Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC

SUNDAY BIBLETALK
Sunday, July 28th, 2019


EXCERPT FROM
A POCKETFUL OF SUNDAYS

Prayer is not a matter of having the "right words" or formulae, or even of communicating with God. We may be accustomed to relying on words in our prayer, but there is nothing we can say that God doesn't already know. Prayer is about communing with God, that is, sharing at a heart to heart level that goes much deeper than communication skills or dexterity with words. If we make ourselves available to God at all times and not just at "prayer time," then the Spirit will pray in us ceaselessly, bringing to the surface all those feelings and concerns we might otherwise overlook. At rest in God's heart, all we have to do is "be." No words are necessary.


Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, A Pocketful of Sundays, 2009.




UPCOMING COURSE
Imagery and Spiritual Awakening
Institute for Life Coach Training
Tele-course, Tuesday nights, October 15-November 26th, 2019. 5:00-6:30 pm CST












FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Have you ever received an outcome that you prayed for and later regretted?

To what extent do you pray, "Thy will be done" and mean it?

Why is surrender to God so difficult?

Have you ever surrendered your whole self to God? If so, what happened?

How do you experience God in prayer? Do you have a tangible sense of God's presence? Do you experience God as "over and above" or "within"?

What parts of yourself do you bring to prayer? What parts of yourself get left out?

How available are you to God?

Does prayer affect the way you live, the attitudes you hold and the relationships you form?

Greetings, Readers!

It breaks my heart to hear about parish closings and church demolitions, especially as I myself still grieve over the the tearing down of Chicago's Old St James some six years ago. Parishioners and former parishioners fought to save that church, gathering for prayer vigils and even sending appeals to Rome -- to no avail. If Pope Francis saw our tweets, he didn't respond and if God heard our prayers, there was no last minute rescue. Instead, the magnificent neo-Gothic church came tumbling down, and along with it, a slice of Chicago history. As one parishioner put it, it was "like punching a hole in God's heart."

Happily for the parish, liturgies continued in the auditorium under new pastoral leadership and so while the community lost its landmark building, it never ceased praying. The new space, though small and devoid of architectural embellishments, became a house of prayer where worshipers could be nourished at the table of Word and Sacrament. To this day, anyone who visits St. James Parish experiences its rich tradition of hospitality and liturgical excellence. As soon as you cross the threshold, you can feel the presence of the Spirit alive and well in the community; and, once you leave after the final blessing, you know that you have indeed been sent forth to love and serve the Lord and each other!

Liturgical prayer can be evaluated from any number of perspectives and can include such components as music, preaching and the environment-- all of which are critically important; however, there are two criteria that let me know whether I am in a community that knows how to pray or in one that merely dispenses the sacraments, providing Sunday masses so that the assembly can meet their religious obligations. The first criterion is the world view reflected in the Prayers of the Faithful : do the prayers reflect the needs of the church, of the world and of the local community? If there have been natural disasters, acts of violence, humanitarian crises and tragedies of any kind, do these prayers make reference to these events or are they so generic as to have no relevance? Do the prayers allow the people to cry out to God for justice and mercy or are they so devoid of emotion that it would take an earthquake to get anyone's attention, including God's? I once had the privilege of worshiping in a Zulu church in South Africa and there the people's prayers were cries from the heart that made the very rafters sing; I believe this is how the Prayers of the Faithful should be offered on a regular basis -- with all the passion of an Abraham pleading with God to spare the city of Sodom.

The second criterion I look for is how the assembly prays set prayers such as the Nicene Creed and The Lord's Prayer . If the community recites these prayers in unison, slowly, reverently, and with understanding, then I know that prayer is happening. If, on the other hand, there is a cacophony of unintelligible responses, then I know that "full active, conscious participation" of the assembly is a goal yet to be achieved.

As we focus on prayer today. we need to evaluate not only our private prayer but also our experiences of communal prayer. If we are fortunate enough to belong to a parish like St. James, then we must work tirelessly to maintain the liturgical excellence to which parishioners are accustomed; if, on the other hand, our parish liturgies drain us of energy, ignore the sufferings of our brothers and sisters across the globe and fail to engage us spiritually, then it is time to demand change and to help be that change!


Many Blessings!
Elizabeth
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SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
Luke 11:1-13


We have all heard the expression, "Be careful what you pray for!" At one time in my life, I would batter the doors of heaven, asking for specific outcomes; however, when I received exactly what I had asked for, this invariably led to unhappy consequences. Eventually, I accepted the fact that I was not omnipotent and that a far better way of praying would be to leave matters in God's hands. The truth is that when we pray, " My will be done,"we can only see "darkly," thinking in terms of immediate gratification, benefits and solutions; fortunately, God sees beyond the short-term and so when we pray, " Thy will be done," we cannot go wrong.

There is power to " Thy will be done." In the first place, it recognizes who is omnipotent and who isn't in the human-Divine relationship. Surrendering our will is an act of humility that saves us from what the ancient Greeks considered to be the most heinous of sins -- hubris or pride. In Aeschylus' play, Agamemnon , the warrior king, Agamemnon, returns from Troy and at the insistence of his wife, Clytaemnestra, steps onto rich crimson tapestries that her handmaids have laid as a carpet. Acknowledging that only the gods "deserve the pomps of honor and the still brocades of fame," he takes off his boots and steps down from his chariot. Instead of surrendering to the gods, he surrenders to his wife's twisted will and to his own ego. The result is deadly.

Secondly, " Thy will be done" is the prayer most pleasing to God because it aligns our will with the Divine Will. Instead of focusing on "I want" or "I need" or "I wish for,"
we invite God's Will to be done in us, and through us, as well as in the world and for the world -- in other words, we are praying that the reign of God will extend everywhere, at all times and in all places, so that all time becomes sacred time and all places become God's sanctuary. When God's Will manifests in us, then we become the temple of the Holy Spirit, a tabernacle of holiness. Our human nature is divinized and we ourselves mirror the Creator who made us in the Divine image.

When we ask that God's Will be done, when we seek with all our strength and knock with all our might, then doors open to infinite possibilities and the world is transformed.
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.



Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com