Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone." (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

As women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande we work to live out this promise in retreat, fellowship, study, and ministry.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Prayer Scrapbook

As we head into Holy Week, I have one final suggestion for keeping a record of your prayers and your spiritual life. It's rather like the Prayer Journal, but with a twist. Your spiritual journey can become a scrapbook!
Again, there are several ways to do this. You can pick a theme like Holy Week or Easter or an important  Bible story or even a prayer study. Gather poems, pictures, prayers, notes, anything that is meaningful for your journey. Then you simply put it all together like a scrapbook. You will be surprised at how much working on a scrapbook will enrich your prayer life.
Another way to start is to take the Gifts of the Spirit and create a scrapbook page for each Gift. You can also do a page for each letter of the alphabet. Identify a Bible verse or prayer attribute for each letter and then scrapbook a page for that letter.
You might even make a scrapbook with this series of prayer aids. Use your imagination for other ways to use scrapbooking as a prayer aid.    

Friday, March 30, 2012

Prayer Diary

Writing a note to someone is a lovely way to support them when they need prayer. There are often so many prayer needs that we can feel overwhelmed. If you try out even a few of the prayer aids suggested over the past few weeks of Lent, you'll have enriched your prayer life.
But...How do you keep track of your prayers and how they have been answered? One way is a Prayer Journal or Prayer Diary. There are many ways of doing this.
The simplest Prayer Diary is a spiral notebook that you list your prayer requests in. Once a month (or whenever you decide) go back and look over the prayers to see what sort of answer God has given. There will probably be an assortment of responses. Sometimes you will see that visible results have happened. At others it will seem that nothing has changed. Then there will be those times when the person you are praying for has gone to be with the Lord. At first that might seem like a negative answer, but rather it is the ultimate healing.


You can have a fancier notebook, of course. Your journal/diary can include clippings and pictures if you want. Sometimes I add drawings and other notes to mine. You can buy a nice book for your journal, but it isn't necessary.
Believe it our not (in keeping with the techno prayer aids earlier this week)-you can even find online Prayer Journals or downloadable ones-just do a 'google' search!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prayer Support

As we discovered yesterday, a lovely way to support a friend in need is to send them an email. Even more personal is an actual handwritten note. Sometimes we can get so involved in using technology that we forget how important the personal touch can be. Whether you write a quick note and drop it in the mail or pick up a card at the store or even take the time to create your own card, you are sure to brighten someone's day by sending them a note.

And the surprising thing is that when you do something nice for someone else, you feel better yourself. Plus, you remember to pray for the person while you are writing the note and even afterward. It is wonderful the way prayer support works both ways-makes the person receiving the note feel loved and warms your heart as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Email Praying


This week we're looking at ways that technology can enrich our prayer lives. Using the telephone for praying with friends and sharing prayer requests and Bible verses via texting are just the start of ways to use technology for prayers.
Email is another way to share the need for prayer with many people at the same time. Sometimes that is the first way we hear about someone's crisis. Often I've received an email with news of a cancer diagnosis or other problem. Then I can immediately start praying and I can also share the prayer need with others.
Email is also a great way to share good news when prayer is answered.
Another way to use email is to write encouraging notes to people you know need a bit of cheering up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Texting Prayers

Yesterday we considered one way the everyday telephone can be used as a prayer aid-by praying with friends on the phone and using it to share prayer concerns with other prayer partners.
Nearly everyone has texting on their phone now, too. It's another great way to use technology for prayer. There are many ways to use your texting cell phone as a prayer aid.


Consider making a pact with a friend to text each other inspirational prayers or Bible verses.
Text prayer requests to people in a text prayer chain.
If you are going into a meeting or situation that you need prayers for, don't be ashamed to text friends and request their prayers. That is the good thing about texting-it only takes a second and is a quiet, private way to ask or share prayers.
There are even apps for your phone for prayers and to keep a prayer diary on your cell phone! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Telephone prayers

I'll bet you have played "telephone" as a child or even with your children and/or grandchildren. You know how it goes, you tell a story to the first child in the circle and by the time it gets around the circle the story has changed-usually in a funny way.
Telephone prayers are different than the telephone game. They are a way of using modern technology to pray. How often have you had a phone call from someone with a need? You naturally say, "I'll pray for you." Often, though, you go on with the conversation rathr than actually taking time to stop and pray. What difference might it make if you took that moment to bring God into the conversation?

A step beyond praying with your friend immediately is asking if you can share their concern with other trusted prayer partners, perhaps via a phone tree or prayer list. So you see there are holy uses for your phone conversations.    

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Letters to God

Years ago, when I was a teenager, my grandmother gave me a book filled with "Letters to God" about things teenage girls struggle with. I think it was called "A Girl's Letters to God" by Margaret or Margo someone, but it must be out of print because I cannot find anything remotely similar in a Google search. (It's not Judy Blume's book Are you There God? It's me Margaret)
However, the premise of the book (and the many new books of similar titles and even a website Letters to God) is that we can write letters to God. We may not get a physical letter back in the mail as a response, but the act of writing out our feelings, needs, wants, thanksgivings makes it concrete and sometimes you do get an answer. I have a friend who swears that God does answer her by things she gets in the mail. She'll be wondering and praying about something and will get a piece of mail that points her in the right direction.
Writing to God can be done as part of a journal or prayer diary or you can simply write out your letter like a real letter:
Dear God,
It's me... I've been wondering about...
I've been praying that...
Can you hear me, God?...
I need...
Can you help...
Why do I feel...
Thank you God for...

Have you ever written a letter to God? Did you get any response?  Whether you get a physical reply or not-know that you have handed over the prayer need to the One who really can take care of it. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stones

Have you ever thought about using rocks to pray with? There are actually a number of ways to use rocks or stones in your prayers.
The first is an activity that works well with a group, although you can do it by yourself.  Sometimes we can feel as if we are carrying around heavy burdens: things that we have done wrong or perhaps people or situations about which we are concerned.   
1) Place a large cross in the corner of a room.
2) Invite people to select a stone from a pile. Ask them to take a moment to think about what burdens they might be carrying around inside themselves.
3) As they take the stone to place it at the foot of the cross they should be encouraged to pray that Jesus will be with them in that situation or even take the burden away completely.

Stones can also be used as individual prayer aids. You can purchase small rocks with crosses or Bible verses inscribed in them. Carry one in your pocket or purse. When your hand brushes it, you will be reminded to give your burdens and worries to God. 
You can keep the stone on your desk as a visible reminder of God's presence and of 1 Peter 5:7 "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (New Living Translation). 
Another way is to have a Prayer Rock by your bed as a reminder that God wants to be with us at all times. To make it place rock in the center of an 8” square of material and wrap it up in the cloth. Tie the tag with the following poem around the material.
Prayer Rock
I’m your little prayer rock and this is what I’ll do.
Just put me on your pillow till the day is through.
Then turn back the covers and climb into your bed
And WHACK … your little prayer rock will hit you on your head.
Then you will remember as the day is through
To kneel and say your prayers as you wanted to,
Then when you are finished just dump me on the floor,
I’ll stay there through the night-time to give you help once more.
When you get up the next morning CLUNK…I stub your toe
So you will remember your prayers before you go.
Put me back upon your pillow when your bed is made,
And your clever little prayer rock will continue in your aid.
Because your heavenly Father cares and loves you so,
He wants you to remember to talk to him… you know.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prayer Postures

Most of us are used to praying while kneeling or perhaps while standing. Sometimes we allow ourselves to sit and pray, but we are maybe just a bit guilty about not being in the 'proper' prayer position.
 However...there are ways to express what we feel in our prayer through our position while praying. Prayer is about communication. We are communicating with God and we should feel free to show our emotions to God while praying. After all, we may as well be honest with God-God knows how we feel already and just wants us to share that.

If you are joyful and full of praise why not stand up, raise your head and maybe even your hands in joy. Smile, laugh, dance, give God the glory! Like the little child with the statue, you can relax and let yourself rejoice in your relationship with God!
Are you confessing sins? Now is the time to sit, kneel, or even prostrate yourself before God.
If you are petitioning or asking God for a response-hold your hands open so they can be filled.
What position would you try if you were fearful or angry at God? A raised fist? God honors our emotions, so don't be afraid to let even anger and fear show.
Share some other prayer postures you have tried and experienced.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Praying in the Sand

When I first heard of this way of praying, the thing that popped into my mind is the song by Michael Card called "Scribbling in the Sand". It is his song about the story in John 8:1-11 where a woman found in adultery is brought to Jesus by the authorities who hope to entrap him. Instead of responding, "Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground." As Card's song says, "The same finger of the strong hand that had written ten commands for now was simply scribbling in the sand." We don't know what Jesus wrote or if he just doodled in the sand at his feet. We do know that the accusers left and Jesus tells the woman, "go and do not sin again." 

The prayer exercise of praying in the sand, gives God the opportunity to do what Card suggests: "Could that same finger come and trace my souls sacred sand and make some unexpected space where I could understand that my own condemnation pierced and broke that gentle hand that scratched the words I'll never know written in the sand." You can hear the whole song here.
For praying with sand, you simply need a pan of soft sand-you don't want to run into a goat-head while praying! 
Offer the time and yourself to God's hand, using Card's words or your own prayer. Write your 'sin' in the sand with your finger as a way to acknowledge it to yourself and confess it to God. Ask for forgiveness and imagine Christ's hand wiping out the sin as you dust your hand across the words so that they are erased. 
You can write a prayer request in the sand and offer it to God. Then lift it up to God allowing the sand to trickle through your fingers.
Draw your own doodles in the sand as you pray. Let your finger(s) simply move through the sand and concentrate on the feel of the sand on your fingers while relaxing into God's presence.
  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Clay Prayers

Perhaps drawing isn't your cup of tea. Not everyone is inspired by each of these prayer suggestions. That's why there are so many different ways to pray! Sometimes it is important to get out of the Left Brain analytical mode and let the Right Brain help with praying, though.
Playing with clay is one way to do that-and it's astonishingly comforting to revert to childhood and play with play dough or other forms of clay. Just the act of rolling the smooth clay or dough into a snack and manipulating it can be quite soothing if you are having a rough day.
The Bible citation that jumps to mind when talking about clay is Isaiah 64:8 "We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of thy hand." God molds us, according to Isaiah, like the potter does the clay. In playing and praying with clay, we have the opportunity to be creators, too.
How do you pray with clay? First you need clay or play dough. You can even make your own if you don't happen to have children or grandchildren handy with a supply you can use. Here's a recipe I used with my children. You can find more at: http://www.playdoughrecipe.com. 
Salt Dough

1 cup of salt
1 cup of water
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
Food coloring (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together. Knead the mixture until it’s doughy. Divide into balls and knead food color in if you want. Keep it wrapped in plastic as it will harden in the air. (It's probably edible, but probably yucky.)
Now that you have your play dough or clay, you can take colored lumps of it and form shapes of things you are thankful for-a new baby or a house or other blessing. 
You can shape the lump into something that represents how you are feeling. Maybe a rainbow if you are joyful or a cup if you feel that you need filled up with the Spirit.
As I said at the beginning, sometimes it is therapeutic to just manipulate the clay and let your mind roam. God hears the thoughts of our hearts whether we are able to articulate them or not.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Drawing and Praying

Last week, we looked at some creative ways to pray for our neighbors-both in our neighborhoods and farther afield across the world. This week I'll offer some prayer suggestions for focusing your own prayer life. Last Saturday, I participated in the DRG Lent Retreat for Women at the Cathedral. During the quiet time, one of the options was to use the provided art supplies to draw your thoughts on the meditations and/or your own prayers. It occurs to me, belatedly, that having some directions-like these-might have been helpful in that area.
Drawing our prayers is not new. Hildegard of Bingen, mystic and abbess of the 12th century is well known for her drawings.Hers are often in the form of mandalas-a shape representing completion and unity. Hildegard's are rather complex and most of us draw much simpler pictures. Here is one I did during a class on mandalas.  

Sometimes in my journals I'll draw a simple line drawing inspired by my thoughts that day. Certainly nothing to frame for a public show, these little sketches do sometimes direct my thoughts into a new, deeper direction. One thing I often do is draw a cross and then on rocks around the foot of the cross write things I am trying to let go of. Another friend often draws trees with leaves representing the ministries she is involved in. It helps her see what, if anything, she needs to let go of.
A couple of other ways to start drawing your prayers are below. Remember line drawings and stick people are perfectly fine. These drawings are just for your prayer enrichment.
You can sketch a two-stage picture of the present and future or of the past and present. Fold a piece of paper in half or draw a line down the middle. On one side sketch how you are now-what you feel or worry about or are praying for. On the other draw the solution you envision (or you can draw a picture of the past to show where you have come from).
Another way to draw prayer is to use colors to represent how you are feeling. Draw yourself or the person or situation in your prayers using color. Do you feel stressed? Maybe dark colors represent how you feel or red if you are angry or blue if you are discouraged. You don't need to just draw prayers when you are upset. Are you joyful-probably you will lean toward drawing with brighter colors. Do you feel calm and serene? Pastels may be the colors of choice or perhaps yellows.
Yet another way is to use stick figures to represent how you are feeling. If you are in conflict with someone or even with God, draw yourself and the other figure. Let the stick figures speak to each other and to you. You may be surprised at what prayers and solutions pop out.
Because drawing uses a different part of the brain, you will find yourself seeing the situation you are drawing differently than you could just by thinking or even writing about it. Give it a try-you might be surprised. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vigils

A final idea this week to pray for friends and neighbors near and far involves setting up Prayer Vigils for specific needs. This can be done prior to an event-a convention or a meeting, perhaps. Vigils are also appropriate for someone who is having major surgery or who is very ill. Special seasons of the year inspire the idea of vigils - like Good Friday.
Once the reason is identified, post a sign up sheet and invite people to join the prayers. People can come to a central place to pray or pray at their own home, depending on convenience.

A way to make this even more visual is for each person to sign up on a brick (or a paper looking like a brick) that is used to build a wall! You could also make a vine and have each person sign up on a flower or leaf to cover the vine in foliage.
(You could also use the vine for prayer requests...)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maps and Globes

Have you ever considered using a map or globe as a prayer aid? The idea reminds me of the old song "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." This is especially good for groups. You will need a map or a globe in the center of the meeting area.


Each member of the group names a situation in countries, esp. those countries where they have a contact or interest. Make a note of the prayer on a sticky note and put it on the map in the proper place. You may be surprised at how many people in your group have contacts around the world.
Pray for the concerns before the meeting closes and then keep the map or globe for the next meeting to see how things are changing.
This type of prayer can be expanded to include an entire congregation. One ministry group should be responsible for the map and for starting the prayer notes. Then announce to the membership that they should pick a location that needs prayer and place a sticky note on it. Keep this going for a few weeks and see how much of the world can be covered in prayer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prayer Board

On Monday and Tuesday we looked at a couple of ways to pray for people in your neighborhood. As the sun comes up, you can blanket the area with prayer like the rays of the sun. During your walks around the area, you can pray for the homes and families you pass.
Sometimes a visual aid is helpful for keeping other prayer requests in our consciousness. A Prayer Board is one way to do that. You can use a bulletin board to pin up names and prayer requests. They can be moved around as the urgency of the prayer need changes or removed when the prayer is answered. 
Newspaper articles of events needing prayer can be added. A picture of a tornado stricken town might help you remember to offer prayers for the people affected. Maybe just a headline or a single sentence is enough to remind us of the prayer need.
Be sure to add some positive images of things you are happy about and thankful for, too. Poems, pictures of Jesus or beautiful scenery, family images or other items that bring you joy are important prayer reminders, too. It is easy to forget to add the joyful thanksgivings that are just as important in God's eyes as our needs and the needs of others.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis

A favorite prayer for many people is the Prayer of St. Francis. It is often helpful to refocus on what is important in life-the love, pardon, light, joy, understanding, pardon, etc. Doing so helps us look outside ourselves to the needs of our neighbors.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

St. Francis is usually pictured surrounded by animals. For me, an image with greater impact is that of his encounter with the leper. As the story goes, Francis was on the road when he encountered another man. He was at first repelled by the sight of this person who was leprous. But rather than turn his back on a fellow human being, Francis embraced and kissed the leper and went on his way. When he looked back the leper was gone, and Christ was standing there.
Pondering that story can tell us a lot about how we are to act in relationship with our neighbors, esp. those we may not see eye to eye with or even distrust.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walking and Praying

Yesterday I suggested one way of praying for your neighborhood is to pray for each home as the sun rises and brings them into view and focus. If you aren't an early riser, that's probably not a helpful prayer idea. Another way to pray for your neighbors is on a Prayer Walk.
What is a Prayer Walk? It is exactly what it sounds like. You pray for your neighborhood as you walk around it. Maybe you take a walk for exercise daily. It's a perfect time to bring yourself and your prayers to God.
As you start out, commit your walk to God and to seeing what God wants you to see and to praying God's will on all you see and meet.
 On your walk, pray for the people in the homes you pass-whether you know them or not. If you do know them you can pray with more intentionality, but you can hold each household up to God as you walk past their home. Look for and give thanks for the beautiful things you see and offer blessings on each person along your route. If you pass a school or fire station or other business, prayer for them with intention. When you return to your own home, thank God for the privilege of being God's presence (quiet and unknown) in the neighborhood.

You can do this same sort of Prayer Walk around your workplace or church. Offer prayers and thanksgivings for your co-workers and fellow members of the congregation. You can even pray for the workers and shoppers as you walk around a store or mall. Some places and people have organized Prayer Walks for specific causes, but having your own Prayer Walk can be a way to make a praying difference where you are, as part of your daily routine. 
Think of the possibilities. Maybe you are inspired to form a group that can walk and pray with you. What if  each neighborhood in your city had people willing to do a Prayer Walk regularly...think of the difference if could make! Even one person taking a Prayer Walk can make a difference, though.     
If you think of other ways and places you could do a Prayer Walk, feel free to share them here for all of us.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dawn Prayers

Today is the first Monday of daylight savings time this year. If you are like me, the 'spring forward' sets my internal clock off a bit. It is still dark when I get up and even when my husband goes off to work, when just last week, it was light at that time. Somehow it makes it feel like I got up too early. But there are advantages to being up while it is still dark.
As the sun starts to rise, the world outside my window comes into view and gradually the shapes of the neighborhood homes and yards become more clear. It occurs to me that this is a perfect metaphor for a way we can pray for those around us.

In the darkness before dawn, we can start out praying in general for the larger world. As the light makes things more distinct, we can pray for each of the homes around us, even if we don't know the people all that well. When the dawn shows greater detail, our dawn prayers can go into more detail about the needs we are aware of in the neighborhood and city and world.
By the time the sun illuminates the city, we will have wrapped it in prayer-and what better way to start the day? 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Candles as Prayer aids

To close out our week of meditation aids, let's look at candles. We see them every Sunday in church, but do we really think about candles and what they represent? During the service of Evening Prayer, often the candles are not lit until the recitation of the Phos Hilaron. This canticle is a vivid reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World as represented in the light of the candles-the 'vesper light'. 

O Gracious Light Phos hilaron
O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds. 

Candles can be used as a prayer aid in our own daily prayers and meditations whether as part of the Book of Common Prayer services or as a part of our own devotions. Lighting a candle can be a reminder that we are entering a holy time with God. Meditating on the flickering flame is a way for some people to find that centering and quiet we discussed earlier in the week. We might light a candle for a special intention like an anniversary or birthday, or for someone you are praying specifically for. 
We should remember that each candle we light is representative of the Paschal Candle lighted at Easter to represent Christ's resurrection. During the Great Vigil of Easter a fresh fire is kindled and these prayers are said:

Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our
Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites
her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in
vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which,
by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share
in his victory over death.

The Celebrant may say the following prayer
Let us pray.
O God, through your Son you have bestowed upon your
people the brightness of your light: Sanctify this new fire, and
grant that in this Paschal feast we may so burn with heavenly
desires, that with pure minds we may attain to the festival of
everlasting light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
The Paschal Candle is then lighted from the newly kindled fire, and the
Deacon (the Celebrant if there is no deacon) bearing the Candle, leads the
procession to the chancel


In the holy kindling of the Paschal candle, we see Christ's triumph over death and sin. In our own lighting of a candle at our prayer time, we bring the Light of Christ into our devotions in a tangible way.




 
   

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rosary

As promised today we'll take a brief overview look at how rosaries can be a prayer aid. Some may think that a rosary is just used in the Roman Catholic Church, but that is not true. Prayer beads, like rosaries, are used in nearly all religious communities and have been around for generations and millennia.
Over the centuries various things have been used as prayer beads-which are simply a way to keep track of your prayers. Ancient monastic groups tied knots in cords or ropes as a way to count their prayers. Gradually the practice became more widespread and, of course, people wanted something nicer looking than a raggedy rope, so rosaries were made from beads of wood and crystal and metal, etc.In fact, the word rosary comes from the fact that some early beads were actually made from roses. 
There are many kinds of rosaries available now-from what we think of as the 'traditional' rosary that looks rather like a necklace. Prayers on this type of rosary often follow the standard form of: repeated sequences of the Lord's Prayer followed by ten repetitions of the Hail Mary and a single praying of "Glory Be to the Father;" each of these sequences is known as a decade. The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary (there are 15 mysteries), which recall the life of Jesus Christ.
There are Finger Rosaries, which are a circle of 10 beads or knobs making up one decade and often worn on your finger where you turn it around as you say the prayers. A Pocket rosary is another form, that has 10 beads in a line rather than a circle. 

There are also Anglican prayer beads, which are used by many denominations (not just Anglicans). According to Wikipedia, "Anglican prayer bead sets consist of thirty-three beads divided into groups. There are four groups consisting of seven beads with additional separate and larger beads separating the groups. The number thirty-three signifies the number of years that Christ lived on the Earth, while the number seven signifies wholeness or completion in the faith, the days of creation, and the seasons of the Church year." There are numerous ways to pray with Anglican prayer beads. Here is one:
The Cross
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Invitatory

O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
The Cruciforms

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon me (us).
The Weeks

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Cross

I bless the Lord.
(Let us bless the Lord
Thanks be to God.)
 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holding Cross

This week, we are looking at ways to meditate and be still in God's presence as part of our prayer journeys. On Monday, we set up a prayer capsule of our Lenten discipline, then looked at meditating via mantras and by looking at pictures.
Sometimes it helps to have something physical or tactile to pray with. One such item is a 'holding cross'. This is an actual cross that is a bit thicker in body and slightly curved to fit in your hand. As the name suggests, you hold onto it while praying.
Another type of touchable prayer aid are prayer stones that you carry in your pocket or purse or keep on your desk. While praying you hold and even gently rub your fingers or thumb over the surface. It helps you stay focused on the prayer and on the presence of God in the cross or prayer stone.
The nice thing about all these is that they are small, but tangible reminders that God is everywhere. When you reach into your pocket or purse, or look at your desk and see the holding cross or stone, you pause, if only for a second, and remember God is there.
Of course, a tangible prayer aid is the rosary and we'll look at that tomorrow, because there are many different kinds of rosaries and rosary prayers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Picture Meditations


Similar to yesterday's prayer phrase form of meditation is the use of photos to help you focus and center yourself and be in God's presence. In fact the photo in yesterday's blog might be a good one to use.
To meditate using pictures, you need to find some photos, your own or online, that speak to you of God's presence and love. There are so many to chose from that it may be hard to pick one. If you are on Facebook, your friends no doubt post many pictures that are inspiring and some even have verses already written on them to help you start a meditation.
After you have a photo chosen, print it out large enough so you don't have to squint or blow it up on your computer or tablet screen. Then
Sit quietly with the picture
Enter into the scene
Look at where God is present 
Breathe slowly and allow yourself to just be still and quiet with the picture
If there is a verse or saying on the picture, reading that may give you another depth of meaning for the picture

The picture doesn't have to be of something 'religious'. This groundhog speaks to me of God's love. When I look at the peaceful fellow in the midst of the grassy field, I am drawn to consider how God blesses all creation with bounty. I find my frenetic mind slowing down as I look at him sitting calmly there, surveying his world. Breathing quietly I can imagine that I am sitting with him in the grass and there is nothing for miles around that can bother me or that I need to worry about. God is very present for me in this picture and reminds me, through the groundhog that God loves me more "than the grass which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the oven." 
Try finding a picture yourself and sit with the image to see what God is saying to you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prayer Phrases

I've titled this 'prayer phrases' because the term 'mantra' confuses some people. These are short, spoken, repetitive verses or prayers that calm our souls and draw us "deeper in and higher up" as CS Lewis says in the Last Battle. As you slowly and prayerfully repeat the phrase or mantra, you are able to let go of the outside worries and by concentrating on the words allow the world to recede into the background.
Mantras are often used as part of a 'Centering prayer' discipline, but they can also be used to calm your troubled soul when the busy-ness around gets to be overwhelming or when you just need to seek God's quiet and be in God's presence.

Some commonly used phrases are:
Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
Jesus Christ come and meet my deepest need.
Here I am Lord, send me. 
If none of these phrases catches your eye and heart, glance at some of the antiphons in the prayer book, esp. in Morning and Evening Prayer or chose a line of a favorite psalm. The important thing is that whatever phrase you choose is short and speaks to your heart and soul.
Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Start repeating the phrase slowly-breathing in on the first part of the verse and out on the second (or whatever rhythm feels comfortable to you). Continue to breathe and say the words gradually relaxing and letting go of any thoughts that sneak in to distract you. Keep it up as long as you can, or at least until you find some measure of quiet in your soul.
I find this a wonderfully relaxing way to end the day-and if you doze off-you are resting in God's arms. What better place to sleep?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Prayer Time Capsule

Lent is the perfect time to make a Prayer Time Capsule. What is that, you ask? It is noting some prayer promises and putting them away for a certain amount of time before reviewing them to see if you fulfilled them.
Write down the prayer promises and disciplines you plan to keep for the rest of Lent. Maybe you are going to use the 5-Finger Prayer model from Friday's post every day to remind you to pray for people. Perhaps you have taken on saying one of the daily offices each day in Lent or you are praying through the Psalms or the Lord's Prayer as suggested in earlier posts.
Whatever your prayer disciplines are, write them down and put them away until the end of Lent. You can use an envelope or something nicer like a little wooden box if you have one. Some of us have prayer box necklaces which offer the perfect place to put the prayer promises. If you are crafty, you can make a cute little box to put your prayers in.


Writing down your prayer discipline helps internalize them and as Proverbs 3:3 says you will find, "love and faithfulness [will] never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."
A Prayer Time Capsule can also be used to save prayer requests for some special needs, for discernment or healing or guidance, etc. Write them down, put them away, and in a month or year or other time frame-open your capsule and see what results have come from your prayers.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

5 Fingers

We've been looking at a wide variety of prayer aids from the Lord's Prayer to ready made prayers found in places like the Book of Common Prayer. Prayer aid acronyms like ACTS and TSP are good reminders of the elements of prayers. Yesterday's post suggested using post-it notes as a way to keep aware of prayer requests and thanksgivings throughout the day. Arrow prayers are a type of swift prayer that you can pray in any situation, even (maybe esp.) when you are in the middle of something busy or intense. 
Another way to remember to pray when you are busy is to simply look at your own hand! Each finger is a reminder of a prayer need:
Your thumb is for those far away and in need of prayer
Your pointer finger is for our leaders (priests, pastors, teachers, ministry leaders, etc.)
The second finger, being the longest one, is for those who have responsibility or power
Your ring finger reminds us to pray for those we love
The pinky is for the week, ill, helpless, etc.
Lastly, the palm of your hand is for offering yourself to and for and as God's hands to the world.

St. Teresa of Avila tells us clearly:


Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Post It Notes

What do those little yellow or pastel or bright colored sticky note pads have to do with prayer, you might ask? Actually they are a wonderful prayer aid. We are all used to jotting notes on them to remind us to 'pick up the laundry' or 'take the cat to the vet' or 'return book to Mary'.

They are just as handy to jot down prayers or thanksgivings during the day. Carry a small pad of them with you. When you hear about something that needs prayer, say a quick arrow prayer (see March 1) and then jot it down for more prayer attention later. If you remember something that makes you especially thankful, jot it down for rejoicing, too.

Keep track of your prayers for a week this way and you might begin to see a trend in the things and people you pray for. You might notice that you are offering more thanksgivings, too because you are more aware of things to be thankful for because you are writing them down! 

If you are someone who is totally paper-free, you can do the same thing on your i-pad or note pad on your phone, but there is something about the tangible effort of writing the prayer or thanksgiving on a piece of paper. Plus you can stick the note up on your computer or bulletin board or refrigerator as a reminder.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Arrows to Heaven

Paul advises us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:16). That can sometimes be hard to do if we are in the midst of a busy day. A while ago, a priest introduced me to what he called "Arrow Prayers". These are just perfect for those hectic days when it seems that you cannot fit a prayer in anywhere, but when you really NEED to pray because there is someone on the phone who is contentious or the baby won't stop crying and you have to get out the door.

An arrow prayer is a quick prayer shot up to heaven. "God please help this person on the phone." "Lord help me to be more patient." "Please, dear God, help me to be kind even though I'm tired." These are some kinds of quick little arrow prayers. They can help us refocus on WHO is really important and in charge when we are feeling stressed.

Of course, there is the poem "The Difference" that is a perfect reminder that we need to start each day with prayer. No matter how busy and hectic it may end up being, if we've laid the foundation with some quiet time, it will be easier to shoot off that Arrow Prayer.


The Difference
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
'Why doesn't God help me?' 'I wondered.'
He answered, 'You didn't ask.'

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, grey and bleak;
I wondered why God didn't show me,
He said, 'You didn't seek.'

I tried to come into God's presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
'My child, you didn't knock.'

I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish,
That I had to take time to pray.
Anonymous