Monthly Archives: March 2017

Slowly but Surely

Friday 31st March
Ephesians 2:20
Build on a firm foundation, with Christ Jesus the cornerstone

We build a life of prayer by steps and stages.
– Lorraine Kisley

About 18 months ago I began jogging again after many years.
One thing was clear from the first time I set out for a run
was that I was going to have to take it slowly!
The last time I had done any running was in my early 30’s
and now I was in my mid 50’s
it was going to take my body time to get used to it.
I bought an excellent book on running for beginners
that set out a planned schedule
that would eventually get you running for 45-60 minutes
but did it in steps and stages.
It began by a mixture of walking and jogging,
more walking than jogging;
then slowly but surely got you doing more jogging than walking
and finally jogging the whole thing.
Had I tried to run before I could walk
I would have failed miserably
and no doubt given up on the idea very quickly.
Building a life of prayer needs to be done slowly,
in steps and stages.
If we suddenly decide we are going to have the prayer life of a nun,
we will likely soon become disillusioned with the whole idea
and give up.
A foundation for prayer needs to be realistic and built up slowly,
adding little bits here and there over a period of time.
The structure of prayer we slowly build in to our day
becomes the trellis around which everything else grows and flows.

Trust in the Slow Work of God by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something,
something unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability,
and it may take a very long time.
Above all trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine dresser

Helping God Help Others

Thursday 30th March
1 Corinthians 10:3-4
And all ate the same spiritual food
and drank the same spiritual drink,
which was Christ.
Our prayer is food for God.
We also feed from the divine as we pray.
– Regina Ryan

Our life of prayer
is a means by which God feeds us with divine presence;
a means by which we open the channels
to receive what God longs to give us.
The Eucharist, in our tradition,
is the ultimate form of prayer for a Christian.
As we celebrate the Eucharist together
we enter into the deepest means of communion with God;
as we receive the gifts of bread and wine
we consume the bread of life and drink from the true vine.
It is the foundation of our life of prayer,
all other prayer flows from this.
But prayer is not simply about what God gives to us,
it is also about what we give to God.
As Regina Ryan tells us in the above quote,
our prayer is food for God;
God feeds off our prayer as much as we feed off God.
Faith is about relationship and relationships are two way encounters.
God does not stand in the distance, aloof from creation;
through Jesus, God chose to be at the heart of life
working with creation.
One spiritual teacher of our faith says
we are called to be tasty morsels for God;
our prayer is a tasty morsel that God uses
to feed the world with divine love and presence.
At one of our First Communion classes
one of the children when asked what prayer is said:
“Prayer is helping God to help others”.
That seems a pretty good definition of prayer to me.
A tasty morsel indeed.

You Are the Mystery by St. Augustine
You are the mystery
That is placed upon the Lord’s Table.
You receive the mystery that is yourself.
To that which you are, you will respond:

Christ has no Body but Yours by Teresa of Avila
Christ has nobody but yours
No hands and 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.

Darn Distractions!

Wednesday 29th March
Luke 1:13
The angel said to him:
Do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard
Those darn distractions; Bless them!
– Basil Pennington

Whatever form of prayer we practice
one thing that we all have to contend with is distractions.
Whether we are meditating, using a form of set prayers,
doing reflective reading, offering prayer,
doing something practical and creative,
or taking part in an act of worship
we are bound to be beset with distractions.
Our mind will wander, we will begin to day dream,
we will begin to ponder what we will have for dinner,
we will wonder whether or not we left the oven switched on;
we will suddenly begin to brood over something someone said,
or we said, or wish we hadn’t said,
or we will remember something we have forgotten to do.
The minute we stop and try to be still,
try to be quiet, try to be reflective, the distractions kick in.
It is perhaps distractions more than anything else
that make us believe we are no good at prayer.
Fr. Basil Pennington says that we should not worry about them,
but simply bless them as they arise,
and then gently bring our attention back to our prayer.
The 16th century spiritual master, Saint Francis de Sales, said
that even if we did nothing during our whole time of prayer
except bring our mind back
and place it once again into the Lord’s Presence,
it would be time well employed.
So don’t be discouraged by distractions.
When you mind wanders bless it, smile and offer it to God.
Don’t be afraid, your prayer has been heard.

Diary: Wednesday April 25th 2007

This morning I awake at 5.30am
and got up to meditate as I normally do.
I struggle.
I follow my breath and my mind wanders.
I repeat my mantra and my mind wanders.
I breathe and repeat my mantra; breathe and repeat my mantra.
“I’m getting there now”, I think. And realise I am thinking.
Back to the mantra.   Back to the breathing.
Just keep going.
“It’s not happening today. I might as well stop.”
No. Breathe. Repeat the mantra.
And so it continues.

Eventually it ends.
I shrug my shoulders. It’s one of those days.
I put the coffee machine on and go to shower.

The water is beautiful and refreshing.
The sensation of the shower gel is reviving.
I find myself smiling.

I go downstairs and smell the coffee
Such a holy smell
Such a divine taste.
And suddenly it strikes me
My time of meditation has not ended.

God is in the shower.
God is in the coffee.
God is in this moment.
Wednesday April 25th is a holy day.

I smile. I breathe. I say thank you.
And I wonder….
Would I have been aware of all this
if I had not struggled with my meditation?
Just a thought.

Just 5 Minutes

Tuesday 28th March
Mark 6:31
Jesus said to them:
Come away by yourselves to a quiet place
and rest a while.
In meditation we do not seek to think about God,
but be with God,to experience God
as the ground of our being.
– John Main

Meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea
and many I know find it difficult to get into.
We are all made differently and we all pray differently.
The old saying “pray as you can, not as you can’t” is very true;
if meditation is not our thing
then we should not feel guilty about not praying that way.
However, while it may not suit everyone
to pray for long periods in this way
I would still encourage you to meditate
just for a few moments every day,
just to be still and quiet before God for 5 minutes
can bring great benefits.
It gives us an opportunity to listen to what God is trying to say to us;
to simply be open to God’s presence
and sit with God in companionable silence.
And it is not always in those few minutes of quiet
that God’s communication comes through,
that may come out of the blue later in the day,
when we are busy doing other things.
But it comes through because we were willing
to pause for a few moments earlier in the day.
The time of meditation itself can be frustrating,
and we can spend the whole time fidgeting
and trying not to think about all the things we have to do.
That does not mean it has been a waste of time –
because we were willing to struggle with a little stillness and silence
the channels become open for God to speak to us in our daily activities.
Just a few moments each day spent in still,
companionable, silence with God
can reap a whole harvest of unseen rewards throughout the day.

The Womb of Silence – Unknown
Not in the whirlwind, not in the lightening,
Not in the strife of tongues;
Or in the jangling of subtle reasoning
Is He to be found;
But in the still small voice
Speaking in the womb of silence.
Therefore be silent.

Let the past be silent,
Let there be no regrets,
No brooding on past failures,
No bitterness, no judgement
Of oneself or others.
Let all be silent

Be still and know, Be still and look,
Let the eyes of the mind be closed;
That you may hear
What otherwise you would not hear,
That you may know
What otherwise you may not know.

Abandon yourself to Him in longing love,
Simply holding on to nothing but Him.
So you may enter the silence of eternity
And know the union of yourself in Him.

And if in the silence He does not answer
He is still there.
His silence is the silence of love.
Wait then in patience and submission,
It is good to wait in silence
For His coming.


Monday 27th March
Psalm 77:6
Let me remember my song; let me meditate in my heart

We don’t meditate to become good meditators,
we meditate to be more awake in our lives.
– Pema Chodron

The form of prayer that I feel most natural with is meditation.
When I say feel most natural with,
it does not mean to say I find it easy or comfortable,
I certainly do not,
there are times when it is hard work and a real struggle.
But it is the form of prayer that feels right for me
and I have practiced meditation now for many years.
I was actually first taught to meditate
by a Buddhist monk while I was in my early 20’s
and it changed my whole attitude to prayer.
Up to that point my way of praying had been very wordy,
a lot of talking and not much listening.
Learning to meditate
taught me about silence and stillness in prayer
which suited my personality well.
The method I was taught is much the same as I still use today:
to simply repeat a mantra
and be aware of my breathing in and breathing out.
While I was introduced to meditation by a Buddhist
I soon discovered that it was a rich part
of my own Christian tradition as well,
in fact the Buddhist monk who taught me
was also the person who introduced me to the Jesus Prayer.
My central form of prayer each day now is to simply sit quietly
and gently repeat my mantra:
Jesus, Christe, Eleison – and then breathe in and breathe out.
Try it today for just a few minutes.
Sit up straight, repeat a mantra, and be aware of your breath.

Pema Chodron writes:

When you meditate don’t worry about achieving.
Don’t worry about perfection.
Just be there in each moment as best you can.
When you realise your mind has wandered off again,
simply, very lightly acknowledge that, and begin again.
This light touch is the golden key.

Fix Attention on Things Yet Unseen

Saturday 25th March

2 Corinthians 4: 18
Fix your attention not on the things that are seen,
but on things that are unseen.

I’m going to look twice at you,
until I see the Christ in you,
looking through the eyes of love.
– Mike Scott

Prayer is about discovering the presence of God
in all situations, in all experiences, in all people.
Prayer is about looking long enough,
and hard enough, and open enough,
to see what at first glance can see easily pass us by.
As St Paul tells us in today’s Biblical verse,
prayer is about fixing our attention
not merely on what we see at first glance,
but on what lies just behind our initial vision,
to that which is at first unseen.
Prayer opens our eyes to the presence of God
in all situations, in all experiences, in all people.
Prayer does not change what we see,
it changes the way we see it.
Prayer does not necessarily change the situation
– it changes me.
When we cannot see Christ in the person we find difficult,
it is not because Christ is not present in that person,
it is because I am not seeing them through prayerful eyes,
through the eyes of love, through the eyes of the soul.
May we have the grace to learn to look prayerfully
and fix our attention not on the things that are initially seen,
but on that which is waiting to be seen.

Where I Wander – You! by Levi Yitzchak
Where I wander – You!
Where I ponder- You!
Only You everywhere, You, always You!
You, You, You,
When I am gladdened – You!
And when I am saddened – You!
Only You! Everywhere You!
You, You, You,
Sky is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, everywhere You!

My Boat is so Small!

Friday 24th March

Isaiah 54:10
Mountains may crumble and hills may be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.

Without remaining open to change,
we cannot remain open to life.
– Ram Dass

One of the marks of modern life is our desire to possess,
to see things as “mine”,
and for life to be the way that I want it to be.
Such desires are the cause of a great deal of our unhappiness,
because life does not work that way.
Life is constantly changing, moving, shifting;
and that which we seek to possess
is constantly slipping through our fingers.
Life is very rarely how “I” want it to be
– events, people, life will simply not play ball.
Living prayerfully is about relinquishing control,
understanding that life is not created to flow around me.
Living prayerfully is about me learning to flow
around and through life.
I love the prayer of the Breton fishermen:
“Lord, the sea is so vast and my boat is so small.”
It is a prayer that recognises the changing, moving,
shifting flow of life,
a prayer that recognises its vulnerability
and our need to place it into God’s hands.
At the same time it is a prayer that recognises
that life is a holy adventure, a wonderful journey
if only we can keep our eyes fixed upon God.
Prayer is our means of doing just that.

A prayer by Charles de Foucauld

 My Father I abandon myself to you
Do with me as you will.
Whatever you may do with me, I thank you.
I am prepared for anything, I accept everything,
provided your will is fulfilled in me and in all creatures.
I ask for nothing more, my God.
I place my soul into your hands;
I give it to you, my God, with all the love of my heart,
because I love you.
and for me it is a necessity of love, this gift of myself,
this placing of myself in your hands without reserve,
in boundless confidence, because you are my Father.

The Prayer of Helplessness

Thursday 23rd March
2 Corinthians 12:9
My grace is sufficient for you,
my power is made perfect in weakness
Prayer and helplessness are inseparable.
Only those who are helpless can truly pray
Your helplessness is your best prayer.
– Ole Hallesby

Yesterday I spoke of being called to prayer
when we cannot sleep at night.
What makes the night time such a powerful time for prayer
is because it is often when we feel most vulnerable.
It is a time when we often feel most alone,
when our anxieties and fears come crashing in
and we are helpless to stop them.
As Ole Hallesby says in today’s quote,
our helplessness is our best prayer.
Our helplessness reminds us of our need for God,
and opens us to God.
Our helplessness also reminds us of our need for each other,
our need for love.
We are all united by our helplessness and our vulnerability
and it is a perfect invitation to hold each other in prayer.
Our helplessness far from being our biggest weakness,
actually becomes our greatest strength.
Our helplessness opens us to God and opens us to each other
and in that openness is true relationship,
and true relationship is the foundation of prayer.
So let’s not despise our weak moments,
our vulnerability or our helplessness,
allow them to be a call that draws us into prayer
and communion with God and each other.

When in Hours of Fear and Failing by Novalis
(translated by George McDonald)

When in hours of fear and failing,
All but quite our heart despairs;
When with sickness driven to wailing,
Anguish at our bosom tears;
When our loved ones we remember;
All their grief and trouble rue;
And the clouds of our December
Let no beam of hope shine through;

Oh but then God bends him o’er us
Then his love grows very clear
Long we heavenward then – before us
Lo, his angel standing near!
Fresh the cup of life he reaches;
Whispers courage, comfort new;
Nor in vain our prayer beseeches
Rest for our beloved ones too.

When Angels Call

Wednesday 22nd March
Luke 6:12
All night Jesus continued in prayer to God

When you pray you rise to meet in the air
all those who are praying at that very hour,
and all who are need of that prayer.
– Kahlil Gibran

In the Sufi tradition if you wake up in the middle of the night,
or in the early hours of the morning,
it is said that the angels are calling you to prayer.
More than that, it is seen as a precious invitation
and a privilege to be called to such a task.
I once read an article written by a woman in the Orthodox tradition
whose method of praying was to pray the Jesus Prayer
(see Wednesday 15th March.)
She wrote of the problem she had of constantly waking up at 3am
and not being able to go back to sleep.
Finally she decided not to fight it but when she woke up
to simply lie there and say the Jesus Prayer
on behalf of everyone else who was struggling to sleep.
She soon found that within 15 minutes or so she fell back to sleep.
She continued to wake up at that time each night
but from then on saw it has a call from God
to pray for those in need at that time.
How often do we wake up in the middle of the night
and struggle to go back to sleep?
Maybe we could see it as a call from God to pray for others,
and as a precious invitation and privilege rather than a nuisance?
That way we get to stop being worked up
and others get to benefit also.

The Other by R.S. Thomas
There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening to the swell
born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling,
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

Prayerful Endings

Tuesday 21st March
Psalm 141:2
My prayer is like incense before you, an evening offering
May the Lord grant to us a quiet night and a perfect end
– from the service of Compline
Yesterday I wrote of the importance of beginning the day well,
beginning it prayerfully.
How we end each day is just has important.
How often do we go to bed with the days cares and worries
whirling about in our heads?
How often do we have trouble going to sleep
because our minds are racing as we go over and over again
conversations, incidents, regrets, or perceived injustices for that day?
Ending the day well is important.
Ending the day calmly and peacefully makes a big difference.
Ending the day prayerfully,
allowing it to flow into God’s keeping, is a good habit to get into.
In monastic life the final prayers of the day are called Compline
and compline means: to make the day complete.
Ending the day prayerfully,
allowing both the days troubles and blessings to flow into God,
prepares us for a good night’s sleep
so we can be restored for whatever lies ahead.
Try having a fixed time at the end of the day to relax and wind down.
Get off the computer, stop checking e-mails or other social media,
and allow the mind a break.
Then end the day with some familiar prayers
that places everything into the hands of God.
I go to sleep repeating my mantra
which I find carries me nicely into sleep.


 Some prayers to end the day

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, dwelling
and the dwellings of all our loved ones.
Drive far from them all the snares of the enemy.
Let thy holy angels dwell within them to preserve us in peace,
And may thy blessing be upon us evermore.
Be present, O merciful God,
and protect us through the silent hours of this night;
so that we who are fatigued
by the changes and chances of this fleeting world
May repose upon thy eternal changelessness;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are you, O God, upholder of all life;
Creator of both day and night.
At this holy hour we ask that you may give rest to the weary;
renew the strength of those who are spent;
and bestow your evening blessing upon all hearts.
As you have walked with us throughout the course of this day;
so may your presence abide with us for this coming night.
May we take our rest secure in your steadfast love;
and be renewed in the silent hours of this night.
Grant to us, O Lord, this night
Compassion in our hearts
Stillness in our minds
Rest in our bodies
Peacefulness in our spirits
And trust in your abiding presence
This night and always.

God of all mercy
Take our lips and silence them
Take our minds and still them
Take our hands and hold them
Take our hearts and rest in them
Take our eyes and close them
And restore us this coming night for all that lies ahead.