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”

Balm to heal the world

Balm definition from dictionary.com

The World News in Prayer entry for this week is pretty moving in the wake of recent attacks in Manchester and London and the fear and anger these attacks inspire in us and in our leaders. I want to commend it to you.

You can find the prayer here.

I was particularly taken with this paragraph:

“So again I turn to all the pieces of my faith – to hymns and scriptures, to prayer and worship. Maybe there is a Balm in Gilead, or a Blessed Assurance, even an Amazing Grace.” (World News in Prayer June 8, 2017)

The reference to the “Balm of Gilead” (Jeremiah 8:22) really resonated with me since I was inspired to use the phrase “balm of Calvary” in one of my recent songs, a song called All is accomplished.

Verse 1
All is accomplished,
He bowed his head.
The man, the crucified
His name be blessed.
He bore the blame,
became accursed.
He is the the balm of Calvary
that heals the world.