Catalina Island is 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. A Christian camp there, Campus by the Sea, is one of my very favorite places which I grew up visiting frequently. After seminary, I spent over a year living there on the beach in the small, isolated staff community, who are caretakers of a sacred space and hosts to many coming for spiritual retreat. Camp nurtured my gifts for hospitality and service, valuing simplicity and honoring God in mundane work, preparing me for monastic life.
During my year on staff, there was a major wildfire on Catalina. It spread to ridges surrounding our camp causing us to quickly evacuate our guests and ourselves by boat to Catalina’s town. We finally left the island late that night with the eery sight of flames amid the darkness near camp. We huddled together in prayer and song, fearing the loss of our sacred place and home.
Br. Curtis Almquist offered this homily on the prayer of petition at the Monastery as part of the Teach Us to Pray series, February 2, 2010.
This evening is the conclusion of a seven-part sermon series we have entitled, “Teach Us to Pray,” which was the very request the disciples made of Jesus. This evening I will speak about the Prayer of Petition. The English word “petition” comes from the Latin petitionem, which is a request or solicitation. The Prayer of Petition is asking God for help or healing or hope – whatever may be our need or our awareness. Petitionary prayer is the most spontaneous prayer, the most uncensored prayer, the prayer that tumbles off our lips without coaching when the demands of life are too great and we feel too small. I have heard people pray specifically for parking places, for the rain to come, for the sun to appear, for a job, for protection, for passing an examination, for someone to be well, for someone not to die. You may have your own experience of praying very particularly, very specifically for someone or something.
I can still remember my own prayer of petition at one point when I was in junior high school.
- I prayed on my knees beside my bed; I prayed with my hands tightly folded, my back straight; I prayed with eyes closed, absolutely no peaking; I thought it best if I kept saying “please.” I said “please” to God a lot. And this is what I prayed for, the most important thing in whole world:
- I prayed very, very hard that I could get to try out for the seventh grade basketball team… which happened.
- I then prayed I would make the cut and get a uniform… which happened.
- I then prayed that I could mostly sit on the bench during the games because I was too self-conscious and too clumsy. I was benched.
- I then prayed I would get a little court time to play during some games, but just enough for me to earn my basketball letter for my letter sweater… which happened.
- And this oh-so-fervent praying without ceasing was mostly for the sake of Jackie Claypool, whom I wanted more than anything to like me. If I was a lettered basketball player, she would surely like me.
Br. James Koester offered this homily on the prayer of penitence at the Monastery as part of the Teach Us to Pray series, January 26, 2010.
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle: Acts 26: 9 – 21; Psalm 67; Galatians 1: 11 – 24; Matthew 10: 16 – 22
We continue tonight our preaching series on prayer, drawing as we have done for this series, from the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer and its teaching on prayer. There we read that “prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.”  In addition, the Catechism teaches us that the principal kinds of prayer are “adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and thanksgiving.”
Tonight we look at the prayer of penitence, a prayer most apt for us as we approach the coming days of Lent, but one equally appropriate as we examine it through the lens of the feast we mark tonight, the Conversion of Saint Paul, for penitence, to be life-giving, needs to be grounded not in fear of reprisal or retaliation but in our own ongoing conversion to the loving will of God.
Br. Eldridge Pendleton (1940-2015) offered this homily on the prayer of adoration at the Monastery as part four of the Teach Us to Pray series, October 27, 2009.
Exodus 3: 1-15; 1 John 4: 7-19; Matthew 13: 44-53
Remember! Remember that in this chapel we are on holy ground. It is as holy as the place on Mount Horeb where Moses saw the burning bush and encountered God, and for the same reason. In this chapel for over seventy years many thousands of men and women have had equally momentous encounters with God, encounters that have changed their lives in profound ways. Some have discovered God for the first time here. Others, suffering or at life’s crossroads have found comfort and the answers they needed to make major decisions. The walls of this holy place have been hallowed and impregnated by their prayers. Many who worship in this space over time tend to forget its numinous quality, but are reminded of it by the comments of those who enter it for the first time and find themselves enveloped by its holiness. They tell us of the sense of peace they find here. Some even mention their conviction that God is in this chapel. We are on holy ground and should treat it with reverence and awe.
One of the most wonderful experiences of my life was some years ago when living in England I had a sabbatical, and I spent a few months living in Egypt. Most of the time I lived in Cairo, and the part of Cairo I loved most of all, was not the famous parts with the pyramids and the sphinx, or even the medieval Islamic City of Cairo, but Old Cairo, Al-Qahira, south of the modern city, next to the Nile. The small walled city is Christian, Coptic Christian, and it is full of ancient churches like St. Barbara’s, St. John the Baptist, St. George, St. Mark.
“It’s not about you.”
With those words, evangelical pastor Rick Warren opens his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
“The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness,” writes Pastor Warren. “It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”