The sound of (blessed) silence

stuartpilbrow, Flickr

How often do we listen for God, hear the thoughts of our hearts, reflect, and pray?Our days are hurried, and that's problem enough. But noise is a real problem too. I'll speak for myself here -- you'll have to weigh how much of an issue this is for you -- but noise for me is nearly constant.My car stereo plays jazz, rock, folk, classical, audio books, and podcasts, but it always plays. My iPhone often doubles as a Spotify and Pandora jukebox when I'm not talking, and my iPod spins the … [Read more...]

The Lord’s Prayer: God’s words, our needs

Detail of fresco by Manuel Panselinos, Wikimedia Commons

Why does the Lord's Prayer matter? Let the context answer the question. In Luke's account, Jesus' disciples approach. They point to John the Baptist's practice of teaching his disciples to pray and ask for similar treatment. "Teach us to pray," they implore.This is a reasonable request. What is a person, a fallen human, supposed to say to an almighty, all-holy God? God tells us that his ways are not ours. We cannot identify with him. And if prayer is communication between two persons, a … [Read more...]

A community of prayer

Community of Prayer

Jesus tells us not to pray in public. But he doesn’t teach us to pray by ourselves.The Lord addresses this in the Sermon on the Mount. Right after saying that we shouldn't call attention to our charity, but rather do it in secret, Jesus tells his disciples to pray the same way. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites," he says; "for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. . . . But when you pray, go into your r … [Read more...]

The business of prayer

The Business of Prayer

It's easy to delay prayer as we brace for the daily grind, and easier still to forget about it as we wade through the tumult of the day. But what if we thought of prayer as our first and most important job?In his book The Ladder of Divine Ascent, John Climacus refers to prayer as the work of angels. Christians are invited to join in this labor as part of our walk with Christ.I think there's merit to linking words like work and labor to the subject of prayer. The word liturgy in fact … [Read more...]

Why pray the hours?

With God by the hour

When you read the scriptures, you not only learn about the content of prayer (contrition, thanksgiving, petition, etc.), but you also notice the discipline of it, the regularity of it.Both previously, Daniel and the Psalmist pray three times a day: morning, noon, and evening. And this isn’t just an Old Testament thing. When you read Acts, the apostles follow the same basic pattern. It’s always told as incidental to the stories, but regulated prayer is a common backdrop:“Now Peter and Jo … [Read more...]

A life of fervent prayer

Icon of Elijah, Wikimedia Commons

Today Orthodox Christians celebrate the life of the Prophet Elijah, and what a life: He challenged two kings and a queen to their faces, spoke with angels, called down fire from heaven, multiplied flour and oil for a starving widow, raised her boy from the dead, caused rain to come and go by his prayers, and was finally swept up to heaven in a fiery chariot before being present at the Transfiguration of Christ. Because of his powerful ministry he's remembered in Orthodox hymnody as "an angel in … [Read more...]

Enriched by ritual

Enriched by ritual

I run into people from time to time who are very skeptical of religious ritual, things like liturgy or hourly prayers, practices like fasting or crossing yourself. If we discuss it, they usually tell me that they think it's deadening, that their spirituality is vital and free and that ritual would stifle things.I think I understand the resistance. Some come from families that just seemed to cycle through the motions at church. Some of those families were very serious and consistent, others … [Read more...]


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