One of my favourite prayers in the Communion liturgy is the prayer for purity(called the prayer of preparation) that we say at the beginning. It never fails to pull my attention from the busy-ness of my life into a place of wanting (not always succeeding) to concentrate on God and to open myself to worship.

Here it is from Common Worship:


Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

To me it seems to fall into three blocks, after the opening acknowledgment of the mightiness of God:
to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden


cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit


that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;


I often feel that I would love to have a thirty second pause after each block to meditate on the words.

Perhaps you might like to try that now - but maybe, as you will be using it individually and not for corporate worship, you could extend the time to two or three minutes.

The thought of God cleansing my heart takes my breath away.
Does anybody else love this prayer?

I rather like this Indonesian song produced by the Jesuits.


Tuhan kasihanilah kami - Lord, have mercy
Kristus kasihanilah kami - Christ have mercy
Tuhan kasihanilah kami - Lord, have mercy



The Jesus prayer comes directly from the Bible. In various encounters with Jesus people used the phrase, 'Have mercy on me'. What an amazing thing to say to somebody - because it implies that the speaker truly believes that the hearer has the capacity and the will to look on them with compassion and acceptance - yes, and even forgiveness.

Below is a story that Jesus told about two men:


From Luke 18

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’


In the story the tax collector says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
Words that we all need to say.

The Jesus Prayer, also called the Prayer of the Heart, is a very short, simple prayer. The classical form of the Jesus prayer is:


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


Shorter alternatives include:


Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Lord Jesus, have mercy.


There are different ways that we can use the Jesus Prayer:


  • In time that we set aside for God - our personal prayer time

  • To help us through arduous or repetitive tasks

  • When we are upset or under stress


  • In our personal prayer time it can be used as a form of steadying, repetitive prayer to still our hearts and bring us to a place of greater communion with God.

    Here is a useful description of how it might be used that way from www.prayerguide.org.uk


    As you pray the prayer, simply recite it over and over again, and you will discover three levels of prayer, first described by the 19th C. Russian spiritual teacher, Theophan. The prayer begins as words, then as we recite it further, we move onto pray the prayer as our own, owning the thoughts and expression of the prayer. Finally, our hearts take over the prayer, where the prayer is no longer a series of words and concepts, but gives way to a touching of our Spirit with God's Spirit.


    If you use this prayer (and some may find this sort of prayer simply not for them) then if you are alone you might try saying the prayer out loud rather than silently. It can be a way of helping with distracting thoughts.

    Jesus taught us to ask in his name:

    "Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full." John 16:23


    When we use the Jesus Prayer we are asking directly in his name, acknowledging in the first part the Lordship and divinity of Christ and in the second our own need and impotence.

    May God bless you as you pray.



    Today, 20th July 2009, is the 40th anniversary of the first communion on the moon.

    Bosco Peters writes about it in his blog - Liturgy.

    On the right is a picture of a replica of Buzz Aldrin's chalice, the original of which is still held by Webster Presbyterian Church in the United States.

    Perhaps the title of this post seems a bit of a paradox. After all, the only real way to deepen prayer is to engage in it - to commit time and effort - to give God the first place in our lives. Reading about prayer is not the same as praying - but, having said that, there is some useful reading we can do to help us on our way and to point us in new directions when our prayer life has become a little, how shall we say, stale!

    If you found Deepening Prayer - 1 helpful, then I would like to recommend a little book that I have found useful and continue to find useful whenever I dip into it. It is called Coming to God in the Stillness and is by a Dutch missionary called Jim Borst.

    It is a book in two parts - the first part describing a method of contemplative prayer, and the second part answering such questions as:

    • What is contemplation?
    • What does contemplation achieve?
    • How do I deal with distractions?

    Jim describes contemplative prayer as a prayer of the heart when the lips and the mind come to rest.

    If you want to venture into this form of prayer then this is a very useful book to have on your shelf. If not, don't worry, God has made such an infinite rich variety of life in the world - if we all looked the same it would be very boring and if we all prayed the same I'm sure God would find it equally boring!!

    Blessings upon you as you grow in prayer.

    Picture from www.allposters.co.uk




    THE SIMPLE PATH


    The fruit of silence is prayer.

    The fruit of prayer is faith.

    The fruit of faith is love.

    The fruit of love is service.

    The fruit of service is peace.


    Mother Teresa

    The next few posts will be a short series about deepening our prayer lives. I guess that is something we would all like to do - at whatever point in our journey we are. And there is something about it that seems to be, relatively consistently, difficult - you have only to read the writings of the early Fathers of the Church to see that. This prayer of Anselm shows that.

    So where shall we start? Well, a useful place to begin would be in a place of stillness. Stillness! Now that's something that is in rare supply in our busy world. So how do we go about finding some of it?

    Firstly, we have to want it. If we don't, then we won't be motivated to seek it out. I rather like this quote of D H Lawrence:

    One's action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere rushing on.
    We could change that to be:
    One's prayer ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be mere prattling on!

    Now an achieved stillness implies some effort - and to make an effort, you have to be motivated. So perhaps it would be helpful to look into our hearts and ask ourselves - honestly - 'Is deepening my prayer life really a priority to me? Am I prepared to put some effort into drawing closer to God?' If the answer to these questions is 'Yes', then we have our reason to work at achieving stillness - because stillness is such an excellent way into prayer.

    Next, let's look at what would be useful practical prerequisites. We need to find a place where we can be still and we need to put aside some time when we can be still. Not always easy - but if the motivation is there, then we'll find them somehow.

    Having found our place and some time, where to next? If you're like me your mind will usually be busy with a hundred and one things and the list of to-do jobs will be lying in wait to mug you at the first opportunity. What I need at this moment is attentiveness. That might seem contradictory, but it's really not.

    My first attentiveness needs to be to my body. To let go of the tensions that are embracing it. We all keep our tension in different ways within our body - mine is in my neck and shoulders. So I pay attention to my neck and shoulders and focus on relaxing the muscles there. Then, I find that focussing on relaxing the muscles of my face has a very 'releasing' feeling. I let the tension and stress flow away.

    My second attentiveness needs to be to my mind - to all those buzzing thoughts. In Psalm 46 we are exhorted to 'Be still, and know that I am God!' So, why not use the words to help? As I let the tensions slowly release, I am attentive to my breathing and allow it to steady to a natural rhythm. Then on the in-breath say, 'Be' and on the out-breath, 'still'. Or you might prefer 'Be still' / 'Know God' or 'Know me'. Being attentive to my breathing allows my mind to become more quiet and slowly, instead of saying 'Be still', I find that I am becoming still.

    Now, my third attentiveness is to God. As my body and mind still, then my focus can move away from myself and towards the source of my being. When you are in love, you can sit and be still with the loved one for long periods of time - looking deeply into their eyes, simply enjoying their presence, smiling at them. That is what this third attentiveness is about. Being in loving, still presence with God. Letting your love flow out towards your maker. Perhaps wrapped in spiritual smiles - or perhaps more serious. Simply loving and being loved.

    If you use this method of prayer, then after the third attentiveness (which may initially seem a very short time but with practice will lengthen), simply talk to God - about how wonderful God is, about the ups and downs of your day, about the ups and downs of praying.

    And if you sometimes fall asleep, don't worry about it! You're in good company!

    This short prayer by the philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard is a corker!


    Prayer of Soren Kierkegaard

    Lord, give us weak eyes for things, which are of no account, and clear eyes for all your truth.


    Picture from www.allposters.co.uk