Mark Burns illustrates how not to pray

Some years ago I was invited to a Congressman’s office along with leaders to discuss legislative issues that impinged on religious communities. Having concluded our conversation, the Congressman finished by observing, “If you ever want to pray in Congress, let my office know, and remember, don’t be afraid to pray in the name of Jesus.”I’m not afraid to pray in the name of Jesus – or the Trinity – and I do all the time. But I was embarrassed by the Congressman’s remark, and I wondered why his … [Read more...]

4 Ways the Culture Misunderstands Spiritual Formation

For much of the late 20th Century and all of the early 21st Century, an increasing number of people have described themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”Even if that trend left the church at some disadvantage in speaking to the needs of a growing segment of the population, the development was a welcome one. It was also a wake up call to a church that had allowed an important dimension of its experience to slip to the margins of its life.The church’s failure to do that work, howev … [Read more...]

Rare Prayer: Cries of Lament

According to Rebekah Ann Eklund a “lament is a persistent cry for salvation to the God who promises to save, a prayer that in a situation of suffering or sin,” is lifted “in the confident hope that this God hears and responds to cries, and acts now and in the future to make whole.”  “Lament,” she notes, “calls upon God to be true to God’s own character and to keep God’s own promises, with respect to humanity, Israel, and the church.”Eklund’s book (and the dissertation on which her book is bas … [Read more...]

No Cause for Celebration: Question Five of Ten

   Taking The Dave Test during the Holidays                                    Question Five: “Can I give up trading in magic and superstition?”                                             Introduction to the seriesMuch of the last year was thread through with considerable loss.  My brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died this last January as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his disease.  He would have been 58 years old in O … [Read more...]

The Unspoken Prayer

Formulas and language are so much at the forefront of our conversation about prayer, that the mystery of a conversation with the living God is all but lost.  Add our preoccupation with intercession and petition and the mystery disappears completely.  God has become like a stranger --- accosted on the sidewalk --- forced into our homes without prelude or introduction, without relationship or experience, gang-pressed into service, meeting our needs.Don’t get me wrong.I am not opposed to pra … [Read more...]

True Silence

 Silence,true silenceIs not just about the absence of sound. That, in fact, is hard,If not impossibleTo attain. It is about the silence of the heart,A laying to rest,Of self absorptionAnd justification --- Of maliceAnd hubris ---Of the constant chatterWe suppose is grand, Framing our claimsTo virtue,Independence,Superiority,And control. It is a silenceThat … [Read more...]

Life Prayers

In our search for spiritual direction we often look for the exceptional and the extraordinary.  That is understandable, particularly in an increasingly materialistic world where what is most real is what we can sense --- see, feel, hear, touch, and smell.  It is also understandable, given our tendency to think of that world as a world devoid of God’s presence.Far too often we assume that if God does exist, God likely lurks just beyond the last material reality that we have discovered and und … [Read more...]

The Embodiment of Prayer: Joe Cajero

Sculptor Joe Cajero was raised on the Jemez pueblo in New Mexico and his work is informed by his Pueblo religion.  Here is how he describes his work, which he calls “The Embodiment of Prayer”: My creative energy is often spiritual in nature.  Each of my sculptures invariably represents some aspect of praise and appreciation for life’s beauty, ebb and flow.  “The Embodiment of Prayer” is a created image that specifically captures what is a reflection of my spirituality.  Since my Pueblo religion … [Read more...]


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