“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.
Week One: Surrender to God’s Mercy
If everything belongs in our contemplative practice, then we must give up the charade of denial or wearing a mask to hide our flaws and pain. Our only hope will be completely surrendering to God’s mercy.
Once we face our pain, struggles, and failures, we remove ourselves from religious systems that gain their power from setting moral standards that cannot be violated by their members or call for simplistic answers. This is why those who have faced their own dark sides and found God’s mercy are so able to share mercy with others.
This month we’ll look at Richard Rohr’s book Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, with quotes this week about the process of exposing and moving beyond the obstacles that keep us from intimacy with God:
“In God’s reign ‘everything belongs,’ even the broken and poor parts. Until we have admitted this in our own soul, we will usually perpetuate expelling systems in the outer world of politics and class. Dualistic thinking begins in the soul and moves to the mind and eventually moves to the streets. True prayer, however, nips the lie in the bud. It is usually experienced as tears, surrender, or forgiveness.”
“In terms of soul work, we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us.”
“We do not find our own center; it finds us… We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
“It seems that we Christians have been worshipping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey.”
“It is much easier to belong to a group than it is to know that you belong to God. Those who firm up their own edges and identity too quickly without finding their center in God and in themselves will normally be the enemies of ecumenism, forgiveness, vulnerability, and basic human dialogue.”
Read more in Everything Belongs
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”
Seasons of weariness are coming. There’s no guarantee that God will shield us from hard times, from weakness, and from souls that desperately need restoration. While we can anticipate draining, difficult seasons, we are assured that God will restore us.
Are we prepared to receive the restoration that comes from God?
Restoration may look like stopping, lying down, and seeking places of peace and stillness. Perhaps we will resist God’s restoration to the point that he will “make” us lie down.
Finding God’s rest takes faith, trusting that God can lead us and sustain us, especially when we stop trying to maintain control. May we have eyes to see the gentle hand of God leading us to restoration.
Why have you resisted restoration?
When has your soul grown weary lately?
What does it look like to trust God with restoring your soul today?