Daily Riches: An Hour Well Employed (Allen Verhey, Pete Scazzero, and Francis de Sales)

“Prayer is focused attention to God.” Pete Scazzero

“In learning to pray, Christians learn …a practice – and the good intrinsic to that practice. They learn, that is, to attend to God, to look to God. And they learn that not just intellectually, not just as an idea. In learning to pray, they learn a human activity that engages their bodies as well as their minds, their affections and passions and loyalties as well as their rationality, and that focuses their lives and their common life upon God. To attend to God is not easy to learn – or painless. And given our inveterate attention to ourselves and to our own needs and wants, we frequently corrupt it. …In learning to pray, Christians learn to look to God and, after the blinding vision, to begin to look at all else in a new light. In prayer they do not attend to something beyond God that God – or  prayer – might be used in order to reach; they attend to God. That is the good intrinsic to prayer, the good ‘internal to that form of activity,’ simple attention to God.” Allen Verhey

“How to meditate? Bring yourself back to the point quite gently. And even if you do nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back a thousand times, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.” Francis de Sales

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  Luke 11:1

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your prayer aimed at “focused attention to God” or are you often easily distracted by your “inveterate attention” to yourself and your own needs and wants? If you’re easily distracted, can you forgive yourself, admitting you’re like everyone else?
  • When worries, fantasies, noises, sinful thoughts and the making of plans disrupt your attention to God, are you able to “bring yourself back to the point quite gently” – with no self recrimination, self-defense or further distraction?
  • Can you bring your heart back to attentiveness to God, even if in one session it’s “a thousand times?”

Abba, I’m encouraged that with each distraction, I have the opportunity to turn to you and attend to you again. I’m glad to do this over and over as long as I must, knowing you’re waiting for me there, eager for my return.

For More: The Art of Loving God by Francis de Sales

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Prayer and the Wandering Mind (John Donne, Brennan Manning, John Bunyan) *

“I neglect God and his angels for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door; I talk on in the same posture of praying, eyes lifted up, knees bowed down, as though I prayed to God; and if God or his angels should ask me when I thought last of God in that prayer, I cannot tell. Sometimes I find that I had forgot what I was about, but when I began to forget it I cannot tell. A memory of yesterday’s pleasures, a fear of tomorrow’s dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine ear, a light in mine eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain troubles me in my prayer.” John Donne

“One of the cardinal rules of prayer is: Pray as you can, don’t pray as you can’t. … Remember the only way to fail in prayer is not to show up.” Brennan Manning

“The great thing is prayer. Prayer itself. If you want a life of prayer, the way to get it is by praying.” Thomas Merton

“When you pray, rather let your heart be without words
than your words without heart.”
John Bunyan

“But when you pray,
go into your room,
close the door ….”
Matthew  6:6

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • John Donne shares very honestly about his problems in prayer, and the humor in his report shows he is not condemning himself. Perhaps he is just letting these distractions “float on downstream” – not resisting them or really even giving them any mind. What do you think? Can you extend grace to yourself in this regard as he does?
  • If you focus on the “noise of a fly” or the “monkeys in the trees” (Nouwen) you’ll probably give up in frustration. Can you “show up” according to plan each day, regardless of whether you feel delighted or distracted? What would be the importance of doing that?
  • For your “heart to be without words” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Have you tried to pray by just silently giving God your attention?

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For More: Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, eds. Coffin and Witherspoon

Thomas Merton is also good on this topic.

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Thomas Merton expresses my heart for Daily Riches: “If I dare, in these few words, to ask you some direct and personal questions, it is because I address them as much to myself as to you. It is because I am still able to hope that a civil exchange of ideas can take place between two persons — that we have not yet reached the stage where we are all hermetically sealed, each one in the collective arrogance and despair of his own herd.” I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: When Prayer is “Impossible” (Thomas Merton and Teresa of Avila) *

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection. And a man whose memory and imagination are persecuting him with a crowd of useless or even evil thoughts and images may sometimes be forced to pray far better, in the depths of his murdered heart, than one whose mind is swimming with clear concepts and brilliant purposes and easy acts of love.”  Thomas Merton

“Open my lips, Yahweh,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:15-17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Merton’s words convey hope. He says that when we would otherwise probably quit in prayer (when our hearts have “turned to stone” or when our imagination is “persecuting us … with evil thoughts and images”) – that we should persist, and not only that, but that then we may “pray far better.”
  • Can you continue to pray when your heart feels dead?  … when your prayer is interrupted over and over again with sinful thoughts?
  • What do you suppose there is to be gained or learned by persisting in these times?  … and the danger in not persisting?

I love this prayer of Teresa of Avila in this regard:

“Let me not be afraid to linger here is your presence
with all my humanity exposed.
For you are God –
you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures.”

__________

For More: Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

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The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Prayer and the Wandering Mind (John Donne, Brennan Manning, John Bunyan)

“I neglect God and his angels for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door; I talk on in the same posture of praying, eyes lifted up, knees bowed down, as though I prayed to God; and if God or his angels should ask me when I thought last of God in that prayer, I cannot tell. Sometimes I find that I had forgot what I was about, but when I began to forget it I cannot tell. A memory of yesterday’s pleasures, a fear of tomorrow’s dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine ear, a light in mine eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain troubles me in my prayer.” John Donne

“One of the cardinal rules of prayer is: Pray as you can, don’t pray as you can’t. … Remember the only way to fail in prayer is not to show up.” Brennan Manning

“When you pray, rather let your heart be without words
than your words without heart.”
John Bunyan

“But when you pray,
go into your room,
close the door ….”
Matthew  6:6

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • John Donne shares very honestly about his problems in prayer, the humor in his report shows he is not condemning himself. Perhaps he is just letting these distractions “float on downstream” – not resisting them or really even giving them any mind. What do you think? Can you extend grace to yourself in this regard as he does?
  • If you focus on the “noise of a fly” or the “monkeys in the trees” (Nouwen) you’ll probably give up in frustration. Can you “show up” according to plan each day, regardless of whether you feel delighted or distracted? What would be the importance of doing that?
  • For your “heart to be without words” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Have you tried to pray by just silently giving God your attention?

__________

For More: Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, eds. Coffin and Witherspoon

Thomas Merton is also good on this topic.

_________________________________________________

The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in less than 400 words. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Impossible Prayer (Thomas Merton)

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection. And a man whose memory and imagination are persecuting him with a crowd of useless or even evil thoughts and images may sometimes be forced to pray far better, in the depths of his murdered heart, than one whose mind is swimming with clear concepts and brilliant purposes and easy acts of love.”  Thomas Merton

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Habakkuk 1:13-17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Merton’s words convey hope. He says that when we would otherwise probably quit in prayer (when our hearts have “turned to stone” or when our imagination is “persecuting us … with evil thoughts and images”) – that we should persist, and not only that, but that then we may “pray far better.”
  • Can you continue to pray when your heart feels dead?  … when your prayer is interrupted over and over again with sinful thoughts?
  • What do you suppose there is to be gained or learned by persisting in these times?  … and the danger in not persisting?

I love this prayer of Teresa of Avila in this regard:

“Let me not be afraid to linger here is your presence
with all my humanity exposed.
For you are God –
you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures.”

__________

For More: Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

_________________________________________________

The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to provide you with something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)