Weekly Prayer: St. Augustine

On more than one occasion, Augustine spoke of the soul as a house — a place where God dwells, a place that is under construction for most of our life. I’ve always loved the beautiful prayer below, from the Confessions, and find it a good one for the season of Lent.

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The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, “Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those encurred through others, pardon your servant“? I believe, and so I will speak. You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have not you forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?

Confessions Book I:6



WEEKLY PRAYER: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

This very moving and honest prayer comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers from prison. We might use it to cry out to God during Lent or other times when we come to the end of ourselves and cannot see the way forward.

***

God, I call to you early in the morning,
help me pray and collect my thoughts,
I cannot do so alone.

In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.

Source


What a Plague and a Pandemic Have in Common: by Prasanta Verma

In the book of Joel, a devastating event occurs, something which will be retold to subsequent generations:

Has anything like this happened  in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joel 1: 2-3

What sort of calamity could this be, what sort of story so incredulous that it could be recounted to future generations? It was a plague of locusts.

Can you imagine looking up and seeing the sky turn dark as millions of these insects descended upon the land you occupied? These insects are described as “chewing, swarming, crawling, and consuming” locusts. The scripture says that the fig tree branches were stripped white. The result of the plague was utter loss and devastation. The people of this agricultural society had lost everything– their crops, grass for their animals, their livelihood. Nothing green was left. They looked upon a barren wasteland.

Did you know there are 80 different kinds of locusts?  They belong to the grasshopper family. A typical swarm can be 30 miles long and 5 miles wide, and even today, swarms affect Australia and Africa.

After facing the devastation of such a loss, we can wonder how those in Judah felt. Their dreams were shattered. Their hopes gnawed away by the locusts. What would become of them now? Their dreams and hopes of the future? How would they survive?

My Bible commentary suggests that Joash could have been the king at the time. While it’s not certain, it is possible. Joash was crowned king at the tender age of 7. Humor me for a moment, as we ponder what a seven-year-old king might be thinking while watching a swarm of locusts descend upon the land.

If Joash were like any current day typical seven-year-old boy, he may have tried to catch a few of the insects himself and put them in a place where he could observe them for a while. Or, perhaps young Joash, after the initial  excitement, may have been affected by the horror-stricken faces of the adults around him, and also succumbed to fear, helplessness, and disbelief. One thing is certain: a plague of locusts (or other natural disaster) is beyond the power and control of any earthly king, no matter his age.

But not for an omnipotent God. He had an answer for them. He didn’t leave them destitute, alone, holding fistfuls of dirt in their hands. He gave them a promise:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… Joel 2:25

“I will restore to you the years.” What a beautiful promise, from the only One who can even make such a claim and fulfill it. God’s promise to the people of Judah was that he would “restore the years”! That promise is magnificent to comprehend. Who, except God, can even restore time?

You see, today, we face a different breed of locust. We face broken marriages, sudden death, disease, financial ruin, chronic pain, depression, job loss, addiction, plus the losses brought about because of the pandemic. And, the list can go on.

Yet consider that the promise to us is the same as it was to the people in Joel’s day: “God will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” God says,

Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and new oil, and you will be satisfied with them. –  Joel 2:19

God comforts and reassures the people facing the loss produced by the locust plague, promising to send them new grain and wine, and to “restore to them the years”. The loss was devastating and the promise itself is equally as astounding. Can you imagine the hope of the people of Judah, upon hearing such a promise? We have such promises, too, such as:

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

I don’t know about you, but these promises give me hope. Hope I need to hear. While the locusts may have eaten away, God can restore what the locusts have taken. God can take the loss, even produced by a pandemic, and transform it into something new – into a garden of plenty, a place where hope and joy bloom in full glory, a place where others can come and find encouragement and hope as well. He restores us and promises to give us rest. On this Ash Wednesday, we find rest for our souls, and promises of restoration, even in the midst of snowstorms, personal losses, and a pandemic.

(this post is edited from the archives of prasantaverma.com)


Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

A LENTEN PRAYER

Feb. 17 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. During Lent, I like to pray Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance and restoration. Our cries for forgiveness and our knowledge of our failings are more than met by God’s mercy and loving-kindness.

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1     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

  2     Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

3     For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

  4     Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

  5     And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.

  6     Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

  7     For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

  8     Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

  9     Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10     Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

11     Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

12     Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13     Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14     I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.

15     Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.

16     Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17     Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18     The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


WEEKLY PRAYER: HENRI NOUWEN

Preparing for the season of Lent, we pray with Henri Houwen:

Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.

I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend.

Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope this day brings peace and that the following posts and poems lend encouragement and beauty to you.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

***

Time to Heal via Jeannie Kendall (just as God never rushes, so your healing and recovery may take time)

Breakfast Epic via Brother Richard (a poem for your morning)

The Snowfall via Franz Werfel (a poem from a pre-Nazi Austria)

St. Brigid’s Cloak and Blueberry Jam via Charlotte Riggle (learn about St. Brigid, 5th-c. patron saint of Ireland)

Boundaries Breed Kindness via Chellie Wilson (protecting peace is a choice)

What do you journal about? via Anne Bogel (do you journal? read some new ideas here)


A PRAYER BEFORE WRITING

Before writing, preaching, and perhaps even blogging, we all need to pray. So today, I’m featuring a prayer before writing from Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), a Dominican friar, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. Aquinas’s Feast Day is January 28.

***

O Creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with the loving knowledge of you, that I may bring your light to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries which you have revealed.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we come to the end of another eventful week in an already eventful year, enjoy these posts that bring us poetry, the timelessness and constancy of God, and the pursuit of God’s voice.

Be well and be blessed,

Lisa and Prasanta

***

In This Place (An American Lyric) via Amanda Gorman (discover more poetry by the National Youth Poet Laureate who read at the inauguration)

“The Cup” / “Maundy” via Matthew J. Andrews (two poems that look ahead to Holy Week)

The End Which is Really the Beginning via David Russell Mosley (the planets, stars, time, and God’s time)

A Regime of Small Kindnesses via Jen Pollock Michel (on how we imitate the constancy of God’s care)

The Wonder of Truth: Caring for Words as an Act of Discipleship via Charity Singleton Craig (how do we, as Christians, commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth?)

Listening For God In The “Unquiet City” via April Fiet (learning to listen to and discern God’s voice)


WEEKLY PRAYER: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we pray with the minister and civil rights activist for peace and enemy love.

***

God, we thank you for the inspiration of Jesus. Grant that we will love you with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask you, God, in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going out and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and in our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawn.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we continue along in the first month of the new year, enjoy these posts and podcasts that will help set a good tone for living faithfully, creatively, and communally. Praying that 2021 will be a good year for all of us.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

***

10 Fresh Ways to Read Your Bible in 2021 via Traci Rhoades (practical ideas for getting started or picking the Bible back up again)

What Are We Expecting in the New Year? via Ed Cyzewski (are we expecting to find God each day? or are we expecting the worst to happen?)

Homesick via Elizabeth Gatewood (finding home and rest in a community that is bound together in mutual concern)

Hospitable Hospitals and Space to Grieve What’s Lost via Lore Ferguson Wilbert (finding space to doubt, fear, and grieve all that has been lost)

And All Shall Be Well via Marjorie Maddox (a poem with no beginning or end)

Creating Courageously During Difficult Days via Shawn Smucker and Maile Silva (how should creative people engage with culture during these difficult days?)