Expressions of Prayer

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As a newly ordained Deacon, part of my vows are to maintain the practices and disciplines of the Church. Part of that means that I am called to pray every day…primarily through the Daily Office.

Sometimes though….because I am human and need some variety, will go through periods where I exercise other practices in my prayer-life.

One of these traditions is that of the Anglican prayer beads which is a combination of the Dominican Rosary and an Orthodox Prayer rope.

In using this as a focus for prayer, the emphasis shifts slightly from concentrating on words of Scripture to focusing in on the person and work of Jesus. While there is still active thinking and feeling going on, the 33 bead repetition becomes almost automatic. The mind is free to focus on the fact that Christ is the Son of God who has come to save us.

Prayer beads are not the only alternative to the Daily Office……there is also a method of reading the Bible called Lectio Divina (Holy Reading)

For the specifics of this approach, check out the wiki article I’ve linked to. For me, this technique allows my inner academic to shut up. To read Scripture in a way that speaks to my soul and heart instead of my brain. To think about pastoral concerns rather than mere intellectual assent.

These two approaches to prayer are by no means the only ones available…..and I’m curious…….what are some reflection or prayer methods that you find helpful??? On the other side of this discussion……what are the aspects of prayer you find difficult????

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. 🙂 +

Evening Prayer: Feast of All Souls (Nov. 2nd)

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Psalm: 119:73-96
Gospel: Matthew 13:53-58
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a book by St. Ambrose on the death of his brother (scroll down to Reading II)

Tonight I’m going to post what is called a litany….in this case one directed to the saints.

This is a very ancient practice and is one that is popular for All Saints and All Souls, two feast days which are very closely connected. In this form of prayer….the whole church dead and living ask for intercession, mercy, and forgiveness.

If you’ll notice, the way that litanies are structured are designed to again bring us to the contemplation of Christ , The saints who are listed are arranged according to their proximity to our Lord.

We start with Mary, the Theotokos (who is above the cherubim and seraphim), then angels, then apostles, then martyrs, then virgins, then theologians.

After recognizing those who have gone before, the whole church then adds petitions for themselves and for the world. Again asking that the whole world come to know Jesus

These litanies to God are not empty rituals….but an act of remembering the community we are a part of. A family that stretches across all times and places for the glory of God.

I hope you are able to get something out of this exercise, and–on this Feast of All Souls–may you with confidence find a place for yourself in the company of the blessed.

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

Holy Mary Mother of God.
Pray for us
St. Michael (Archangel)
Pray for us
Holy angels of God
Pray for us
St. John Baptist
Pray for us
St. Joseph (stepfather of Jesus)
Pray for us
SS Peter & Paul
Pray for us
St. Andrew
Pray for us
St. John
Pray for us
Mary Magdalene
Pray for us
St. Stephen
Pray for us
St. Ignatius
Pray for us
St. Lawerence
Pray for us
St. Perpetua and Felicity
Pray for us
St. Agnes
Pray for us
St.Gregory
Pray for us
St. Augustine
Pray for us
St. Cecila
Pray for us
Holy men and women
Pray for us

Lord be merciful
Lord Save your people
From all evil
Lord save your people
From every sin
Lord save your people
From everlasting death
Lord save your people
By your coming as man
Lord save your people
By your death and rising to new life
Lord save your people
By the gift of your Holy Spirt
Lord save your people

Be merciful to us sinners
Lord hear our prayer.
Grant to all the souls of the departed eternal rest.
Lord hear our prayer.

Jesus son of the living God
Lord hear our prayer

Christ hear us
Christ hear us
Lord Jesus hear our prayer
Lord Jesus hear our prayer +

Evening Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm(s): 148, 150
Old Testament: Wisdom 5:1-5, 14-16
New Testament: Revelation 21:1-5, 22:5

We believe in the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. Amen.

If you grew up in a confessional church, there is a high probability that you have uttered this sentence (or some form of it) in your lifetime.

When I was at McMaster, I remember a Baptist friend askimg me what Catholics meant by the “communion of saints.” In response, I rattled off some answer about holy men and women who pray for us….which is true…but not altogether accurate.

For how the saints pray and intercede for us, take a look at my post on the Dormition,,,,,,but tonight I want to concentrate on who is in that circle.

It might come as a shock….but the answer is all of us. 🙂 Whenever Paul mentions the “saints” he clearly refers to the whole body….the whole community that believes in Christ and place their hope in his cross.

Saints are not saints because of their conduct, but because they have been made righteous vicariously through Christ. When we are baptized….we take on that identity….ever noticed that baptismal gowns are always white ;)????

The purity we receive is a gift and we are welcomed into a family where all are brothers and sisters. We have our common identity in proclaiming the Gospel and gathering around the table with gifts of bread and wine.

Our baptism means that we are connected in a history that is larger than we are. We are woven into the tapestry of the faith…connected with the threads of the past.

What we confess in the Creed is not a special circle of uber virtuous people……but a community knit together in fellowship….trying to walk down the road together….trusting in the forgiveness of the Christ who came to save us. Alleluia! +

A Prayer of Confession…….

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I have recently finished a book on prayer that put a special emphasis on monasticism and making room for silence in order to hear God’s call.

In light of that material I have decided to forego the regular pace of this blog tonight….. and spend some time reading and listening rather than the usual talking and commenting on the Scriptures.

However, I don’t want to leave my readers hanging in terms of content for reflection…So I share with you a prayer of Confession that we used for Back to Church Sunday.

As someone who struggles daily against laziness and sloth I think I’m going to integrate it into my spiritual practice and definitely think it is worth sharing with others :).

Eternal God,
you asked for our hands, that we might use them for your purpose;
but we gave them for a moment, then withdrew them…
for the work was hard.

You asked for our mouths to speak out against injustice;
But we gave you whispers….
That we might not be accused.

You asked for our eyes to see the pain of poverty;
But we closed them….
For we did not want to see.

You asked for our lives, that you might work through us;
But we gave you a small part….
That we might not get too involved.

Lord… forgive our calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient to do so
When we serve you only in those places where it is safe to do so
And only ministering to those who make it easy to do so.

Forgive us,
Renew us,
And send us out as your instruments
That we may take seriously the meaning of our new life in you. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ
Son of the Living God
Have mercy on us sinners.
At the prayers of the most Holy Mother of God
O Saviour, save us! +

Evening Prayer: August 18th (Combo Post)

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Psalms:131, 132, 134, 135
Old Testament: 2 Sam 19:1-23
New Testament: Acts 24:1-23
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Hail Mary by Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31)

Say it with me…..all together now 😉

Lord have mercy upon us, and write both these thy laws in our hearts we beseech thee.

Unlike some of my contemporaries, I was first introduced to the Anglican Church using ye olde Book of Common Prayer

For those who don’t know…the Shema (“Hear O Israel”) and the response I quoted above serves as one of the opening prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy.

What I find interesting is that this prayer frames the whole point of the worship that follows.

Everything from the readings, the General Confession, General Intercession, the Offertory Prayer, the Prayer of Humble Access, and sharing in the Sacred Meal itself….. all of these acts are meant not only to serve as a reminder of God’s promises….but to literally change us and to inscribe God’s law and love into our own hearts.

Another important thing to remember is that God would never ask us to do something that he Himself would avoid.

As we bear witness to the priests words and manual acts over the gifts.. we are reminded about how God Himself, the Word made Flesh lived out the two greatest commandments… withholding nothing so that the whole world might be saved….. and that all would come to know the infinite love the Trinity has for all creation.

It is no coincidence that after sharing in the Body and Blood, the BCP then offers a second responsory prayer:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. And although we are unworthy, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Just as we respond to the prayer of the Shema asking God to move us and shape us, we respond to the Eucharist–the Sacred time in which we are not far from God–with an earnest plea that our new hearts and cleansed bodies can be used for God’s glory….that we too, like our Father will withhold nothing in proclaiming the gospel to all nations and to reconcile everyone we meet to the LORD.

May we always be strengthened by word and Sacrament to bear the image of Christ everywhere we go….and to live out the commandments. +

Evening Prayer: June 11th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 25, 9, 15
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 18:5-16, 27b-30
New Testament: Acts 11:19-30
Gospel: Mark 1:29-45
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons………. [The next day]in the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:32;35)

It strikes me as funny that Mark would go out of his way to mention that Jesus both healed the sick and prayed while it was evening/when it was still dark .

Night and darkness implies a hidden-ness…..something that is unseen. As I read this tonight, I think about those things we do behind the scenes…..or those people that quietly observe us and help us along the way without being obtrusive….

Maybe this passage speaks to the fact that we need the introverts and the silence as much as we need the extroverts and the labour for the kingdom…or as St. Benedict might suggest: Obedience, prayer and work. +

Morning Prayer: June 22nd

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Psalms: 101, 109:1-4;20-30
Old Testament: 1 Sam 7:2-17
New Testament: Acts 6:1-15

[the Israelites said to Samuel] ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines. (1 Sam 7:8b)

As someone who feels called to the priesthood, I definitely feel a tug on the heart-strings when I read this passage. Whatever else I am called to do……whether it be youth work, mission and outreach, figuring out church finances……I am called first and foremost to pray for the people I serve.

It took me a while to grasp that. For a long, long time I viewed prayer as a way to give God my grocery list of needs and wants. Now that I’ve become a bit more mature (not much though :P) I’ve learned that prayer is much much more.

When we come to God…..we bring not only ourselves, but we unite our voices with whole Christian community.

The early Church was insistent that we never pray alone. From the solitary hermit in the deserts of Egypt to the busy family of 5 praying before meals….it is all part and parcel of the same package.

Like Samuel, we are asked not only to pray for ourselves…..but for our friends and families.

To add to the craziness…..Jesus turns things on their head and says we must pray for our enemies…for those we hate……for those who insult us…..and for those whom we struggle to love. 😛

As much as I hate saying the Daily Office sometimes, I am thankful that it forces me to carve out time for others. It forces me to speak aloud to the Trinity when I would much rather just get my tasks done for the day.

Above all though, I am thankful that I have been called to a vocation which allows me to work on my prayer-life–and even more than that–to be supported by my brothers and sisters in Christ as I move forward into ministry……some of which I hope will be officially ordained and recognized by the Church. 🙂 +

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