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For all who need this today and tomorrow.

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Not surprisingly, this week has been pretty prayerful.

Lori has already told you about my run-in with the media.  Last Sunday, FOX news did a piece that included my upcoming book, Black Lives Matter. They didn’t talk to me or my co-author Duchess Harris.  They didn’t see the book.  But they had firm, strong, negative opinions.  Various conservative media copied it from FOX. To those with hate-filled mouths, I have this to say — I hope Duchess’ mama doesn’t get ahold of you.

Between lack of sleep and way too much stomach acid, it became obvious that I needed to do all in my power to chill out before I suffered physically.  My prayer solution when angry and hurt when hate swirled around me?  The prayer of St. Francis.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sew love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

God brought this opportunity to me and I believe that he brought Duchess into my life.  I’m so sure that we’re already working on a second book together.  In the meanwhile, I’ll write and pray.  And for those of you who have never heard this amazing prayer sung, see below.

–SueBE

The Lord's PrayerI find myself yet again asking for a prayer.  A dear friend is facing her third battle with cancer.  When we were in our twenties, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer of a very rare, aggressive kind. She came through treatment wonderfully.  Then 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Again, we prayed and yet again she came through the treatments better than we had dared hope. Recently, her energies ebbed. She was often short of breath. Again, she went to the doctor.  This time around it is a rare blood disorder that invariably leads to leukemia.

For those who love her, this is an especially difficult time and I don’t just mean her illness.

For the most part, we are a prayerful group but facing this battle yet again many of us are at a bit of a loss. What do we say?  How do we pray? “Hey, God. It’s me. Again. Look, I’m getting a little sick of this.”

Okay, that’s not it. But how do you pray when the words don’t come? When you’d rather just flop down on your face in the middle of the bed?

Here are three things that have worked for me in the past week.

  1. Ask for prayer. I know it sounds like a cop out, but ask friends for prayer.  Admit that you don’t know how to pray about this yourself because it is just too much.  Your friends will get it. They’ve been there themselves. They’ll hold up everyone involved.
  2. Resort to a time honored prayer. We all have prayer that we’ve memorized.  I love the Prayer of St. Francis. Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love . . .  Another favorite is the Jesus Prayer. Jesus, have mercy on me, the sinner.  At times like this, when someone is desperately ill, I turn to the Lord’s Prayer. May thy will be done.
  3. Pray through song. I know you expected this one from me and here it is. When I’m at a loss, I turn to music. So many of our hymns are also prayers.  In fact, my choir has sung several arrangements of the Prayer of St. Francis. Sing through some of your favorites. They speak to you for a reason.

There are times when it is all but impossible to pray.  Ironically, these are also the times in which prayer is vital. Maybe one of these ways will work for you.

–SueBE

Early in my prayer journey, a friend gave me a set of prayer beads. Hers were on an elastic band and she wears them like a bracelet.

I took a set of pale green beads but for a while I didn’t use them. Frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure how to use them. Its not like I grew up praying with a rosary or anything else in hand. I was going to have to wing it.

The first thing that I did was re-string the beads. I now have a longer set of green, onyx and brass that I can wear as a necklace or looped around my wrist. When I sit down to pray, just how I use these beads varies from one time to another.

Today, I needed a break from the worries running around in my head. I needed to focus on all that is Right and Good. I had to turn my gaze to God. At each green bead, I repeated the phrase “Holy God, You are the Creator of All.” Then for the black beads, I ran through bits and pieces of His Creation, naming one thing per bead.

For one set of beads I focused on large and mighty things – mountains, oceans, rivers, etc.

For another I focused on tiny things – the feather’s on a humming bird, the leaves on the new sprouts of mint in the garden, etc.

As I worked my way through the beads, I covered sounds (ocean waves, running water, wind in the leaves, etc.), scents (roses, a field in the sun, etc.) and even places I’ve been (Bandolier Canyon, the Davis Mountains, etc.).

For the last several sets of beads, I focused on simply breathing, slow and deep. I listened. No, I didn’t hear anything in particular but I hadn’t asked anything. I was just grateful for the quiet.

Not that this is always how I use my beads. Sometimes, I run through the Prayer of St. Francis, reciting a line of his prayer for one bead and then thinking of an application here and now for the next bead. Sometimes I pray for the families that I know who are in need. Each family gets a set of beads, with a specific request per bead.

The thing that I’ve come to realize is that the beads aren’t a grading system. There isn’t a single right way to pray with them. They simply help me to focus and slow down so that I spend some necessary time with the God who is more than I can wrap my mind around.

–SueBE

Microsoft Clip artI know that we’ve posted this one before, but as I was contemplating writing a prayer for peace, one line came into my mind again and again.  “Where there is darkness, light.”   What better way to celebrate the star of Christmas than with the Prayer of St. Francis?

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

I’m a  writer.  I string together words for a living.  I also string together words when I pray.  Sometimes.

Other times, I simply can’t put two words together on my own.  There is just too much to hold up in prayer or the need is too raw, too great.  When this is the case, I sometimes turn to traditional prayers.

I originally found The Prayer for Quietness of Thought in our church hymnal.  It is one that our church prayer group uses often.

Another  favorite is The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  I often use this one in my own prayer and meditation, praying one line and then adding a personal need.  “‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.’  Lord, I can’t make the two of them reconcile, but let me not be part of the problem.  Let me listen without taking sides or justifying hateful words . . .”

My other personal failsafe is music.  Having grown up with hymns and spirituals, it’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t realize how prayerful some of them were until I joined the church choir.

My all time favorite is Kyrie Eleison (see video below).  The words are so beautiful and, even if not in English, so simple.  God have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  This anthem brings me close to tears whenever we sing it.

A close second is Be With Me Lord (Psalm 91/see second video below).  This is the one I pull out whenever trouble, including other people’s trouble, swirls around me.  When I can’t create my own prayers, I am more than willing to borrow the words of others.

–SueBE

Until recently, I didn’t know much about St. Francis.  I may have grown up in a Catholic community where most of the streets are named after saints, but I know next to nothing about the saints themselves.  In a word – clueless.

Then several of us at Florissant Presbyterian Church started a prayer group.  We always close with the Lord’s Prayer, but I wanted to find other traditional prayers that we could use on a regular basis.  This search led me to the Prayer of St. Francis.

As I read it, it rocked me back.  Whoa!  This is the guy with the bunnies and the birds?  Until then, that’s how I thought of St. Francis – the cool guy with the bunnies and the birds. But then I read his prayer.  He didn’t just want a gentle relationship with the flying and the furred.  He obviously sought a similar relationship with all of God’s Creation.

The Prayer of St. Francis quickly became a staple in my daily prayer life.

First of all, I love that it speaks to so many of the potential problems I face day to day.  Rude salesclerk?  “Where there is injury, pardon.”  Have to count on a co-worker who has let me down repeatedly?  “Where there is doubt, faith.”

Just as it can be applied to my own issues, it addresses community, national and global problems.

But the power of this prayer doesn’t stop there.  As I pray it regularly, I find that I am asking God to not only use me to shape the world around me, I am asking Him to reshape me.    Calm me.
Turn my vision from myself to those around me and teach me to really see, for how else can I interpret “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek . . . to be understood, as to understand”?

To truly understand those around me, I have to see them.  I have to learn to look beyond my preconceptions.  I have to push aside the solutions to their problems that I have already devised.  I have to go in open and ready to listen.  I have to listen both to those I would help and also to He who Guides Me.

Not an easy task, but one that I hope to one day to be worthy to fill.  Until then, I’ll continue to pray.
–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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