Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.
How do we become aware of God’s presence in our lives?
First, we prioritize time spent in Christian community, giving thanks together for the ways God has been present and provided for us. As our faith struggles or falters, we’ll find encouragement through the stories of God’s faithfulness among others.
Second, we grow in our delight of God by pondering the ways that God has been at work in our lives.
We shouldn’t be surprised that we struggle to see God at work if we don’t take time to ponder his presence each day.
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
How do we enter into prayer and worship? Self-examination is always helpful, especially if we have a reason to confess a wrong to a friend, colleague, or neighbor.
The monks who instructed novices in prayer typically noted that some distractions were a from God. A distraction may illuminate an area of our lives that requires repentance before we are free to pray.
Self-examination preemptively faces our distractions or failures and gives us a chance to take action before we enter into prayer. And if you don’t have time to pray because you’re busy seeking reconciliation, I trust that this obedience is precious to Jesus.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; those who act accordingly have a good understanding; his praise endures forever.”
While Jesus tells us to not be afraid, and Paul says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, the Psalms have a way of putting us in our place. Those who are wise rightly fear the Lord, even if God does not come to us with thunder and fire.
The gentleness and meekness of Jesus is much like the same approach of Moses, who veiled his face after seeing God’s glory. God does not seek our worship or reverence through intimidation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear the holiness and power of God.
A healthy “fear” of the Lord keeps us humble and helps us see God’s love and mercy with greater clarity and gratitude.
“And Mary said,“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
After hearing news that I suspect no one can fully comprehend, Mary responded with words of praise for God. The word to “magnify” is sometimes translated as extol or praise, as we don’t often speak of “magnifying” someone these days.
Mary saw her role in the salvation plan of God as a reason to praise God. She didn’t have to bear the burden of seeking her own glory, defending her own name, or exalting her own plans.
There is great freedom in our surrender to God’s direction for our lives.
As we limit ourselves to the actions that draw glory to God, we shake away the many ambitions and fears that can drag so many down. May we find the joy of Mary as we surrender ourselves to God’s loving direction.
“Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
Psalm 44: 24, NRSV
The writer of this Psalm of lament notes in the the earlier verses that God surely would know if he had lifted his hands to worship another God. It’s just as likely that God wouldn’t be surprised to hear the laments of his people in the midst of their suffering.
Of course God doesn’t literally hide from us or forget our suffering. In our darkest moments it can surely seem that God is distant and hidden, but even if these remain impossible things for God to do, the Spirit guided these poets to share their laments, frustrations, and fears in the starkest language possible.
What do you fear today about God?
What do you leave unspoken about God?
What if today you could be completely honest with God?
It’s possible that the scriptures telling us about God’s knowledge of our thoughts can assure us. God knows our deepest laments and fears but continues to reach out to anyone who is thirsty and heavy-burdened.
“Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.”
Lasting, truly healing relief from our anxieties and burdens comes from trusting in our loving and kind Lord.
Perhaps we’re so preoccupied with the weight of our worries that we forget his loving kindness could be resting upon us.
Ask God today how you can take another step of trust and rest in his loving and kind presence.
O LORD, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me. But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast, my soul is quieted within me.
Do you believe that God desires to nurture, protect, and guide you? Can you accept that God desires you to rest like a child resting with his/her mother?
Stillness and quiet are appropriate, even essential responses to God.
Jesus taught in the parable of the vineyard laborers:
“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
Matthew 20:15, RSV
Envy will dismantle the patience that is growing within us, robbing us of the joy of God’s blessings when they finally come to us. God is generous, but we all experience that generosity in different ways and at different times.
God’s generosity will not spare us seasons of darkness and doubt. It’s possible that waiting helps us view his generosity with greater clarity.
Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.
Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.
Why We Can’t Ignore the Pings (about driving, but still relevant for everything else)
Training for the Good Life
Resources for Centering Prayer
Outsmart Your Next Angry Outburst
Seven Reasons to Pray the Divine Office
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The monks of Palestine throughout the 400’s and beyond played a critical role in guiding the early church in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. While these monks valued solitude and contemplative practices, they also traveled throughout the desert, converted bedouins, and ministered to anyone they encountered.
While some of these monks lived in solitude as hermits, many began to welcome guests who came to them for advice. They also began small communities who gathered for worship together from time to time. Two of these monks were particularly sought out for advice and took up writing letters to the neighboring churches. From Christian History:
“By the sixth century, monasticism in Gaza was thriving, primarily due to the reputation of two elders, Barsanuphius the Great (“the great old man”) and John the Prophet (“the other old man”). The first was from Egypt; the latter was possibly from the region of Beersheba. From the seclusion of their cells, these two elders communicated with visitors only by letters dictated through secretaries. Barsanuphius and John were not eccentric miracle-workers, extreme ascetics, or charming visionaries, but practical advisers. They offered teaching, encouragement, and hope to people in their day-to-day struggles: “Simple advice according to God is one thing; a command is another. Advice is counsel without compulsion.”
Some 850 examples of their remarkable correspondence survive, written in response to questions from church leaders, monks, and laypeople about issues ranging from personal temptation to interpersonal relations, from employment to property, from spirituality to superstition, from dealing with heretics to taking a bath! The letters were filled with encouragement: “Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord!”
Read more here.
Is there a wilderness that you’re facing today?
Where have you found joy this week?