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Invited to Pray – Br. David Vryhof

We Brothers often have occasions to listen to people speak about their life with God.  It is not uncommon for those we see to begin by expressing regret or dissatisfaction about their inability to pray as frequently or as effectively as they feel they should.  “My prayer life has really fallen away,” they say, or “I know I should be praying more but I just can’t find the time.”  I am sure that they feel they are being summoned to prayer by God, but the God who is calling seems to be wagging a celestial finger and saying in a blaming tone, “You should be praying, more and better!”  While I agree that God is summoning us to prayer, I believe that the finger is not wagging but beckoning.  I now think of God as being like a friend I had in school who used to sit in the student lounge.  Upon seeing any one of us pass by, he would pat the chair next to him and say, “Talk to me.”  Prayer is likewise an invitation to conversation and communion, not a task or duty that we are obliged to carry out.  As the author of First John puts it, “We love because he first loved us.” The invitation to pray is an invitation to love, generously given by the One who created us and loves us as no one else can.  Prayer is not our gift to God, but God’s gift to us.

When I first began to teach others to pray, it was all about method.  I would explain various ways to pray – lectio divina, Ignatian meditation, Centering Prayer, and so on – and offer students a chance to experience these types of prayer.  Now when I teach others about prayer, I begin with relationship.  I invite them to think of God as One who is deeply in love with them, who is genuinely interested in who they are and in all they are experiencing, who longs to share their lives with them, who hopes they will be moved to love in return.  The image of God as Lover is the image I find most conducive to prayer.  Lovers long to know one another.  They take pleasure in revealing their inmost thoughts and hopes and dreams to one another.  They share their burdens with each other, knowing they will be heard and understood.  They are willing to speak the truth to one another in love, to be open and honest in their dealings.  They respect and cherish one another.

I have come to see prayer as a gift, as something to be received rather than achieved.  If prayer is a gift to be received, our stance becomes one of open receptivity, of careful attentiveness to the gift God is wanting to give us in this moment, in this day, in this season of our life.  Listening and watching become just as important, or more important, than speaking.  Attentiveness and awareness become our watchwords. Where will I find God today? — in the words of a friend? in a verse of scripture that pops into my mind? in a song that arises in my heart? in the sunlight or in a breeze or in a beautiful scene? in the face of a loved one? Rather than being “one more thing” I have to do today, prayer becomes the gift of relationship with God, a God who seeks us out in order to love us, sustain us, help us, encourage us, challenge us, and support us. God comes to us with gifts.

Your Lover beckons to you today.  “Come, talk to me.  Be with me.  Let me be with you.”  This is the gift of prayer.

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23 Comments

  1. Karen A Hartsell on July 29, 2016 at 17:01

    Thank you for your words. I have found as I have aged that my relationship with God has improved. I pray morning, noon and night (I have more time to pray!) and I talk to God as I go through my daily chores. I thank Him each day for keeping me safe when my husband is away.
    God is like a Father to me. Jesus is my friend and savior.

  2. Jack Zamboni on July 26, 2016 at 08:37

    David, these words remind me of the retreat in which you offered guidance to my Judith in the midst of her treatment for the cancer that ultimately took her life. She said little specific about your conversations (she was always fairly reticent about her spiritual life, even with me) but I know she came away with the assurance of God’s love and support in that challenging time. She treasured the printout of the icon of Jesus embracing the Beloved Disciple that you gave her, and it is still where she put it in our parlor where she could see it from the sofa where she spent much of her time. I will always be grateful for how God came to her through you in those days.

  3. Sally Baynton on July 26, 2016 at 07:36

    God is everywhere and in everyone. “Come talk with me!”

  4. Fred Adams on November 3, 2015 at 16:20

    Once again, Bro. David. You’ve said the right things to me in my hectic schedule, when I miss my morning office and prayers. You refreshed me. Thank you so much.

  5. Margaret Dungan on October 27, 2015 at 16:45

    Dear.Br. David,

    This is from the friend who catches up later in the day,my afternoon boost!.
    I loved this ‘Word’ I have only recently discovered praying and meditating in this way but I really needed to have it confirmed by someone I knew and respected. It has really made this day very special for me.Thank you.
    Margaret.

  6. Martha Hubbard on October 27, 2015 at 13:38

    Beautifully said. Brother give us a word is one of the things I look forward to each morning!

  7. Arthur White on October 27, 2015 at 13:36

    ” I invite them to think of God as One who is deeply in love with them, who is genuinely interested in who they are and in all they are experiencing, who longs to share their lives with them, who hopes they will be moved to love in return.”

    It is good that God is loving and true but does love necessary demand reciprocity. Even human beings do not expect reciprocity and the creator of all things perhaps requires such things the least, perhaps? For God perhaps this world is a playground where he has every right to enjoy his creation and perhaps a wise and loving God knows that all His creation must be comely and fair and blessed . Perhaps the one true God requires no conversion, no worship or even acknowledgement. Only that in his divine goodness there is no room for pain, suffering, tears but there is only perfect health, joy, ecstasy, laughter, smiles, rapture, love, youth, flowers, frolic, play and goodness of every imaginable kind – so full of wholesomeness and goodness that humankind is innocent – so He has to ask them “Who told you that you were naked?”
    It is a good thing I can get along with the high minded good thoughts of the Christians 🙂 Everyone ought to have such good thoughts and nothing wrong but only good ought to be known. Nothing toxic should emanate from us for if the honey bee can produce effluvia that is benign and healthful then so must humankind be so : entirely good and never harmful in any way perhaps.

  8. Christina on October 27, 2015 at 11:08

    What creatures of habit we can become. My morning routine is to make my tea, put on the computer and sign in for today’s Word.
    This morning, the hydro was off. What to do? No tea. No computer. An hour later the power went back on.(Cowley)
    I am fortunate in being retired and can take that early morning hour to read and ‘think about things’ which, in essence, is one of my times with God throughout the day. . The reading of the Word always leads me in this way to talking to God. It has been a long trek to reach this point in my life. I think of each morning’s Brother and give thanks for the sermon, I think about friends – and even those I do not know personally who are suffering in one way or another.
    My friend who responds here now-and-again, catches up later in the day with the brothers’ Words. That would never work for me. It has to be first thing in the morning. So. It doesn’t matter when, or where, it’s different for all of us.
    Blessings. Christina

  9. Jeff Lowry on October 27, 2015 at 08:32

    Thank you, Bro. David, for this reflection. When you talked of your friend beckoning it reminded me of the introduction of the second ghost in The Muppets version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The character is a big, vibrant man with a flowing red beard and a jolly baritone voice. He beckons, “Come – Know me better, man!”.

  10. Michael on October 27, 2015 at 08:31

    I find myself, like Christopher, enjoying the very early morning as a time to spend listening, thinking and talking with God. Whether that is prayer or something else make little difference to me or to God I suspect. He understands and accepts my humble attempt

  11. Ann on October 27, 2015 at 06:59

    This was a gift to me today. Thank you.

  12. Christopher Engle Barnhart on October 27, 2015 at 06:40

    I find early in the morning when it is still night and dark outside, before the sun begins to rise, my time for reading the days scriptures and contemplation. It is in the stillness that I am drawn closer to God through prayer.

  13. anders on October 27, 2015 at 05:59

    Thank you. Your words about attentiveness in particular give me permission to not worry about bringing myself to God, but rather to notice God coming to me in a myriad of ways. And all I need to do is acknowledge and say “thank you”. I see myself as so inoculated against God through the shaming of the church, and in little ways welcome God’s presence into my life as one worthy of intimate trust. Breath by breath, sunshine ray by sunshine ray, I let my guard down to be more open.

  14. Sally Anne on May 8, 2015 at 21:21

    I believe prayer is more consistent and deeper
    when one belongs to a group or community of prayers.
    It is not meant to be a lone wolf event for the long term,
    Joining a centering prayer, bible study, prayer group is
    what makes the difference in support and encouragement for the long haul. Join one today, you will experience the difference. Community is a gift.

  15. N on May 4, 2015 at 09:09

    Thank you very much for this, Father David.

  16. Jane on May 2, 2015 at 12:40

    I’m sitting on the balcony of my apartment as I’ve been reading this. The bird song and the sound of the breeze through the leaves of the trees are very much God’s presence. I’ve been pausing at times to allow myself to fully absorb and enjoy these sounds and to express gratitude for them and all of the other gifts of this day. This has definitely been a time of prayer for me.

  17. Eileen on May 2, 2015 at 12:11

    Thank you for this. It makes me feel better for feeling closest to God when I’m walking by water, and for the fact that scripture verses mean most to me when I’m singing them.
    Eileen

  18. Karen Pidcock on May 2, 2015 at 11:06

    I thank you for your wisdom re a life of prayer, for it validates for me what has come to be my attitude towards prayer as well. As I’ve learned from Quakers, when I’m feeling with God’s compassionate heart any suffering known or unknown, I can simply “hold in the Light”…then trust that “Power working in us which can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine”, with St. Paul to the Ephesus church, & as we Canadian Anglicans close each Eucharist.

  19. Melinda on May 2, 2015 at 11:04

    Thank you Brother David for this reminder regarding prayer……how wonderful to sit down ( stand up, kneel or whatever) and talk with God about any/all things. Yesterday I found a dying bird in the backyard – rather, my dog found it. It was so small and beautiful, and I felt sadness for it’s suffering and death. Then God sent me the thought that not one sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge. I found communion with God in that assurance….sweet, blessed assurance.

  20. Virginia Nagel on May 2, 2015 at 09:11

    Thank you, David, for today’s “daily note” and for this sermon which I just printed out to keep for reference. I want to hang onto it for awhile; it parallels much that I have been thinking/discovering lately. (“Great minds….in the same channels” and all that….)

  21. Lorna Harris on May 2, 2015 at 08:09

    Thank you for re-posting this reflection. I needed to be reminded of this!

  22. Mike Wood on May 5, 2012 at 16:27

    Thank you. A real help to me and arrived punctually on time. All the best, Mike.

  23. Ruth E. West on May 4, 2012 at 15:20

    Brother David,
    Thank you for this good sermon which cut to the heart of my guilt I so often feel
    if I don’t find a specific time to set aside to pray. I do talk with my Lord
    and listen to His voice as I am engaged in other things. I want to listen more,
    as well as talk to Him more, in addition to the discipline of specific prayer times.
    Thank you for reminding me today.
    Ruth

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