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...]

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...]

Understanding God’s mysterious methods

Detour

It's easy to get frustrated at God and the way he appears to be ignoring our plans and prayers. But God's ways are not, so Isaiah informs us, ours. And it's interesting what can happen when we look back at unfulfilled ambitions, unplanned occurrences, and unanswered prayers.Sometimes we can see God winking at us through the supposed disappointment. Why? Because in retrospect it all turned out so much better than we had hoped.If we think about it, we all have a dozen examples from our … [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...]

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...]

Bonhoeffer’s blessed sign

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’ve been dipping in an out of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and was surprised to discover that he used the sign of the cross in his daily prayers.In a letter from November 21, 1943, he says this: “I’ve found that following [Martin] Luther’s instruction to ‘make the sign of the cross’ at our morning and evening prayers is in itself most useful. There is something objective about it. . . .”Growing up, I always understood the sign of the cross to be empty superstitio … [Read more...]

Thanks for everything

Praying Old Man

Get this scene: A monk sits on a train. A fellow passenger approaches and offers him a cigarette. Monks aren’t much known to smoke, but this monk was once a soldier and gratefully accepts the gift.Holding the slender item, the monk suggests to his benefactor that they should make the sign of the cross before they smoke. The man is torn. Isn’t it, he asks, improper to make the sign of the cross before smoking?The monk answers that if an activity doesn’t square with the sign of the cross … [Read more...]


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