Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

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May 31, 2020 — Time is eternal: How long will this take?

Today’s Bible reading

Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.  Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.  Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.” — 2 Samuel 7:27-29

More thoughts for meditation

The present time of isolation makes things seem like they last forever. Each day is arduous. My wife often jokes at night “we survived,” and in the morning, with the same light-heartedness, says “here we go again.” Even two months into this disruption we are still straining our imaginations to see the return of what was normal — when weekdays were easy to discern from the weekend because they were marked by  what we did and where we went. Now there is a real sense of wandering to our lives.

Not knowing exactly how long this will have to be endured is a repeated theme in the Bible. This section of 2 Samuel struck me because it marks the end of something but also the beginning of another. David is famous in the Bible for a lot of things. I often forget that he is the king of Israel who builds The First Temple on the site Jesus wanders through in the New Testament. David is building a house for God that proclaims his promises and blessings will last forever. I don’t think David could have any idea what form that blessing would take, nor the trouble he was going to endure in his own life or that his kingdom would endure not too long after he was dead. Establishing a house for God in The Temple was not the end of David’s journey with God.

Thinking about David is helpful to me as I endure this strange time;  it helps me consider what it means to trust God. Up to this point in the Old Testament the people of Israel had lived a marginal life. With David’s reign they finally get established. They had been wanderers who settled in their current country through violent conflict with their neighbors. Their existence so far seemed tenuous and relied on God’s miraculous intervention through desert and war. David, when he is finally crowned king, is only the second king Israel has had. It is worth noting that the previous king, Saul, had not very wisely, tried to kill him. 

In today’s Bible reading David is declaring who God is in the present and putting his trust in the God he knows for the future. He is confident he can claim a blessing that will endure whatever happens. We have the benefit of knowing that David’s blessing would ultimately be for the whole world in the form of his descendant Jesus. I don’t think David could have known that when he was trusting God. It all makes me want to imagine a blessing coming rather than more of the same “whatever.”

Suggestions for action

Can you imagine praying David’s prayer? David says that God gives him the courage to ask for a blessing. Try to find something that you are being encouraged towards. What uncertainty is God leading you through?

Today is Pentecost Sunday! Learn more about this day in the Christian calendar at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

May 30, 2020 — Time and hope: What is the point of enduring?

Today’s Bible reading

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. — Romans 5:3-5 

More thoughts for meditation

I have a friend who had an argument with another friend. It was sort of silly and reflected the stress she was feeling in her life. She’s an ambitious person so she has a lot going on. On this occasion the pressures of her life got the better of her. There was a minor offense involved but parsing the argument isn’t the best part of this story.

As she told the story to me I felt a little caught in the middle. I didn’t want to step into the same beehive with my opinion. I also didn’t want my friend’s relationship to be defined by their argument. They are both faithful people who have been around the church for a while. Their conflict felt dangerous and I felt unable to provide a solution.

This was all a couple of months ago and in a conversation my friend declared “I reconciled the conflict.” She mentioned that time had made it seem a little less important to her and what was important was knowing that she was ok with the other person. She had been given the space to have perspective but rather than let the issue remain a smaller pain to her for the rest of the time she knew the other person she decided to address it. She didn’t just let it go and endure the burden. She persevered through her own emotions and then through the act of reconciling. 

Her story is a radiant example of what it means to stick with it in a community. You don’t have to swallow your feelings or just feel bad when you can’t control yourself when you feel slighted. You can take time to think it through and then work it out when you feel ready. In the time of isolation, this story was a source of unbelievable hope to me — not only that we can be reconciled but that we can keep building community right now in whatever state we are in.

Suggestions for action

At a recent meeting the pastors asked us the question “What do you hope for Circle of Hope?” Can you answer that question? If Circle of Hope doesn’t feel relevant, though I hope it does, you can ask “What do you hope for in the next three months?” Maybe write  your answers down so they can endure.

May 29, 2020 — Time accomplishes: When do we expect things to come to us?

Today’s Bible reading

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. — 2 Peter 3:8-13

More thoughts for meditation

Teresa of Avila famously wrote that patience reaches everything. For people that actually know Spanish and are upset with my translation the original is: La paciencia todo lo alcanza. This line from Teresa of Avila’s famous prayer we often sing has always stuck with me. We often sing it in our Sunday meetings:

The music is warm and comforting. God is enough. There is an inevitability to what God is working out in me. My faith is going to be rewarded.

There is something sentimental and even nostalgic about my appreciation for this prayer and for Teresa in general, though. I sing it as a lullaby, probably more in response to the song that taught it to me than the nature of the words. Being comforted is good, but that line about patience reaching for something pokes at me in my repose. Having only just left Lent to be confronted with a more threatening isolation I am realizing I might need to spend some time with the other side of this poem and song. Am I pained by passion? Am I straining against myself in ways that frustrate me and lead me to need the reminder that God’s promises do not change because I am fed up with my failings?

I can’t help but feel the presence of an arduous preamble to this famous and comforting prayer. A day spent trying to focus on God and forgetting in a moment of weakness. The cat knocks over the water cup, another sure promise in life, that a child didn’t put away and in a flash of anger I shout and teach my children to fear me rather than be diligent and careful. The feeling of defeat and frustration repeated and ignored until it all gets remembered when I lay down in bed.  The prayer is useful as a balm to my anxious mind — but what more could patience have achieved in the middle of the day? If I only let patience show up in a lullaby will it achieve what I’m striving for?

Suggestions for action

Try teaching yourself something new today. Memorize a verse of the Bible. Here’s one you could try: Colossians 1:11 — “We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,” It takes more than a few tries to dedicate something to memory but not so many that it is impossible. Practice being patient with yourself as you take on this minor struggle.

May 28, 2020 — Time helps with discipline: How often do I practice?

Today’s Bible reading

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” — Luke 11:1-4

More thoughts for meditation

I shocked my children by sitting down to lunch with them and saying a prayer, out loud, before eating my food. One of them giggled at me. “You prayed but we didn’t.” The other chimed in “Yeah, we didn’t pray.” I usually do pray before meals, typically by nodding my head down, closing my eyes, and saying something brief in my head. I don’t want to make the people around me uncomfortable. I have a rather grandiose view of myself and think they are watching me. This idea is acute when I am about to pray over my lunch in a public place.

I realized two things from my kids’ reaction: 1) I wish my meals with them were more ritualistic and 2) I should just eat with them more often. When you have little kids you’re always taking care of their immediate needs and trying not to get in a fight. So meal time for them is usually a parent preparing them food and then them immediately shouting at our cloud enabled listening device to play something, usually obnoxious, at an especially obnoxious volume. So the gathering around the common meal becomes meal service for the kids while the parents retreat in the hopes of quietly eating later. 

This doesn’t happen every time though. I’m growing more adept at saying “Alexa, STOP!” and immediately sitting down at the table and saying “Let’s just talk to each other.” The resistance never lasts long and I am a silly enough person that I can have a conversation that elicits giggles. But I have also created a space for my children to learn the practice of praying over their meals. This small ritual is a minor discipline that I want to pass on to them. If I want them to do it they will probably have to practice it like my parents’ did with me: daily and, as it turns out, 3 times daily.

In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard uses the metaphor of sports practice to talk about developing our spiritual life. We have to work our muscles repeatedly to get them into game shape. Even if we go to the gym we still have to practice the motions of the game to get it to sink into our muscles so when we need to perform we can. The small prayer before the meal has proved a pretty durable kind of practice for me and it has developed a pretty strong since of gratitude to God for all the good things in my life, even today in the time of quarantine. When my children said they hadn’t prayed I said “That’s ok, but it’s really nice to take time and let God know how grateful we are for all the good things in our life.” That was purely a reflex, but it surprised me. I snapped right out of my annoyance with children’s music and right into being grateful for my children and, now that I’m writing this, for my small prayer practice before meals.

Suggestions for action

We did something pretty excellent during Holy Week by setting alarms that reminded us to say a breath prayer. Maybe you could try it again today. Pick a phrase or line from the Lord’s prayer, you can do the whole thing if you like, and set an alarm to remind yourself to come back to it three times today. Think how good you’ll be at it the third time.

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