wisdom, and kindness, beyond what you dreamed could be yours, so that even this world of fear and pain can be experienced as the outskirts of Paradise, soon put behind us like a bad dream. All that you have read in Scripture about God being vengeful or wrathful is not true. People fear God because they project their own bad consciences onto Him and flee into the darkness rather than face the Light that stands ready to heal and perfect them, now and always. So do not fear, but come and be healed by the God that always intended your perfection. If you are a Jew, come to God as a Jew. If you are a Muslim or a Hindu, come as a Muslim or Hindu; if you are confused about what to believe, come as a confused person.” I am now on fire with this Gospel, and I think that it’s the key to the world’s practical problems, from war and hunger to the ecological crisis that’s now threatening all life on earth.

I can now answer your question directly, which was, “How do you know all this?” How do I know, for example, that God is almighty and hears prayer, that “God likes to be asked for advice on how to pray,” or that nothing is too hard for God? And my answer is, because I’ve been granted a new kind of knowing, a knowing that’s not in the mind but in the heart. I don’t know how I know these things about God, and I would truly want God to rebuke and correct me if I overstep my measure of light and say things about God that are untrue. But when God said to me, “I give ear,” I believe that God not only assured me that He/She/It listens always, but also announced that He/She/It was giving me an ear to hear with. And what I hear with that ear, I must also speak.

Thy Kingdom Come, 12/21/2013

December 21, 2013

We ask for Thy kingdom to come. Our hearts know that where Thy kingdom is fully come, there is no more darkness, nor suffering, nor threat of evil, nor ignorance. But in this world of change and chance, where for a time we pursue transitory gratifications and flee from passing shadows, open our eyes to see that all good things, even the transitory and small, come from Thy hands, and awaken the spirit of gratitude in our hearts. Implant also the spirit of prayer in us, and make it firm and constant, for when our will is at prayer to Thee, harmful addictions lose their drawing power and the tempter his ability to pose as an angel of light: so that we will not, though fools, call good evil and evil good. In Jesus’ name we ask this; Amen.

A correction: my God-knower is not asleep

December 7, 2013

Yesterday I posted an outpouring here that began “Help, help! My God-knower has fallen asleep,” and this morning I feel called to report that I’ve been corrected.  My God-knowing organ, or faculty, is my conscience, as Quakers have been insisting for centuries, and it was awake enough to rebuke me, and, thank God, I was alert enough to pick up the rebuke.

Last night, in conversation, I referred to a third party as “a prick,” although I qualified my statement by saying that I sometimes felt annoyed by the man, but could see his admirable qualities and his unique value to the community, and made it a point to pray for him. I then retired to the bedroom, where I found that a loosely-capped fountain pen in my breast pocket had come undone and left a big ugly stain on what had been my favorite shirt. And that wasn’t all: during the evening I’d developed a painful inflammation on the right side of my tongue. (“Probably viral,” I’d thought. “It’ll pass soon enough.”) The inflammation was reduced this morning, but still there. The two mishaps, with my pen and my tongue, were odd enough coincidences to set me to querying myself when I sat for morning worship: was there a message for me in them? And yes, there was.

I’m called to a ministry of healing prayer, and I’m not to speak ill of a brother or sister for whom Christ died. Since Christ died for all, that means I’m not to speak ill of anyone. I may say, truthfully, that so-and-so angers or annoys me, or has hurt me, or in my eyes frequently exhibits bad judgment, a weakness of character, or behavior that I find unacceptable.  But whoever it is, I’m under a commandment to love him or her, and if I belittle a person by reducing him to one (unjustly) ill-famed body part, I’ve weakened my own prayers for him and proven myself a hypocrite as far as my ministry of healing prayer goes. The whole third chapter of the Epistle of James addresses this: “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

Of all things I do that I wouldn’t want to weaken, I don’t want to weaken my prayers for others’ good. Patanjali warns that even to take satisfaction in the humiliation or suffering of others “bears fruit in endless suffering and ignorance,” and urges us to use that thought to correct other thoughts that may infect our heart (Yoga Sutras 2:34). There’s enough suffering and ignorance in the world already.

My blog-posting before the “Help, help!” one was entitled “A heart that’s right in the sight of God,” and in it I revealed that I was tempted to call some persons “damnable blasphemers,” and “rolled Ezekiel 16:63 around in my mouth like a delicious throat-lozenge of fire.” Well, it shouldn’t surprise me to get an inflammation in my mouth from such a throat-lozenge, I reflected. Ezekiel 16:63 reads, in part, “thou mayest… never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done.” For a moment I experienced myself as standing silent before God, forbidden to open my mouth, even in prayer. It was not a pleasant situation to be in. Then I felt permission granted.

Oh, and one more thing: neither am I to speak ill of myself. I erred; I was corrected; I repented; I felt forgiven, but instructed to write up the experience and share it. My tongue’s now almost back to normal, and most of the stain’s washed out of the shirt.

And if you, like me, grieve that our God-knowing faculty isn’t better developed, know that God surely understands our grief and is working on the problem. Note that Jesus addressed the problem in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and in John 14:8-9; the Apostles address it in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, in 1 John 2:27 and 4:7-8, and elsewhere.

A heart that’s right in the sight of God

December 4, 2013

“Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God,” said Peter to Simon Magus (Acts 8:21) in a rebuke that, happily, triggered Simon’s repentance. The original Greek for “heart right in the sight of God” is kardia eutheia enanti tou theou, and the word here translated as “right,” eutheia, is more properly translated “straight.” Its adverbial forms eutheōs and euthys convey the notion of an immediate consequence, as when Jesus performs a healing in the Gospel of Mark and eutheōs, “straightway,” the hemorrhage stops, the damsel rises from the dead, or the deaf man’s ears are opened. A heart “straight” in this sense would answer the Holy Spirit’s promptings straightway.

I went to bed last night thinking that a heart that’s right in the sight of God is the most precious thing I could ask for.  This morning I read, somewhere in the Philokalia, that it’s more to be desired than the joys of Heaven, because if my heart were not right, and steadfastly so, I’d go plummeting from Paradise just as Adam, Eve and Satan did. O Lord, make my heart steadfast and keep it steadfast, in Jesus’ name. I feel it wavering from steadfastness every time I’m tempted to say something hurtful in anger or take pleasure in someone else’s real or imagined pain. I want a straight heart that stays straight, fit always to stand in Your holy, enlightening and all-healing Presence until I’m absorbed back into Your Unity. And since I believe that this is what You intend for me and for all living creatures that I love, I thank You now and always for our salvation; Amen.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a Friend who was concerned that our Friends’ meeting, and maybe the whole Religious Society of Friends, was a “declining institution.” He shared with me a letter he’d gotten last year from another Friend who’d left our meeting in deep disappointment over our members’ behavior. Mention of the often inane and ego-driven messages we hear in meeting for worship made my anger rise, and I imagined raging at the meeting that those who were breaking the silence with junk ministry were damnable blasphemers, defiling their neighbors’ attempts to have communion with God with their narcissistic insistence on getting others’ attention on their own selfish thoughts! And  so on and on. I rolled Ezekiel 16:63 around in my mouth like a delicious throat-lozenge of fire. And the day before that, I’d had a conversation with a young man who’d withdrawn his interest in becoming a member because of our “disorganization.” Don’t get me started on others’ failures to be organized! I hear my late father’s voice echoing in the back of my heart: “When are you going to get organized!?” How intolerant of others my own shame can make me!

And then this morning, as I prayed for a heart that’s right in the sight of God, it came to me that I was praying alongside countless others who were praying to God for the same thing, many in tears, many with hearts purer than my own. It also came to me to tell my Friend that it didn’t matter whether we were a declining institution or a thriving institution, the only real question was whether he wanted a heart that’s right in the sight of God; and if he did, he’d find at least one other person at our meeting that wanted the same thing, and who would pray for his steadfastness in wanting it, and would commit to encouraging him to persevere. But then, he might find that somewhere else, too. The Holy Spirit would tell him where to go on Sunday mornings, and I hope, of course, that he’d go there straightway.

A Morning Prayer: To be Preserved from Walking in Darkness

December 29, 2012

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
– 1 John 1:5-7 (AV)

Lord, preserve me from walking in darkness, and to the extent that I do, seal my lips against claiming to walk in the light.  Let fear and its children – anger, greed, lust, cowardice – not infect my thoughts, nor spoil my grateful enjoyment of the bounty You bestow on me continually as I walk though this beautiful but shadowed world of impermanence, uncertainty, mutual separation, and human folly, selfishness and cruelty.  Let my every act be wrought in Christ, animated and made fruitful by Christ, and redounding to the glory of Christ.

Of the behavior of others let me be always forgiving, so that both I and they might quickly experience Your wonderful and healing forgiveness of our own sins.  Give me also an understanding heart, so that I might better discern how and when to answer the others You have given me to love, depend on, learn from, teach, and pray for.

Within the community of Your faithful, where our common allegiance to God, however named, gives us rights to exhort, rebuke and correct one another, let me be eager to hear whatever others may tell me for my own good, and uninhibited by self-protectiveness when You give me a mouth, and wisdom, to speak to them for their good.

Grant me, Lord, and all who ask for it, the gift of prayer without ceasing.  In the name of Christ Jesus I ask all this; Amen.