Archive for Prayer
There may always be a somber atmosphere at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall. That’s because this revered place so sacred to Jews represents the only remaining part of the temple which they believe the Romans destroyed in 70 AD. The “wailing” refers to the Jews’ mourning for the temple’s destruction. Up until now, privileges of special entrances and special clothing have been reserved for men only, based on the orthodox teaching that men and women ought not to pray together in some places, and that women should not be allowed to wear prayer shawls.
But there’s a crack in the old Wailing Wall tradition. On May 10 Israel’s attorney general brought turmoil to the Wall in an attempt to end gender segregation in public places like buses, health clinics, cemeteries and radio airwaves. Emboldened liberal women’s groups are now demonstrating and praying in shawls at the Wall, and conservative groups of young women are attempting to prevent them.
I don’t need to weigh in with personal opinions about other religious practices or how other democratic governments deal with religious diversity in public places. But spiritual seekers can agree that anyone can pray anywhere in their hearts and deepest thoughts, Wailing Wall or not.
I hope that people everywhere are exercising this right to pray regularly. Today we see more and more evidence that prayer not only brings inner peace and comfort but better mental and even physical health. Prayer, says one thinker I know, changes the course of everything
Prayer in the public square may still need to be a private, silent thing between oneself and one’s God. But we can cherish these quiet moments for ourselves and others. Individuals and whole countries have much to gain when they pray.
Confession One: In this gadget-loving world, I am not a gadget lover. Confession Two: I own two health-monitoring gadgets, nevertheless. Confession Three: I use all of them except one.
If you’re having trouble with the math, I’ll explain. I never step on my scale except maybe once per year (the fit of my clothes tells me all I need to know about that). But I do have fun wearing a pedometer when I take a walk and then measuring my steps at the end of the day. Otherwise, computer desk-itis and couch potato-hood set in. For me, the pedometer is a pleasant little nudge toward moving more in this sedentary life.
I was interested to read about, on the very same day I heard about it on NPR, the trend toward measuring personal health stats with more gadgets. It was in my new friend Ingrid Peschke’s blog.
I wonder, is scrutinizing the body with ever more statistics going to get us to better health? I have my doubts, and apparently Ingrid does too. Take a look.
Ingrid Peschke’s guest blog:
“Is monitoring your health just a bracelet away? It’s a trend that’s catching on to people’s wrists across the country. Similar to a trendy watch, these bands–like the Basis–monitor your sleep, heart rate, calories burned, body temperature, etc. With a USB or Bluetooth the gadgets send data right to your computer or smart phone, so you can monitor and track your stats.
“A friend of mine got a sleek white one as a gift and recently showed me how it worked. As an active mom, she was excited to more accurately know how many stairs she’s climbed in a day or how many calories she’s burned.
“Other monitoring devices are catching on, too. And some recognize that simply monitoring body activity isn’t going to cut it. Take, for instance, Huff Post’s recently released “GPS for the Soul” app that monitors stress levels.” Read more.
When asked “What is your faith?” you may answer like many others today, “Well, I don’t have a specific faith. I’m not a churchgoer.” Or you might say, again like many others today, “I don’t belong to any organized religion, but I do believe in spirituality. But that’s not exactly faith, is it?”
However, if you were asked, “Do you have values?” it would be hard to imagine an answer of “No, none at all.” Everyone seems to admit to having values like honesty, integrity, kindness and hard work.
Interestingly, the word faith doesn’t have to mean religion. It refers to where we place our trust, loyalty or reliance. We put our faith in whatever we think has power. This could be in material living and success, in medicine, in luck, or in God– however we define Him. And values have to do with what we deem worthy or useful. With these definitions we might agree that we all have both faith AND values.
Faith and values then are universal concepts. Faith and values set forth the deepest questions in life, and we all want better, clearer answers to these questions.
I recommend a good source of intelligent discussion of faith and values. Many thinkers and seekers of diverse views weigh in daily, and Editor Amanda Green has just been awarded 28th Woman of Achievement in Communications by the YWCA of Lower Cape Fear, her community near Wilmington, NC. Topics on politics, culture and ethics are also explored, and the latest issue presents a Pew poll on the power of prayer in healing.
I’m unashamedly plugging this online medium where my own column on Christianity and Health is published toward the end of each month. (Search blogs for Cynthia P. Barnett) Clearly, I hope to make you a frequent reader!
Zambian nurses graduate: Away with stress and sickness!
Here are some thoughts on two important health topics, stress and spirituality. Specifically, getting rid of stress in crises and the specific spiritual qualities that get us out of the sickbed. Feeling better already, you say? Well, read on!
From guest blogger Don Ingwerson, former school superintendent in California, writing in “The Way Up and Out of Stress..’
“Years ago, I had my office and car windows shot out because of community resistance to a school that I was closing. This created a fearful condition for me and for my family. As I tried to resolve this stressful situation, a painful and unbearable thumping in my head developed. I was able to handle it, as I’ll explain in a minute…” Read more.
And from guest blogger Tony Lobl of England who writes in “Nurses and the Spiritual Need: Is it Time to Make Time for Spiritual Care?”
“What do prayer, unconditional love, forgiveness, life’s meaning and purpose, and spiritual practice have in common?
“They are five “Spiritual Concepts Western Medicine Must Embrace” according to Karen Wyatt MD writing on the [allnurses.com] website.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, in the comments section a number of detractors are energi[z]ed by the presence of the word “must” in the article’s title…”
[Later in the article Dr. Wyatt concludes, "It is time for the medical profession to wake up and recognize that the new frontier of medicine in this century lies in spirituality and spiritual energy."] Read more.
Some are continuing to observe our National Day of Prayer for the whole month of May. So here’s another thought on that.
Today’s Guest Blogger Dave Horn writes:
In light of the school tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last December, should official, organized prayer be returned to public schools?
Dennis Kruse thinks so. As chairman of the Indiana Senate education committee, he made national headlines in January when he filed a bill allowing Hoosier school districts to require recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, with exceptions for parents or children who don’t want to.
In 1962 and 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court removed both official prayer and devotional Bible reading from public schools, but many senior citizens remember when reciting a particular prayer was a morning exercise in school, along with saluting the flag and collecting lunch money. For some this prayer was the Christian “Lord’s Prayer,” while for others in communities with many Jewish families, like New York State, the prayer was written to be more inclusive.
Today’s opponents of that Court decision claim most of America’s problems are moral, and school children need at least a few moments of spiritual education each day. Proponents of the ban point out that prayer in school is already legal. Since students can already pray on a voluntary basis (silently and/or in a non-disruptive way), formal recitations are unnecessary.
The Bible reminds us Jesus loved little children, and many religions point to childlike simplicity, innocence and purity as a gateway to heaven. Whether school prayers are official or voluntary, childlike prayer is almost always trustful, expecting only good.
Before we grown-ups resume debate over school prayer, let’s turn back to the freshness of our own childhood mornings. Let our own prayers be childlike, unwavering, spontaneous and reliant, until we feel certain that “…that hand which bears creation up shall guard His children well.” (Poem by Philip Doddridge, adapted for hymnals)
I like to do things the right way so I often check out Ms. Manners’ column for the proper etiquette. For example, when introducing two people, one of whom is much younger than the other, Ms. Manners says to present the younger to the elder so that the elder receives the “honor” of being more important. Example: “Brittany, I’d like you to meet Professor Jones. He’s the Chair of the Chemistry Department here at State University. Dr. Jones, Brittany will be a freshman there next year.”
(That went well, I thought.)
Another tip for introductions: it’s always nice to state some good things about the two you’re bringing together. Example: “Mary, John here just won an award for his graphic design. John, I knew you would want to meet Mary because she’s the CEO of a start-up design company. You two are so creative!”
(I’m really getting into this. You have anyone you want me to introduce you to? Look around the room.)
I need to practice these introductions because a big etiquette test is coming up. I know many who would like to know God, but they don’t know how to meet Him. I’m trying to know Him better too, so I thought we could practice our first steps in getting acquainted with Him together.
How’s this for starters:
ME to YOU, practicing to meet God:
“I’m so glad you came to our gathering. There’s someone here I’d like to introduce you to because He’s the most amazing Person you will ever meet. He’s our Best Friend Forever, the Almighty King, our Eternal Life and Infinite Love. He’s our Comforter, Savior, and a Very Present Help in Trouble, says the Bible. You say you’ve never known anyone this wonderful? Well, let’s fix that. Come with me into His Divine Presence.
“No, God doesn’t care what you’re wearing. He’ll like you just as you are. OK, here He is. To tell the truth, He seems to be everywhere! Let’s bow our knees as we approach Him.”
ME for REAL: “My dear neighbor, I’d like you to meet the Most Important Person in the room, even the universe: The Great I AM, the Altogether Good, Healer of all our diseases, God Himself.”
ME, after reflecting a bit: “Forgive me, merciful Father-Mother. I forgot You already know my friend here. You know me as well, don’t You? Come to think of it, You created us. You thought us up! Thank You ever so much.”
BOTH of US, my neighbor and I, are silent now in humble prayer and adoration.
Is Ms. Manners listening? I don’t see her here and I don’t remember reading any columns of advice about introducing God. But I think she’d approve of my first try. She may already know and admire Him herself.
NOTE: Thanks to my local YMCA director who brought up this subject on our National Day of Prayer.
NOTE also: Many religions today refer to God as Mother. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church, was apparently the first.
Prayer was the most prominent word in Matt Lauer’s headline introduction of the Pat Boone family on the Today Show. Prayer featured mightily in the story of a grandson’s gradual recovery from a serious accident twelve years ago.
Some of us remember Pat Boone and his second-only-to-Elvis popularity during the 50s and 60s. Many also may recall the stirring singing of daughter Debby in “You Light up my Life” a couple of decades later. Always a deeply religious family, the Boones now take up their prayers on behalf of Pat’s grandson Ryan and invite others to join them. They shared details of their prayer journey with Matt.
In part, the online piece reads:
“[Pat Boone’s other daughter Lindy Boone] Michaelis said her faith played a key role when she learned about her son’s accident. She was vacationing in Spain in 2001 when sister Debby called with devastating news: Michaelis’ son Ryan Corbin, then 24, had gone to sunbathe on the roof of his apartment building when he accidentally stepped through a skylight.
“We were, like, heavily on prayer. When I was in Spain, I was so grateful for the gift of prayer. I couldn’t get to my son for 24 hours, so the prayer was vital,” said Michaelis, who wrote about the experience in her book, “Heaven Hears.”
“A turning point for the family came when Michaelis’ father Pat was invited by longtime friend Larry King to appear on his popular CNN talk show. With Ryan in a coma and on life support, Pat and Michaelis appeared on King’s show to appeal for prayers and support. “We wanted everybody, anywhere, to pray with us,” Pat Boone told Lauer on Wednesday.”
The young man has received good medical care and is showing cognition, a sense of humor, improved movement, and other normal skills. While his prescription for medical marijuana may be the more dramatic headline to some, it is the faith factor that the Boone family seems most grateful for, and they’re not afraid to say so.
Have you noticed people are dropping their shyness these days about their reliance on prayer? And that the media are taking notice?Perhaps prayer that is more inclusive and less denominational is appealing. People who pray humbly and proclaim with grace the good it has done for them may help countless others by this admission.
Prayer in times of need seems natural. It’s good to remind each other how effective it can be on May 2, our National Day of Prayer—and everyday.
It’s a little word, really. One that often gets overlooked in the drama of an exciting story as it’s told or recorded. The word is a soft one to say; it’s a meek word. But more than most, it’s a mighty word.
The word is PRAYER. I nearly missed it myself, buried at the very end of the newspaper account of “Danny,” the Boston Marathon bombers’ carjack victim. In Eric Moskowitz’ description of this harrowing experience, we follow the event from the Tsarnaev brothers first taking over the Mercedes at gun point, to Danny’s eventual escape to freedom. While the carjacker/bombers stopped for gas, Danny bolted from his Mercedes toward a nearby Mobil station across the street.
“I didn’t know if it was open or not, said Danny. “In that moment I prayed.”
The station was indeed open, and he was able to call 911 on a portable phone given to him. He referred the officers to a Mercedes tracking satellite system, leading to the eventual capture of the bombers. Danny was safe.
We may never fully understand the power of prayer to save, redeem, and heal. Many may overlook or even pooh-pooh this small word, although it is evidence of trust in a higher, more spiritual means of deliverance. Some may even dismiss spirituality; they may be caught up in materialism or secular perspectives. The very idea of God or Infinite Good can be discomfiting to such as these. They are unused to praying when in trouble.
But many, like me, have been saved, redeemed and healed when we turn to it. Danny can say he’s one of us.
Let me introduce you to a great online newsletter—full of varied perspectives on faith, values, and from my monthly column, health from a spiritual point of view. See www.WilmingtonFAVS.com for the full piece, or get a glimpse here:
Stress relief…in a bottle?
I am not kidding when I say that you can now buy stress relief in a bottle. Mine is tucked into the shower cubby where it promises to “clear your mind so you can relax.” The label adds, “Breathe deeply for best results.” The name of this elixir? Why, “Stress relief,” of course. (Full disclosure: it’s a body wash and foam bath. Find it at your local mall.)
Stress is trending today as a serious topic and a suspected cause of many ills. Sleep disorders, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, accelerated aging, even premature death—stress worsens or increases the risk of each, experts agree. One physician, Dr. Edward T. Creagan, has found stress management to be vital to our health, predicting, “Stressed today, sick tomorrow.” He describes an experiment where subjects jot down their recent illnesses and then recall whether a stressful event came first. Most report that it did. This was especially true with astronauts, students and athletes, whose pressured lives seemed to produce more respiratory illnesses.
With all this stress, can a mere potion provide a cure? (If so, you’re gonna need a bigger bottle.) Read more
What do we make of the child who grows up to be a terrorist? What do we do with the memory of two young men, Americans really, who bombed and killed their own innocent countrymen?
We can pray to support them as God originally made them, innocent children. We can pray that they come to their senses, whether on this earth or beyond. We can pray, as the father of the Prodigal Son must have: that after waste and weariness, sorrow and repentance, they come to themselves and come home.
When they do, we’ll be waiting as he did, with open arms.
*”Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”(Proverbs 22:6, attributed to Israel’s wise King Solomon who had many, many children)