But I do more than thank. I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for Christians. Oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him – endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1: 17-19, The Message translation
Praying the same prayer for nine consecutive days is an old practice called a novena. We all need to do a good old-fashioned novena for our Christian leaders and pastors.
Dealing with all the issues surrounding pastoring in a pandemic has worn them out. Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 1 is a good one. (I’m going to pray it for myself and others working in lay positions at our church as well.)
A novena is not … and never has been … a “magic” formula. But concentrating on the same prayers … slowly and deliberately …. for nine days in a row can reveal the voice of God to us as well as send blessings to our pastors.
This week in January is the traditional time to pray for Christian unity. And boy do we need it! Remember the old song “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Not so much anymore.
I know many, myself included, who have discovered to their shock that their Christian friends have entirely different political beliefs than they do. In the past, that was just a matter of opinion. Now it’s a source of division. Too many of us, on both sides, consider it almost an article of faith that “real Christians” support our own political beliefs.
I don’t think God is happy about that. He would prefer that we take up prayer during this time seeking Christian unity. Clearly, Jesus prayed on the last night of his life that Christians stay united in the Spirit and in love. He knew what was coming, and He prayed against it.
This prayer from “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers” puts it beautifully:
Almighty and eternal God,
you gather the scattered sheep
and watch over those you have gathered.
Look kindly on all who follow Jesus, your Son.
You have marked them with the seal of one baptism,
now make them one in the fullness of faith
and unite them in the bond of love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
As we pray for unity, let's look at our intentions and our thoughts. Let us seek to be kind and open to those who disagree with us. May people again come to know we are Christians by our love.
Loving God, your son Jesus said
your Kingdom is like a banquet;
a festive gathering for all people
of every race and color --
a table at which the lonely find company,
the hungry savor rich foods and fine wine,
and strangers enjoy warm family ties.
Jesus calls us to build this kingdom here on earth.
Teach us, Lord, the ways of hospitality.
Give us the spirit of joyful welcome and
the sensitivity to help people on the move
to feel they belong.
Grant that our tables at home may draw
our new neighbors from other lands
into a loving community
and that the eucharistic tables
in our churches may prefigure
that banquet in heaven where all are one in you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Prayer for Hospitality from "Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers"
We are emerging from the pandemic into a world even more conflicted than when quarantine began. Splits in groups and churches, largely along political lines, have damaged the American church. The gift of hospitality could serve the church even more than ever, as it includes civility, mutual respect and kindness in its components.
The practice of Christian mindfulness aids the re-emergence of hospitality, as the shelter-in-place/ Zoom nation practices are now habit. To be hospitable in person, we must be more intentional in our behavior and attitudes.
This is no surprise. Some Christians have hospitality as a spiritual gift. But many others do not. They would rather stay in and watch a movie alone. Yet all are called to be hospitable.
In 1 Peter 4: 9-10, Peter writes: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to share others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
In fact, the word for hospitality in the Bible's original Greek is "philoxenia," which means "love of strangers." I think we are called today to be hospitable to some "strangers" that we thought we knew, until their political choices involving votes, masks and vaccines made them seem different from us.
In Romans 12:13, Paul encourages everyone to practice hospitality. And St. Benedict asked his followers to see each person they encountered as a gift from Jesus.
If God abides in us, as we who practice Christian mindfulness believe, we have the opportunity to show Him to all those we meet. Dealing with each other with civility, grace and love is a great step back toward unity in the church.
This beautiful prayer for unity from Jane Deren of Education for Justice (published in July 2021's issue of "Give Us This Day") sums up our personal challenges within this period of time.
God of all, you challenge us
to be a unified national community.
You call us to move beyond
so we may create
a vision of common good
so sorely needs for our country.
In this time of confusion,
you call us to see clearly
with the lens of justice for all.
In this time of disrespect for so many,
you call on us to practice respect
for all voices around the table,
and for all voices not heard in the discussions.
In this time of personal insecurity,
you call on us to be grounded
in compassion for others
and secure in the knowledge
we are called to community.
In this time of despair for so many,
you call us to practice hope.
God of all, bless our nation at this time
and open the way to unity
so we may follow your call.
These beautiful prayers are fitting for meditation on Earth Day.
Canticle of the Creatures
All praise be yours, My Lord
through all that you have made.
And first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day…
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright and precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air…
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten up the night…
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us…and produces various fruits
With colored flowers and herbs…
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.
– Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Wisdom to Care for the Earth
Lord, grant us the wisdom to care for the earth and till it.
Help us to act now for the good of future generations and all your creatures.
Help us to become instruments of a new creation,
Founded on the covenant of your love.
– The Cry of the Earth
Franciscan Prayer for the Earth
Lord, help us to maintain a reverent attitude towards nature, threatened from all sides today, in such a way that we may restore it completely to the condition of brother/sister and to its role of usefulness to all humankind for the glory of God the Creator.
Mindful Christianity is continual prayer. As we invite God to walk with us, we talk with the Trinity.
Today’s practice invites us to intentionally focus on an element of prayer in that ongoing conversation. The seven elements of prayer that Jesus taught are:
Adoration – Acknowledging who God and responding to that reality with praise and worship.
Confession – Talking about the times that you have sinned and fallen short of doing God’s will, as well as the areas in your life where that happens repeatedly and often.
Renewal – Asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and God’s power in your life.
Petition – Asking God for help in specific situations.
Intercession – Asking God for help with specific people.
Thanksgiving – Expressing your gratitude for all God has done for you and your family.
We can keep this list of conversation starters with God in our phones. Since there are seven elements, we could concentrate on expanding one of them each day. Or we can look at the list when we feel tapped out in continual prayer.
Let me know how this works for you.
A wonderful prayer from Sister Eleanor Bernstein’s Praying Our Lives may be appropriate for today’s uncertainty and fear.
My God, I have no words to name the pain within me.
A deep darkness drenches my soul.
No light. No hope. No out.
From my mother's womb, O God, you know me.
Be with me; mend, make whole again my torn and broken spirit.
Lift me up, that this cross of suffering
may become for me the tree of life,
that sacred Tree whose outstretched arms embrace me
and draw me to your heart.
Even in this pain, may I find your blessing. Amen.
Stream rising from our coffee or tea is a great opportunity to lift others in prayer.
The late Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, writing in Seasons of Your Heart, said she used the first 15 minutes of her day to sip a hot drink and pray for “all my favorite strangers.”
She named friends, associates and acquaintances. But she also allowed the Lord to take over the list. Sometime God would prompt her with names of strangers and others she knew. Even faces whose names she didn’t know, like someone from the grocery store, the airport or the streets.
Lifting these faces up in the morning was a great start to her day. Others have used the nighttime when the bedside lamp is off to review the day and lift up everyone they met. Both are lovely habits.
The best book I’ve ever read about prayer is “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home” by Richard Foster.
Similar in structure to his “Celebration of Discipline,” Foster divides the types of prayers into three categories:
- Moving inward: Seeking the transformation we need. This includes the prayer of the forsaken, examen, the prayer of tears and formation prayer.
- Moving upward: Seeking the intimacy we need. It covers the prayer of adoration, prayer of rest, sacramental prayer, unceasing prayer and contemplative prayer.
- Moving outward: Seeking the ministry we need. Prayers include intercession, petitions, healing prayer and the prayer of suffering.
I’m not alone in treasuring this book, which proves that our prayer lives can always grow. The book won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book Award. It’s rated 4.6 stars on Amazon.
It’s a book to use as a resource, to ponder, to experiment with. More resources to help in your Christian mindfulness journey are found here.