Evening Prayer: St. Teresa of Avila & St. John of the Cross

Christ of st john of the cross DaliDuring evening prayers on Friday  3/17/17  at St. John’s in Aptos, CA —  hear about another dynamic duo:  St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

John of the Cross was asked by Teresa of Avila to follow her — which he did.  Both  Teresa and  John  were 16th century Catholic  mystics living in Spain.

St. Teresa of Avila was a writer, reformer and mystic who started the Carmelite order.

St. John of the Cross, famous for Spiritual Canticle, wrote Dark Night of the Soul while he was locked in a 6′ by 10′ cell. Both of these  were written in Spanish.  At that time,  the Bible was only available in Latin.

crucificion sketch by st john of the crossSt. John of the Cross made a drawing of Christ from above was  later was the basis of Dali’s famous painting.

At age 43, Teresa of Avila started her first convent  and later  several other convents for women. She created a rule for how the women  were to live, committed to a simple life of poverty based on love.

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.” (1)

John of the Cross created a similar way of life in  living together  for men.   John of the Cross  served as Teresa’s spiritual director and confessor.

Hear more about this  dynamic duo during evening prayer  5:30 – 6:00 pm,  Friday, March 17, 2017 .  Come to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Aptos, CA. Come for healing prayer and pray for others.

St. John’s is located near the entrance to Seacliff Beach in Aptos, CA. All are welcome.

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Healing Prayer and Aging gracefully …

   healing prayer pink colorAging Gracefully with the Graces of Healing Prayer written by Anglican priest William DeArteaga.

“At a conference we attended at Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville Florida, Dr MacNutt spoke about healing and aging. He is among the most distinguished figures of the Christian healing renewal, and is now 90 years old. He observed that it is more difficult to pray for the healing of certain age related illness. Thus for instance, it is usually not effective to pray over a bald man in his 60s and expect his hair to grow back as if he were in his 20s. It seems that we are designed to run down in the body even as we continue to grow spiritually (2 Cor 5:1-5).

Dr MacNutt at 90 years old.
He now uses a cane to assist in walking

Prayer cannot nullify aging. But on the other hand it can make aging a gentle process, with much less pain and discomfort and less medications than normal. I became aware of this personally in my last check-up at the VA. I noticed men my age and younger go off with bagfuls of prescriptions for high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. I have two prescriptions that help control my enlarged prostate – that is all.

Prayer enables the Christian to transit into “elders” of ministry with grace and ease, as in my case, from  pastor to writer and conference speaker.

Yours truly on the job as an OSL speaker

My wife Carolyn was at first skeptical of MacNutt’s theory about the difficulty age related healing prayer. But we both came to understand its wisdom when we began a ministry at an assisted nursing home. The folks there naturally had all sorts of medical problems, some quite serious. Our ministry had some successes, but less than at our normal church healing missions. Many of the older people had various stages of arthritis and we were able to pray relief to many of them. Carolyn has always had a gift of praying against pain, and was very helpful in this area. But only a few major healings were accomplished. One  woman had Tourette syndrome, which causes involuntary movements and vocalizing.  She was was healed of this affliction after repeated prayers over many weeks (Carolyn has the gift of divine stubbornness in prayer.). Another lady with rapid macular degeneration had the disease stop, but not reversed.
Carolyn praying over one of the people at the assisted living facility.

But now let me share some of the ways that prayer has softened and graced our aging processes. We use healing prayer on ourselves with great success. Even before we married we prayed for each other regularly. When I first met Carolyn she suffered regular bouts of headaches. After several times praying over her, and teaching he how to pray for herself, they stopped completely.[1]  There is no cessationist obstruction in our home (the theology that wrongly affirms that healing prayer ceased with the death of the Apostles).[2] Besides continuously praying for one another, supplements have also played a role in our “graceful aging.”


Aptos Psychologist:  The above is written by William DeArteaga.  Find more on his blog.  Yes, healing prayer helps people to age gracefully.

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Dynamic Duos: Christian Saints Charles & John Wesley

hymns of faithChristian saints John and Charles Wesley are remembered and discussed today,  Friday, March 3,  5:30 pm at St. John’s in Aptos during evening prayers.

During March 2017  different dynamic duos  — Christian saints linked in ministry — will be remembered and discussed at St. John’s in Aptos, CA during the Friday 5:30- 6:00  evening prayer service.

Methodist preachers John and Charles Wesley are linked together in ministry.

Charles Wesley  wrote over 6,000 hymns including Hark the Harold Angel Sing.

Charles Wesley  is remembered March 2 in the Calendar of Saints for Evangelical Lutherans,  March 3 in the Episcopal Calendar of Saints and March 29 in the Order of Saint Luke calendar.


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St. John’s in Aptos CA kills Board of Helpful Shop

helpful-shop-buildingNo more Helpful Shop Board.

For  many years,  the women of the church via the ECW  and then the   Helpful Shop’s Board  have operated the Helpful Shop as their outreach to the Santa Cruz County  community.

For the last ten years,  the Helpful Shop has operated under its bylaws and  has elected officers each year.  Six of the seven current members of the Helpful Shop Board are listed in St. John’s  church directory.

Andy Pudan  is the current president of the Helpful Shop Board. Other Board members are:  Floyd Bishop; Margy Cottle; Eileen Fernald;   Esther Meister;  Joanne Peterson and Nancy Shepard.

One effect:   there’s no more specific   participation by community  members in  decisions as  to the distribution of monies. The Helpful Shop’s  bylaws require two (2)  community members.  A  current  community member is the former secretary of the church who resigned   without warning during 2016.

Each year, the Helpful Shop Board distributes substantial money to many  local charities:  $19,400  was  distributed in 2016.  In 2015,  $28,000. was distributed.   In 2014 $32,000. was distributed.   Decisions are made by a Grant Committee.

 History:  Many years ago, the  Episcopal Church Women (ECW)  decided at a  High Tea held  that   December  that all money that could be distributed   would be decided by the members present for  High Tea that day. Women present that day  suggested  various charities and a vote taken.    It was an amicable and  memorable High Tea.   Delicious food and everyone got along.

 Subsequently,  a more formal Helpful Shop Board evolved  and   a more formal process put  in place how to choose charities. A couple years later the first manager of the Helpful Shop was hired.

There are numerous  scenarios as to what’s currently  going on.  Wanting control of the money — which organizations receive how much —  may  be  an  issue underlying the decision to disband the Helpful Shop Board.

The Helpful Shop  Board and its cadre of  faithful volunteers are largely  women.

This probably is  one of the last major acts Rev. Merritt Greenwood will do.

At the Feb. 2017 vestry  meeting,   the Rev. Merritt  Greenwood  in conjunction with Bill Kell (Sr Warden), Andrea Seitz (Jr. Warden) Jon Showalter and others voted to take all legal authority to operate from the Helpful Shop Board.

Information:  In an episcopal church such as this, the Junior Warden is the  ‘voice for the People’;  the Senior Warden typically assists and promotes  the Rector’s agenda.  Each vestry member has one vote.

Disagreeing with the majority, one-third of the Vestry   voted “no”  to killing the Board.

Why take such action at this time?  There was no immediate crises and a new Rector will be coming soon.

One wonders whether  this action involves gender issues?     Several men were instrumental  implementing this decision  to dismantle this  outreach activity,   long the principal outreach of women in the church.

Over the last year, there have been allegations of  disturbed/  distressed volunteer work relationships related to the  rector’s  and/ or partner’s volunteer activities.  One would think these issues would resolve naturally  with the coming of a new Rector.

The  Helpful Shop board puts on various events during the year and reaches out seeking volunteers.

  Through outreach by the Board,  numerous persons have chosen to help out at the Helpful Shop.

Who will do the substantial  work which Board members  have done? Who will find the volunteers?  Who will put  on the events?

The church vestry dismantled  i.e. killed  the Helpful Shop Board.  So, let the  St. John’s vestry do the work necessary to find volunteers and put on events?    

Rev. Merritt Greenwood — who has been at St. John’s somewhat over a year  as temporary Rector —  will leave St. John’s  with the coming of a new Rector.

From the newsletter of St. John’s:

“The shop has not been without controversy over the years. The level of autonomy of the advisory board has become an issue from time to time in its history. Most recently this has caused division and conflict within the parish, which the Vestry recognized as impeding the church’s mission and presenting a major difficulty for our new Rector …” written by A. Seitz

Checking out what St. John’s mission  is:

“Our mission statement goal is to equip all of our members for life and service to others.”


 Monterey Bay Forum:   My, my.  What to do when there’s conflict in a church?  

Does the vestry think it can dismantle the Board that has run the Helpful Shop and expect those who have done it  for years to just keep on chugging along?

 Is this the way a pastor ‘tends his sheep’?

There was no crises which required immediate action.  

The issue of  management of the Helpful Shop should have been left to the incoming Rector — coming soon —  to address and seek healing for all. 

Why hurt fellow church members?

Church boards, one hopes,  will reach out to heal — not hurt.

 There are resources which can help heal. Use them!   

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healing: being in the presence of God



Practicing the Presence of God for Healing
An Alternative Way to Celebrate Christian Healing in a Public Format
By The Ven. Larry Mitchell
Text of his talk for the OSL Online Telephone Conference Call on May 18, 2014
What would happen if the only active role we played was to reassure the person that they are in God’s presence and that God knows their need and knows exactly what to do for them… then to invite them to rest in the presence of God and to allow the Spirit of Jesus to fill, to surround and to heal them?

In the very beginning of Genesis we are told that God’s Spirit or Presence moved across the face of the earth bringing into being the world and all living beings, and that God was happy with creation because it was just as God meant it to be, perfect, whole and without blemish.  It wasn’t very long however, before the story changed and things began to come apart as we read about evil, sin, sickness, and disease, destroying that which God created to be perfect.

The Bible however does not leave us without the hope of a solution to this human dilemma because at the beginning of John’s Gospel, which we could call the story of re-creation we are told that the “word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  God’s solution to bring creation back to the way it was meant to be was to send His Son, Jesus to become God’s presence in our midst as the word of life, and the Saviour and healer of the world. Genesis talks about creation and how humankind messed it up, and John gives God’s response by talking about re-creation and God’s solution to heal and restore it.   The story of recreation and renewal is rooted in and nourished by the fact that it is a result of God’s healing presence in our world.

The power of the healing presence of God is found in all of the healing stories.  As an example, in Mark 1:21-28, in the healing of the man with an unclean spirit the evil spirits recognized that when they were in Jesus’ presence they were also in the presence of Almighty God and that is why the evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth, …I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”  At Jesus’ command the evil spirit threw the man down on the ground and then left him.  To prove that Jesus was sent to heal and restore us back to God’s original purpose in the healing stories one thing stands out and it is that in the presence of Jesus as in the presence of God evil, sickness, disease and sin cannot stand or remain because they are totally inconsistent with the will of God.  Healing consistently happened with Jesus because the presence of the living God dwelt within him and when evil, sickness, disease and sin met up with the presence of the living God in the life of Jesus they were conquered, defeated and destroyed.   Right from the very beginning of the Old Testament it is quite clear that creative and healing power flows in the presence of our creative and healing God and the New Testament is equally as clear in saying that that creativity and power resides in the life of Jesus and in the lives of those who are in Jesus.

The Bible continues to impart God’s healing message of love in the world today and the church is to proclaim it and to become an earthly vessel for God’s healing presence as it reaches out and tells the world that it is God’s will to heal and that God’s gift of healing comes to us in and through the presence of Jesus in our lives.  For Christians, the presence of Jesus stands at the centre of everything we do and is the message of everything we proclaim and the result of that proclamation is always renewal, restoration and healing.

Our OSL group just finished studying “Finding Hope and healing in the Bible” by Roy Lawrence.  In that book, in the framework of healing and the possession of healing gifts, Roy made the following comment:

“The scriptural centre point of the healing ministry does not lie in the possession of special gifts but in the practice of the presence of Christ.  ….Being a Christian involves ‘union with Christ’ – literally the experience of being ‘in Christ’ and the heart of the Christian healing ministry is union with the healing Christ.  We are called to be infected by his healing nature and then to pass on that infection to others.  It is a ministry for all Christians, irrespective of whether we may or may not have an individual ‘gift’.  It is the prime mission of the church within this sick world.  The New Testament stresses that the resources behind this mission must never be underestimated.  Indeed the transforming power of union with Christ is such that according to St. Paul it can be described as nothing less than ‘new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17)  Page 106

Roy’s comment: “The scriptural centre point of the healing ministry does not lie in the possession of special gifts but in the practice of the presence of Christ and being a Christian involves ‘union with Christ’” rang true to some thoughts that I had been having and had tried to work with during the last few healing services that I had been asked to conduct. Since healing is a natural result of standing in the presence of the living God I wondered what might happen if our public services of healing were designed in such a way as to concentrate not so much on the ministry of prayer but on the ministry of the presence of God as a living reality in people’s lives.  I thought of how I and others had experienced the power of the healing presence of God in Mike Endicott’s Celtic healing service and wondered if there might be a way of facilitating that same atmosphere in a public healing service.

I decided to see if it was possible to design a public healing service in such a way that people could more readily experience the living presence of our healing God and experience the healing that flows not so much from our prayers but from simply being in the presence of our awesome God.  To do this the focus for receiving healing would be to come in silence into the presence of God and to allow God’s healing to flow.  I wanted to see if we could develop a way to help people become totally dependent on God for their healing and not on the healing service or on the ministry of the prayer teams.  I stressed the fact that the function of the prayer team was not to minister healing but to help the person focus on the healing presence of Jesus in their lives.  The team’s major role was to introduce the person to Jesus and then to get out of the way and watch Jesus do his work.  To do this we needed to develop a different approach to the practice of public healing prayer then we had become accustomed to practicing it.  In my experience the normal routine for prayer ministry was that a person would come forward and meet with a prayer team who would ask the person to state their prayer concern and then the team would pray accordingly asking God’s healing touch upon the person especially in the specific area of their lives that was their immediate concern.  My experience with this was that the prayer team might focus more on the expressed problem rather than helping the person to focus on the fact that they were standing in the presence of the healer.  I wanted to see what would happen if the only active role we played was to reassure the person that they are in God’s presence and that God knows their need and knows exactly what to do for them, then to invite them to rest in the presence of God and to allow the Spirit of Jesus to fill, to surround and to heal them.

To do this the prayer ministers were instructed to wrap the person in a prayer shawl which would symbolize being wrapped in the presence of the living God and then as a sign of the presence of living God working in their lives to anoint and lay hands on them to give them a sense of being surrounded and immersed in God’s love. In order to help the supplicant focus on God presence in their lives the prayer ministers were to say nothing except to reassure the person of God’s love and will to heal them and then in silence to just allow the Lord to minister his healing grace as they silently lifted the person up into God’s healing presence.

There are many ways that the church uses to minister the healing power of Jesus and most of us have seen people healed, restored and forgiven and equally most of us have seen people leave a prayer session seemingly in the same way that they came.  We don’t know why some people are healed through prayer and why others are not.  But I have come to believe that in any healing situation the reality is that most of the work is done and God’s healing has begun when a person makes and acts upon their decision to come forward to receive healing prayer.   I see that decision as the ultimate act of faith in the person’s life.  This has led me to believe that when one comes forward for healing verbal prayers are really not necessary because one can be confident that God is already at work and healing has begun and that God’s will for that person will be completed as that person is immersed in God’s healing presence.  How and when it will be completed is not our prerogative but is in the hands of the healing Christ.

One of the things that I have learned as I am sure that you all have about healing ministry is that Christian healing depends not on me but on God.  Approaching a service of healing in this way helps me to keep the focus on God and not on the person or on myself as a prayer minister.  I find that so often in a prayer situation that as a healing minister I was becoming frustrated because I was beginning to feel that the person’s healing depended on me getting things right which is totally ridiculous because I am not the one who heals and thanks be to God it is not in my mandate or yours to be the healer.  That is the mandate of Jesus and will of God in and through the ministry of Jesus.

To see how this might work in the context of a public healing service, we needed to deal with the logistics of the service.  To do this, chairs were set around the altar facing the altar which is the focal point of the Eucharist through which we receive healing as we take part in the Holy Communion.  Those who came forward for healing were seated as a chair became vacant.  Two clergy were given the responsibility to anoint each supplicant and lay people to wrap the person in God’s love and presence. Each person that came forward to receive healing would sit in silence facing the altar.  They would then be wrapped in a prayer shawl, anointed with the oil of healing and hands would be laid upon them as they were bathed in God’s presence.

In order to help people focus on God’s presence we played some quiet meditative healing music in the background during the prayer time.  After a period of time a minister would lead the congregation on behalf of the supplicants in an appropriate prayer for their healing.  We reminded them before they came forward to know in their hearts that God heals and wants to heal them.  As they were seated around the altar we encouraged them to rest in the presence of our healing God and allow the Spirit of Jesus to flow into them and around them… healing and restoring them to health and wholeness.

The power of this type of healing ministry was that there was no need to use words to persuade God to do something that is in the very nature of God to do anyway.  Noticeably different at these services was that one could sense in a most powerful way the presence of Jesus permeating the whole church, and instead of a few people coming forward for prayer… at least 90 to 95 percent of the congregation came forward. They were lined up in the aisle.  Something beautiful was happening not only in the lives of those who came forward, but also in the lives of those who did not.

The success and the real purpose of the healing ministry is dependant not on the effectiveness of our prayers but on the effectiveness of our ability to bring a person into the healing presence of Jesus. The power of the healing ministry truly has to do with resting in God’s presence and our role as healing ministers is to bring the person into that presence, introduce them to Jesus and then to stand back to witness the miracle of Jesus doing the work of healing.  As healing ministers it is not important or necessary for us to know what the person wants or should want or what we think God might want for the person we are there to be for them the tangible presence of the intangible God.  The most helpful thing we can do as ministers of healing is to bring a person into the healing presence of Jesus, help them focus on the healing Christ and then stand with them in silence and awe allowing God to speak and minister to them his healing grace.   You see we don’t have to have all of the answers in fact we don’t have to have any answers accept that God loves us and wants us to be healed which is the core of the Gospel as the old familiar hymn states so simply, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so…”  Therefore we don’t need to feel responsible for praying all the right words because our role is to become for that person a tangible earthly presence through which the intangible heavenly God can and will act.   I have come to believe that it is true that God’s healing happens as we immerse ourselves in the healing presence of Jesus.

The wonder and beauty of the healing ministry is never if God will heal us but always when God heals us and that is the good news that we have for the world. As you have the opportunity to bask in the healing presence of Jesus just focus your life, your mind and your spirit on him and as you are wrapped in a blanket of prayer and anointed with the oil of healing know that you are receiving God’s gift of healing in your life.  Remember that God is love and God loves you and God’s ultimate act of love for you is to heal you and make you whole.  That is the Gospel and is the message of the cross which stands at the centre of our faith.  To that we say “Praise be to God, Amen.”

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Healing: Does God through Jesus heal today? St. John’s in Aptos CA

pain-with-hand-on-areaCome on now!  Does God through Jesus  and the Holy Spirit actually heal?

Can someone – Jesus –  help your  aching back?   Do people actually  get healed today — like the healing that happened to Saul  healed of blindness  by a lay person?

Ananias -- a lay person heals Saul of blindness

Ananias — a lay person heals Saul of blindness                                         Acts 9:17

Does the laying on of hands with Christian pray help?  Find out ….

What’s this Holy Spirit stuff?

Fourth in a series of weekly  discussions ….

Michael DeArmond addresses those attending the six week  series  ‘Who do you say I am?’ held 2/1/2017 at St. John the Baptist in Aptos, CA.

Michael  tells  some of his spiritual journey.  And, he describes remarkable, immediate  physical healings which  he has witnessed. On himself  — through prayer and the  laying on of hands — and  the healing of  another.

Next meeting  is Wed. Feb. 8 from 7 PM- 8:30 PM.    A 15 minute Personal Story is  followed by time for individual reflection on portions of the Gospel of John. Groups of five at a table  share their thoughts.

Contact adbooks@aol.com for more information.

Joanne Peterson

Joanne Peterson





Joanne Peterson shares her story next week.

The Feb. 2 meeting started with readings from the Gospel of John including:  

John 3:1-21New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believesmay have eternal life in him.”[g]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”


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prayer … for those of us who are … hurried, undisciplined and disorganized


prayer for the hurried, undisciplined and disorganized

prayer for the hurried, undisciplined and disorganized

Are you ….  hurried, undisciplined and disorganized in life?

Also  in your prayer life?

Written in   1993 by Laurence Wagley and published in The Christian Century   these words about prayer — and life — are timeless and worth reading.  Wagley writes:


“Much recent literature on prayer and spiritual formation has taken the “pumping iron” approach. The central theme is “try harder.” [This article was written in 1993.]

 “But trying has a short shelf life, and I suspect recidivism is greatest not among dieters or smokers but among those who commit themselves to prayer.
“People in trouble, reaching out in prayer, are desperately aware of their own weakness, instability and sin.
” Initially prayer is often a frantic garble with little faith in any answering help. As faith grows, confidence in our ability in spiritual matters is likely to decrease even more because of the discovery that good things come from God and not from human enterprise.
   be-still-and-know” The saints who have long histories of prayer and faithful living are the ones most likely to give witness to their own weakness and to attribute all their faithfulness to God.
” I’m no longer surprised that generally students’ first response to the topic of prayer is to confess how little they pray.
They know they ought to. They say they have a guilty conscience from neglecting prayer. They should be more committed, more disciplined and better organized in their prayer life. They ought to try harder. It took me a while to pick up the “shoulds” and “oughts” in these confessions. I didn’t recognize these at first because they characterized my own confessions. In other connections I call such a concentration of compulsive prescription a form of moralism—maybe even an indication of works-righteousness.
“We have been taught to emphasize human endeavor in our prayer and spiritual formation. Discipline and rule are presented as the norm. We should select certain times and places for prayer.
In the literature of spiritual formation  Prayer is not a rare thing to be searched for. It is the activity of life, the atmosphere that sustains life.
 God meets us in the noise, the hurry and the crowds —  while some  are preoccupied with discipline, with steps and procedures.
The picture  conveyed [in much of prayer literature]  is of a disciplined super-hero who climbs an endless flight of stairs, scales high mountains, works hard.
 Have you ever had acquaintances who insisted on forming a friendship with you? They pushed until you felt smothered by their attention, and you finally reached the conclusion that they wanted the relationship for the own reasons rather than for any real appreciation of you.
 I have a similar problem with many of the prayer manuals. Confidence in human endeavor is joined with promises of success. Titles such as The Power of Holy Habits, Liberation of Life, Secret of a Happy Life and Power Through Prayer contain a subtle combination of these themes. Interview the football star about his sport or his prayer and he is likely to say, “I had a really good day, but I can do better. I’m going to really practice hard this week and I think you’ll see a really super performance next Sunday.” This approach sounds right. Capitalize on the enthusiasm of the new convert. Encourage the commitment of the person who has just had a religious experience.
Home from a prayer retreat, the novice in spiritual formation makes resolutions. The problem with resolutions is that they look in the wrong direction for what is resolute. Listen to the practitioner who has been praying an hour every day for two weeks. “It’s wonderful! It has brought new meaning to my life. There is nothing like it. You ought to try it!” It sounds like Amway or Mary Kay. There is a Laurence A. Wagley is professor of preaching and worship at Saint Paul School of Theology (United Methodist) in Kansas City, Missouri. 323 CHRISTIAN CENTURY March24-31,1993 passing enthusiasm, and a need to sell the product to others as a confirmation of one’s good judgment.

This is the dominant form of evangelism in our culture. No matter what the sin (dirt, ugliness, being fat), salvation is a human endeavor.

SEVERAL PRAYER manuals follow a model that places those who pray on a scale of maturity. Then the aim is to prove that I have more spiritual or psychological maturity than you do. Many authors in the fields of education, pastoral care and spiritual formation have drawn on the work of Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg and Fowler and made major contributions to an understanding of how people learn, cope and mature.
But prayer tailored to developmental stages can become mechanistic. An excellent book on prayer by the faculty of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary ends with a chapter on “Learning and Teaching Prayer.” The author of that chapter is concerned primarily with “the learners’ cognitive and affective developmental readiness,” so that the “appropriate methods” may be selected. I’m afraid he will divide the prayer meeting into classes with names on the doors like: “Undifferentiated Faith,” “Intuitive-Projective Faith,” “Mythic-Literal Faith” or “Synthetic-Conventional.”
 Other manuals use psychological testing such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator so that prayer may be attuned to areas where you can make your own best effort. 
Prayer is primarily the initiative of God coming to form a caring relationship with us. When prayer is thought of as a human accomplishment it turns toward concern for goals and values that are attainable by hard work and which have as their reward personal gratification.

God’s act of salvation in Jesus Christ has changed the direction of prayer. An anxious striving for God has been changed to a thankful acceptance of God. Special days and holy places are to remind us that in Christ, God is present “at all times and in all places.”

 This is a gift to celebrate in the midst of life rather than a discipline to be learned in a special academy. This theological approach to prayer emphasizes healing of eyes and ears so we may see and hear and know God’s presence in the world.
Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline begins his chapter on “The Discipline of Meditation” this way: “In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds.” Like many other writers on the topic, Foster tries to create an alternative world in which we may practice certain disciplines and so achieve a spiritual quality of life.

 I believe that God meets us in this life—the life of noise, hurry and crowds—with a grace that is transforming both for us and our culture. The dichotomy of noise and spirituality is a false one.

 Prayer is not a rare thing to be searched for. It is the activity of life, the moving atmosphere that sustains life even when we are unaware of it. An increasing awareness of God’s presence is to be sought, but not primarily in our effort. It will be found in the revelation of God—a glory present everywhere, a song that is a constant melody of life.

 Augustine made this discovery. As a Neoplatonist he sought a ladder—a sequence of meritorious acts that would elevate the soul to God. He soon lost confidence in this approach, however, and came more and more to emphasize the frailty of humanity.
 For Augustine, prayer came to be marked not by disciplined endeavor but by the grace of God—a grace one cannot earn but only beg. 

The whole human response to God’s initiative, according to Augustine, is not ascetic exercises but humbly following Christ. Spiritual formation in an Augustinian mode is less the soul’s ascent to God than a holy longing, submitting to be remade by God.

He must have discovered it in Paul: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
 Why should prayer be such hard work? A loving relationship would seem to express itself joyously and spontaneously. A theology of prayer that puts the emphasis on work and discipline is bad theology.

We pray to a God who takes the initiative. Prayer is a form of grace. It is an expression of the ultimate gift—the gift of God’s self to us.

The problem is not just in making unrealisjtic demands on human beings. In Faith’s Freedom Luke Johnson critiques much of the literature on prayer as having “little grounding in . . . theology” and “rarely touching on the problems of real life.”
“Christian spirituality,” he says, “needs an intellectual recasting that takes seriously the life of ordinary people in a world shaped by modernity rather than the monastery.” I T IS POSSIBLE to take the monastery and early Christian monastic practice as a model, but there must be some care used in doing so. Roberta C. Bondi in To Pray and to Love places the emphasis on the motivation of love rather than on particular practice. Alan Jones in Soul Making enters a world of tears, hurt, pain and abandonment. From the desert he learned that awakening is followed by falling apart and learning to let go. He believes “it is fatal to interpret Christianity as a program for self-improvement or self-fulfillment.” On the other hand, Margaret R. Miles in Practicing Christianity looks to the early monastic tradition for “regimes involving diet, management of sex, physical exercise, and meditation or prayer [in order to] heighten a sense of agency and responsibility, a new ‘relation of oneself to oneself.'”
One of the extensive reviews of historic forms of spirituality is found in The Study of Spirituality. Near the end of this book is a short but seminal essay by Mark Gibbard in which he recommends “a discriminating use of the spiritual classics.” He warns against their tendency to be world-fleeing and against the Manichean escape from the Prayer in the midst of life— while waiting, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, driving—is a natural turning to God. Prayer does not necessarily require one’s undivided attention. CHRISTIAN CENTURY March24-31,1993 324 material and a slighting of the needs of the body.

As Johnson says, “We do not flee the world in order to practice prayer; rather we pray in order to engage the world.” What would the practice of this kind of prayer look like?

    listening-imageListening as prayer: Listening to music, to the wind in the trees, to the noise of the city may be a form of prayer. Listening is itself a prayerful activity. Listening may lead to a sense of the presence of God. Listening may lead to insight. “Be still and know that I am God.” “I did not know that you were in this place.” 

   eligah-and-elishaFor Elijah,  God s presence was not in wind, earthquake or fire, but in the “sound of sheer silence.” Prayer as remembering: There is a close and dynamic relationship between prayer and remembering. The central act of the holiest prayer—the eucharistic prayer—is remembering.

 The remembering of the Lord s Supper passes from recalling to reliving, so that all that was done in the past is available and effective in the present. 

Remembering creates identity, and remembering helps us to know who we are and what our most important relationships are.

Prayer when you can’t think about anything else: This kind of prayer is at the opposite pole from disciplined and organized prayer. It is the prayer of crisis, of panic and trouble. When we face an emergency, it is difficult to think about anything else. Prayers during this time are often very subjective, even naive. “O God, get me out of this!” Children pray, “God, don’t let it happen,” or “Don’t let it have happened.”

We all pray such prayers, though we seldom admit doing so. If we prayed them aloud we would clean them up theologically and make them more presentable socially. But in their original form these prayers express our humanity. God shares our suffering and gradually a relationship matures. It doesn’t take erudition to pray. 

   sleepPrayer to go to sleep by: This prayer would not be marked by altered posture or even by disciplined practice. It would be characterized by a quiet sense of well-being. The emphasis would be upon presence, not content. It is the kind of prayer that enables the person to deliver everything into the hands of God—to relinquish control, responsibility, the need to worry. This is prayer as trust. The person prays his or her way into peaceful sleep.

 Prayer during wasted time or during underutilized time:

   driving-aaPrayer while driving, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, waiting—this is a natural turning to God in which we discover that God has been close all the time.

This prayer does not require isolation or undivided attention. It occurs in the midst of life as one is partially occupied with something else. People who commute to work report that this can be a meaningful time for prayer. Far from interfering with the other activity, prayer may actually enhance it.

 Instead of the rule of an hour a day for prayer, this approach makes much of the day available for prayer.

 Nondiscursive prayer: Protestants have trouble thinking of prayer as nonrational and nonoral. Early Christians went into the desert and found nondiscursive prayer, prayer more connected with being than with doing.


presence of God without words

presence of God without words

Practicing the presence of God without words can be a helpful way to pray for those who have an overload of words, concepts, speech. Instead of emphasizing discipline and rule, this form of prayer is an emptying, a being with, an integration.

 There are ordered and disciplined forms of prayer that are very helpful. They are more helpful to some people than to others. Meaningful as they are, they must not be allowed to define prayer exclusively.

Prayer as a gift is grace to the hurried, the undisciplined and the disorganized as well as to the people who live by a rule. In fact, such graced prayer is the best reminder of what prayer is and of the nature of the God to whom it is addressed. •

Written in   1993 by Laurence Wagley and published in The Christian Century 

Monerey Bay Forum

127 Jewell Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
United States (US)
Phone: 831 688 6002
Fax: 831 688 7717
Email: jaj48@aol.com
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Pray? Obama prays we not pray as prayer does not work says Obama


Obama prays that Americans not pray as prayer does not work

Obama prays that Americans not pray as prayer does not work

Obama may be ok with Muslim prayer but not much other kind of prayer.

Regarding the  Jan. 2016  Ft Lauderdale type carnage committed by an ISIS jehadist shouting about Allah —  prayer  is insufficient says Obama.

Oh – so since you Obama have no faith in prayer, at least not the Christian sort, Americans should stop praying?

Remember that Obama abolished the national day of prayer Truman established in 1952?

Very recently  –on  January 5, 2017 —   Obama  wrote in the Harvard Law Review:

But as I’ve said many times: “ Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

They [prayers]  alone won’t “capture the heartache and grief and anger we should feel,” and they do “nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.” We have a responsibility to act.

In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a “National Day of Prayer.”

In 1988 President Reagan designated the First Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.

In June 2007 (then) Presidential Candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA “Was no longer a Christian nation.”

This year President Obama canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the ruse of “not wanting to offend anyone”

As for viability of Muslim prayer?  On September 25, 2009 from 4 AM until 7 PM, a National Day of Prayer for the Muslim religion  was Held on Capitol Hill Beside the White House.

So Muslim pray is OK  –but all other prayer suspect?

Well — let’s keep President Obama in our prayers. Amen.


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hey, dude, who do you say I am? Muhammad? Jesus? Dali Lama?

jesus-blueSo who is God or speaks for God? Muhammad? Jesus? Dali Lama?

A clash of cultures, religions,  and centuries of modern change goes on in our midst. Two recent events show stark differences:

 An ISIS dude at Fort Lauderdale  Jan. 9  answered ‘Who do you say I am?’ with bullets, bloodshed and shouting  the  words of the Shahada,  ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is …”

Twenty other dudes  met  Jan. 11  at  St. John’s church  in Aptos, CA Jan.11 to peacefully consider ‘Who do you say I am?’  while reading out loud  together the  Gospel of St. John which starts with:

1″ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God. 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

The presenter Alliee DeArmond told a story about participating in a Billy Graham Crusade held in Santa Cruz back in the early 1980s.  As part of the training she was questioned, ‘What will you say to people…?’

John 1:12:  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.  

The ‘who do you say I am?’ discussion included time for personal reflection and general sharing.  Sharing included drawings and discussion of other books participants were reading.

Meeting #2  for Who do you say I am? will be in a week, same day and time:  Wed., Jan 18, 2016, at 7 pm – 8:30.

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Beth Moore based Bible Study, First Baptist Church Aptos,CA

entrusted-bookOn a rainy day in Aptos CA 1/10/2016,  nine attended the   Ladies Bible Study  First Baptist Church, Aptos, CA.

Nine attend Bible study First Baptist Church, Aptos, CA


The bible study is based on Entrusted, by Beth Moore, Study of  the book of 2 Timothy.

Questions?  Please connect:

*   Tuesdays, 1/10/17 – 2/14/17
*   1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Books are  available through the church for $12.  
First Baptist Church of Aptos

Coming soon at First Baptist Church in Aptos, CA:

Friend Day
February 5, 2017
Bible Study at 9:45 a.m.
Worship at 11:00 a.m.
Lunch at 12:00 p.m.

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