Sunday, April 24, 2016

When We Pray

When I was a boy, I collected postmarks.  Nothing special.  Just ordinary old postmarks.  When we took trips, I left home with $.03 postcards addressed to myself for mailing at some town so that I could add some obscure place to my collection.  I am not sure what happened to it, but what I do know is that it now exists only in my memory.  Later, as a middle age adult I started collecting pre-1900 religious books.  Over the years I have enjoyed adding some real treasures to my collection.  Of course, no one calls any of them treasures except this collector.
It was in that old book collection where I first encountered Francis Fenelon.  He lived out his final days in the early years of the 18th century.  He was a French archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church and a tutor to royal children.  He was also a spiritual writer.  About prayer he wrote, "In order to make your prayer more profitable, it would be well from the beginning to picture yourself as a poor, naked, miserable wretch, perishing of hunger who knows but one man of whom he can ask or hope for help; or as a sick person, covered with sores and ready to die unless some pitiful physician will take him in hand and heal him.  These are true pictures of our condition before God."  While these words may not be at the level of what Jesus said as He said, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father...',"  (Luke 11:2)  it is surely a good word to remember when we on bended knee approach our Father God.
Too often in our praying, we forget who we are and who it is we want to hear our prayers.  It is not exactly a relationship based on equality.  Jesus may have spoken of knowing us as friends, but we have taken that to a place where He becomes just another buddy.  The relationship we have with God is not based on equality, but on grace and mercy and love.  To be able to approach Him in prayer is not about our entitlement but His mercy. The words of this man named Francis Fenelon may be hundreds of years old, but they still proclaim a word to be taken seriously when we pray.

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