prayer beads...

There are times when my darkest fears overwhelm me. Maybe you, too. It is then that I must ground myself again in God's grace. Often I can do this using my prayer beads. I wish I understood why my Reformed relatives threw the baby out with the bathwater back in the early days of the Protestant Reformation. I find the use of prayer tools - icons and candles  included - to be essential to staying grounded.  They themselves are not any more sacred than any other thing - and they don't hold any special powers of healing unto themselves - but they do interrupt the nagging chatter in my head and help me focus on God's love when I am most anxious.  And in that they are a genuine source of blessing.

There is a simple prayer "routine" that I use although each person's preference calls for adaptation as needed. I start with the ancient "Glory to the Creator, and to the Christ and to the Holly Spirit. Amen." Next comes "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..." Moving in either direction are seven beads that invite me to sing the Trisagion:  "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal one have mercy upon us." After each cluster of seven is a dark bead for "The Lord's Prayer" followed by more sevens. Like my Muslim or Catholic friends, this small source of sacramental prayer evoked comfort and encourages me to trust a little more deeply - if only for a few moments.

I also find the short form of morning prayer in the Book of Common Prayer to be another excellent resource for pulling back from the brink. It begins with Psalm 51:

Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit...

One of the truths I have discerned over the years is that the abstractly doctrinal ways of my Reformed world make less and less sense to those outside the tradition.  And they hold less and less value for me, too.  When I enter a brief prayer retreat in Ottawa later this week, it will be at a Franciscan Friendship House saturated in silence, compassion and sacramental prayer. I need all the help I can get sometimes as I seek ye first the kingdom of God. In the last 10 days my friends and colleagues helped pray me back into focus. For these blessings - and the on-going healing of my precious grandson - I give thanks to the Lord.

Earlier this day, I read these words from the late Henri Nouwen, and they spoke to my heart. It is called "Daring to be Dependent" and says  simply what I have been moving towards for the past 10 years:
When someone gives us a watch but we never wear it, the watch is not really received. When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received. When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received. Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say: "Without you I wouldn't be who I am." Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers.


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