I want you to be a person of prayer. Offer gratitude and thanksgiving. Rather than setting aside a few moments, let your life become prayer, living with a constant awareness of my presence within and around you. We are deeply connected, but you are also interconnected with others, which is partly why isolation and loneliness can be so hard to bear. I created you for belonging.From 2 Timothy 1
Letters to the Beloved
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
There are so many things I do not understand.
What was it like when you called the cosmos into being?
Did you speak your creative words matter-of-factly,
or did you sing as you hovered over the waters?
What do you feel when you look at the world you created?
When you look at me?
For so long, I imagined that you were angry, or disappointed,
but what if…what if
suffering stirs your compassion
and sinfulness moves you to love?
What if the great commission
was never about getting people into heaven,
but about bringing heaven to people?
What if you never intended your followers
to focus on who’s right and who’s wrong,
or who’s in and who’s out?
What if instead, you have invited us to love,
regardless of someone’s creed or culture?
What if we believed Jesus’ encouragement
to be whole, as you Father are whole?
What if we believed Paul’s words
that you are truly reconciling all things?
As darkness presses in
filling the corners of our minds
we long for your light, O God.
Frantically, we cry out,
“Where are you?”
Do not let the Great Sadness overwhelm us.
Remind us of your enduring goodness.
Reveal your tender mercy.
Help us to understand
that there is neither form nor beauty
without both light and shadow.
Open our eyes
to see your presence
even in these dark places.
There is nowhere we can go
that you have not already gone.
There is no darkness
where your light does not shine brighter still.
God of wholeness,
Father, Son, Spirit,
never lacking or incomplete,
eternally perfect in oneness,
you promised that in the Son,
all things shall be reconciled.
Remind me of my union with you,
always aware of your holy presence
in and around me.
You, O LORD, are never absent,
but I confess that my senses are dulled
by 10,000 distractions.
I want to love you
as you have loved me,
fully and completely and unreservedly.
Let your lovingkindness toward me
ignite my love.
You, O LORD, have filled this world
with those who bear your image
yet each person is uniquely beautiful.
Remove the scales from my eyes
so that I may see with compassion.
Help me to remember that listening is loving
and curiosity is a sacred gift.
To love another is to get dirt on my hands,
just as you did when you formed people
from the dust of the ground.
Whether in agreement or conflict,
let love define me.
As I look inward,
let me see myself as you see me,
not as damaged goods, nor irredeemable,
but as your beloved child
who is infinitely valuable in your eyes.
Let the knowledge of my belovedness
cast aside every doubt I have
about how you see me,
knowing that you cherish me
just as I am right now.
Help me to remember
that when you formed the heavens and the earth,
you called your creation good.
It was full of beauty
and teeming with life,
yet like your people,
your good creation has suffered
the ravages of disintegration.
You have invited me to be a steward of the earth;
let me take up that call with hope and endurance,
remembering that you are reconciling all things.
Grant me the skill
to make good and beautiful things,
remembering that goodness and beauty
are reflections of you.
Where there is hatred, restore compassion
where darkness, light
where confusion, clarity
where where fragmentation, integration
where agitation, peace
where pride, humility
where brokenness, wholeness
and where self-centeredness, love.
Yesterday, I got my 7th tattoo. When I got first tattoo a few years ago, I asked the artist about the weirdest tattoos he had ever done. Two stood out to me. The first was a model who had a stack of pancakes tattooed on her butt and the second was a person who had a waffle recipe tattooed on her arm. People get tattoos for many different reasons, I suppose. I have given considerable thought to each of mine and to the messages they send, first to me and then to others. They are intended to deeply reflect the things that I value.
- שָׁלוֹם (Shalom)
- חָפְשִׁי (Chophshi)
- be who you are
- truth, goodness, beauty, strength (King, Sage, Warrior, Lover)
- LUDIO-Love Up, Down, In, Out
- integration, wholeness, reconciliation
- fiat lux (Let there be Light)
I will happily talk your ear off about any of these things, but this morning, I decided to write these into a prayer.
God of heaven and earth,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
At the beginning of all things,
you created all that is by the word of your mouth
uttering “Let there be light.”
You gazed upon your creation
and you called it good,
the cosmos was precisely as you intended.
Yet infective darkness slithered in,
the world became fragmented
by sin and shame,
all creation disintegrated and hopeless.
In your love and mercy
you saw fit to send a redeemer,
your son Jesus.
In him, I have been set free
from sin’s bondage,
but so often, I forget who I am
and I wander back into dark places.
God, remind me who I am,
over and over.
Let reminders of your grace
constantly ring in my ears.
You have created me in your image and likeness,
giving me the capacity to love all things
with my whole being,
heart, soul, mind, and strength.
God, the world is torn asunder,
I see it every day.
Help me to remember that I am
an ambassador of integration, wholeness, and reconciliation.
Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans?–Psalm 2:1
Eugene Peterson published Earth and Altar: The Community of Prayer in a Self-Bound Society in 1985, which as far as I can tell is now out of print. Peterson’s core message in this book is that America was a “self-bound society” in need of unselfing. Its message is as relevant today as it ever has been. His prescription–prayer–also seems as relevant as ever.
In the book, he presented eleven psalms as frameworks for prayer, encouraging his readers to gather together eleven times to pray for the “unselfing of America.” Although we cannot now gather as we once did, I would like to invite as many of you as are willing to commit to praying each of the psalms at least once per day for a week. Each weekend, I will share a link to the Psalm in the New Living Translation, but feel free to choose whatever one you might like or, each day, pick a new translation. Read it slowly, meditatively, and prayerfully.
I will also include chapter highlights that might help with understanding Peterson’s thoughts on the Psalm and, for the particularly adventurous, I will include a link to the audio of the chapter read by yours truly.
The first is Psalm 2, which you can access here.
Some thoughts from Chapter 1 (here is the chapter audio):
- America is in conspicuous need of unselfing. Concerned citizens using the diagnostic disciplines of psychology, sociology, economics, and theology lay the blame for the deterioration of our public life and the disintegration of our personal lives at the door of the self: we have a self-problem and that problem is responsible for everything else that is going wrong (p. 13).
- The only way to escape from self-annihilating and society destroying egotism and into self-enhancing community is through prayer (p. 15).
- The self is only itself, healthy and whole, when it is in relationship, and that relationship is always dual, with God and with other human beings (p. 16).
- Prayer is a repair and a healing of the interconnections (p. 23).
If we are to correct our abuses of each other and of our land, and if our effort to correct these abuses is to be more than a political fad that will in the long run be only another form of abuse, then we are going to have to go far beyond public protest and political action. We are going to have to rebuild the substance and integrity of better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.Wendell Berry, A Continuous Harmony
God of hope,
our world seems hopeless.
An unseen enemy assaults us,
emptying our streets,
yet filling us with anxiety.
We have no mooring, no anchor.
We ride white-capped waves
in small vessels
that were never meant
to weather these storms.
Our stockpiles dwindle,
but we cannot see the shore.
We lash ourselves to the mast
and pray we do not capsize.
Our prayers are groans
and tumbling thoughts.
Many of us hope for the light to break through,
but all we see is darkness.
We don’t even know where to look.
Our darting eyes betray our anxious hearts.
Still our hearts, O Lord,
Still our hearts.
Write 31 days, Day 16
Writing Prompt: Pray
(NB-I skipped a few days staffing Men at the Cross in Kentucky)
If you want to make many Christians feel guilty, ask about their prayer life. Every one of them would agree that prayer is important; the Bible talks frequently about prayer. Paul even told the Thessalonian believers to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:16). If you want to add confusion to their guilt, ask them what it means to actually pray without ceasing.
The reason we feel guilty and confused about prayer is that we define it too narrowly. Perhaps we treat it exclusively as “making our requests known to God” (Phil 4:6), or bestowing platitudes upon God: “O God, Dear Holy Lord, you alone are amazing. Just be with me God. In Jesus’ name. Ah–men.” Even some of our prayer tools (e.g., the ACTS method) restrict prayer. To be clear, these are wonderful prayers, but I want to challenge us to expand the horizons of our prayer. We learn with training wheels, but eventually, we take them off.
Prayer is so much more than we make it:
Prayer is delight, and prayer is lament.
It is requesting and receiving;
Gratitude and thanksgiving.
It is wonder and frustration.
Prayer revels in the beauty of creation, and groans under the weight of its brokenness.
It is boisterous merrymaking, and wordless agony.
It is walking hand in hand with your daughter in the chill October air;
It is holding space for your spouse’s pain;
It is harmonizing with your son in song;
It is attentive presence to your child’s story.
Prayer is seeking, and it is finding. And it is seeking again.
It is imprecation, celebration, lamentation, and contemplation.
It is confession and absolution;
Supplication and adoration.
It is intimate conversation with a friend.
It is the language of wholeness, the melody of shalom.
Prayer is union with God.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have come to believe about prayer. Has it changed over time?
Open my eye that I might behold your wonder.