Weatherly Heights Baptist Church
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
An Inclusive, Discovering Fellowship
The following articles appeared in the Weathervane, Weatherly's church newsletter.
Prayer and Celtic Spirituality
Prayer is a vital part of Celtic spirituality. The Celtic Christians had a fierce awareness of Christ’s presence in their lives. Because of that awareness, they were constantly praying from the moment their eyes opened to greet the new day till they lay back down with the setting sun.
Here is part of an ancient Celtic prayer…
Bless to me, O God,
My soul and my body;
Bless to me, O God,
My belief and my condition;
Bless to me, O God,My heart and my speech,
And bless to me, O God,
The handling of my hand;
Our Prayer Closets
Have you looked in your closets lately? If your closets are like my closets, they are full … of everything. Yesterday, I opened our linen closet to put away a sheet. When I opened the door, four blankets, two pillow cases, a sheet and two towels fell out onto the floor. It was full. We have a walk-in clothes closet that should be renamed “step-in” clothes closet. It’s full too. I’m not really sure of what because when I’m in there I get so Closter phobic that I hurry and get out before the whole thing tumbles in on top of me. We have other full closets. There are suit cases, rolls of fabric, toys, gifts, Easter eggs, tennis rackets, flags, candy (Halloween I think), and a bunch of other “stuff”. They are all packed.
It makes me wonder about that other closet that we are supposed to have. You know the one that Jesus spoke of in Matthew. He said, “When you pray, go into your closet, shut the door, and pray…” I can’t imagine inviting someone to have a conversation with me in any of my closets. Yet, we expect Jesus to join us in our prayer closets that are sometimes just as full. We have stored away our fears, our anxieties, our grudges, and our poor self images for rainy days. Then there are our “to do” and “too done” lists. Things we want to do tomorrow or should have done yesterday. I keep those in special boxes because there are so many that I have to keep them stacked up lest that tumble out onto the floor when the door opens. Let’s not even talk about the expectations of others that we store away.
It’s a wonder Jesus can even get his little toe in some of our closets for all the stuff. Maybe we need some tools to help us deal with all the stuff. An easy suggestion is to take a pen and paper with you when you pray. They are useful for several reasons. Organize and make some notes about how you want to spend your prayer time. Write down the names of people or personal prayer needs so that you don’t lose track. Spend some time journaling about your prayer time. This will help you remain focused and create a helpful record of what you are praying about and how God is responding. Lastly, use it to write down your distractions like what you need to do later in the day or tomorrow so that you can focus on the present.
Maybe it’s time we do a thorough cleaning. This is much harder and will require a lot of work; maybe you will even need some help. A friend that you trust can help you work through some of the issues that crowd our closets. Maybe a spiritual director or a professional counselor is required. Both can be invaluable when we need to do some really heavy lifting in our spiritual lives.
These are some suggestions. Hopefully they are helpful. Lastly, let me suggest you don’t come to our house for Halloween this year. I’m cleaning out the closets.
Obstacles to Prayer
It seems that prayer is a lot harder for many than we would think. It is easy to say to someone that prayer is just simply talking with God. But it is much more complex than that for many. There are obstacles to prayer that exist for us all. The most obvious obstacles are finding the time and the place to pray. We live very busy lives, even in retirement. Work is demanding more and more of our time. Children have schedules that would challenge most adults, and do. Grandchildren, though a delight, take more of our time than we ever imagined. And, where can we find a place that is both quiet and offers some bit of solitude. We simply can’t escape the phone, the pager, or the noise.
While these obstacles are significant, there are others that perhaps are even more formidable. For some, prayer is an embarrassment. Not knowing how to pray, not feeling adequate to pray in public, and feeling insecure are forms of embarrassment that plague us all at some time or another. Others grow up with images of God as that of judge and prosecutor. These images can make God unapproachable. Still others approach prayer out of a sense of guilt or duty. We think to ourselves, “If we love God, we will pray.” So we pray out of guilt till it becomes simply rote words or habit or the fulfillment of some imagined obligation rendering our prayer life unfulfilling and bland. Then we stop altogether.
Certainly there are many more obstacles that you could name. The question is, “What keeps you from praying?” Naming them is a good place to start. Then, find creative ways to deal with them. Share your struggles with a friend. You may find them struggling with the same kinds of issues.
Roberta Bondi said, “I stress that prayer is a pretty ordinary, everyday kind of thing. Yes, it has its high moments, but a lot of prayer is just a matter of showing up.” Maybe we need to just “show up” for a while. Search for some little nook where we can have some semblance of solitude and just be with God. Forget about right words or right posture or right time. Just “show up” and be with God.
In the book, Praying Like Jesus, the author provides a poem by Sam Walter Foss entitled, “The Prayer of Cyrus Brown”. Here is an edited version:
“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”
“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”
“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a stickin’ up,
My head a-pinting down;
“An’ I made prayer right then an’ there,
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head.”
Proper prayer is not about posture or well chosen words. Prayer that finds its birthplace in the heart, that is spoken in humility and founded upon trust in the One to whom we are praying is proper prayer. We can do that. We can spend a few moments or minutes talking with God about, well, anything. We can also be still and just listen for God in the silence. Try it. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. I know God will.