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.
Is God indeed to dwell on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house which we have built? Regard kindly the prayer and petition of your servant, Lord, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day. May your eyes be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there.” Listen to the prayer your servant makes toward this place. Listen to the petition of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer toward this place. Listen, from the place of your enthronement, heaven. Listen and forgive.
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.
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.
As the United States considers the need for restitution for peoples who have been mistreated, I hope we provide support for the native Americans. I was actually on the Seneca reservation yesterday. I pray that the native Americans will not have to use our nation’s craving for cheap cigarettes and gambling to support themselves in America’s future.
I pray that we can help them with infrastructure to lift the nations out of poverty so they can live the lives they choose with dignity. I pray we will help with health care and education. We have a terrible track record for violating agreements and treating them as less than human. I pray for change.
I’d also like to offer a native American prayer for meditation today.
Great Spirit Prayer
Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, Whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.
Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others. Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy Myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.
I’m loving Lectio 365, a devotional app from the 24-7 Prayer movement that helps you pray the Bible daily. I’m so impressed that I’ve revised my daily prayer schedule, using Lectio 365 in place of another loved resource.
The 24-7 Prayer movement started in the United Kingdom in 1999. Now it is an international, interdenominational movement for prayer, mission and justice. More than 2 million people in 10,000 prayer groups in more than half the Earth’s countries work together to offer continual prayer.
This app is based on Lectio Divina. The video below is a good overview of that practice.
The devotions also incorporate the six core values of the 24-7 Prayer movement: prayer, mission, justice, creativity, hospitality and learning. It also takes the church’s seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter into account.
The app offers your choice of text and audio for the daily prayer. It follows the group’s P.R.A.Y. process:
Pause to be still
Rejoice with a Psalm and Reflect on Scripture.
Ask for God’s help.
Yield to His will in your life.
The app is available in the Apple and Android app stores. I found it after listening to the Renovare podcast interview with 24-7 Prayer founder Pete Greig and US Director Lisa Koons. It’s worth a listen as well.
For other recommended apps, websites and books, click here.
Awaken us to the Oneness of all things, to the beauty and truth of Unity. May we become aware of the interdependence of all living things, and come to know You in everything, and all things in You. For as we attune to your Presence within us, we know not separation, and joy becomes our dwelling place.
To practice Christian mindfulness is to know the love of God all around us at all times. Keeping ourselves focused on God demands trust in God’s grace. But it also requires awareness and commitment on our part.
This has been an effort for even the saints. One of the great Christian prayers was written by Patrick of Ireland (387-461). It’s a long prayer, and the most famous part reads:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Patrick. Words translated from the Gaelic by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, 1889.
Here is a good video of the prayer, featuring some actors from “Game of Thrones.” The full prayer is beautiful and you can find it here.
In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul writes: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I pray that for all of us.