A Sunday Prayer - courtesy of Paul?

Some scholars dispute the authorship of the letter to the Ephesians - based largely on style of writing and emphasis. Both of these are not typical of Paul and have led some academics to believe in the pseudonymous authorship of this letter - also of Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and the Pastoral letters (Timothy and Titus).

Perhaps that surprises you, but it was a relatively common ancient practice to attribute written material to a certain 'school' of thought by saying that it was by x,y or z. The intention was not necessarily to deceive but to give credit to the person attributed. If these epistles were not written by Paul, then it was probably known as such by the early church - although we have no written evidence of this.

But whatever your view on the authorship of Ephesians, it remains a beloved part of the canon of our scriptures. In chapter 3 there is a beautiful prayer that the author addressed to God. Very famous words, but I am about to bastardise them! It was written in the second person plural to the Christians in the church at Ephesus, but if you change the you's to I's it reads as a very personal prayer.

Why not take a few quiet moments to commune with God and speak these words?


Ephesians 3:14-21 - modifiedPicture from Wikipedia

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.
I pray that I may be strengthened in my inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith, as I am being rooted and grounded in love.
I pray that I may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that I may be filled with the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than I can imagine, to him be glory forever and ever.
Amen.



Thanks be to God for the word.

And may you be rooted and grounded in the deep soil of God's love, as Christ dwells in you - within your trunk, your leaves, your fruit - throughout your being.

God's blessing be upon you.

In the eleventh century Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote this prayer. It is a beautiful call to prayer which you can use in your own time of quiet meditation.

After reading the prayer, I suggest that you take the last two lines (or part of them) and use those words reflectively. Perhaps repeating them in time with your breathing - to allow yourself to move into a closer awareness of God - the God who surrounds and sustains you even when you are not conscious of the divine presence.


Come now, little one,
turn aside for a while
from your daily employment,
escape for a moment
from the tumult of your thoughts.
Put aside your weighty cares,
let your burdensome distractions wait,
free yourself awhile for God
and rest awhile in him.
Enter the inner chamber of your soul,
shut out everything except God
and that which can help you in seeking him.
And when you have shut the door, seek God.

Now, my whole heart, say to God,
'I seek your face, Lord,
it is your face I seek.'


Sometimes I imagine my inner life as a house - a house in which I dwell and in which God enters and lives alongside me. The doors, the windows, the view, are all significant to me. Anselm's words 'enter the inner chamber of your soul', put me in mind of this prayer picture I sometimes use. Perhaps some of you also pray like this occasionally?

If you are interested, I have written more about Anselm here.

The words are modified from the prayer in the Lion book, A Prayer Treasury.
 

Last Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Monday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. What hinders your own hospitality?
2. Is the place where you live hospitable to
strangers?
3. What difference does the church make?
4. Whose hospitality has touched you deeply?

THE WORD
Gen 18:1-8; Psalm 146; Romans 14:17-19;
Luke 24:41-48 – Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures

FOCUS: Have you anything here to eat?
(Luke 24:41)

REFLECTION
Fasting is fine,
focusing minds;
feasting is great,
sharing the meat.
Fasting is personal,
quite self-referral;
feasting is communal
where spirits meet.
Loving in giving,
donating approval,
needs of the body
attended with grace.
Each one important,
the first and the least,
all must be welcome
and all have a place.

THE WORLD
God of the open hand,
in whom all find a welcome:
help us to
feed the hungry,
give refreshment to the thirsty,
provide covering for the naked,
care for the sick,
extend a hand of friendship to the
isolated,
as fellow pilgrims of Love’s embrace.

Day 7 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Sunday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. How do you cope with your own fears and doubts?
2. How might you be a cause of fear and anxiety
for others?
3. How may Christian communities encourage
one another in faith and hope?

THE WORD
Job 19:23-27; Psalm 63;Acts 3:1-10;
Luke 24: 36-40 - The disciples were startled and terrified

FOCUS: Why are you frightened, and why do
doubts arise in your hearts?
(Luke 24:36-40)

REFLECTION
We shrink life to fit,
and hope is drained
and trust is strained,
and doubt dominates.
It is not that we don’t see,
it is precisely that we do:
that death does not lay to rest
the troublesome truth of faith.
And in the chaos Christ’s rising brings,
terror is not ghostly discomfort,
but worldly disquiet,
that now it all changes:
hope is healing
but a heartache too,
and trust costs lives.

THE WORLD
God our comfort and guide,
when our doubts are deepest
and our fears are darkest,
you are there,
though our clouded perception may miss your
presence.
Make us each secure and supportive,
atune to the sensitivities of others,
that we may be encouraged in faith and hope
on our journey to you.

Day 6 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Saturday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. What are the passages of Scripture that mean
most to you?
2. Who or what in your life makes your heart
burn with a passion for the gospel and a desire
to give witness to Christ?
3. Which Biblical passages have helped you to
understand more fully the witness of other
Christians?

THE WORD
Isaiah 55:10; Psalm 119:17-40; 2 Timothy 3:14-17;
Luke 24.28-35 – Jesus opens the Scriptures for two travellers

FOCUS
Were not our hearts burning within us
while he was talking to us on the road,
while he was opening the scriptures to us?
(Luke 24:28-35)

REFLECTION
The Word was made flesh and words about the
Word made print: mere shapes on a page, potent
symbols and signs of God’s purpose.
And, balanced by bread broken before them,
travellers, burned by digestion of the words,
saw and understood.
Words and bread, minds and hearts:
twin pillars of persuasion, of staggering truth,
turning stumbling travellers into delighted
disciples, tripping back to share their joy.

THE WORLD
God, we praise and thank you for your saving
Word reaching out to us through the Sacred
Scriptures.
We thank you, too, for the brothers and sisters with
whom we share your Word and discover together
the abundance of your love.
We pray for the light of your Holy Spirit, so that
your Word may lead and direct us into the unity
you will for the sake of the world.
God, we pray for troubled travellers:
disappointed by disunity, devastated by loss,
submerged in sorrow, fearful of the future,
needing hope.

Day 5 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Friday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. How does the suffering of people you know
affect you?
2. How has your own experience of suffering
affected your faith?
3. How do reports of the suffering, oppression
and poverty of people you don’t know affect
your life?
4. How does Jesus bring hope for those who
suffer?

THE WORD
Isaiah 50.5-9; Psalm 124; Romans 8.35-39;
Luke 24:25-27 How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe

FOCUS: Was it not necessary that the Messiah
should suffer?
(Luke 24: 26)

REFLECTION
Words known from childhood,
Moses and prophets,
marks of identity,
source of security,
now burst with new meaning.
Was it not necessary?
Unavoidable?
Suffering and glory
inseparable;
life lost for life gained
and all our pain
redeemed in his rising.

THE WORLD
God, we praise you for the faithfulness of Jesus,
embracing us through the suffering of the cross
and drawing us deep into your amazing love.
We thank you that we have a Suffering Saviour
who has known betrayal, persecution and injustice;
who has endured torture of body and mind.
We thank you for all whose suffering has reflected
your grace and dignity.
We pray, O God, for all who suffer: those who feel
forsaken, those who bravely struggle on and those
who simply want it to end.

Day 4 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Thursday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. Who has inspired your faith?
2. What is it in your faith that inspires you each
day?
3. How has your history shaped you?
4. How can you pass on the good things of your
tradition?

THE WORD
Deuteronomy 6.3-9; Psalm 34; Acts 4,32-35;
Luke 24: 19-27 – He opened the
Scriptures to them.

FOCUS: What things?

REFLECTION
The past is not entirely past
but flows unseen; a hidden stream,
life-giving source in barren seasons
yet sometimes, sadly, trapped in stagnant pools.
When broken dreams disorientate disciples,
leaving them orphaned from meaning and hope,
there comes, afresh, traditions transforming truth
to reassemble God’s life-giving pattern.
Moses and the prophets heard long ago
the promise of one who was yet to come,
in whose life and death and resurrection
earth and heaven were reconciled as one.

THE WORLD
Grant us, O Living and Redeeming Lord,
the eyes to see into and beyond our traditions.
Give us the gift of discernment
so we can pass to each other those things
which build up your Body, which is your Church.
Give me eyes to see,
and ears to hear your voice of love.
Lead me so to act each day
that I may display the Unity which is in your
Church and World.
God, we pray for overwhelmed souls
broken by shattering events,
dismayed by fading dreams,
grieving and grasping in equal measure.
May salvation’s story in Jesus Christ be their
strength and song.

Day 3 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010 - Wednesday

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. When and in what ways are you aware of
God’s presence?
2. Are you aware of today’s global celebrations
and tragedies, and how do you respond to
these in your daily life?
3. Is there something more that you or
your church could do to respond to these
situations?

THE WORD
1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 23; Acts 8:26-40;
Luke 24:13-19a –Jesus, the unrecognised companion on the road

FOCUS: Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem
who does not know the things that have
taken place there in these days?
(Luke 24: 18)

REFLECTION
Walking the rough road
back from Jerusalem,
the air heavy with our disappointment,
with sadness, loss, regret.
(“Where is the one who should redeem Israel?”)
We were aware of the stranger
matching his footsteps to our own.
How could we guess
that this unrecognised companion
would yet reveal himself
in such a simple action
as the sharing of a loaf of bread?

THE WORLD
Lord Jesus,
you encounter us
and walk alongside us in everyday life.
We pray for the grace to be aware of your loving
presence
and of all that you offer us,
so that we may give greater witness
to our faith and trust in you.
God we walk the same road as those from whom
the incidents of history have divided us.
Draw us ever closer,
so that together we may reflect the unity
for which your son prayed.

Day 2 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. Have you ever been drawn into the stories of others?
2. Has there been an occasion when you were able to share a story of faith?
3. Where can we find the “Gospel Gossiped” using modern communications?

THE WORD
Jeremiah 1:4-8;
Psalm 98;
Acts 14:21-23;
Luke 24:13-17a - The Road to Emmaus

FOCUS: What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?
(Luke 24: 17)

REFLECTION
Your story encompasses mine:
all my messy-worded-meanings,
mis-spellings,
crossings out and alterations.
Somehow your story crafts mine,
erasing what I thought was indelible,
weaving your golden threads
through my many-worded-meanings,
making my life a miracle
of your mercy and your grace.

THE WORLD
Author of life and perfect conversation,
we travel life’s journey,
sharing our stories,
so often not knowing you walk with us.
Thank you, for you are always there,
listening to our questions
and giving your answers,
Ask us your questions
and guide us into your Truth.

Day 1 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010

These resources can be found at the Churches Together website.

YOU
1. How do you and your church celebrate life?
2. How might others learn through you that Christ is alive?
3. In what ways do you feel you are growing more Christ-like, and in what ways do you feel you are not?

THE WORD
Genesis 1:1. 26-31,
Psalm 104:1-24,
1 Corinthians 15:12-20,
Luke 24:1-5 – The resurrection is revealed to the women first.

FOCUS: Why do you look for the living among
the dead?
(Luke 24: 5)

REFLECTION
A time to mourn,
and not to celebrate;
to anoint lovingly
the tortured corpse
of a beloved master.
Who are the shining strangers?
Resurrection dawns
at the pit of deepest despair;
at the end of a restless night,
fear of what was to come,
oil and spices,
women in tears,
blurred vision and leaden-like limbs.
Morning dawns,
light breaks through,
awesome truth,
the world is changed,
a penny drops.

THE WORLD
O God, who created us out of your love
and who longs for love to flourish,
we pray for those whose spirits are grieved,
whose hope has died,
enduring the gloom of half light
and longing for morning to come.

Methinks it's time for some more lectio!

If you are new to Lectio Divina - which is another name for 'holy reading', then you can get a more detailed explanation in this article.

Remember that lectio is not a bible study but a way of 'praying the scriptures'. Read the passage a few times s-l-o-w-l-y, then allow the part of the passage (a word, phrase or sentence) that speaks to you the most to move through your being. If it were chocolate, you would be allowing it to melt slowly in your mouth with your eyes closed, the sensation spreading through you!

This is a beautiful passage - words that Jesus spoke to his disciples before his imminent death. And words that he speaks to us, if we have listening hearts.

Enjoy!


John 14:23-27

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.


Afterwards, have a conversation with God about your time of prayer. If you keep a journal, you might want to follow that with a journal entry.

May God's blessing be on you.

This is a beautiful song that can be used privately to begin a time of personal worship and/or meditation. It's also just as useful if you are leading a quiet day or retreat - helping to pull attention away from our surroundings and the everyday cares and worries buzzing around in our heads and open us to the inner movement of the Holy Spirit.

It is written by Margaret Rizza, and is featured on her CD Fountain of Life.

You will find the words of the song below the video clip.





Silent, surrendered
Silent, surrendered, calm and still,
open to the word of God.
Heart humbled to his will,
offered is the servant of God.

Text: Pamela Hayes


Pictures of Christ

Images of Jesus can evoke all sorts of feelings - from annoyance at trying to capture something that is unknowable, through dislike and pleasure, to a spirit of worship and praise. Whatever your reaction, it is sometimes instructive to look at the images that others have made in order to gain an insight into their thinking and understanding.

An earlier post looks at some African pictures of Jesus. If you missed it you can find the pictures here: African Pictures of Christ

The excellent rejesus website has an interesting collection of different faces of Jesus - if you are interested, they are here: Faces of Jesus

Below are one or two examples:






If you like to use modern images in worship then you might be interested in this site:
Imagebank

Let's have an Epiphany!

Wikipedia gives the following top two definitions of 'Epiphany':

Epiphany (holiday), a Christian holiday on January 6 celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus
Epiphany (feeling), the sudden realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something

The word comes from the Greek for "to manifest" or "to show". At Epiphany, we in the Western Churches acknowledge our understanding - our 'seeing' - of Jesus as 'God made man' - the manifestation of the deity in the form of a human being.

In particular, we focus this understanding on the visit of the Magi (wise men) to Jesus at Bethlehem. The Magi, in the story told in Matthew's gospel, represent the whole of humanity - as opposed to just the Jewish world. They came, saw and acknowledged the Christ-child, paying him homage and giving gifts, demonstrating that this child was given for the benefit of the whole world.

So what will we 'see' at this time? The wonder of 'God made man'? The intersection of God's mercy with human frailty at a moment in time?

Here are some words by TS Eliot from The Rock for you to reflect on...


Waste and void. Waste and void. And darkness on the face
of the deep.

Then came at a predetermined moment,
a moment in time and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history:
transecting, bisecting the world of time,
a moment in time, but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment:
for without the meaning there is no time,
and that moment in time gave the meaning.
Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,
Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being.

TS Eliot 1934


Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Three Wise Man I by Gisela Ueberall