Aug 2010 Newsletter Submission – St. David’s Episcopal Church

“I Want to Pray” By The Rev. Eric Cooter

Whether we face challenges and uncertainty or even in times of relative peace, the phrase “I want to pray,” reflects a deep awareness of our reliance on God. Merely acknowledging a desire to pray can be a spark that ignites a raging fire of love for God. Prayer takes many forms, but we tend to only venture out so far when it comes to our prayer practices. We often overlook one of the most ancient prayer practices in our Christian tradition. Contemplative prayer focuses on listening to God, by simply becoming aware of our desire to be drawn into God’s presence. Listening is critical in the development of any relationship. As basic as it may seem, verbalizing and listening are the building blocks of all communication. Prayer, the sacred form of communication, includes both speaking and listening, and practicing prayer that includes both is essential to a richer prayer life.

Contemplative prayer is a form of prayer that had its origin in the mid 4th to early 5th centuries. During this period, “Hermits, Ascetics and Monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt, beginning around the third century CE, were the first Christian hermits, who abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude. These original desert hermits were Christians fleeing the chaos and persecution of the Roman Empire’s Crisis of the Third Century.” (Merton) In times of uncertainty, one does not have to escape to the desert or live in solitude in order to find solace in God’s peace. Abba Isaac, one of the early “Desert Fathers” taught, “the person who continually invokes God as his protector, is aware that God is ever present at hand.” (Pennington, p. 18) Through the knowledge of God’s presence with us, even in times of trouble, uncertainty, and anxiety, we can have confidence. Abba Isaac also asserted, prayer that “contains an invocation of God, a humble confession of faith, a reverent watchfulness, a meditation on human frailty, an act of confidence in God’s response, is an assurance of his ever-present support.” (Pennington, p. 18) In other words, when we say “I want to pray,” we verbalize our heart’s desire to be present with God. “I want to pray” is an attentive acknowledgement of our reliance on God, which leads to a desire for conversation with God.

There are times in life when we face the unknown, when feelings of anxiety and fear emerge and threaten our sense of God’s peace. Anxiety such as this usually accompanies major changes or life transitions, but through prayer, we can recall that our Great Protector is always present. We can face uncertain times knowing that the Spirit lifts us to a place of quiet confidence. It is this confidence that gives us the strength to face any adversity.

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you,
to your presence, where we may be still and know that you
are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer p. 832 )

Peace and Blesssings,
Fr. Eric+

Sources Cited:
1. Merton,Thomas (1960).”The Wisdom of the Desert, Abbey of Gethsemani”
2. Pennington, M. Basil (2001). “Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form” 3. 1979 Book of Common Prayer

July 2010 Newsletter Article – St. David’s Episcopal Church

Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540
by The Rev. Eric S. Cooter

Benedict of Nursia, better known as St. Benedict, would normally be commemorated on the liturgical calendar on Sunday July 11. Because all Sundays are feast days of Our Lord, we would normally move this Feast to commemorate Benedict, to the first weekday following the Sunday. St. Benedict has had a major influence on monasticism and especially on our Anglican spirituality. The Rule of St. Benedict focused on many aspects of life and it was developed so that anyone could follow it. One key to the rule was that it embraced the notion of moderation and balance. “Moderation is key to the Rule of St. Benedict. He did not want his monks fasting or praying too much, but he did not want them to do the opposite, either. Instead, he called for a healthy balance in life, and it is this that appeals to many lay people.” (Srubras 2010)
Balance in life is difficult to attain. We are pulled in so many directions, and sometimes one area of life is in competition with another, for our time and effort. Benedict however, encouraged balance in life. Three areas of our lives always seem to require particular attention: recreation, work, and our spiritual lives (corporate worship, spiritual disciplines, private prayer, etc). It seems that when any one part of our life gets too much of our time and effort, the other areas of life suffer. Too much work leaves little time for prayer and quiet time with God. Too much work also takes away from time for recreation. Recreation (re- creation) is not merely “killing time” and relaxing, but it is a time set aside to help restore us to wholeness. For some of us it may be hobbies like quilting, sewing, cooking, gardening, fishing, golfing, painting, flying or some other pursuit that is enjoyable, and one that harnesses our natural ability to create. We need this time to be whole persons created in the image of God. When any one area of our lives wars against another, we are out of balance and other areas and relationships suffer.
Keep in mind; our lives are not easily segmented into neatly defined boxes. For some of us, we find that the boundaries between recreation, work, and spirituality are very vague. When we discover God’s active presence in our work, recreation, and prayer life balance occurs because we are rooted in God. For Benedict, balance was not about meticulously dividing time and effort between multiple areas of life. Balance was about living in an awareness that our work and efforts do not have to war with our time of prayer, our time in silence with God, and in our time to join God in the act of ongoing creation. As co-authors with God in the narrative of salvation and restoration, we are vessels for the Spirit’s re-creation work in and through us.

Works Cited
Srubras, Rachel. “Oblation.” 2010. http://www.curledup.com/oblation.htm (accessed June 2010).

"Hoist Sail" The deep waters are calling!

The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21
“There came a sound like the rush of a violent wind”
Driving down the road the other day, I saw sitting in a marina, 20 – 30 beautiful sailboats. Just sitting there. I thought, this is not the use for which sailboats were intended. Sailboats are designed and built to ride high on the waves with sails unfurled catching the mighty winds. Sailboats are designed and built to carry people from one place to another and in the process, give people a rich, experience. Sailboats are vehicles that require a lot of work to keep them afloat. No one individual can sail a ship. It requires others who can tie off ropes at appropriate times, adjust the tension on the sails, and support each other in the quest to ride high on the winds.

The Holy Spirit came upon the church on the Day of Pentecost like the rush of a violent wind. Pneuma the greek for wind, spirit, or breath was poured out on the church that day. The breath of God breathing life into the church was the birth of the church. The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ. It takes many hands working together to accomplish God’s mission for the church. It takes the breath of God to accomplish God’s mission for the church. Without the breath of God, our mission becomes a vision of our own making. Without the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Voice of Truth enlightening our path, we are wondering aimlessly about.

The Church is like a ship carrying the people of God toward the mission of God. When we open our sails to receive the rush of the wind of the Holy Spirit, we are moved toward the mission of bringing others to the knowledge and love of God. It requires many hands to adjust the tension of the sails, to discern the movement of the Spirit. It requires gifts, spiritual gifts, to keep the beautiful ship on course. No one member of the church can accomplish the mission alone, but together we are called to work together. The wind of the Spirit of God can fill our sails and will guide us into all truth.

Like on the day of the birth of the Church, the Spirit came upon the people gathered, and the Spirit comes upon us today. Enlightening us, empowering us, calling us to do the work that each of us together have been called to do. We are not called to anchor in the marina, with sails tied up and riggings stowed away. The church is called to deep waters and high waves of an open sea where the Spirit blows and fills our sails, so that all may come to know Christ.

Graduation invitations, stamps, and the ministry of healing.

I had an interesting encounter in the post office yesterday. I was on my way home from Sewanee and I happened to be wearing clericals after serving in chapel that morning. I had my graduation invitations addressed and ready to mail, so I stopped at the local post office to get stamps.

In the lobby of the post office, I saw a woman who appeared to be a bit distraught. When our eyes met, she said to me, “You are obviously a ‘man of God’.” I smiled, and she asked me if I would pray for her because she had just been diagnosed with cancer. I asked her what her name was, and then asked if I could pray for her right there. She looked surprised and her eyes welled up and she said, “please.” We held hands in the lobby of that post office and prayed.

All of our circumstances are all fraught with unseen fears, tragedies, and challenges and it is when we are taken out of our selves, God allows us to be a part of the ministry of healing for others. Be ready and open to those times when, in the most unpredictable circumstances, God will call us to serve each other, to comfort each other, to pray with and for each other.