I wasn't all that taken with the chapter reading, but it has lots of quotations which I liked. Plus a nice summation of The Lord's Prayer:
Make things right.
Prayer is an expanding of our heart in the presence of God.
Prayer does not change God, but it changes whoever prays.
Prayer is communion with God. It is a matter of making connections with the One who stands at the center of all life and joy, and of learning to live with those connections all the time.
Growth in the life of faith demands a constant willingness to let go and leap again. Prayer is not always a smooth, peaceful progress, but a series of detachments from everything . . . . that is not God.
The point of prayer is not to tell God what we want, but to receive what we need . . . . This is so important to understand in a culture that caters to our every whim. Prayer isn't about me—it is about God.
Be free. Be simple. Prayer is a perfectly natural relationship between God, who loved you first, and you who try to love God back.
-Catherine deHueck Doherty
The wide expression in the Psalter—the anger and pain of lament, the anguished self-probing of confession, the grateful fervor of thanksgiving, the ecstatic joy of praise—allows us to bring our whole lives to God.
We must in all our prayers carefully avoid wishing to confine God to certain circumstances, or prescribe to God the time, place, or mode of action . . . For before we offer up any petition for ourselves, we ask that God's will may be done, and by so doing place our will in subordination to God's.
In prayer we open ourselves to the chance that God will do something with us that we had not intended.
To pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains.
-Henri J. M. Nouwen
I could have sworn Layna was posting recently about seeing the wonder of God in all things, of just being aware of the beauty around us and where it comes from, of how that itself it can be prayerful and worshipful. I couldn't actually find such a post, though. The sentiment still stands.
I also recalled how in Women Mystics, Sarah Newby (I think) mentioned the command to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) and how all these different women we'd been reading talked about different things as prayer (contemplation, activism, gardening, whatever) so if we took all those things together we really could pray without ceasing.
It's 6:30-8:30, so it starts with a dinner thing. Pastor Hamilton officially introduced me. He reiterated some of what he'd said at Perks, about me being so smart etc. at such a young age, and also said that we'd talked theology the previous night and when he left his head was spinning. One of those times when it would be nice to be able to blush on cue. Of course this left me worried that I wouldn't be able to live up to this. (As it turned out, I was full of thoughts.)
[When I'd come in that night, he thanked me for my e-mail and said he was particularly impressed by my citations -- asked if it was Chicago style; no, it was modified MLA -- since most people just say things like, "I found it in some book." I pointed out that I was an English major.]
He also mentioned that I'd gone to Smith, so over the course of dinner I learned of the dozenish people present, one woman was a college sports ref (and thus had spent time at Smith) and one couple had gone to the bulb show.
There's a half hour video that goes with each chapter of the book they're working out of, so that was next on the agenda.
The speaker (Rob Weber) went off the same theme as the chapter but a very different way, which I appreciated.
One of his stories was about a Christmas ornament with a beautiful intricate pattern painted on it -- on the inside. The artist inserted a tiny brush through a small opening at one end of the ornament. He talked about how we need to remain open to God.
His second story was about going to visit a church in a town north of London. The church was built in something like One Thousand and the most recent addition was made something like 500 years ago -- when they built a belltower. However, shortly before their visit the church was struck by lightning, so they were replacing a lot of the wooden beams (burnt, not to mention dry rot etc.). However, whereas the villagers saw trash, the speaker saw history, saw beams which for 500 years had supported a bell which called these villagers to worship. So he asked permission to take some of the beams and had them shipped back to his home in America. He gave them to a congregant who was a woodworker and asked him to make something out of them for the church. He refused to tell the woodworker specifics, though, asking the woodworker to trust in God. He said that after this he found the woodworker paid much more attention in church, borrowed books from the church library -- wanted to learn/know what to do with this wood. The ultimate resolution was: work can be prayer, and the woodworker made a beautiful detailed cross out of the wood.
After the video, we broke into two groups for discussion.
Talking about prayer isn't about changing God but about changing you, Pastor Hamilton mentioned C. S. Lewis, describing a scene in a movie called . . . "The Badlands?"
"The Shadowlands," I said.
"Why am I not surprised you knew that?" I didn't mention that I only knew it because I took a class on the Inklings.
Anyway, it's when Joy has cancer, and Lewis has been praying, and he's drinking with a friend, and the friend asks if he thinks he's going to change God's mind, and Lewis looks at him like he's crazy and says it's not about changing God but about changing himself.
Pastor Hamilton mention a Benedictine monastery which has a sign up in Latin which translates as work=prayer. I was reminded of Calvinism, though I don't think they would have called work prayer.
One of the participants mentioned that near the end of "If I Were a Rich Man" it goes (and I Googled to get the full text):
If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lackand that really resonated with him many years after he first he heard it at age 19 or 20.
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.
Chick talked about taking care of her mother for 4 years after she had a stroke which robbed her of almost all of her ability to interact with the world (no sight, no hearing, etc. though she could still talk) and how she prayed, "God, please give her some of it back," and one day she heard her mother praying, "God, please take me home," and how that changed her way of thinking about prayer forever -- the realization that she was praying out of her own desires, and the person she was praying for had entirely different desires. I was amused because my immediate thought upon hearing about her mother was that I would have been praying "Please God let her die." And yes obviously that is prayer coming out of my own desires like whoa.
One thing mentioned in the chapter which we mentioned was the old prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." versus the new version: "God in heaven, hear my prayer, keep me in thy loving care. Be my guide in all I do, and bless all those who love me too."
Some agreed with the chapter that the old version is scary. I was maybe 8 (maybe younger?) when I first encountered the prayer, and I didn't think of it as scary at all, though admittedly I didn't think about it much at all.
Someone argued that it teaches kids that they're going to Heaven and makes death a nonscary thing, citing some woman who's dying and is very calm in the face of it. I thought of The Puritan Way of Death
Pastor at reconvene: So, prayer, what's up with that?