Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Take 6: Learn how to use daily prayer

I think this makes sense in almost everyone’s head:  We can’t follow Jesus, really, if we aren’t into prayer. That truth may be in our heads, but how do we get it in our hearts and in the schedule? That is the chronic issue.

I’ve been trying to get people to start working with the issue by using Circle of Hope Daily Prayer. We create two blogs that change every day and feed our discipline so we can create new patterns and get some encouragement from outside our somewhat narrow experience.

Daily prayer is an easy way to cooperate with our best interests. It is best approached as a child being taught the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer by their babysitter, or as an enthusiastic disciple being taught the “Our Father” by their Teacher.

Click the pic to go there. Check out more resources at  our Way of Jesus site.

How to use Circle of Hope Daily Prayer

We have two blogs that provide new content every day. I am mainly talking to WIND people who are new to Jesus or new to Circle of Hope. The WATER blog is for people moving into the deeper places of faith.

The idea is to use the blog posts as a tool — it is not an obligation. If you make prayer more religious and less relational, it becomes a chore rather than a joy. If it is like eating broccoli and you only feel power when your throw your plate off your high chair, you’re missing it.

The idea is to use it daily. The Pew research people recently noted that fewer people reported they prayed daily when they asked. Circle of Hope’s gift to you is a discipline that encourages daily prayer, on the way toward unceasing prayer.

The idea is to take the steps to connect with God. Like Henri Nouwen said, “Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.”  So we take concrete steps. The day by day, step by step habit of prayer makes us new right now and opens up a way into our future. We know we aren’t already home yet, but we are as there as we can be right now and we are moving closer. The place to show up and move on is in prayer.

Using Daily Prayer is like running the bases

Let’s use the old bases diagram to help us think about using Circle of Hope Daily Prayer. We often say “If you want to know things related to God (and what isn’t related to God?) run the bases.” We were made to run and we are called to get all the way around and back home and start again deeper. Daily Prayer reflects this basic metaphor.

  • First base is “Today’s Bible reading”

We always start off with a Bible reading that elicits our entry into prayer. God speaking to humankind is recorded in the Bible. Often reading between the lines in the Bible is more important than what the words actually say – we’re experiencing the truth and love, not just thinking about it. The Bible is first-level meditation if you go slow and are listening, not just processing data. If you just prayed through each day’s Bible reading with the rest of us, that might be enough.

  • Second base is “More thoughts for meditation”

We already got thoughts from God via our spiritual ancestors, thoughts that have been chewed and re-chewed for centuries. Now we get some more thoughts from one of us who draws us to reflect on, respond to, re-examine, restore or renew what was just taught in the Bible or somewhere nearby the Bible. We’re listening for God in her people. People get very creative here and help us open our minds and hearts to listen to God and mentalize about who we are and who God is and what we should do today. We’re in a prayerful dialogue with Jesus and his people.

  • Third base is “Suggestions for action”

We were drawn to prayer by the transhistorical church in the Bible and by the living body of Christ in our own church and now we are called to be moved, spirit to Spirit, by God. This last part of every entry is usually the part most directly about verbal or silent prayer. Sometimes the author gives us a prayer to use and maybe to memorize so we can use it  later. Unless I just don’t get it, I pray that prayer and take it with me. And sometimes we pray it because we don’t get it yet.

Daily Prayer is about learning to pray daily and doing it in light of the Bible and in league with our brothers and sisters, Spirit to spirit. It is doing something. The doing moves us toward home, as one of God’s beautiful creations being recreated. Then we start again deeper.

The wind blows as it blows

So let’s say you opened up the screen. You read the three parts and tried to connect with a lot of material. It might seem like too much to immediately do something about it. That’s OK. Rest in Jesus and listen.

Sit and wait. Look around for what you have been given, not for what you don’t understand yet. Be still. I need to be composed to hear from God. Prayer is not that easy. The daily discipline of being still and knowing God is always met with resistance and opposition. It will take every day of the rest of our lives to get comfortable.

But every day I go to meet with Jesus, I feel the wind of the Holy Spirit. Even when I am not that comfortable with what is going on, inside or out. Maybe it is just a breath, maybe just a memory, maybe a breeze that blows away my troubles, maybe a blast that redirects me. In prayer I am moved toward home and eternity becomes more at home in me. Ultimately, I don’t think you should just use the daily prayer blogs. I think you should show up every day to meet with Jesus in such a way that he and you both know you are showing up

We can’t be Jesus followers if we don’t pray like Jesus, can we? If we don’t connect with the Spirit, what are we doing?  Why don’t you make a commitment to do it? Maybe Circle of Hope Daily Prayer can help. Try thinking this: “Tomorrow will be the first of six straight days (weeks/months) that I use the discipline of Daily Prayer:WATER if you’re experienced, WIND if you aren’t. And nothing prevents you from using both, like many of us do — at least the  hungry and connectable ones. See how it works and how it could be a gift to you.

Nonconformity– a doorway to eternity

When the November wind and waves threatened to capsize my little kayak on the Great Egg Harbor, I wondered if I could be taking nonconformity too far. Sunday was not the usual weather for water sports. But I enjoyed it. As Elbert Hubbard said, “Conformists die, but heretics live forever.” As the wind pelted me with spray off the bay, I pondered a weekend full of realizations about how God has opened eternity to me.


Flab rebel

One doorway turns out to be my rebellion against flab. Mind you, I was on a little vacation this past weekend, so I can’t vouch for my present weight. There is almost nothing to eat down-the-shore that is not designed for maximum calorie intake, and I did not search for health-food. But until I get on the scale today, I can report a very successful diet plan that came to fruit last Friday. I called it my “tenya for Kenya” diet. I got the idea that I might lose the last ten pounds I never lose to get to the top of my BMI if I promised myself that for each pound I lost I would get to send $40 to “Kenya”  — a symbol of sub-Saharan Africa (that rhymes with tenya) where deadly hunger is exploding this year.

It seems immoral to weigh more than I need to when others are struggling to stay alive at all! Now that the global downturn has rich people scrambling to preserve their huge wealth from further erosion, they are not as engaged with relief. That alarms me. Vanity is not motivating enough for me; personal health does not move me enough; shame is not even that activating. But I discovered that morality could keep me focused (who knew?). I liked earning my donation with pounds. Even more, I found a lot of joy in finding another way to express my nonconformity practically.

I am a fat heretic. I mean, I am a nonconformist when it comes to the national adoration of food. I don’t usually (like ever) watch morning shows on TV. But on vacation Gwen likes to see if Matt Lauer has hair so she turns on the Today show. It is Thanksgiving week so everything was about food and weight loss. The Today show had a segment on how to eat less interrupted by four minutes of commercials about food – I did not time that, but I don’t think I am exaggerating! It is not easy to be a nonbeliever in eating like a rich person – a person who’s main challenge is to figure out how not to eat too much from the dump truck unloading calories onto their table. Seriously, I like an evening watching the Eagles fumbling around while I eat fried things followed by Dibs followed by caramel corn followed by nachos; throw in some carrot cake and Dr. Pepper to top it off. My usual diet consciousness is drinking Diet Pepsi!

Blab rebel

The other doorway to eternity turned out to be my rebellion against blab (this blog notwithstanding, apparently). Over the weekend I heard from a couple of close   evangelical friends who make their livings off being influential writers and speakers. They were excited about their opportunities to be read and heard by large numbers of people. They were doing their thing on large anonymous stages. I love them personally, but I am not always sure about the images they create for themselves (but then, I don’t really know their images). They seemed to be talking about ideas they did not embody and situations they did not inhabit. Even though their message was theoretically Christian and, thus, basically nonconformist, their lives were obviously part and parcel of the media machine that runs so much of what we do. They were an awful lot like the Today show, saying one thing about eating with a medium bent on selling another option.

Even though they are great people, I admit to feeling a little embarrassed by my friends – I seem so small, in comparison, like I have not made much of myself, like my blab machine takes up too-small a share of the airwaves. I had just come from my cell meeting when I met with them, totally jazzed about what suddenly looked like a motley crew of sinful, disabled, foreign, faithless, unsuccessful outcasts. I realized I had never thought of them that way at all, until I started making comparisons with my well-accommodated friends and their tall tales! They’d just spent exciting times with people who could afford to go to conferences and make large donations!

Suddenly, I looked like a heretic again. Resisting the blab machine. Unaware of the latest evangelical stuff. Into unmarketable causes — still smarting over the ill-treatment of Afghan women (and other things I’m often surprised to discover are odd), good friends with recovering addicts, leading a strange little church out of a rented space over the check-cashing store and feeling grateful to survive — not even over eating!

To top it off,  I realized that one of my favorite moments of the week had been enjoying Henri Nouwen’s unusual translation of Romans 12:2, “Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do. Nonconformity, not just for the sake of being myself, or being different, but for being God’s, is a doorway to eternity.