On Sponsorship of the World

“Choose not then to cleave to this aged world, and to be unwilling to grow young in Christ” (Augustine of Hippo).

Heartlight, Inc (2004)

Heartlight, Inc (2004)

My Lord do not allow for me to become ensnared by the sponsorship of the world which is at enmity with You (1 Jn. 2:15), to go after the commendation of men who have set their ways against You (Ps. 25). I know how tough and painful this demanding act of renunciation can be, it wars against both the spirit and the flesh (1 Jn. 2:16). Strengthen me and allow for the Holy Ghost to inspire me to “not be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), to fight against this temptation which is ever before me, to forswear earthly prizes and approvals (1 Cor. 1:27). I fall often, but help me to see, my God, that this is a source of great turmoil and of grave danger to my heart (Rom 8:5). For I was created and shaped to serve You alone, I was commanded by Your word to bow down to no one save for You (Deut. 5:7). I cannot have many masters for then I become a “house divided” and will not stand (Matt. 12:25). The more I campaign after earthly praise, the more I will stray from the commendation of Heaven and look for the approval of those around me (Lk. 16:15). I have a choice, the decaying wreaths and short-lived glory of this world which is “passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31), or the incorruptible “crown of life” of Your eternal kingdom (Rev. 2:10). It is difficult to be sure, for I am mocked and scorned, but once I begin upon this consecrated road, establishing myself securely in Your ways, “grace” and the “gift of righteousness” will follow and abound (Rom. 5:17).

Dear Lord, renew my mind, even if this might mean the realization of my most improbable prayers and the putting on of heavy armour.

On Prayer

“The day when God is absent, when He is silent – that is the beginning of prayer.” Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray (1970).

Albrecht Dürer  Betende Hände  (c. 1508)

Albrecht Dürer Betende Hände (c. 1508)

There are many definitions to prayer, for similarly to spirituality, it is linked to the realms of the sacred. For most of us, prayer is an interior invocation reaching out to communicate with a divine entity. Ordinarily, this will be our Creator. We need not be spiritual masters or anchorites to approach prayer with confidence, nor is the mastery of any specific technique essential to begin with. Petition, thanksgiving, and worship are characteristic of prayer. The only condition for prayer to be effective is that we might at least be silent and receptive. We are told by those who do pray habitually, that it helps our prayerful state if our hearts are not weighed down by enmity. Even faith itself is not required in the beginning, only the overwhelming desire to speak and to lay open all before the great “I AM” (Ex 3:14). The skies will probably not open and we may not “be surprised by joy”, in fact, not very much might happen. Very likely the only voice we hear coming back will be our own. It is a first step. We have, after all, been separated from this divine source of communication for a long time and our spirit is prone to distraction. Learning to discern the voice of God is not easy. Prayer itself is simple, but the “art of prayer” is a lifetime practice. The Paternoster (Matt 6:9-13) built around the seven petitions of Christ and often called the “perfect prayer” or a “summary of the whole Gospel”, can help us greatly on our quest to learn how to pray. Prayer too commences with an action, a movement into hallowed ground, whether of the spirit or the body. Either way like most things of the spiritual life, acts of charity are one of its primary manifestations, before and after the opening of the heart where it all begins, and in the bowing of the head where it normally starts.

Hope

“And you shall be secure, because there is hope; yes, you shall dig about you, and you shall take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18).

George Frederic Watts  Hope  (1886)

George Frederic Watts Hope (1886)

Hope is my favourite word. It has helped me survive and not give up looking for meaning during hard times when all appeared lost. It gave substance to the other great words which I needed to trust in: love, faith, and prayer. Why do we place such confidence in these profoundly spiritual expressions of life? I think one of the reasons is because of our 'expectation', that not only are these movements into grace possible, but also do-able. Outside the living-out of hope, this longing for delivery and restoration, how else are we to put into practice those other hope-inspired acts which give purpose and meaning to our lives? Hope is the opposite to despair. It means refusing to surrender or to believe there is no way out. Hope can change everything, and it usually does. Hope is “to bend your ear over your almost shattered lyre,” recollecting George Frederic Watts's evocative painting “Hope” (1886), “to catch the music from the last remaining string.” Needless to say, hope can be experienced in different ways, like our unique reaction to the ringing of a doorbell past midnight.