In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence


Roof garden in inner city Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

While reflecting on the theme of work, I was reminded of Brother Lawrence – a role model for us (as for previous generations) of what it means to “make your life a prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Passion Translation).

Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk working in a monastery kitchen in Paris in the seventeenth century. He wrote no book but his papers, together with accounts of conversations with him, were collected after his death and published. The English translation was given the title, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Here are two excerpts:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
       from the Fourth Conversation

“But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence, and set him always before us, this not only hinders our offending him, and doing anything that may displease him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In time, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us. Give him thanks, if you please, with me, for his great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favours he has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise him. Amen.”
       from the First Letter


Two simple prayers

Drawing inspiration from Brother Lawrence, Ann Lewin writes:

Brother Lawrence believed that it was important to relate all his life to God, work and prayer alike. …

We have to establish the habit of remembering that there is a connection between God and ourselves wherever we are …
now is the time we meet with God.

Two simple prayers are enough to carry around with us: ‘Thank God’, and ‘Lord have mercy’. These are the responses we can make to all the circumstances of our lives, for God is concerned with the painful experiences and the hard questions just as much as with the joys and delights.

from Seasons of Grace by Ann Lewin, p. 28-29


Digging deeper

The Practice of the Presence of God  (Audio version | PDF)
by Brother Lawrence

The devotional life of Brother Lawrence
article by Robert M. Johnston

Four Lessons about Faith & Work from Brother Lawrence
article by Dr. Andrew Spencer

A ministry of dirty dishes
article by Perry Engle


Benediction

(inspired by Exodus 3)

Go out into the world to join God
      in the work of love, of peace, of justice.
Take in the breath of life.
Take off your shoes.
Know that you are ever in the presence
of the Holy and Living God.
Go in peace. Amen.

— written by Joanna Harader, and posted on her Spacious Faith blog.


Other blog posts in the “In the school of prayer” series:

In the School of prayer with Angela Ashwin
In the school of prayer with Anselm
In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin
In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints

Who do you work for?


Cooking/social event with my work colleagues  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
This November I celebrate ten years as a Church of Scotland minister of word and sacrament. It’s a significant part of my life, but so is my work as a software developer.

I’m following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul who supported himself and his team by earning his keep as a tentmaker.

Not only did tentmaking provide an income, it also gave Paul a unique opportunity to interact with people at all levels of society: customers like the well-to-do and the military, his suppliers, other market stallholders as well as the general public. During his lunch break Paul would preach to whoever was willing to listen. Moving from city to city, marketplace to marketplace, the seeds of the gospel were sown and the church grew.
 


For reflection

In one of his letters Paul gives us a clue to his motivation when he writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col 3:23-24)

How might God use us, with our gifts and connections, to serve him in the workplace? Or, to quote Nick Abraham, how do we “grace” our workplace and “represent the gospel well”?
 


Digging deeper: God’s perspective on work

Website: https://www.theologyofwork.org
Biblical reflections on work: Labor Day is …
Blog post by Nick Abraham: 5 Ways to Grace Your Workplace
 


23rd Psalm for the Workplace

The Lord is my boss, and I shall not want.

He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.
He gently reminds me to pray
and do all things without murmuring and complaining.
He reminds me that he is my source and not my job.

He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions,
that I might honour him in all that I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of emails,
system crashes, unrealistic deadlines, budget cutbacks,
gossiping co-workers, discriminating supervisors,
and an aging body that doesn’t cooperate every morning,
I still will not stop…..for He is with me!
His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.
He claims me as His own,
even when the company threatens to let me go.
His faithfulness and love are better than any bonus check.
His retirement plan beats every 401K* there is!

And, when it’s all said and done,
I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer…..
and for that, I BLESS HIS NAME!!!

from re-worship.blogspot.com

* 401K: U.S. retirement savings plan


From the blog || Psalm 23 in different guises
Theme: Spurred on by prayer (PRAYER SHEET)
Quiet near a little stream

In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints

 
To all saints, i.e. anyone who is within the Body of Christ …

For many decades now, Celtic Spirituality has been a hot topic, latterly also in my life.

How grateful I am that I was brought into contact with this ancient but holistic faith tradition through ministries like the Iona Community, the Northumbria Community and Abbey of the Arts. The themes and prayers of the ancients and those who seek to follow in their footsteps continue to inform my spirituality and my ministry.

 


Celtic Christianity: a brief introduction

from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 71

“For many centuries the Celtic race occupied and ruled most of Western Europe. Their religion seems to have included a recognition of sacredness in many places, in the events of nature and of daily life, and this continued when they converted to Christianity. Many of their prayers and songs have been passed on by word of mouth and only written down in the [19th] century. Anglo-Saxon invaders drove them into the Celtic fringe of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but heroic Celtic missionaries spread the Christian faith, among them St David in Wales, St Patrick in Ireland, St Ninian among the Picts and St Columba from Ireland to the Scots in Scotland, whence it was taken into northern England. The monasteries became great centres of learning, and distinctive artistic styles emerged in carved crosses and illuminated manuscripts. The practical nature of Celtic Christianity led to Pelagius, a British or Irish Celt of the fourth or fifth century (whose Gaelic name was probably Morgan), being branded a heretic by St Augustine. Yet Celtic Christianity has enjoyed a revival in the twentieth century.”

Key features

A blog post on third-space.org.uk features this helpful list:

1.  Monasticism / Living in community
2.  Sacramental principle
3.  Creation affirming
4.  Contemplation and mission
5.  Understanding of time
6.  Hospitality
7.  Spiritual warfare
8.  Trinitarian belief
9.  Love of learning
 
Check out the blog post to explore these characteristics in more detail.

Spiritual warfare: also see the post on encircling prayer.
Trinitarian belief: also see 3 Prayers to the Sacred Trinity.

Let us pray

In closing, here are 3 Celtic or Celtic-inspired prayers with references to our theme of the month, “Light”:

Canticle

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

from Northumbria Community Morning Prayer

God of the saints, hear us

That we may remember always those who have gone before us,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may be inspired by the noble works of old,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may seek to follow the example of the saints,
God of the saints, hear us.
That the church may stand for truth and justice,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may be unafraid to proclaim the gospel,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may lead others to worship you,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may bring your light to dark places,
God of the saints, hear us.

from The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer by David Adam, p. 134

A blessing

The Father of many resting places grant you rest;
The Christ who stilled the storm grant you calm;
The Spirit who fills all things grant you peace.
God’s light be your light,
God’s love be your love,
God’s way be your way.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
rest upon you and remain with you always.
Amen.

from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p.112
 

Nature bringing joy


O rhubarb red!  O joy!

 

For this post I’ve plundered a post from brainpickings.org entitled “Nature and the Serious Business of Joy” featuring quotes by British naturalist and environmental writer Michael McCarthy.

“There can be occasions when we suddenly and involuntarily find ourselves loving the natural world with a startling intensity, in a burst of emotion which we may not fully understand, and the only word that seems to me to be appropriate for this feeling is joy.”

 

“The natural world is not separate from us, it is part of us. It is as much a part of us as our capacity for language; we are bonded to it still, however hard it may be to perceive the union in the tumult of modern urban life. Yet the union can be found, the union of ourselves and nature, in the joy which nature can spark and fire in us.”

 

I commend the whole article to you for more quotes and reflections.
 
Also check out Krista Tippett’s On Being conversation with Michael McCarthy.
 


A prayer

I thank you, O God, for the pleasures you have given me through my senses; for the glory of thunder, for the mystery of music, the singing of birds and the laughter of children. I thank you for the delights of colour, the awe of the sunset, the wild roses in the hedgerows, the smile of friendship. I thank you for the sweetness of flowers and the scent of hay. Truly, O Lord, the earth is full of your riches!

by Edward King (1829-1910) (adapted)

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #211
 


Digging deeper

 

In the school of prayer with Anselm

Anselm of Canterbury, also called Anselm of Aosta after his birthplace and Anselm of Bec after his monastery, was a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church, who held the office of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 till his death in 1109. (Wikipedia)

In 2015 the current Archbishop of Canterbury, set up the Community of St Anthem, to bring together Christians aged 20 to 35 from many countries and cultures, and many church denominations and traditions for 10 months under a shared Rule of Life focused on prayer, study and service to the most vulnerable in society.

Most of us are not in the right age bracket or circumstances to join the Community of St Anselm ourselves. There’s nothing stopping us from joining them in spirit, though. Here’s some material to get you started.

Theology as prayer

About Anselm’s development as a writer on spiritual matters, Eugene Peterson writes:

“[Anselm] had written his Monologian, setting forth the proofs of God’s existence with great brilliance and power. It is one of the stellar theological achievements in the West. Then he realized that however many right things he had said about God, he had said them in the wrong language. He rewrote it all in a Proslogian (ed. Latin for Discourse), converting [talking about God] into [talking with God]: first-person address, an answer to God, a personal conversation with the personal God. The Proslogian is theology as prayer.” (from The Gift: Reflections on Christian Ministry, p. 93)

Call to prayer

The Proslogian begins with this call to prayer:

Come now … leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out.

Together, one-on-one with God.

You can find the full text of the Proslogian here.

A prayer

based on Anselm’s writings

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

from A Service for Mothering Sunday from the Church of England website.

Digging deeper

Article: “St. Anselm of Canterbury: Scholarship Rooted in Prayer” by John P. Bequette

Article: “Faith Seeking Understanding” featuring Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on St. Anselm from September 2009 (900th anniversary of Anselm’s death).


See also “In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin” and “In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew

Waters of baptism

As we come to the end of a month-long celebration of water and the many ways it touches our lives as people and as people of faith, finally a post on baptism.

“Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing or see the water poured in the sacrament of baptism, my soul is deeply moved and built up as I remember the promises claimed at my own baptism and those of my children. The signs and sounds of that gesture speak profoundly to me of the renewal we have in Christ Jesus, claimed in baptism and claimed again each time I remember the promises of my baptism.”

— A worshiper (from Reformed Worship)

Themes

In researching the topic of baptism for this blog post, two key themes stood out for me.

Firstly, baptism has been a fruitful topic in ecumenical relations, helping foster dialogue and reconciliation.

Secondly, there is much to be gained by “keeping baptism front and center” (Arlo D. Duba) in our church life.

According to Arlo D. Duba:

Too often we neglect baptism’s missional focus to go into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them (Matt. 28:19). Or we overlook the element of entering into the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6). Even when we introduce something like the Paschal (Easter) Vigil, we sometimes downplay or miss altogether its integral relationship with baptism.

Luther urged Christians to practice the daily renewal of the baptismal covenant by placing a hand on the head each morning and saying, ‘I am a baptized person, and today I will live out my baptism.’ And Calvin says that our propensity toward evil never ceases, but we take courage because what ‘begins in our baptism’ must be pursued every day until it is perfected when we go to be with the Lord (Institutes, 4, 15, 11).

Baptismal renewal must also be reflected in our services of worship. This means baptism, in all its power, must again become visible in all our worship services — not only when the sacrament of baptism is administered, but every Sunday.

(for full article, see 2. below)

Recommended reading/listening

1. Ecumenical resources on Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows and Liturgy,
Church of Scotland website
2. Take Me to the Water: Ideas for keeping baptism front and center,
by Arlo D. Duba
3. Worship Ideas on the Sacrament of Baptism,
by Howard Vanderwell and Norma de Waal Malefyt
4. Talking with Children about the Sacraments (audio, 01:08:56),
by Sue A. Rozeboom and Carrie Steenwyk (2012 Calvin Symposium on Worship)

Prayer

O Christ, you humbled yourself and received baptism at the hands of your friend and cousin, John, showing us the way of humility; help us to follow you, and never to be encumbered with pride.

O Christ, by your baptism, you took our humanity into the cleansing waters; give us new birth, and lead us into life as sons and daughters of God.

O Christ, by your baptism the material world became charged with your holiness; make us instruments of your transformation in this our world.

O Christ, by your baptism you revealed the Trinity, your Father calling you his beloved Son, and the Spirit descending upon you like a dove; renew our worship, rededicate us in the spirit of our baptism, and mould us into our true nature, in the image of God.

For your love’s sake,
Amen.

after the Chaldean Rite

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, p. 393

Environmentally water-wise

River Kelvin, Glasgow, where Rev. Norman Hutcheson grew up

Rev. Norman Hutcheson served 2 terms as locum during a recent vacancy in my home congregation in Rotterdam. During his second stint in September 2015, with the Paris Climate talks due to take place in December 2015, he chose as overarching theme for the month “Climate Time”.

The Paris Climate talks proved ground-breaking. “Representatives from 196 nations made a historic pact … to adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures — while also cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change.” (http://www.npr.org)

On a local level, Norman inspired us as a congregation to consider our environmental footprint, and we’ve made good headway in that regard, with 48 solar panels on order (as we speak), and other measures in place to reduce energy costs.

Recently the Paris Climate Agreement was once again in the news when President Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement. How this will all pan out in the long run, we will have to wait and see.

What can we do to play our part for the good of the planet water-wise?

Norman’s reflections:

Haves and have nots

For years I took water for granted – always pure, straight from the tap. I now know that safe water to drink and adequate supplies for sewage and irrigation remain a far off dream for half of the world’s population. Often it’s the result of the rich and powerful taking more than their fair share of the water resources.

Will we play our part to work for equity and justice where water resources are concerned?

Food

Two years ago I represented the Church of Scotland at a meeting on Environmental matters organised by the Church of South India. I was astonished to learn that it takes 600 gallons (2500 L) of water to produce a 6-ounce (150g) hamburger. A hidden cost we should be aware of.

Will we play our part to use the earth’s resources in a responsible way?

Signs of hope

Where I come from we have little experience of water scarcity. I do know about the effects of water pollution, though. Until the mid-19th Century the River Kelvin in Glasgow where I grew up had salmon swimming up the river. Then industrialisation ruined their habitat and the fish disappeared for 150 years. In recent years there have been initiatives to restore the habitat and to bring the salmon back, with success.

Will we play our part to promote good water management where we live, for the benefit of all God’s creatures?


Recommended listening/reading
The inside story of the Paris Climate Agreement (TED talk)
To make a burger, first you need 660 gallons of water …
The Hidden Water We Use

Prayer

Lord of all, we forget sometimes that your love involves responsibility as well as privilege; a duty not just to you but to the whole of your creation, to nurture and protect rather than simply to exploit it.

Forgive us our part in a society that has too often lives for today with no thought of tomorrow. Forgive us our unquestioning acceptance of an economic system that plunders this worlds’ resources with little regard as to the consequences.

Help us to live less wastefully and with more thought for those who will come after us.

Challenge the hearts and minds of people everywhere, that both they and we may understand more fully the wonder and the fragility of this planet you have give us, and so honour our calling to be faithful stewards of it all.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

by Nick Fawcett, from 2000 Prayers for Public Worship (2008), Prayer #916


See also Water world news

Body of water

mary and elizabeth, jesus and johnJesus meets John
for the first time

based on
a Christmas card
I made years ago

In the womb

We start out life in the relatively safe confines of our mother’s womb, cushioned by a body of water, until the waters break and it’s time to show our face and let our voice be heard.

When my mother was 8 months pregnant with me, her appendix burst. My father, a recent immigrant to South Africa without any family nearby to provide support, faced the prospect of losing both his wife and unborn child. The medical team opted to leave me in place. I imagine the nuns at St Joseph’s Maternity Hospital, who knew my mother as a nurse and former colleague and now as a prospective mother and patient, prayed us through the crisis. I was born full term a month later.

Herb Lubalin's logo for a magazine that never saw the light of day,
Mother and child (1966) by Herb Lubalin

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Many times I come back to these words from Psalm 139 – a truth beyond comprehension, revealed to affirm us in the body and in the faith:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 (NIVUK)

In the body

The phrase “body of water” is also a reference to the role water plays in the human body. For more details, check out this educational video, “What would happen if you didn’t drink water?” by Mia Nacamulli:

Prayer

“Lord, you have given me so much; I ask for one more thing – a grateful heart.”

after George Herbert (1593-1633)


This post is one a number on the theme of water, theme of the month for July 2017.

Tips for using a Prayer Sheet

List of prayer sheet blog posts

I’ve been compiling prayer sheets for some years now. It’s my way of “preparing the way for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3) when asked to lead a prayer meeting. The prayer sheet serves as a framework, with prayers and responses to share, as well as room for silence, personal concerns and spontaneous prayer.

I’ve repurposed some of the prayer sheets to share via the blog, with more in the pipeline. I’m also keen to compile prayer sheets to complement the theme of the month. A prayer sheet on a water-related theme is already in the making.

Prayer sheet blog posts include all the individual components, as well as a link to a pdf version in a handy format you can print out for personal use or to share.

My friend, Margriet, has a whole collection of prayer sheets that I’ve compiled over the years. She often has one tucked in her diary to refer to when she needs a moment for contemplation in her busy life. She says: “I draw strength from the prayers and readings so I can better help others.” For my part, I’m grateful that the prayer sheets continue to bear fruit.

Some ideas for using a prayer sheet in its printed form

1. Annotate the prayer sheet to personalize it, adding related verses, prayers and prayer requests.

2. Use the prayer sheet as a book mark, or keep a copy in your journal/diary, so you can refer to it when you have a moment for reflection.

3. Take a few copies with you on holiday to use as an aid to contemplation while out in nature or other quiet spot. On your own or with family/travel companions.

4. Take copies of a prayer sheet on an appropriate theme with you when you visit someone who might appreciate a time of prayer and reflection together. Possibly leave a copy with them.

5. Use a prayer sheet as a devotional with your Bible Study group or in family worship.

Prayer sheets currently available

Theme: Sharing in Jesus’ ministry
Theme: Do not lose heart
Theme: God makes all things new
Theme: Ever sustaining


If you have ideas or stories related to the use of prayer sheets, please share them in the comments.

On Writing Prayer-Poems

prayer poems

PDF handout

I confess. I tend to borrow prayers from others. See the prayer sheets, for example, which are collections of prayers on a theme, sourced from books or other websites like re:Worship.

But sometimes you have to stretch yourself, so when I was putting together the series that became “The Gift” (Preparing for Pentecost) I decided to try my hand at writing some original prayers to accompany the Scriptures I had selected.

I’d like to share what I learnt from writing the twelve prayer-poems I wrote for the series. I hope you, in turn, will be inspired to write prayer-poems of your own.

Continue reading “On Writing Prayer-Poems”