Br. John BraughtMark 4:1-20

Many of us, I suspect, have had the experience of receiving a word from the Lord. Some thought, some command, some desire that God had planted in our hearts, and in our minds. We may not have recognized it at the time, or maybe we resisted, or dismissed it, but the seed had been planted. The sower had sown the word, and we received it. We received a word from the Lord, and eventually we knew it. We knew we had received a word from the Lord. How did we know? How did we know that this thought, this command, this desire comes from God, and is not just the product of our own wishful (or punitive) thinking? How did we know? How do we know? For God is still sowing words in our hearts, and in our minds. How do we know when it’s from the Lord? 

In asking this question, it strikes me just how very miraculous it is that God has a word for us at all. It strikes me how very miraculous it is that God desires to communicate with us, and how very miraculous it is that we have the capacity to receive that communication. We have the capacity to communicate with God, which is just another way of saying that we can pray.  We can pray. We can receive a word from the Lord, and it’s miraculous.

Now, if you are anything like me, you don’t always see prayer this way. If you are anything like me (and I am a monk) you tend to take prayer for granted, or even, dare I admit it, neglect it. After all, it can often seem like nothing much happens in prayer. Our minds can get busy, and we can get distracted.

But something does happen in prayer: the sower sows the word. God is planting seeds – thoughts, commands, and desires – in our hearts and in our minds. Prayer is the way we cultivate the soil to make us more receptive to receiving the word when it comes. I’m not just talking about formal prayer, time spent alone, in our room, on our knees, perhaps, important as that may be. Prayer also includes small pauses throughout the day: a few breaths, a brief sigh of thank you, help me, be it unto me according to your word, thy will, not mine, be done. How do we know when we have received a word from the Lord? How do we know when God sows his word in our hearts and in our minds? The answer is we don’t. We don’t know when God plants his seeds until they bear fruit. In the meantime, all we can do is pray.

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  1. Margo on February 7, 2014 at 11:13

    Dear Br. John, I have come back to this sermon again and again. I love its simplicity, its directness, its optimism, its faith. I think we should have tatooed on the palms of our hands and the souls of our feet. “We can pray”. Thank you. Margo

  2. Jerome Berkeley on February 6, 2014 at 07:20

    Br. John, very well stated reminder. In a sense, you are echoing what I feel I have learned in recent months, through periods of feeling great connection in prayer, and periods of feeling more detachment. And that is that “showing up” is a big part of prayer. Often, when those periods of detachment or uncertainty strike, I have drifted, stopped showing up, stopped making the effort. In retrospect, I still see where God was at work in my life, even when I became frustrated and silent in prayer. But I am learning to embrace the uncertainty with which you conclude your sermon as part of the mystery of faith, and by embracing it, I “show up”. Indeed, you go all the back to the revolutionary roots of Yahweh in speaking to the possibility of communication, of relationship, with God.

  3. Ruth West on February 4, 2014 at 20:15

    I liked your homily, Br. John. Thank you for reminding us of these truths.
    I would only like to add a sentence to the end: The MOST we can do is
    to pray. It should never be a last resort. Blessings on you.

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