Thy Will Be Done – Learning to Pray ‘Fiat’

field in sun light

“The crucial question in prayer is not whether God suspends the laws of the universe, or whether he grants what people ask for, but whether we really open ourselves to him, open ourselves to his creating, saving presence” (Christianity Rediscovered, page 137).

In his now classic book, Christianity Rediscovered, Vincent Donovan writes of his experiences sharing the message of Christianity with the Maasai tribes in Tanzania. Prior to approaching the various Maasai clans, the young Catholic priest resolves to simply present the message of Christianity—stripped as much as possible of his own Western rituals and conventions. He presents the teaching of Jesus without offering anything else that would cajole the people into a response. Nor does he ask for anything in return.

As Donovan proceeds through his instruction with the Maasai, he is faced with the question, “How should Christians pray?”

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Reflections from C.S. Lewis: “A Grief Observed”

Snowy mountains with clouds

I recently finished C.S. Lewis’ brief work, “A Grief Observed.” Lewis originally published the book anonymously; it describes his heartache and confusion after the death of his wife, whom he had been married to for only 3 years.

Like in so many of his writings, Lewis is able to articulate the feelings that many of us have had and his insights are lucidly expressed. Below are three passages that bring up perhaps some of the most important concepts about illness and spirituality.

1.     Anger at God

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.” – C.S. Lewis. A Grief Observed, pg 6

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Why We Wrestle with God – A Commentary on Genesis 32:22-32

beach at dawn

Genesis 32 is quite simply one of the most perplexing stories in the entire Bible. This narrative, in which Jacob wrestles with a spiritual being (presumably God) throughout the night and is given the new name ‘Israel,’ is both hard to interpret and yet a monumentally important text in the Jewish and Christian faith.

Jacob’s new name of Israel literally means ‘he struggles with God’. And according to the text, Jacob is said to have ‘struggled with God…and overcome.’

But what of course does that mean? Does Jacob defeat God, or at least wear him out, in some sense?

Rabbi Joseph Teluskin, a Jewish scholar writes,

‘It is no small matter that Israel, the name for both the Jewish people and the modern Jewish state, implies neither submission to God nor pure faith, but means wrestling with God (and with men).’ (Jewish Literacy, pg 22)

While the Bible presents numerous examples that God desires an honest dialogue with humans and is not put off by our anger or arguing (see the Psalms, the books of the prophets, and Jesus’ parables, for just a few examples), there are too many things about the story of Jacob wrestling with God that simply don’t make sense for this simple explanation to be valid.

I recently came across one of the most insightful commentaries I’ve ever read on this passage. It points out what I think is the key to understanding this story.

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The Best Robe – the Parable of the Prodigal Son

light through forest

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him….Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:22-24, the Parable of the Prodigal Son)

It’s common to hear in Christian circles the saying that Jesus would have come to earth and died for just one sinner. It’s meant to encourage each of us to know that Jesus would have sacrificed himself ‘just for me,’ but I had always found it difficult to accept.

It’s not that I didn’t intellectually assent to the statement; in fact, I believe it to be true. It’s just that it never felt real. It would never stir my emotions. I had a hard time really sensing that God would love me so deeply.

Then I read the parable of the prodigal son in a new way. In fact, really just one part of it has changed the way I see my relationship with God.

I’ve been meditating on the robe.

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