Seeking Wisdom by Julia Cameron — Book Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. The author is involved in a twelve-step program, as are many of the people she interviews. I have a great respect for AA and other similar groups, but in this book, the “higher power” most often espoused seems to be a God of the person’s own making, not the God of the Bible. The author states that:

“Their conceptions of God varied from ‘an energy’ to ‘best friend’ to benevolent something’, from Baptist to Catholic, Buddhist to Hindu, but all agreed that God is real and we can contact God.”

She even advises readers to “create the god you would like to talk to.”

If you can put all that aside, and it isn’t easy, she offers many good suggestions for journaling and prayer practices. Every page also offers quotes about prayer (I love quotes!), but once again they are a mixed bag using the words of traditional Christians (including Martin Luther) along with others that are Buddhist, Hindu or just secular.

VERDICT: 4 for readability and practical suggestions; 0 for theology. Be sure you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff if you decide to read this one. Certainly not a book to recommend to young or new believers.

For more about prayer see these posts:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

A Prayer of Surrender

The Lord’s Prayer with commentary by Rick Warren–Book Review

Jesus Listens by Sara Young–Book Review

With thick, glossy pages and an attached silk bookmark, this 365-day devotional would make a beautiful gift for a Christian friend. It includes a presentation page. Each devotion is dated, and includes a daily prayer, as well as a number of Scripture references that support the theme. There are prayers of peace, joy, hope and love and are designed to be a starting point for other personal prayers.

In the author’s introduction, she says:

“Many years ago, I went to Covenant Theological Seminary…. I especially enjoyed a course on the Bible’s wisdom literature, and the professor was indeed very wise. From the array of wisdom he imparted, one simple teaching has stayed with me …. his personal practice of praying, ‘Help me Holy Spirit’ throughout the day… it reminds me that I am not alone.”

The prayers in Jesus Listens, if used regularly, will also remind us that Jesus is always available, and ready to hear us.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I have enjoyed using this book during my morning devotional time.

For more devotionals see these posts:

Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie–Book Review

90 Days with The God Who speaks –Book Review

Big and Little Coloring Devotional – Book Review

Litany of Humility

A book I am reading mentioned this litany, written by an early twentieth century Spanish Catholic cardinal, Rafael Merry del Val y Zuluenta. I looked it up and found it very moving. Maybe we should each be inspired to write our own prayer, asking that we be delivered from our personal besetting desires and fears.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should

For more about humility see these posts:

The Gift of Humility

Rest in Humility

Remembering to be Humble

An Ignatian Prayer

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.”

Ignatius of Loyola

For more prayers see:

A Prayer for Unity with Christ

A Prayer to be Taught by the Holy Spirit

A Prayer of Surrender

Two New Words

In today’s post I decided to explain a couple of theological terms that most won’t find familiar. I learned about them years ago when I took a two-year course in spiritual direction. Here are the definitions:

Apophatic–knowledge of God through negation. In other words, God is so mysterious, so different, that He can be best described by what He is not.

Cataphatic--knowledge of God through affirmation. This means positive descriptions of God based on what He has revealed in Scripture.

These two “ways” of thinking about God lead to different types of praying. “Cataphatic” prayer has content; it uses words, images, symbols, ideas. “Apophatic” prayer has no content. It means emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God.

Centering prayer, also known as contemplative prayer and listening prayer, is a form of apophatic prayer. It is the practice of relaxing, emptying the mind, and letting oneself find the presence of God within. It involves silence, stillness, patience, sometimes repeating something, and the practice of “not knowing” as the person seeks God’s presence.

Ignatian prayer is an example of cataphatic practice. This type of prayer is imaginative, reflective and personal. The spiritual exercises of Ignatius involve putting oneself into a biblical scene or event and thinking about what it would mean personally. It involves the use of words and images.

Neither way is wrong, in fact, each may be beneficial at different times and stages of life. Most of us are more familiar with the apophatic method, using words, praying out loud. However, sitting in silence and waiting can be helpful, too. Try them both! There is no right or wrong way to pray!

For more posts about prayer see:

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Prayer Disciplines Part 2

The Holy Spirit and Prayer #2

Lots of Prayer

Sven Oftedahl, who was a professor at Augsburg Seminary and a President of the Lutheran Free Church (predecessor of the AFLC) called the annual conference the “powerhouse” of the denomination. What fuels that power? In my opinion, it is prayer.

If you attend an AFLC conference, you will be given many opportunities for prayer. The daily meetings begin with a devotion given by one of the pastors, and of course, a prayer. Each committee report ends with a prayer for the activities, the people, the needs and the hopes of that particular ministry. During committee reports, there is also time for anyone attending to comment, make suggestions, or pray. Sometimes a prayer request will be given to those leading the conference — maybe because someone has been taken ill, or a difficulty has come up–in that case, we stop to pray for that situation. There are also regular prayer breaks throughout the day, when we gather in small groups with those around us to pray together. Of course, there is prayer before meal breaks, and prayer during the evening worship services.

What is the result? Well, there is remarkably little conflict. People get to know one another. Prayer creates a bond that continues even when the conference ends. As congregations, I think we could all take a page out of the AFLC’s book — the more we pray together, the closer we will be to one another and to God. So, pray, pray, pray.

 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2 42

For more posts about prayer see:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Prayer and Charity

Always Amending, YBH?

Many Christians will agree with the idea that we should be “always amending” our lives, but there is still what I call the YBH question — yes, but how? In order to become a better person, a more worthy disciple, we must take some action. What should we do and how?

I think the key is to form habits. If you’re dissatisfied with the time you spend in prayer, reading your Bible, or serving others, you can work to make these things habitual parts of your daily routine. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start small. Read a chapter of the Bible a day, pray for ten minutes, take on one ministry that really interests you.
  2. Have a “cue.” For example, tie your activity to something you already do regularly — for example, I will read the Bible while I enjoy my morning coffee, or I will pray every evening right before I get in bed.
  3. Need to make time? Some people get up earlier, stay up later, or use their lunch hour. If you start with a small goal, this will work.
  4. Have a Plan B, if you miss your regular “cue” when will you fit the activity in?
  5. Do it with friends. A Bible study group, prayer or ministry team, or an accountability partner will help you not just have a plan but stick with your plan.
  6. Don’t give up! When you fail (and you will), just get back to your routine as soon as you can.
  7. Don’t expect immediate results. Take stock after six months or a year, and you will probably see that some things have changed. Then you can set a new goal.

We all have limitations, and we’re not perfect. We won’t be able to achieve complete sanctification in this life. but we can always improve. Thankfully, our salvation does not depend upon our works, but on God’s grace! He loves you and so do I!

For more about developing spiritual disciplines see these posts:

What Do You Practice?

Fanning the Flame #16 Personal Spiritual Discipline

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Media Distinctio

Yesterday I posted about the medio distinctio — the pause in choral psalmody that allows those chanting to take a breath. Today, I thought it would be helpful to actually listen to that type of music. See if you can identify the pause, and think about how you might work short pauses into your own life — pauses that allow you to rest, to pray, to think, to wait for God’s timing.

For more about music and how to use it in your spiritual life see these posts:

Music Teaches

Music as Prayer

Music as a Dynamic

Take a Breath

I learned something interesting in a book I read recently (Peace Is a Practice by Morgan Harper Nichols–Book Review). You probably know that Benedictine monks are known for choral psalmody. But did you ever realize that in the middle of each verse there is a pause for taking a breath? This is called the media distincto.

Maybe we should apply this idea to our own lives. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I am constantly rushing from one thing to another. “Multi-tasking” is the order of the day. It’s not enough to do one thing well — we have to be juggling two or three or more things at the same time. If we allow our attention to falter, even for a second, all the balls are likely to come tumbling down, causing us to feel that we’ve failed colossally. This isn’t a good way to live. It leads to anxiety and all sorts of mental and physical symptoms of stress. It just isn’t healthy.

So, what’s the alternative? Slow down. Work on one task or attack one problem at a time. When you’re not sure, wait. Rest a while. Pray. Learn to trust God. It won’t be easy when we’ve become used to living on high alert, but we can practice it for one hour, one day, one season at a time.

Take a breath!

For more about slowing down and resting see:

Slow Me Down

Taking A Break

When is it time?

A Prayer for Unity with Christ

O most merciful Jesus, grant to me Thy grace, that it may be with me and labor with me, and persevere with me even to the end.

Grant me always to desire and to will that which is to Thee most acceptable. Let Thy will be mine, and let my will ever follow Thine, and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Thine and let me not be able to will or not to will anything else, but what Thou willest or willest not.

Grant that I may die to all things that are in the world, and for Thy sake love to be condemned and not known in this generation. Grant to me above all things that can be desired to rest in Thee, and in Thee to have my heart at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart; Thou its only rest; out of Thee all things are hard and restless. In this peace, in this selfsame thing, that is, in Thee, the chiefest eternal good, I will sleep and rest (Psalm 4:8). Amen

From Of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

For more prayers see:

A Prayer to be Taught by the Holy Spirit

A Prayer for Our Friends

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word