THE MORTAR OF THE CHURCH is prayer. And our prayer … is that God will make “all things new,” that God will make me new as well and all those who have likewise longed for and loved God’s appearing. That we who pray to God will be made the people of God at last. That God may take up eternal residence, make eternal dwelling among us!
With or prayer books or empty handed, speaking or silent, on account of the tradition or in spite of it, we pray – and indeed all of humanity prays, whether they know it or not – to see the redemption God has promised. We pray to see the end of the old world and the beginning of the new, the demise of enmity in us and between us, the feast that God will prepare for all peoples.
- Thomas R. Steagald
LISTENING DEEPLY TO ANOTHER PERSON places us on sacred ground. The person we pay attention to is a child of God, made in the divine image. Moreover, God is present with us when we listen deeply to one of God’s precious sons or daughters. So we can also listen for God as we listen to the other person. …
In any conversation with another person but especially around matters of faith, you can practice these basic principles of listening:
◾Take a few slow breaths, remembering who you and the other person are in God’s sight: beloved children of God. Invite the Spirit to help you listen well.
◾Set aside your own agenda. Give your whole attention to the other person. Ask clarifying questions only if you need to.
◾Look into the other person’s eyes with warmth and receptivity. Indicate by your physical posture that you are available to listen. You need not keep constant eye contact, but let it be with an open, loving look when your eyes meet.
◾Listen with your heart as well as your head. Attend to the feelings and mood expressed in the other person’s posture, gestures, and tone of voice.
◾Remain aware of God’s presence with you both. Breathe little prayers of praise, gratitude, or supplication as you feel so moved in the course of listening to the other person.
◾At the end of your time together, thank the other person for the opportunity to hear his or her story, viewpoints, or struggles.
- Marjorie J. Thompson
PLEASE PRAY FOR ME, a friend asks. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” we say in response to tragedy. Much of our praying involves intercession for others. It carries our compassion.
Though any sincere prayer of the heart seems valid to me, I must admit that my own practice of intercessory prayer has changed over the years. One day I received a disturbing phone call about a friend’s illness; my heart twisted in concern and love. At the same time my head raised the question “How should you pray for her?” From somewhere deep inside me, I heard “You just did.”
Maybe the quickening of compassion formed the heart of the prayer. Maybe the actual words were for me, not God. Maybe God hears the soul’s sincere desire, not only our carefully crafted words. We pray more unspoken prayers than we realize
ROMANS 12 INCLUDES a substantial listing of godly shoulds. Most of them, including “[Be] given to hospitality” (v. 13, KJV), concern community life. In the middle of the exhortations the apostle interjects a caveat, which the poetic King James renders “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you …” (Rom. 12:18).
Planning a perfect event that will delight everyone – introvert, extrovert, athlete, bookworm, diabetic, vegan, old curmudgeon, young prima donna – is not a reasonable goal. If it be possible … make every effort … act in good faith … anticipate the gathering.
- Evelyn Bence
TWO WAYS OF STAYING CONNECTED to Christ involve (1) removing what is unnecessary in our lives, and (2) staying focused on the vine.
On one side we have the vine, our life source. On the other side we have fruit. Our effectiveness is determined by which one we focus on, and in our world it’s hard not to focus on the fruit. So much of our worth is measured by what we produce. …
We also measure ourselves by comparing our fruit to what others produce. We can feel fine until we look around. Focusing on the success, achievements, and appearance of others can undo us.
We can obsess over fruit. We start to believe that the fruit is up to us. But Jesus says that it’s not. … Our job is to be a branch and let God’s power flow through us. … We begin to think we are the vine and are our own source of strength. We have to ask ourselves, “Do I receive my identity from the things I produce or from the One who produces through me?”
- Rob Fuquay
JAMES EMPLOYS THE IMAGE [in James 1:17-27] of God the Great Planter who prepares the soil, plants the seed, and nurtures the growth. As James writes, we are the first fruits of everything God created. Wow!
But I don’t always feel that way. Many days I feel like the leftovers at the bottom of the seed packet. James offers us the hope for this new birth: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak slow to anger.” Listen to the word of life. In listening we make ourselves available and ready. We are engaged to receive. We can hear and remember.
Too often we quote to ourselves (sometimes) and others (often), “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Sage advice. Now, can we live it? Listening takes practice and focus.
Listening offers us the chance to understand what we believe. And yet, as we read farther, we learn that James considers listening (or hearing) as subordinate to doing. We must hear and do.
OPEN MY MOUTH, LORD, that praise may flow more easily than requests, thanks more readily than complaints.
Praise be to you, O Lord, for life and my intense desire to live.
Praise be to you for the mystery of love and for my intense desire to be a lover.
Praise be to you for this day, for life and another chance to live, love, and be loved. Amen.
- Ray C. Jordan