Special Edition Supplement to The Church News from The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Teach us to
In this issue
The many ways of prayer, from silent cathedrals to raw nature , explored by some of our favorite authors . Plus - our writers tell us their favorite ways to pray.
Read the magazine online at www.reflections-dwtx.org
Teach us to Pray 4 Praying Our Way Diane Thrush
6 How Do You Pray?
7 Such as These The Rev. Scott Brown 9 Open the Invitation James R. Dennis, O.P. 10 Sheltering Silence The Rev. Mary Earle 14 The Ordinary Prayers of the Celts Sylvia Maddox 18 Primary Speech Paul Pineda 20 Alive in the Natural World: A Way of Prayer The Rev. Dr. Jane Lancaster Patterson 23 The Prayer of Silence Carla Pineda
In Every Issue 3 From the Editor – Marjorie George 25 Resources 27 The Last Word – the Rt. Rev. David Reed
Spring/Summer 2012 Published by Department of Communications Episcopal Diocese of West Texas P. O. Box 6885 San Antonio, Texas 78209 www.dwtx.org Communications Officer Laura Shaver Editor Marjorie George Editorial assistant Barbara Duffield Bishop of West Texas The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge Bishop Suffragan The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed Offices are at The Bishop Jones Center 111 Torcido Dr. San Antonio, Texas, 78209 210/888-824-5387 www.dwtx.org A Special Edition supplement to The Church News family of publications THE CHURCH NEWS (USPS 661-790) is published six times yearly – Jan, Mar, May, July, Sept, and Nov. with 2 Special Supplement Editions in May and November by The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, P O Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209. Periodicals postage paid at San Antonio TX. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, P. O. Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209.
from The Editor by Marjorie George
I’d Like to Teach the World to Pray
o you remember the Coca Cola tv commercial from the early 70’s that pictured 500 wholesome young people from around the world -- young people from all nationalities and all colors and all ethnic groups – standing on a hilltop and singing together “I’d like to teach the world to sing”? It was an ad that just made you feel good, made you smile, made you want to be nice to your neighbor – better even than Christmas. All over the world, implied the ad, people were being brought together by Coke, their voices joined, their harmony lifting to the heavens. Now take the Coke bottle out of the kids’ hands, put rosaries in some, Bibles in others, prayer books over there, kids in yarmulkes just here. That’s my image of what happens every day when around the world the faithful are at prayer. As the sun moves across the earth, someone is always approaching his prayer bench and someone is always ending his prayers. The voice of God’s people is ever before him, ever imploring his mercy, ever praising him. Like a river that circles the world, we dip into this stream as we open our prayer books and as we close them. In Western culture, we are prone to undervalue (if we are even aware of ) monks and nuns, alone at prayer in their cells, producing nothing tangible. But “the monk departs far from the world not because he hates it, but because he loves it,” explains the website Monachos.net, a site dedicated to monastic and liturgical study. “In this way he will, through his prayer, help the world more in those matters that are, being humanly impossible, only possible by God’s intervention.” For the sake
of the world, monastics separate themselves from the rest of the world in order to pray unceasingly for the world. St. Theodore Studite (759-826 AD) maintained that “The monk is one whose eyes are set only on God, who longs only for God and loves God only, who by serving God alone and being at peace with Him becomes a source of peace for others.” Imagine those satellite photos of the earth turning, the light -- that we behold as sunrise and sunset – moving with the rotation. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer roll over the earth without ceasing: prayers for mercy, prayers for healing, prayers for God’s intervention in his world, prayers for you and prayers for me. Apart from this kinship, we can never “pray without ceasing,” as St. Paul admonishes (1 Thessalonians 5.17). As part of it, we are never not in the presence of The Almighty. The song continues, and our voices join in.
Reach Marjorie at email@example.com.
Bonus for reading this far: See the Coke ad on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibQiyklq-Q and read the story of how the ad came to be at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/ heritage/cokelore_hilltop.html.
Reflections invites readers from every denomination or no denomination. To subscribe (there is no charge) send name, address, and e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org or Diocese of West Texas, Attn: Barbara Duffield, P. O. Box 6885, San Antonio TX 78209. In 2012 Reflections will be published in May and November. Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Praying Our Way by Diane Thrush
Prayer is a JOURNEY. As on any journey, there are many routes to take, many choices to be made. A really great journey means planning, doing oneâ€™s homework about what is available, and asking experienced travelers for guidance about what to do and see. The more we delve into our journey, the richer our experience will be. So it is with prayer. Having a regular prayer life is not haphazard; it is worth every attention we can give to knowing what is right for us. It is so easy to read about a really great method of prayer, or to go to a great workshop and learn about a form of prayer, or read the latest book. But, what if it fizzles out for us as we put it into
photo by Doug Earle
practice? Or, we have trouble sticking to it, or what once worked for us is no longer helpful. This is really common in spiritual practice as we grow and change and seek out and explore new ways to enrich our prayer life. Actually, a big pitfall in our spiritual journey is not understanding that our prayer lives have a lot to do with who we are and how we pray. The spiritual journey requires us to be in touch with all of our inner selves, not just who we think we are or who we wish we were. Our daily practices have to do with our identity. There is no “one size fits all” practice of spirituality. But that is often how we try to live out our lives. We look for the latest and greatest methods that are available. Or we seek to imitate someone we really care about and admire. As much as I may love and cherish my soul friend, her prayer life is not my prayer life. As much as I respect and admire my spiritual director, his prayer life is not my prayer life. If we are to grow in grace, we need to be on a path of reflection about ourselves and our inner life. One aspect is knowing whether we draw energy by being around others, or whether we draw energy from silence and being alone. Another aspect of ourselves that is helpful is whether we are more comfortable acting out of our feelings and emotions or out of our intellect – right brain or left brain. What about age? What works for someone in their 40s will be very different than someone in their 60s. Life experience and occupation also factor in. Gender, too, plays a role somewhat, though not as much as some of the other factors. The bottom line for us as we practice our faith is self awareness: who am I today, where can I best find God in prayer today? Prayer is not static. Our prayer lives should grow, change, adapt and be flexible. The more we read, the more we learn about prayer; that helps to inform us of ways to pray. But there is no magic formula that works for all of us all of the time. If we avail ourselves of the
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resources on prayer, we will at least know our choices. Someone I knew once said that our shelf of books on prayer should grow and expand for the rest of our lives. A spiritual director is always helpful in enabling us to discern where our prayer lives are centered. Trusted friends on the journey and wise teachers of the faith are other options to help us along. I wish there were a book, a resource, that had definitive answers such as “If you are this, then your prayers should be those . . .” I have read a lot of those type of books looking for one like that and have yet to find one. It seems as if we are instead called to make self-examination part of our journey, trusting God to inform us of where we need to be. A much more laborious process than reading a book, but much, much richer over time. Perhaps the best way to engage in prayers that reflect your life is to try them on. See how a particular way to pray feels to you; see if it opens up your conversation with God, for that is what prayer is all about. Throughout this issue, you will read many of the ways that others pray; borrow from these, adapt them to suit you, see what fits. And enjoy the journey.
How Do You Pray?
In addition to my quiet time n the morning and my running conversation with God all day long, I keep a notebook of my favorite prayers that I use as a reference for specific issues. I keep some in my desk drawer to pull out when necessary during the day. I have one behind my visor in the car that I say on my way home. - Diane Thrush.
Diane Thrush is a chaplain at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio and a member of St. Luke’s, San Antonio. Reach Diane at diane. thrush@MHShealth.com
Patricia Brooke: “Early morning after waking, with my cup of tea, and my journal, in my chair in the study.”
The Rev. Lera Tyler: I’m most comfortable in almost total silence, except for distant sounds like children playing in the neighborhood, dogs barking, birds chattering. I love to pray this way on my patio or in my prayer chair. I love to simply give thanks in the morning, quietly read the opening of the Daily Office and the lessons, and then open up a book of poetry. I guess it’s mostly about praying with sounds, images, words, and God.
How Do You Pray? We invited our writers, some of whom have articles in this issue and some who have had articles in previous editions, to tell us how they pray. Their answers are sprinkled throughout this issue.
Barbara Duffield: I wish I could say I spend time in prayer every morning, but I’m afraid a lot of the time I hit the ground running and realize half way through the day that I have barely said, “Hello.” I talk with God all day long as the “spirit moves me,” and feel him with me in those moments. I love to pray for and with people; I pray best out loud, I think, when I can hear my own words.
The Rev. Mike Marsh: Silence, stillness, and solitude in the early morning darkness begin my daily prayer practice. I say Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline from the BCP and use the Jesus Prayer throughout the day.
The Rev. Jay George: I do not sit down and work through a prayer list of people. Instead, whenever I think of someone on my list during the day, I pray for him or her then.
Laura Shaver: My favorite times in prayer are now when I pray with my two-year-old son. He reminds us to pray before meals, and we have a regular prayer routine at bedtime and in the car every morning before we set out for the day. I continue in my own prayer time throughout the day, talking to God when I want to offer thanks, pray for a friend in need, or to ask for forgiveness. I trust his ears are always open, and I fill them quite regularly.
The written prayer I say most often is from Compline, “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.” That is the prayer I say as I fall asleep. I also say the Jesus prayer often. I write my prayers. And I wrote a new prayer for myself about a month ago. I say it when I wake up in the morning: “I am beloved of God. My sins are forgiven. His grace is sufficient for me.”
Such as These
by The Rev. Scott J. Brown
hat makes an environment suitable for prayer? Where do you need to be in order to be fully present to the presence of God in prayer? Some prefer a quiet chapel and an Anglican Rosary; others long for a labyrinth in which to walk and pray, while others search for a garden or a quiet spot to meditate and reflect in solitude. But not me! I’ll save the silence for sleep. I prefer my prayer to start in the company of 300 squiggling and screaming children, better known as St. Alban’s Episcopal Day School daily chapel. Daily School Chapel is the foundation for life on our campus. Every chapel is different at St.
Alban’s. On some days we sing more than others; once a week we hear a homily, and other days classes act out a Scripture story. And while each day brings a different form to our worship, one thing every day has in common is energy, life, and noise. Lots of noise. Worshiping with children is real. It’s authentic. There are no masks, no worries, nothing held back. When children are allowed to be children, God shows up and smiles. And while children can be amazingly naïve, maybe naïveté is the thing we as adults could use a little more of. What risks would you take today if you were unaware of the potential consequences? Consider the prayers of children. Children ask and say anything without fear. For most of us adults, fear holds us back from even beginning the continued on page 8
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
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● Such as These from page 7 conversation. I learned this from an eight-year-old named Aspen, who recently told me, “If you don’t know what to say, just hold your hands together, close your eyes, and start talking.”
what they should be saying. Children are honest, simple, and hold nothing back. Ask an adult why we should pray and they’ll likely ramble on about duty or obligation or some memorized Catechism response from the back of their minds. Adults answer those kinds of questions with their heads -- children use their hearts. When I asked four-year-old Alexandria why she prayed, she didn’t hesitate. “Father Scott, you’re silly. I pray to Jesus because I love him.” How much simpler would my day be if I prayed more like the children I am surrounded by? How much richer would my life be if my prayer life was centered on closing my eyes, being thankful, and talking to the Jesus about others first, simply because I love him?
Parker, son of the author, now age nine, when he was four. But make sure your prayer doesn’t start with your own personal wish list. As 10-year-old Constantine said, “You should always talk to God about any conflicts you have, but first start with praying for others. That way God doesn’t think you’re selfish.”
I’m glad my day is filled with noisy children and restless toddlers. I’m honored to be in the midst of a community in which children are cherished, not just tolerated. But most of all, in a school environment where teaching and learning happens all day long, I’m humbled to start my day with 300 brilliant children, who come together in the God’s House, not to learn how to pray, but rather to teach.
The Rev. Scott Brown is rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and School in Harlingen, TX. He is also the father of two young boys. Reach him at sbrown@stalbansharlingen. org.
In the mind of a child, there is nothing too big or too small to ask God for. Children believe that God is all powerful and can do absolutely anything. And it’s that confidence in the power of God that gives children the ability to trust in the goodness of God. But what about those unanswered prayers, those times when you have opened your heart and soul to God and yet nothing happened, at least not the way you wanted it to? How do we as adults wrestle with that? Ten-year-old Nate can answer that one for you: “Maybe you were asking for things you really want. God cares much more about what you actually need.” But most of all, children keep prayer simple. In prayer, adults often struggle for words, unsure of
How Do You Pray?
I love music. Groups like Casting Crowns or Chris Tomlin are definitely my favorite. Often I’ll find a song that says exactly what’s on my heart, whether it’s thanksgivings or regrets. I’ll shut my door, crank up the volume and say, ‘Lord, this is what I was trying to say to you. Amen.’” - Scott Brown
Open the Invitation On the subject of prayer,
I don’t know of a more powerful and compelling thinker than Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel. In his wonderful book, Man’s Quest for God, Heschel writes: “We do not refuse to pray. We merely feel that our tongues are tied, our minds inert, our inner vision dim, when we are about to enter the door that leads to prayer. We do not refuse to pray; we abstain from it.” When I first read that sentence, I knew the accusation rang true in my life. For most of us, we don’t actually say “no” to God; we just never open the invitation. No single practice or discipline can enrich or bolster our spiritual lives more than prayer. How can we possibly find it so difficult? Within my Order, we accept the discipline of an hour of prayer and an hour of study each day. I quickly found that the hour of study was no discipline at all; it was in fact wonderful to find an excuse for doing that which I already loved. What, however, was I going to do about this “hour of prayer” thing? One of the first things we struggle with is finding the time. I mean, there’s work, and things to do around the house, and the gym, and the endless distractions we all encounter. Then, once you’ve settled into it, the email alert goes off, or the dogs are barking at something, or the phone rings . . . or just about anything. In the Zen tradition, they call this “monkey mind,” the inability to focus one’s heart and one’s thoughts. And then, there’s the horrifying notion of what exactly am I going to say to the omniscient, omnipotent Creator of everything? I stammer, I struggle, and time itself begins to decelerate. Someone once asked the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, how long he prayed each day. Ramsey replied, “About three minutes. But it takes me about 57 minutes to get there.” Our lives move so fast, but our spiritual lives demand that we slow down and learn to be patient in this dialogue. As we find
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by James R. Dennis, O.P. ourselves on the precipice of a great mystery, it’s best not to rush the process. One method that’s worked for me regularly is beginning with the present: where I am, what’s happening in my life, what worries me and what I’m feeling. Somehow, those concrete and particular details provide a really good catalyst for prayer. After a while, I begin to see the connections between the ordinary, work-a-day events and circumstances of my life and the Source of my life. And as we proceed, we might begin to abandon the hope of addressing God in magnificent or even religious language. It’s good to learn a little humility when addressing the Infinite. As Heschel said, “It is in prayer that we obtain the subsidy of God for the failing efforts of our wisdom.” And finally, we begin to sense God rushing out to meet us, a God who is always “more ready to hear than we to pray.” Fundamentally, our prayer life should resemble a love story, because at its heart, that’s the essence of prayer.
James Dennis is a novice in the Order of Preachers (Dominican Order) and a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX. Read his blog at http://dominicanes.me.
Silence by the Rev. Mary Earle
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
everal summers ago my husband, Doug, and I met our son Jason in Paris, with the intention of heading toward Brittany to explore that region of France. We arrived in the midst of a French transportation strike. Getting from De Gaulle Airport to our hotel in Rennes was a singularly hot, long, frustrating and exhausting journey. What should have been an easy transfer to an express train turned into a convoluted nightmare of subway, taxi and train. We were weary beyond words when we finally checked in to our rooms late that night. The next morning, still reeling from the events of the day before, we began walking around Rennes. The sun was shining. Festivities were beginning in honor of a local saint. Crowds were gathering. We were jostled and greeted. We came around a corner and saw an old church. I headed in and was immediately enveloped in the exquisite semi-darkness of candlelit space. Prayer was palpable. Ranks of votive candles stood along the walls. The welcome silence descended upon us like balm in Gilead. We sat in a pew. I found tears trickling down my face — tears of exhaustion and tears of relief. That old church offered us respite from travel and travail. That quiet sanctuary welcomed us in the embrace of calm.
It was medicine for my soul, the medicine John O’Donohue referred to as “the sheltering silence” of liturgical space. The sheltering silence of our churches is disappearing as fast as the Amazonian rain forest. We lock them, for one thing. It’s an understandable, and unfortunate, response to theft; for it also has the effect of halting the natural “going out and coming in” (Ps. 121:8) of those of us desiring the healing medicine of being still and quiet in sheltering silence before an altar. I am not suggesting we all leave our church house doors open all the time. I am suggesting we find other ways and other times to seek out and spend time in the “sheltering silence” of liturgical space. When I was a young mom, our family attended church regularly, and it was a blessed time in a church community that has been the unshakable foundation upon
It was medicine for my soul, the medicine John O’Donohue referred to as “the sheltering silence” of liturgical space.
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which I have relied as my family has grown and scattered. But in many ways, it was just as busy as my life the other six days of the week. There was still the getting up, getting dressed, herding children, missed naps (leading to cranky children), and all the busyness of family life. continued on page 12
● Sheltering Silence from page 11 Then a kind older woman in the parish suggested that I step into the sanctuary during the week, when my boys were in the nursery. I was amazed at the way my body felt when the doors from the narthex (entry way) closed behind me and I was abiding in the hushed splendor of space “where prayer has been valid”— a phrase used by the poet T.S. Eliot in his description of encountering this kind of sheltering silence.
But I remember that our homeless guests asked for a place to abide, a quiet place of beauty.
Just as we need to breathe in and breathe out, we need the balance of active love and receptive prayer, of engaged ministry and quiet abiding. Of course, we can always pray anywhere. But the embodied practice of going into a sanctuary when all is calm, all is quiet, recalls us to the communal nature of our prayer. We are reminded that our personal prayer is always within the context of the prayer of our community, the prayer of the church at large, the prayer of the whole Communion of Saints. I was with a friend once and we had occasion to visit a church unknown to us. As we stepped inside the church, my friend stopped and said, “Ah, this place has been
How Do You Pray?
I read and pray the psalm and gospel appointed by the Daily Office in the morning, then write in my journal, which is prayer for me. Gardening is sacred space and time for prayer and reflection. Without the rhythm of the office, the journal, and the garden I'd be pretty disoriented.“ - Mary Earle
prayed in. I can feel it.” Some church spaces feel more “prayed in” than others, he said. A “prayed-in” church, even when it is vacant of people, is far from empty, for it is infused with the prayers of others offering a sweet aroma that, like incense, lingers. Some years ago at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in downtown San Antonio, where I currently worship, a group became concerned about the needs of the homeless persons who would gather in Travis Park across from our church every day. They had begun to eat breakfast with us on Sunday morning, and so conversations began. “What do you need from us? What can we offer?” we asked. Of course there were expectations about what the responses would be — money, shelter, medical assistance. What our homeless friends asked for, however, was this: a place to sit quietly after having breakfast. So, for a time, Bethlehem Chapel on our campus was open to any who wished to sit in quiet prayer on Sunday morning. Amid all the hubbub of a big downtown parish on Sunday morning, with all the varieties of classes, children’s activities, breakfast, worship, hospitality swirling around, at the center, there was the quiet of Bethlehem Chapel, welcoming those whose lives on the street were so buffeted by noise and interruption. With the advent of the citywide Haven for Hope homeless care center, and our parish house restoration, this no longer happens. But I remember that the homeless guests asked for a place to abide, a quiet place of beauty. Sometimes, in the ebb and flow of our lives, in the midst of the various twists and turns in the journey of faith, we need to allow our own weary and feeble prayer to be upheld and sustained by the enveloping prayer of those who have gone before, and those whose prayer permeates the wood, glass, brick, mortar and tile of our own churches. We need to allow ourselves the profound and essential respite of abiding in the sheltering silence of space where prayer has been valid. In that entering into quiet communal space, we are
reminded yet again that it is God who has made us, and not we ourselves. We remember that with every breath, that Love sustains us, steadily, quietly, infinitely.
The Rev. Mary Earle is a writer, teacher, retreat leader and author-in-residence at The Work+Shop, a ministry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX. Reach her at email@example.com.
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How Do You Pray? The Rev. Paul Frey:
I get up early almost every morning. I walk the dog and tell God “Good morning” and put any concerns that come to me in my waking moments in his hands. When I get home I read one or two short devotional passages from several different sources. I check my email. I have gmail set up to email me the diocesan clergy/ staff prayer list for each day. I pray for each of them. (It was a pain to set up, but it sends me a list of people according to the day number. I found that sticking the printed pamphlet in my prayer book or Bible meant it mostly became a bookmark.) Not every morning, but two to three mornings a week, I use the iPhone version of Morning Prayer from the website www.missionstclare.com. Most Mondays I also use the lectionary app and quietly and slowly read the lectionary for the coming week. Most Wednesday or Thursday afternoons, before I leave the office, I go into the church and simply walk around slowly for about 10 minutes. Usually everyone else is gone for the day, and it is quiet, and I pray for people and simply try to remember that God is much bigger than anything I happen to be worried about.”
hanks be to Thee, O God, that I have risen today, To the rising of this life itself; May it be to Thine own glory, O God of every gift And to the glory of my soul likewise.
This exuberant prayer of greeting the new day with joy and dedication invites us into the immediacy of the Celtic Christian prayer tradition. Celtic prayer is at the heart of Celtic Spirituality. To pray these prayers coming from the Celtic lands of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales one is drawn into the mystery of God’s presence in all things and the joy of expressing that presence in a pattern of praise and blessing. The prayers, passed down from before the 12th century and continuing in the oral tradition today, are like faraway songs that continue to sing in the hearts of all who long for prayer and life to be woven together. My interest in Celtic prayer came at a critical junction in my own spiritual journey. I had just begun to discover the great contemplative writers of the Christian tradition. I loved the call to “be still and know” and the experience of God’s presence in silence and solitude. I looked forward to morning meditations and times of retreats. All this changed, however, when I found myself the mother of two young sons and the coordinator of religious education at our local church. When I’d rise early for prayer, little feet would come running in for breakfast. When I’d arrive early at work for a time of reflection, the telephone would start to ring. Like most people I tended to separate my prayer life from the other parts of my life. I was very far from the wisdom of Thomas Merton who said,
“What I do is live. How I pray is breathe.” It was in this time of struggle and imbalance that a friend offered me a small book of Celtic prayers and praises. There was something in the rhythm of these prayers that reminded me of the rhythm of life. They contain an awareness of God’s presence from the rising to the setting of the sun. Entwined with the reality of living, each action of the day becomes the essence of prayer. The transcendent Holy One is a close companion as one prays: God God God God God God
to to in in in in
enfold me surround me, my speaking, my thinking my sleeping my waking (2)
Celtic ears hear God’s word spoken through the created world. The quiet earth expresses God’s peace. The river proclaims God’s goodness. Like the psalmist, one stands amazed that “the one who made the moon, made us likewise.” The sight of the new moon and the song of the morning lark become occasions of praise for the Lord of each living creature. Many of the Celtic prayers call us to look outside our window and discover the delight of an ordinary landscape transformed with a glimpse of God’s glory. Suddenly the sunset over the soccer field, the cool breeze on the walk to school become reminders that: There is no plant in the ground But is full of God’s virtue. There is no form in the strand But it is full of God’s blessing. There is no life in the sea, There is not creature in the river, continued on page 16
The Ordinary Prayers of the Celts by Sylvia Maddox
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
● The Ordinary Prayers of the Celts from page 14 There is not in the firmament But proclaims God’s goodness.
Praising God’s presence in creation opened my eyes to a new vision of the holy in the ordinary things of my life. Many of the Celtic prayers, especially those gathered in the Highlands and Island of Scotland in the last century, are offered while people go about the daily tasks of life. In the morning a mother kindles the fire by praying:
Our yearning for God’s encircling presence is expressed uniquely in the traditional Lorica prayers of protection. The most famous of these prayers, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, invokes all of God’s gifts to accompany us on our journey. Christ Christ Christ Christ
beside me, Christ before me behind me, Christ within me beneath me, Christ above me within me. 6
I will kindle my fire this morning In the presence of the holy angels of heaven Without malice, without jealousy, without envy, But the Holy Son of God to shield me. God, kindle Thou in my heart within A flame of love to my neighbor, To my foe, to my friend, to kindred all. (4)
There are prayers for the farmer going out to sow the seeds, the weaver at the loom, the fisherman, and the crofter. Even the tools of one’s work become holy if blessed and dedicated to God’s purposes. The prayer of the milkmaid is a call to recognize and claim the sacredness of our work. Bless, O God, my little cow, Bless, O god, my desire; Bless thou my partnership And the handling of my hand.
As I began praying these prayers, I became inspired to write my own blessing prayers for the daily “handling of my hands.” In the tradition of the Celtic mothers, I blessed my children when they departed for school; I blessed my computer before I began a project; I learned to offer thanksgiving when I heard the first call of the morning dove. From Celtic prayer, I was experiencing the joyful freeing of the spirit when there is trust that everything is encircled and encompassed with God’s presence.
In this invocation, we are wrapping ourselves with the garment of Christ’s presence. This is the mystery of the incarnation in our own lives. The rhythm of this incarnate life, the ebbs and flows, the twists and turns, the darkness and the light is the rhythm of Celtic prayer. It transforms our vision, stirs us to praise, and sets us out on the journey singing: Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart Naught be all else to me, save but Thou art, Thou my best thought by day or by night Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. (Hymn 488, The Hymnal 1982.)
Acknowledgements: 1. Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, Lindisfarne Press 1992, p. 188. 2. Carmina Gadelica, p.204
3. Carmina Gadelica, p. 45 4. Carmina Gadelica, p. 93 5. St. Patrickâ€™s Breastplate, att. Patrick (372- 466) tr, Cecil Frances Alexander (1882-1885) 6. Irish, ca, 700 versified Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880-1931), The Church Hymnary, Oxford University Press, 1927, (The Hymnbook 1982, p 488)
Sylvia Maddox is a writer and educator. She is a member of Church of Reconciliation, San Antonio TX Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
How Do You Pray? Bishop Gary Lillibridge:
One regular and significant time for me to pray for a variety of concerns, both personal and for the diocese, is as I drive. My front seat serves as a mobile office, a counseling center, and a prayer desk. Over the years, as I pass through the communities of our diocese, I have established the habit of praying for the congregation(s) in that community. I know offering these prayers is a blessing for me, because I also realize that our congregations are praying for the bishops each Sunday in our liturgy.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Primary Speech by Paul Pineda
raying, for me, is in the language and images of my youth. As my language of origin is Spanish, so too is my language of prayer. Prayers learned at my mother’s feet were simple and primitive wrapped in good manners of “Please,” “Thank- you,” “May I help you?” and “I love you.” They were more of a “platica,” chat or visit, than a formal audience.
As I grew up and my life became mine, I longed for the old and simple conversant prayers of my childhood. I was now considered “immersed” in
Using the more formal prayers of my father and of the church always felt strange and stiff, like new clothes. They never felt like they were mine and therefore never comfortable.
My mother’s way of praying remained my “mother tongue.” And as I looked back, I slowly began to unpack what all that meant.
School and learning English confounded my praying. Not only was it stiff and uncomfortable but rote and foreign. I was never sure if the words were saying what I meant. They certainly didn’t feel like it or sound like it. But praying in this new language was the passport to my participation in the liturgy and the sacraments, and that would make my parents proud. It felt like a small price to pay.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: part of Paul Pineda’s primary language of prayer.
the English language. That worked well except in my family and my prayer life. I began to sense that I was losing my relationship with my God. It was like watching my young children and nephews not being fluent in their relationship with their grandparents. My mother’s way of praying remained my “mother tongue.” And as I looked back, I slowly began to unpack what all that meant. Every time I think of my mother in prayer, I cannot help but imagine Guadalupe and Juan Diego on those frosty December mornings. In the story, Juan’s purpose was to get to church to pray for his uncle who was home sick. Guadalupe came to visit with Juan, and she met him where he was. She asked him for a favor. It was a visit between two friends. The humility from both friends in that encounter is so powerful: to actually come to believe that God also needs my help. That’s what friends are for. Using my assimilated and analytical mind, I believe that I’ve “...marked, learned and inwardly digested” not only the words of my mother but her ritual of prayer. I have spent time visualizing also that scene where she would sit and teach me. I can hear her words, her lessons. The three “P’s” of my prayer life are strongly rooted in me from my culture. They define who I am, a Hispanic Episcopalian. First is purpose: In my mother’s way of praying there was one of two purposes for prayer. Either we were like Juan Diego, having a need and asking God for help, or
we were like Mary in the Magnificat asking God to use us as God saw fit. Posture was of utmost importance both in asking and in offering. My mother’s posture in prayer was always that of humility. Her tone of voice was simple and direct -- eye-to-eye, but never defiant -with her hands held out in respect and friendship. Presence made the prayers. There was no one and nothing that could distract her conversations with her God. In those moments she and God were as real and present one with the other as two friends can ever be. In the Episcopal Church I found the Book of Common Prayer with prayers that flowed in conversation with God. Whether in supplication, praise or thanksgiving they are conversant, not stiff and formal. While not in her native language or mine, I know these prayers would resonate with my mother.
Paul Pineda is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX. Reach Paul at episcopalnfa@gmail. com.
How Do You Pray?
B i s h o p D av i d Re e d:
I a m a n unr e c o nst r u c te d a n d un a p o l o g et i c Pr aye r B o o k p r ay - e r. I t i s my to u c h sto n e a n d my h o m e bas e, a n d i t ’s w h at I g r ew up w i t h (f i r st t h e o l d o n e a n d n ow t h e n e a r ly m i d dl e - a g e d o n e). Pr ay i n g t h e C hur c h’s p r aye r s s o m et i m e s i s r ote a n d r e p et i t i o n, b ut by g r ac e, t h ey d o n ot r e m ai n wo r ds o n a p a g e, b ut p r aye r s t h at r i s e up f r o m w i t hi n, s o m et i m e s unb i d d e n, t h r o u g h o ut t h e c o ur s e of t h e day o r ni g ht . I c a n a n d d o p r ay ex te m p o r a n e o us ly, a n d I e nj oy p r ay i n g w hi l e wa lk i n g / hik i n g /st r o lli n g o r st a r i n g t h r o u g h t h e w i n ds hi e l d, b ut my li fe of p r aye r i s f r a m e d a n d f o r m e d by t h e r e g ul a r p r aye r li fe of o ur C hur c h.”
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Alive in the Natural World: A Way of Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Jane Lancaster Patterson
he text message on my phone is from my friend Linda: “Friday morning walk?” I respond, “Yes!” So on Friday, I’m up at 6:30, pulling on comfortable clothes and sneakers and driving to the Blue Star area, south of downtown San Antonio. When I pull up at the edge of the Mission Reach extension of the River Walk, it is still dark, but very quickly the sky begins to lighten, first to gray, then becoming faintly tinged with coral-pink. I sit on an iron bench to wait for Linda, and notice movement on a tree branch overhead. It’s a tiny hummingbird, sitting still for once. I watch and watch him, holding my breath, until I realize that he doesn’t care that I’m below him. He is at home. Shortly, three egrets fly over, then the black-bellied whistling ducks come swooping in for their day on the river. Linda shows up with coffee, for which I practically kneel and sob in thanksgiving, and we are off, cantering along the path; and we are hardly alone. We see both black-crowned and yellow-crowned night-herons, the first red-winged blackbirds of the season, cormorants, and mallards. We spy a hawk stalking a dove, and on our return we see the felled dove on the pavement, its pink feet curled and the blue patch startlingly vibrant around the glazed-over eye. I am a crossroads of emotions: sad for the death of this intricate creature, but awed by the hawk’s swift and silent skill.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas 20
In the beginning of the Gospel of John, we read that the wisdom (Word) of God is the structuring agent of the whole creation: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being (John 1:1-3). On certain mornings, these walks are my prayer, a time for listening to the Word of God as it comes to me through hawk and egret, through clouds and water, through stones and grasses. Each of these creatures, moving through the air or swimming or hugging the earth, is a facet of God’s Word, a grammar of wingbeats or stillness, flight or rest or song or rustling: a thousand names
for God, ten thousand verbs of God’s activity. Behind the whimsy or dignity of each creature is the unfathomable mind of God, the very God I have risen early to meet here. In his book Nature as Spiritual Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011), and its companion workbook, A Field Guide to Nature as a Spiritual Practice, Steven Chase interprets nature in relation to classical forms of prayer and Christian liturgy. “Nature is Christian practice,” says Chase. “She is the teacher and she is material and she is spiritual – the everyday and the sacramental. “The whole universe is God’s tongue speaking,” he adds. continued on page 22
How Do You Pray? The Rev. Doug Earle:
I guess I'm terminally Anglican, because when called upon to pray extemporaneously in a group, my natural tendency is to pray using the form and pattern of a Collect: An address to God the Father, a reference to a divine attribute or act, the petition or thanksgiving, and a concluding doxology. “My private prayers are divided into three camps. One is the silent prayer of intercession with sighs too deep for words, as Paul says in Romans 8:26. I simply hold the intention of intercession or thanksgiving before God, and let the Spirit handle the words. On those occasions when I find I need to use words I most often find them in the words of the prayers, Psalms, and hymns of our tradition. Most often I chant the prayers and Psalms rather than read them silently or aloud. The rhythm and tone of chant and hymns slow me down, and opens me to dimensions of prayer that I most likely would otherwise miss or gloss over. The final way of praying is simply being really, really, really present to whatever it is I'm doing, whether it’s gardening, walking or playing with the dogs, taking a hike in the beauty of wilderness, talking to a friend--what ever it is I happen to be doing. This is the rarest form of prayer for me. I don't often show up so attentively, but when I can, the experience is beyond anything I can ask or imagine by myself.”
● Alive in the Natural World from page 21
Chase bewails our current society’s disconnect from creation and its attendant wisdom of the human/nature relationship. Relearning our shared language with creation “is a slow but essential prayer that draws memory back into the present,” he says. He points out that John Calvin wrote that creation is sustained in and through the fact that it is constantly praising God, and “if God should withdraw his hand a little, all things would immediately perish and dissolve into nothing.” All around me, I see evidence of this in my Friday-morning walk. The hummingbirds, the ducks, the dove and the hawk speak with God, are sustained by God, in ways that my earth-bound mind cannot comprehend. But I know that this practice of finding God in nature has led more and more to finding God in all the details of my daily life. It has been a doorway into what the scriptures call prayer “without ceasing,” a constant attentiveness to the God who is over all, and through all, and in all.
The Rev. Dr. Jane Lancaster Patterson is an educator, retreat leader, writer, and co-director of The Work+Shop in San Antonio TX. Reach her at jpatterson@ theworkshop-sa.org.
I by Carla Pineda
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” - Mother Teresa
am a word person. I grew up around books and with a mother who was an English teacher. I watched a grandmother write daily. I read as a starving person looking for food in words. I never leave home without a journal or blank paper to write on. My prayers often show up on the page of a journal after I have been reflecting, questioning or just rambling about something. I love the prayers of the Book of Common Prayer and scripture. I know many of them by heart. I grew up with them and they are in my fiber, in my DNA.
Yet, sometimes words get in my way, even the beautiful words of the Book of Common Prayer or scripture that resonate in every fiber of my being. Sometimes I need to go to the place before the words in my prayer journey….into the “silence of the heart.” I need to not be praying words but letting silence seep in so that I can hear what it is God is saying to me beyond the words.
The Prayer of Silence
The prayer of silence has a long history. Jesus went away to pray at times, away from continued on page 24
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
● The Prayer of Silence from page 23 the crowds, from the noise, from the spoken services of the synagogue. The early desert mothers and fathers went to the desert to pray. Silence was built into the structure of their rules of life. Silent prayer may also be known as meditation, contemplation, centering prayer (to name a few). Forms of silent prayer are in all the major world religions. This silence is necessary for spiritual balance. For me, it is an important part of my prayer life.
So, what does this prayer, this “silence of the heart” look like in my prayer life? It is quietly sitting on my prayer stool and following my breath. It is watching my thoughts float through and not grabbing (or trying to not grab) hold of them. It is sitting in the stillness of St. Francis Chapel or on the bank of the Guadalupe River at Camp Capers and letting that stillness enter me. It is listening for “the heartbeat of God.” It is letting God lead me, giving up my agenda, my questions, even my specific prayer requests. It is giving it all to God, taking it back, and turning it over again. It is on this path then that I am more awake and attentive to what God has to say to me. It is as if in the silence I then can better discern the words I need to pray. It is sometimes a bumpy ride.
Silent prayer in community is another way this prayer has fed me. I sit once a week with three or four other women for 30 minutes. Beginning with some music and a short spiritual reading we then sit in stillness and quiet that brings forth a palpable sense of the holy. Our sharing is done from the silence and is richer for it. One time I attended a contemplative Eucharist that was done completely in silence. I met the mystery of this sacrament in a deeper and more intimate way that day. The silence let me know this is a meal not for “sissies.” And I was in a group for several years where we learned a process called “Contemplative Dialogue.” Silence was the setting and sharing was done from the silence with no cross talk, conversation or dialogue. Silence informed my spoken prayers later those nights. For me, silent prayer is the foundation. Starting in the silence I am led out of my head and into my heart. Here I can “listen with the ear of my heart” and hear from a deeper place. This place is not always a place of comfort. It is at times a place of dis-ease, of unsettledness, of dark. But, staying there I learn to trust and the words that have so shaped me take on deeper and more gracefilled meanings.
Carla Pineda is a writer and retreat leader. She is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX. Reach her at carlaleedpineda@ gmail.com
How Do You Pray?
Early in the morning before the sun comes up. During the day just ‘touching base’ prayers. A deep, silent ‘thank you’ as my head hits the pillow.” - Carla Pineda
Our â€œHow do you pray?â€? writers referred to several resources that you might like to use in your own prayer life. We compiled this list: Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Noonday Prayers, Compline: These are found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP for short), the prayer book used in every Episcopal Church. You can order a copy of the BCP at Viva Bookstore www. vivabooks.com in San Antonio or online at
http://episcopalbookstore.com/ or https://www.churchpublishing.org/ BCP online in English and Spanish. You can download and print it or read it online http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/bcp.htm
The Daily Office includes Morning and Evening Prayer; some people include Noonday Prayer and Compline as part of their daily routine. The prescribed readings for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer are in a two-year cycle; we are currently in Year Two. The Daily Office Lectionary (prescribed readings) is found on page 934 of the Book of Common Prayer; for The Daily Office online, including lectionary readings: http://www.missionstclare.com
Lectionary readings: The Episcopal Church prescribes specific Bible readings for Sundays and Holy Days. We use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) in tandem with several other denominations. The readings are in a three-year cycle; we are currently in Year B. The church year begins on the first Sunday of Advent (in this cycle, November 27, 2011) and ends on the last Sunday of the Season After Pentecost (December 1, 2012.) The list of readings is found in the Book of Common Prayer, page 889, or online at http://satucket.com/lectionary/ or http://www.lectionarypage.net Note that the lists in the BCP and online may not agree because The Episcopal Church has adopted the RCL since the last printing of the BCP. The online references are more accurate than the BCP.
Diocesan cycle of prayer. Every Sunday, all of our 90 congregations pray specifically for one or more of our congregations by name. The list is available on our diocesan website at http://www.dwtx.org/index.php/prayer/Diocesan_Cycle_of_Prayer. A printed copy is available by calling Leigh Saunders at the Bishop Jones Center, 210/888 824-5387 or emailing email@example.com. There is also a prayer list for diocesan clergy and staff, available from Laura Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anglican cycle of prayer. Every day, one of the dioceses or provinces of the Anglican Communion is prayed for by every church in the Communion (as they choose to participate). The Diocese of West Texas and bishops Lillibridge and Reed were lifted in prayer last on December 2, 2011. The Anglican Communion comprises 80 million members in 165 countries. Find the Anglican Cycle of Prayer here http:// www.anglicancommunion.org/acp/index.cfm
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Walk the labyrinth
Still more ways to pray
Pray the Hours
rom earliest times, the devout have set aside specific times throughout the day for prayer. “Seven times a day do I praise you” said the psalmist, (Ps. 119:164) and that may be the foundation for the number of prayers throughout the day being set at seven. Phyllis Tickle, in her article on explorefaith.org http:// www.explorefaith.com/prayer/prayer/ fixed/a_brief_history.php notes that “the healing of the lame man on the Temple steps by Sts. Peter and John (Acts 3:1), occurred when and where it did because two devout Jews (who did not yet know they were Christians as such) were on their way to ninth-hour (three o’clock) prayers. Not many years later, one of the great defining events of Christianity—St. Peter’s vision of the descending sheet filled with both clean and unclean animals—was to occur at noon on a rooftop because he had gone there to observe the sixth-hour prayers.” The traditional times for prayer were set at middle of the night (vigils), early morning (lauds), beginning of the work day (prime), mid-morning (terce), noon (sext), mid-to-late afternoon (none), and before bed (vespers/compline). Today, most who pray the hours define it as morning, noon, evening, and bedtime. The explorefaith website has an excellent set of articles by Phyllis Tickle on praying the divine hours at http://www.explorefaith.com/prayer/ prayer/fixed/index.php
labyrinth is a path which leads, via a circuitous route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. A labyrinth’s route has only a single path, and it is impossible to get lost within one. Some labyrinths are professionally built using beautiful inlays; others are made from rocks carefully placed in an outdoor garden. Walking the labyrinth can be seen as a form of prayer, a time of quiet and meditation during which one forgets the world and connects with God. The modern “rediscovery” of the labyrinth and its use in church settings is celebrated by groups such as The Labyrinth Society http://labyrinthsociety. org/ and Veriditas http://www.veriditas. org/ , The World-Wide Labyrinth Project http://labyrinthlocator.com/ Labyrinths we are aware of within the Diocese of West Texas include: St. Michael and All Angels, Blanco, 218 Pittsburg, 78606 www.stmichaelsblanco. org All Saints, Corpus Christi, 3026 S Staples, 78404 www.allsaintscorpuschristi.org St. Peter’s, Kerrville, 956 Main St., 78028 http://www.stpeterskerrville.com/ St. Andrew’s, Port Isabel, 1022 N. Yturria St 78578 http://www.standrewsportisabel. com/ Church of the Resurrection, San Antonio, 5909 Walzem Rd., www.churchresurrection.org. Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio (Garden Ridge), 19204 FM 2252 http:// covenantbaptist.org St. Francis, San Antonio, 4242 Bluemel Rd, 78240 www.sfcsa.org St. Thomas, San Antonio 1416 N Loop 1604 E, 78232 www.tom1604.org Church of Reconciliation, San Antonio, 8900 Starcrest Dr., 78217 www. churchofreconciliation.org St Stephen’s, Wimberley, 6000 FM3237, 78676 www.ststeve.org
The Last Word (Still) Practicing Prayer
by the Rt. Rev. David Reed
worry about my prayer life. It’s rarely where I think it ought to be: not as rich, deep, or steady as I’d like it to be. But I don’t worry about it nearly as much as I did before I realized that the disciples’ request to Jesus (on behalf of the group), “Lord, teach us to pray,” is, in itself, a prayer (Luke 11:1). It comes halfway through Luke’s Gospel, so the disciples have been following Jesus for quite a while — observing, learning, questioning, practicing.
As with anyone we love with whom we desire to be in real and meaningful communication, we need to be paying attention — to the other person, and to the time and place. My wife rarely has a good conversation with me about important things when I am rushing to get ready in the morning, preoccupied with the day ahead; I rarely have a good conversation with her at the end of a long day when she just wants to go to sleep.
They would certainly have been praying with him all along the way. And they more than likely grew up praying the prayers of family and synagogue. They would have prayed the Shema from Deuteronomy daily, like their ancestors had for many generations: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:4-5).
Finding time to converse with God is not so much about having “enough” time, but about prioritizing and claiming the “right” time when I can be attentive and less distracted. (Of course, God can and does speak through distractions, too, but that’s another story.)
So the request — “Teach us to pray”— is a prayer arising out of a prayerful life. It expresses a restlessness and a desire for what so many of us desire: a richer, deeper, and steadier habit of prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray” is a beautiful and honest prayer which Jesus answers by giving them (and us) the Lord’s Prayer. Like the desperate father’s cry to Jesus for the healing of his tormented boy, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” it isn’t a movement from nothing to something, but from something to something even more (Mark 9:24). The desire to “pray better” — unless it is mere wishful thinking or pious posturing — is itself a heartfelt prayer of faith. It expresses not simply honest longing, but trust that God actually wants us to have deeper conversation with him and that he will answer the prayer, in time and in a way that draws us nearer to him (though it may not be at the time or in the way we would like).
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
My personal prayer life is grounded in and shaped by the prayers of our Church. I am able to pray just about anywhere, but if I had not learned (and continue to learn) prayer within a worshipping community, I’m not sure that my prayers would be much more than talking to myself. But as one of our Anglican forefathers observed, “Until we find God in one place, we will find him in no place. But when we have found him in one place, then we will find him in all places.” So the places and times of real prayer, of conversation with God, are as limitless as God. I am still learning this, still practicing, still praying, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
The Rt. Rev. David Reed is bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.
Episcopal Diocese of West Texas P O Box 6885 San Antonio TX 78209 www.dwtx.org
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Teach Us to Pray continues at w w w. r e f l e c t i o n s - d w t x . o r g Log on to ReflectionsOnline at www.reflections-dwtx. org, then click on the “Articles and Topics” tab, then on “Prayer.”
More articles, book recommendations, links to videos and podcasts, and hot links to every URL mentioned in this issue.
The Jesus Prayer: origins and variations.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Anglican Prayer Beads Where to
buy them, how to make your own
Tom Fox of National Catholic Reporter interviews Fr. Richard Rohr on prayer: "When Jesus goes out and prays for 40 days, he is not saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers. He is looking out at life with a different set of eyes." Dowload the interviews.
Author Philip Yancey
writes about his book on prayer: “I now see [prayer] not so much as a way of getting God to do my will as a way of being available to get in the stream of what God wants to accomplish on earth.” What the ancients had to say: Augustine, Athanasius, Polycarp and their contemporaries. (Give or take a few hundred years.) on prayer
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