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Praying in the Chaos

by Fr. Jack King

Life with a New Baby

Last Fall my wife gave birth to our second child, a son. I’ve heard varied experiences from parents about the changes a second child brings. Some don’t notice much change from one child to two while others who feel the house turned upside down as soon as the newborn came home in the car seat. For us, there’s a definite change in daily rhythm. Or more accurately, nightly arrhythmia.

As our son figures out his days and nights, my morning and evening routine has changed a great deal. That means my customary time for daily prayer has been replaced by helping my wife with our children’s needs: soothing a fussy child, changing his diapers, or helping Emily with other immediate needs around the house. Over the next several months, I’ll find my new rhythm, but it will be a while before that comes. But that’s too long to postpone a prayer life.

There are many other times in our lives when we are exhausted, squeezed for time, or just worn out.  In those times, we need inspiration to pray throughout the day. Sentence prayers make that possible.

A Tradition of Short Prayers

The Way of a Pilgrim, written by an anonymous Russian pilgrim in the 19th century, chronicles one man’s spiritual journey to faithfully ‘pray without ceasing.’ The answer to that challenge was the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ Over and over again throughout the day, this pilgrim prays ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’ in all situations.

The desert fathers of early Christianity derived this prayer from the Gospel story when a man cried out to Jesus for healing.  Since the early centuries of our faith, this seven word prayer has centered believers in the presence of God in any and all situations. These seven words are a gift to parents to shape and order their days with their children, especially when all around them is disorder and chaos.

Praying the Jesus Prayer doesn’t put the dishes away, but it helps me hear the voice of God in the place of exhaustion. aling. Since the early centuries of our faith, this seven word prayer has centered believers in the presence of God in any and all situations. These seven words are a gift to parents to shape and order their days with their children, especially when all around them is disorder and chaos.

St. Francis de Sales is a strong advocate of several sentence prayers in his book, Treatise on the Love of God. ‘Lord, I am yours and You are mine.’ ‘Come Lord Jesus, draw me to yourself.’ And the Psalms are a great source of brief prayers, too. To conform every activity in worship, we may simply pray this verse over and over: ‘Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.’ These simple prayers protect us from forgetting the Lord when the demands are great upon us.

I believe designated time for personal, uninterrupted worship is one of the greatest priorities for individuals within a family. But drawing near to Christ with brief sentence prayers in a time of crisis or chaos is abiding in his love all the same.

Pray Where You Are

St. Jane de Chantal said, ‘The essence of prayer is not always in being on one’s knees, but in keeping our will united to God’s no matter what happens.’ And we know what God’s will is in all things: to love Him supremely and love our neighbor as ourselves. To love one’s closest little neighbors—one’s children—and one’s most beloved neighbor—one’s spouse—we need prayers that will sustain us throughout the day. These sentence prayers keep us tethered to the love of God. Even when the dishes pile high and the toys clutter a room that was just cleaned an hour ago.

(The Rev’d) Jack King is Rector of Church of the Apostles, Knoxville. This article was adapted for use here from his blog at sacramentalsightings.blogspot.com.

Knowing the Mystery of the Gospel

By Josh Hall

It’s one thing to know what the gospel is and understand it intellectually, but it’s a profound mystery how it gets down deep inside of our hearts, the inner man. This is the mystery of the gospel.

I believe the Holy Spirit is doing this work, and He’s using gospel proclaiming churches to do it.  I feel this sanctification every Sunday morning. Somehow, after the service is over, I know the gospel better; that is, I know Jesus better.

I came into church Sunday (in a state all too common lately) feeling burdened. I think I understand myself well enough to know largely why, stemming mainly from worldly idolatries common to many of us.  These flared up because of life circumstances not going my way. Depression tends to exhume itself during these times and all too easily squashes the Truth that I know in my mind and heart. I end up forgetting about all of it and function in a state of self-willed dependence.

I know what the gospel is on Wednesday the same as I did on Sunday afternoon — but for some reason I don’t know it like I do on Sunday. This mystery of knowing is what I experience at the Village Church every week.

What got to me first this past week was the Old Testament reading. It was Lamentations 3:19-26:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,

the wormwood and the gall!

My soul continually remembers it

and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

There simply could not have been a more poignant 6 sentences in all of language itself that more appropriately spoke to me personally in that moment, and continues to do as I write this.

Next, we sang “In Christ alone, my hope is found.” For someone who has lost hope, these are life giving words.

And then Rev. Curt Benham preached on 1 Timothy 3:14-16, “great indeed is the mystery of godliness.” He spoke about the reality of our forgiveness, and how our godliness is not wrapped up in ourselves, but in Jesus, and knowing this deep in our hearts, changes us. He talked about addiction, and how it’s a perfect picture of what it means to be a sinner. Maybe I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m certainly addicted to finding my identity in having a particular status in the work-world, whatever I define that to be. Unless I feel like I’m succeeding in the work I want to succeed in, I believe I’m worthless. I walked in Sunday morning hopeless — but I walked out mysteriously changed.

As the Apostle Peter wrote, my sinful heart week after week “returns to its own vomit” (2 Peter 2:22). But thanks be to God for a church that offers me the Feast (the bread and wine), is honest about my condition, and tells me the Good News.

God has simply ordained this church as a delivery system of his love in grace to my soul.

The Village Church, Vinings, Georgia, is a partner church of ADOTS. www.villagechurchvinings.org

From the Bishop’s Heart: Christmas Joy

Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto us a child is born (Lk.3:10).

bishop_foley_preaching_smallGreat joy for all people??

As you and I gather with friends and family to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I truly hope you have a joy-filled and meaningful Christmas.
This is one of my favorite times of the year – remembering Jesus’ birth, worship and praise of God on Christmas Eve, being with family, giving gifts, singing carols, and enjoying the creative decorations. And yet, for many people this Christmas will be a very painful time of year.

This Christmas I want to ask you to look around you for those to whom this time of year is a difficult time of year.

Since last Christmas, some people have lost loved-ones – a spouse, a parent, a child, a good friend. Since last Christmas some people have gone through divorce, or have lost a job, or now have an estranged relationship. Since last Christmas some people are undergoing serious treatment for cancer or other disease which threatens their very life. For many of these people, Christmas will be very painful and lonely.

Christmas for many people is a time of gathering with relatives who they don’t really like to be around, or it is a time of not being able to gather with family because of broken relationships and family history. For many of these people, Christmas will be very painful and lonely.

Pray for them asking God to bless them with the awareness of His Presence.

Ask the Lord if you should do something for them or say something to them. It might be as simple as just giving them a hug. It might be inviting them over for a meal. It might be some means of conveying how much you value them. It might be filling up their car with gas as a Christmas gift. It might be watching the kids so they can have a night off. It might be taking them to a movie. Ask the Lord and He will show you.

“Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto us a child is born” (Lk.3:10). Yes, it is a time of great joy for all people.

Let’s do our part in bringing this reality to others.

May you have a wonderful and Christ-filled Christmas Season, and may your new year be filled with the goodness of God!

Merry Christmas!

Bishop Foley

O Come Let Us Adore Him

By Fr. Doug Floyd, Knoxville, Tennessee

The grace of God appears like an unexpected star on an uneventful night. Suddenly, light streams shower from the black sky, and you step forward into the dawn of a coming day.

The story of the nativity is the story of nighttime surprise. Gabriel greets an unsuspecting Mary with the Word that brings new birth. Joseph’s dream awakens him to father the son of his Father above. The lonely shepherds behold a company of angels inviting them to come and see the Glory of God bursting out of heavens and into the earth. The heavenly drama beckons a few stargazers to leave behind an ancient world and behold the future made present.

These stories illumine the ground upon which we tread. Each year we revisit Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Wise Men, and one day we might just realize we’re in the middle of the same story.

Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are not waiting for an invitation to Bethlehem. They do not anticipate God’s Word of favor to call them forth. Each of them are simply living their lives in the midst of countless

other lives and countless other stories. They are not engaged in some heroic work; they are not calling down fire from heaven; they have no particular traits that will cause them to rise above the tapestry of history. Like their mothers and fathers before them, they were born, would live and eventually die with no particular lasting glory.

Suddenly, their common life is interrupted with a glory that exceeds the grasp of earthly minds. Suddenly God’s Word appears like favor, like new birth, like a sword of love that pierces the heart. Suddenly the light of morning grace awakens them, calls them to Bethlehem, and invites them to behold a new Day.

O come let us adore Him.

His glorious Word that sustains every living thing sounds in the cry of that baby in the manger. Halted in their journeys by this tiny vision of divine glory, the travelers can do nothing but worship. No words, no actions, no human ingenuity can add to the moment.

O come let us adore Him.

Adore Him.

Jesus comes to dwell among us. Jesus comes to reveal the Father. Jesus comes to save His people from their sins. He enters history at a particular point in time through the womb of Mary. Yet, by His Spirit, He remains in history and continues to bring the Word of life to each of us.

Adore Him.

And all I can do is worship him.

The wondrous invitation to Bethlehem comes without warning and without expectation. In the middle of my dark night, His love surprised me like a sunrise casting its gentle glow over the surface of a black lake. In just a moment, the dark rippling water glowed with yellows and oranges and reds and blues and greens. The dawn overtook the night, and I stepped into the first light of a new day.

O come let us adore Him. Adore Him. Adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Doug is Associate Rector at Apostles, Knoxville.  He writes at www.douglasfloyd.com.
Painting: ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622