Tag Archives: Prayer

“The Roots of Christian Mysticism” by Olivier Clement

Christianity has changed a lot since its early days with “distortions and caricatures…constantly being hawked about.”[1] Clement’s book is an effort to remind people of the mystic roots of Christianity.[2] To that end, the book includes large portions of text written by the early Church Father with Clement’s own words being used to connect the passages along with some brief commentary on the material.[3] Topics addressed within the book include, but are not limited to the mystery of God, the church, the Eucharist, passions transfigured, prayer, contemplation, and love. The primary theme throughout the book is that our lives, hopes, dreams, and prayers should be centered around Jesus of Nazareth. It is a “spirituality of resurrection”[4] that starts today and goes beyond death.

[1] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press of the Focolare, 2017), 9.

[2] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 9.

[3] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 11.

[4] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 307.

The Kingdom Message of the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer – Part 3

The-Lords-PrayerWe are continuing our section by section look at the “Lord/Disciples’ Prayer” through the lens of Kingdom Theology. If you are just now joining us, you can find the intro and first section here and the second section here.

Our father in heaven,
May your name be honored,
May your kingdom come,
May your will be done
As in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today the bread we need now;
And forgive us the things we own,
As we too have forgiven what was owned to us.
Don’t bring us into the great trial,
But rescue us from evil.
-Matthew 6:9-13, The Kingdom New Testament

Now on to the last section of the prayer:

“And forgive us the things we own, As we too have forgiven what was owned to us”

The context of this prayer makes it clear that the phrase “things we own” is a veiled reference to sin. Right after this prayer, St. Matthew writes a little blurb about the forgiveness of sin in our lives. St. Luke goes further and includes the term sin in his version of the prayer, “forgive us our sins.” Knowing that Jesus was talking about sin and not owning people money or other such items is very important in understanding this prayer.

Under the Temple system, if you messed up and did something cruel or mean towards a follow human, you were supposed to do two things. First you go to the Temple and offer a sin sacrifice so that God the Father would forgive you and cleanses you from your sin. The priest would then tell you what would need to be done to make things right with your neighbor, i.e. replace the item stolen, asking for forgiveness, etc.

In Jesus’ end-time declaration that the Kingdom of God had come, he shifts things up a bit. Now instead of having to go to the Temple to get forgiveness for our sins, we could be forgiven by Jesus anywhere at any time! Furthermore, our forgiveness from the Father was tied to our actions of forgiving those who sinned or hurt us! This was a radical, redefinition of forgiveness and sin that removed the Temple and the priests from the equation – something that was prophesied to happen on the Day of the Lord came.

“Don’t bring us into the great trial, But rescue us from evil”

Judgment was one of the key components of the coming of God’s Kingdom. The majority of folks at the time tended to think of this judgment as coming against the pagan Romans, as we looked at previously. Jesus, in keeping with the tradition of the prophets of old, is telling his followers that they are to pray for safety and salvation as they walk through this hoped for, but dreaded day. As prophet Joel said,

“Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall, only to have a snake bite him. Will not the Day of the Lord be darkness not light – pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?” – Amos 5:18-20

Think about the ten plagues in Egypt or the flood that swept over the earth during the days of Noah. In the middle of both events the people of God were protected from the evil one and the judgment God unleashed upon him. Jesus, in keeping with his end-time declaration on the Day of the Lord, is telling his disciples to pray that they will be like Noah and his family or the Israelites in Egypt – diligently obeying the Creator King despite the persecution and pain that came from the people around them.

By now I hope you can see the amazing Kingdom message within this prayer. It may take a little bit of reading and re-thinking to unbury the end-time Day of the Lord message from underneath the layers of cultural baggage. But when you do, you will see why followers of Jesus have kept this prayer close to their hearts throughout history. It is an end-time petition for strength and encouragement to keep on declaring the message of the Kingdom as commanded by Jesus, the King of Kings.

The Kingdom Message of the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer – Part 2

lords_prayer_tissot448x480We are continuing our section by section look at the “Lord/Disciples’ Prayer” through the lens of Kingdom Theology. If you are just now joining us, you can find the intro and first section here.

Our father in heaven,
May your name be honored,
May your kingdom come,
May your will be done
As in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today the bread we need now;
And forgive us the things we own,
As we too have forgiven what was owned to us.
Don’t bring us into the great trial,
But rescue us from evil.
-Matthew 6:9-13, The Kingdom New Testament

Now on to the next two sections in the prayer:

“May your kingdom come, May your will be done, As in heaven, so on earth.”

This is probably the most obvious end-time portion of the prayer as Jesus is telling his disciples to actively ask for the rule and reign of God to come down from heaven and invade earth. It is well to note that the rule and reign of God includes all areas of life – not just one’s spiritual life or well being. As such in praying this prayer, we are inviting God to enter into every area of our lives. This is not a prayer that we should be saying flippantly! This is an end-time, world changing; hold the boat, the world is going to collapse prayer that should give us chills every time we say it!

“Give us today the bread we need now”

While the previous line was the most obvious, this line is most likely the most cryptic in the prayer. Most modern English translations, like the Kingdom New Testament quoted above, translate the Koine Greek words to reflex a material request for bread. For example, the New International Version says “give us today our daily bread” while the English Standard Version says “give us this day our daily bread.” Sadly, while technically correct, these translations fail to convey the message that Jesus was trying to get across.

breadTo help with understanding this line, let us imagine ourselves in 1st century Palestine. Each year we would join our families in celebrating the deliverance of our people out of Egypt by the hand of God. This Passover celebration would include a feast and the breaking of bread that reminded us of the manna God gave to our forefathers in the desert. And while we ate this bread, we would remember that one day in the future God would deliver us once again from our enemies and we would sit at his banqueting table and feast on the bread of the new age. This coming wedding defined our future as 1st century Jews just as much as the Passover and the exodus out of Egypt defined our past.

Using these glasses and knowing the central message of Jesus was that the Day of the Lord had come, let us re-read this line of the prayer: “Give us, O’ Lord, today the bread of tomorrow.” Let us partake of the bread of the wedding feast just like our ancestors eat the bread of heaven in the desert. Let us celebrate and eat today, the feast that is to come in the new age when the Kingdom of God comes among us.

Do you see the radical shift in this line?

It is not about making sure we have physical food to eat, thou God does care about that. Instead it is an end-time petition for the wedding feast of the Lamb that fits perfectly within the overarching end-time message of the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer as well as within the greater context of the message of Jesus the King.

More to come…

The Kingdom Message of the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer

shutterstock_87575320 ConvertedSt. Luke tells us that the disciples of Jesus came to him one day and asked him to teach them how to pray. They had seen the intimate relationship Jesus had with God the Father and they wanted to learn how to pray like he did. The resulting prayer is normally called the “Lord’s Prayer” as he is the one who choose the words of the prayer; however, I tend to think of it as the “Disciples’ Prayer” as it was given to them to pray.

Now most of us don’t think about the “Lord/Disciples’ Prayer” as something to help us through the in-between times of the Kingdom. For most of us, it is just a nice poetic prayer that we hang on our walls or just recite in a flippant manner when someone asks us to pray.  A look through history tells a different story as this prayer was the marker for those who truly gave their lives to follow Jesus. Even when everything else changed – cultures, tradition, Christian sub-group, etc. – the followers of Jesus have always kept this prayer close to their hearts, even when they really didn’t understand why they held on to it. When seen through the lens of Kingdom Theology, everything changes and the prayer takes on a whole new meaning.

Our father in heaven,
May your name be honored,
May your kingdom come,
May your will be done
As in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today the bread we need now;
And forgive us the things we own,
As we too have forgiven what was owned to us.
Don’t bring us into the great trial,
But rescue us from evil.
-Matthew 6:9-13, The Kingdom New Testament

In English there are ten simple and easy to memorize lines; yet each one is packed full of theological and practical implications for our lives. Accordingly, we are going to take a look at each of these lines section by section and see if we can’t better understand this prayer that the King left his followers.

“Our father in heaven”

It may sound obvious, but before you can pray you need to know who you are praying too. From the dawn of history, people of all religions have prayed to their gods and/or to their ancestors. In defining who we are to pray to, Jesus tells us that we are to pray to our Kingly Father who dwells in heaven.

A lot has been made about the term “father” that Jesus used in this pray; however, I don’t think it was as shocking as some folks think to a 1st century Jew. They were used to God being their Father – abet, they used it in more of a corporate sense than an individual one (i.e. God was the Father of the nation of Israel). No, I think the more shocking items were to come – this line just set the stage to remind the followers of Jesus who they were talking too.

“May your name be honored”

One’s name and reputation meant everything to a 1st century Jew, as it still does to a large portion of the world today. To have one’s name honored meant that everyone knew who you were and what you had accomplished. Throughout the Old Testament you can see verses warning the Israelites against dishonoring the name or reputation of the Creator God. Furthermore, there are verses talking about how the world may know that the God is the Lord of the universe. These verses usually follow a mighty act of God, like the ten plagues, crossing the Red Sea or destroying Jericho. The concept is that God had acted, and, therefore, we are to honor his name.

So what mighty act did God do that caused Jesus to tell his disciples to honor God for? It wasn’t the cross as Jesus was still alive. The mighty act that Jesus was honoring the Father for was the coming of his Kingdom into the world!

It is no accident that both St. Matthew and St. Luke place the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer in the context of an end time declaration. For St. Matthew, the prayer was placed in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus lays out the framework for life in the newly ushered Kingdom. St. Luke places the prayer at the beginning of a selection that ends with Jesus telling his followers to ask for the Holy Spirit, an event that was supposed to happen when the Day of the Lord came.

It is also interesting that St. Luke follows up this end-time declaration with Jesus casting out a demon and telling the onlookers that the “Kingdom of God has come” and that he has bound the strong man (i.e. Satan). May the Name of God be forever honored!!

More to come…

Celtic Advent Prayer

celtic_christmas_nativity_artworkGod of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones,

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.

Education without life is certainly dangerous…

SadhuSundarSingh“I studied theology in a theological seminary. I learned many useful and interesting things no doubt, but they were not of much spiritual profit. There were discussions about sects, about Yesu Christ and many other interesting things, but I found the reality, the spirit of all these things, only at the Master’s feet.

 “When I spent hours at his feet in prayer, then I found enlightenment, and God taught me so many things that I cannot express them even in my own language. Sit at the Master’s feet in prayer; it is the greatest theological college in this world. We know about theology, but he is the source of theology itself. He explains in a few seconds a truth that has taken years to understand. Whatever I have learned has been learned only at his feet. Not only learning, but life, I have found at his feet in prayer.

“I do not condemn theologians wholesale, but it is unfortunately the fashion in Western thinking to doubt and deny everything. I protest this tendency. I never advise anyone to consult theologians, because all too often they have completely lost all sense of spiritual reality. They can explain Greek words and all that, but they spend too much time among their books and not enough time with the Master in prayer. It is not that I oppose all education, but education without life is certainly dangerous. You must stop examining spiritual truths like dry bones! You must break open the bones and take in the life-giving marrow.”

Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929?), an Indian Christian mystic

Listening to the Song of the Doing Sirens

The Siren, by John William Waterhouse (circa 1900)

I’m supposed to be on Sabbatical…a time of reflection and re-evaluation after years of plowing the land of the King. Yet despite the desire to dial down and be, I found myself following the song the Doing Sirens….

Sirens, for those who don’t know, were beautiful creatures in Greek mythology who lured sailors to their death through their enchanting music. Their charm was so powerful that few who heard their voices lived to tell of the experience. Those who did live were forever changed as the song of the Sirens crept into their souls and tweaked their hearts.

The song of the Doing Sirens is just as powerful as those sirens of old – calling humanity ever forward, ever faster, ever doing while the wheels of life spins and spins and spins, slipping past the teeth of time on the way nowhere. Few who have heard their song completely break free – and none leave without scars.

For years I have plowed the fields of the Lord side by side with the fields of Pharaoh, tightening my muscles with each stone removed or jarring bump. Storms of emotions raged around me coupled with spiritual attacks and bouts of depression, yet despite it all I held on to the plow – a fated Odysseus bracing against the sound of the Sirens, desperately wanting to hear their song all the while knowing the fate of those who listen.

[box]“Come closer, famous Odysseus – Achaea’s pride and glory – moor you ship on our coast so you can hear our song! Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips, and once he hears to his heart’s content sails on, a wiser man. We know all the pains that the Achaens and Trojans once endured on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so – all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!”  [/box]

Oh, that I may be an Orpheus whose music drowned out their sounds…but alas I am a Butes whose ears betray the wisdom given to me by those who have sailed before me after the Wild Goose… Divinely the Creator King provided an Aphrodite to carry me away, reminding me of the danger of the Sirens. Ladan’s treacherous while working for Pharaoh also helped to awaken me to the song of death.

[box] “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Prov 21:21)[/box]

To slow down and pursue righteousness and love…..oh that I might be able to shape the angles of life, focusing on being…that way when I plow the fields of the King once again I may find joy and honor in prayer, proclaiming Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. oh that the below prayer be true in my life, soul, heart and mind….

[box]I am no longer my own, but Yours. Use me as you choose;  Rank me alongside whoever You choose; Put me to doing, put me to suffering; Let me be employed for You, or laid aside for You, Raised up for You, or brought down low for You; Let me be full, let me be empty; Let me have all things, let me have nothing; With my whole heart I freely choose to yield All things to Your ordering and approval.

So now, God of glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Your own.

-the end of a Celtic Covenant Service[/box]

A Four-Fold Blessing

Yeah…this video sums it up…

BTW – Some of you will recognize the prayer in the video as it has been making the rounds under the name “An Franciscan Blessing.” However it actually has no connection to the Franciscans. It was written by the Benedictine Sister Ruth Fox of Sacred Heart Monastery for a Dickinson State University graduation in 1985. Sadly Sister Ruth Fox’s name has been removed from the blessing/prayer as it made the rounds online (I even posted it in 2013 without her name). =(

For the record, here is the original blessing:

May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.

May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.

If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:

    • Happiness – because you will know that you have made life better for others.
    • Inner peace – because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others.
    • Laughter – because your heart will be light.
    • Faithful friends – because they will recognize your worth as a person.

These blessings are yours – not for the asking, but for the giving – from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen

Lectio Divina – Step Four: Contemplate (Contemplatio)

The fourth and last step of the Diving Reading is to contemplate – that is, to stop and be silent while allowing everything you have read, mediated on, and prayed about take shape in your life. This is where we use our intuition in order to coalesce the previous three steps. It is meant to consummate the union of our mind and God’s truth, our heart and God’s love, our life and God’s life, our person and the person of God.

Since it is a time of silence – which is hard for most people – it is easy to skip this part, but we must NOT skip it as it is the most important part. It is during this final step that we let go of our own ideas and plans and let God’s ideas and plans wash over us. It is a time of silent prayer; of breathing in all that happened.

The spiritual discipline of “Contemplative Prayer” comes into play here:

“Contemplative prayer is silence, the ‘symbol of the world to come’ or ‘silent love.’ Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the ‘outer’ man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” –from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

In other words, the contemplative step is a way of cementing everything together as one.

A practical tip: before you start, set a timer for five or seven minutes and then don’t look at it until it goes off. This will force you to focus on sitting there and processing the first three steps while giving you the security that you won’t drift off and miss your next appointment.  😀

Lectio Divina