Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer of Thomas Merton

This month has been somewhat challenging in ministry. It has been difficult to even focus on prayer and hearing from the Lord. As in my last post I presented the idea of praying the alphabet when we lack the words to connect with God. Another gift that came from my time at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference for Women was a handout of a prayer. It was the Prayer of Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton was an Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic. He was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani located in Kentucky. He was also a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. It is interesting to note the name of the abbey that Thomas Merton called home. It reminds me of the agonizing night that Jesus spent in the garden prior to His crucifixion and death. The copy of Merton's prayer that I received at the conference has the echos of suffering and struggle woven throughout its lines. It was one of the prayers that has helped me through this difficult and uncertain time. The speaker who shared this prayer with us emphasized that it had been a lifeline to her on many occasions. She was especially comforted by one line which states, "But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you." I must agree that sometimes desire is all we have to go on in the midst of tough times. I pray that this prayer will bring you some comfort during those moments when you find yourself in your own "Garden of Gethsemane."
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

THE PRAYER OF THOMAS MERTON

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will 
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, 
for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Praying The Alphabet

I recently attended a women's conference at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. The conference was called  Iron Sharpens Iron for Women. The title of the conference comes from Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." The intention behind this proverb is to convey the idea that we can develop and mold each other's character through coming together in fellowship. When we are together focused on lifting up the Name of Jesus we can be encouraged but also challenge one another  to grow closer to the image of Christ. The main speaker at the conference was Stormie Omartian. She is the wife of Michael Omartian who is a very well known Christian music producer. However, Stormie in her own right is a well published writer and sought after speaker. I have to admit I was disappointed when I found out that the same conference was taking place in another state and had Ruth Graham as their featured speaker.  My opinion was  quickly challenged as I listened to Stormie's powerful personal testimony and the severe abuse she experienced at the hands of a very mentally ill mother and how the grace of God delivered her as an adult from her childhood fears. One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to participate in two different workshops during the morning and afternoon. One of the workshops I attended was led by a woman named Cynthia Fantasia who is the current Pastor of Women's Ministries at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA. The title of her workshop was "Growing Gold." She addressed some of the challenges facing women as they age and the cultural labels that society wants to attach to older women. Cynthia offered a more hopeful perspective and challenged us to let go of the cultural expectations and embrace this season in our lives to dig deep into the richness of God's word mining those treasures that allow God to mold us into the women we were created to be. Once we understand our status as daughters of the King we can enter our later years with a new renewed vision and recognition that Christ has freed us to be ourselves. At one point in the workshop Cynthia shared a personal story about battling a health crisis which significantly challenged her faith. As a result she could not pray or even read the Scriptures for comfort. A close friend paid her a visit one morning to offer encouragement and support. After the visit, upon leaving the house, the friend remarked to Cynthia, "Don't forget to pray the alphabet!" Cynthia discovered that when she couldn't form the "typical" prayers she was used to saying she could simply use the alphabet and list the attributes God. This simple way of praying, over time, helped Cynthia to renew her faith. She then shared the prayer with us. I was very uplifted by this prayer and went on to share it with the congregation at my church. The response was very enthusiastic. So. I share it with my fellow bloggers. If you know your ABC's it is very simple. The attributes you choose to use can be uniquely yours. I pray that you in turn will be uplifted and blessed as you pray the alphabet!
Almighty, Blessed, Comforter, Deliverer, Everlasting, Father, God Almighty, Holy One, Immanuel, Jehovah Jireh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah, Never ending, Omnipotent, Prince of Peace, Quick to forgive, Redeemer, Savior, Tower of Strength, Unconditional Lover of my soul, Victorious, Wonderful Counselor, Xtra special, Yahweh, Zealous for His children.

Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree