Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Sloth

The purpose of these Lenten reflections is to provide a systematic way to engage in what the church has historically called the Examen of Conscience. We walk slowly through our lives, perhaps at the end of the day or during a time set aside once a week, and reflect on what is going on inside. This is an important practice for those of us who find ourselves rushing off madly in five directions at once. The examen forces us to stop and consider. The purpose is not simply self-knowledge, but confession leading to repentance. Jesus reminded us that the one forgiven much, loves much. A deep awareness of the extent of our sinfulness provides, upon forgiveness, the occasion for much thanksgiving. This week we consider what may be the chosen poison of a whole generation - the temptation to slothfulness.
O Lord God Almighty, who lives at once completely still and completely involved, help me in my default to laziness justified as rest.
Forgive me the slack eyed non-response to something that should stir me to action, but barely elicits a yawn before the remote control switches to something more entertaining and less demanding. Forgive me for the passive acceptance without thought of somebody else's ideas and for the systematic way I avoid having to think deeply about anything. Forgive me the complacency with which I refuse to take responsibility, preferring instead to complain and talk about what someone else ought to do. Forgive me for letting love die when it demands action in order to live. Forgive me for not caring enough to mourn its death. Forgive me the dainty, shallow mediocrity of my following of Jesus, content to float along on the stream of some one else's spiritual passion - or not. Forgive me the frenetic pace of my busy-ness, hiding the terror of actually doing something out of who I am for fear that it won't be good enough.
O God, help me be a participant in my own life, and not just a passive observer - a watcher of the passing scene. Help me to choose rest and learn to do nothing well as an act of faith and trust, rather than to default to the doing of nothing because nothing is worth the effort. Help me fall so deeply and passionately in love with You that I would do anything for the love of You. Help me to care about those things that you care about and to care as deeply as do You.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Anger

Continuing into the third week of our Lenten reflections, confessions, and prayers brings us deeper into the spiral of pride - at some level the root of most of our sin. Lent is a time of soul search and of cleansing, of taking out the trash. The goal is not humiliation, but humbling. Not condemnation, but conviction leading to confession, forgiveness, repentance. The eye is not downcast, but lifted towards the coming cross and, through it, the empty tomb and the full sky. There are some things we were built to carry. Lent is an opportunity to get rid of everything else.
Dear God, before Whose anger the universe quakes in awe, but Who is yet slow . . . slow . . . slow to such anger, I come. I come with my toxic, simmering, explosive angers that don't work Your righteousness - but my destruction. I cry for mercy.
Forgive me the long-held grudge, hidden behind the icy smile and plastic words. Forgive me the defining resentments, long since separated from offense, that keep me warm with the slow-burning fire of simmering rage - a smoldering soul. Forgive me the way I hold on to those unintended, untargeted, unconscious woundings received - keeping them covered, not allowing the light and fresh air in to heal them, choosing rather to let them fester in unforgiveness. Forgive me the explosions born out of frustration and fear, triggered by small irritations, mostly imagined, that ought simply to be ignored, but made worse by weariness or a sense of "enough is enough!"
O Lord Jesus, please teach me out of Your own chosen anger. Show me the deep sources of my rage. Help me recognize and fully accept my anger in enough time to know what to do with it. Instruct me in the structures of release, so that I may let go without allowing any lodging of those things for which anger is not a helpful or necessary reaction. And for those things which call for action moved by anger, help me to speak appropriate, helpful, non-destructive words, carefully chosen to address issues and causes. When anger is no longer needed, let me release it quickly and without residue.
O Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Envy

The hard but good and necessary work of Lent invites us – challenges us – to think deeply and clearly about those things which have, perhaps, subtly become part of our ways of life. We hold up the mirror and pray for clarity and courage to see what is and to bring it all before Him with Whom we have to do. In Him we will not find condemnation, but grace, mercy and help in the journey. The second of our reflections concerns the temptation to envy. Envy is the Black Hole of the temptations because while most of the other temptations are twists on virtues, envy is completely against all virtues and will not be satisfied until it has everything and no one else has anything. It leads to death by dissatisfaction.
Dear God, I find myself so often captivated by what someone else has, or the position someone else occupies, or the skills and gifts You have given to someone else, that I fail to celebrate what I have, or the place and the skills and gifts You have given me. And worse, I resent who they are and wish for what they had that made them who they are. And worse, I sometimes descend so far into the deep pit of anger that they have it and I don’t, that the acid at the bottom of that pit soaks into my soul with a desire that they not have what they have – that they lose the wonder of who they are. I rejoice, secretly of course, at their stumbles – covering up with pious words for public consumption.
O Lord, forgive me the painful comparisons, which I shall never win. Help me celebrate all you have given me. Forgive me the shameful malice with which I glare, evil eyed, at those who have what I think I want. Help me rejoice in their good fortune, coming to the truth that grace is of such a kind that its being poured out on others does not shrink its capacity for me. Forgive me the dejection I experience when passed over in favor of an another. Help me learn to truly rejoice at their good fortune, and congratulate without hypocrisy. Forgive me the resentment that bubbles up as I watch You bless others with things I wish You had blessed me with. Help me trust you fully to provide all that I need for the work and life You have given me.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, You are the Son of God, and I am a sinner. Please, have mercy on me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Pride

Wednesday of this past week marked the beginning of the Lenten season - a season of soul search and chosen dying in preparation for the wondrous life of resurrection celebrated and entered in to on Resurrection Sunday morning. Over these next several weeks, I would like to reflect on what it means for me to be a sinner who sins - and would invite you to share the journey of examination and confession. It seems to me that we need to take sin seriously. The purpose of confession is not to wallow in our sinfulness, but to bring it fully and finally to Jesus, receive His forgiveness, and learn to walk in the new life He gives.
At some level, the root of all sin is pride - and so our Lenten journey begins there.
Oh God, maker of Heaven and earth, maker of me - I see so often in my own heart the leaning towards the same prideful arrogance that drove me in the garden to partake of fruit forbidden. How crazy it is to think, even for a moment, that I know better than You about anything. Even anything concerning me. Lord, you know me. You know that I am but dust. You also know that it is hard for me to know me that well. I tend to think more highly of myself than I ought to think - to exaggerate my claims to success and ignore my failures - to justify my arrogance and excuse my willfulness.
Forgive me the mis-impressions I leave uncorrected because they are flattering, even if false. Forgive me for the way I manipulate conversations to wring compliments out of silence. Forgive me for the comparisons with others by which I measure my relative worth - rather than leaving all of that in your able hands. Forgive me for the reluctance to celebrate others for fear it will diminish me. Forgive me for not thinking as highly of You as I ought to think.
Oh God - have mercy on me - a sinner.
Please help me to think of myself as accurately as possible only in relation to You. And, along the way, help me become un-selfconscious. Please grant me opportunities this day to deal death to prideful self, that Your new life may have rightful and full place in and above all in me.