Short, Sweet and To The Point…

“This is how you are to pray….”
Luke 11:2

Not long ago (and several times before that), my husband observed that what others say in two sentences, I say in two paragraphs. I responded that I simply provide my listeners with important details. Still, I admitted to myself that there is truth in his observation. So it is that I’ve taken his words to heart. While the change in my conversational style is minimal, my ability to listen has improved immensely. Though I’ve always been a good listener, I’d like to think that I’m becoming quite an expert these days. In the process, I’ve discovered that the better part of a good conversation is what my partner has to say.

Jesus seemed to be making a similar point when he taught his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, for his lesson, Jesus chose the few and powerful words that would become the Lord’s Prayer. If Jesus shared that prayer today, he might say: Loving God, you are the best parent I will ever have. You who reside in heaven are deserving of my praise. I ask that your will be done because your plans will take me to far better places than my own plans ever will. I ask for my daily bread because you will always provide for me. I ask to be forgiven because you always forgive. I take your care to heart, I forgive those who hurt me and I will care for others as you do. So be it!

Dear God, just as Jesus gave me words with which to pray, give me words to share with those you’ve given me to love today and always.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Pray… God Is Listening!

I’ve shared this often, I know… Throughout his time among us, Jesus offered countless revealing glimpses of our generously loving God. As amazing as each of these renderings is, my favorite is Jesus’ portrayal in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The image of that ever-patient and forgiving father who opened his arms to his terribly wayward child is something I’ve held dear all of my life. It is this image of God as my loving parent which encourages me to open my heart to God without reservation or fear. It is this image which encourages me to seek true intimacy in every utterance I send God’s way. I admit that this is a lifelong process which will likely continue well into my venture into the hereafter!

If you’ve been blessed with a close relationship, you understand the implications of intimacy. When we open our hearts to someone special, we hide nothing from him or her. We don’t allow pretenses or formalities or social norms to get in the way of the reality of who we are. When we share ourselves at this level, we put every flaw and every virtue in full view. When God is our partner in such a relationship, even the things we don’t know about ourselves are known to God. Far too frequently, I face the reality that I’m not perfect. When this occurs, I remind myself that God has been well aware of my glaring flaws all along. I know that, in spite of the pettiness or grandeur of my imperfections, God looks upon me with persistent and consistent love. Because God loves me and all of us so completely, I find the courage to approach God with the confidence Abraham exhibited in today’s passage from Genesis (18:20-32).

Did you notice that each time Abraham spoke he found God to be both approachable and compassionate? The author of Genesis carefully portrayed this encounter as a conversation during which God and Abraham walked side-by-side. In spite of being very much aware that he was in God’s presence, Abraham bargained with his Maker. He pleaded for the lives of the innocent inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s apparent anger was in response to the outcries of many righteous people regarding the evil that festered in the two cities. Still, God listened to Abraham. Initially, Abraham asked that the cities be spared if there were just fifty innocent inhabitants. Then, Abraham begged God to preserve forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty or even ten innocent lives. Each time, God responded sympathetically. The chapter which follows tells us that God answered Abraham’s plea as the lives of the innocents in those otherwise wretched cities were spared. At the same time, we must remember that God also knew the hearts of the evildoers in Sodom and Gomorrah better than they knew themselves. God knew the reasons they did what they did and God loved them as well. I write this with great confidence because Jesus assured us that God’s mercy is never lost on anyone!

In today’s gospel (Luke 11:1-13), Luke shares another occasion on which Jesus revealed to his disciples the God with whom Abraham was so familiar. Jesus had just finished praying himself when his followers asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus responded with this advice: “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Afterward, Jesus went on to make this instruction regarding prayer perfectly clear. In the event that the disciples had forgotten the persistence of Abraham and God’s generous response to him, Jesus reminded them in no uncertain terms. Jesus spoke of a man who responded to his neighbor’s need in the middle of the night, not so much out of love as out of weariness at the neighbor’s persistence. Jesus added, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus went on to point out the disciples’ concern for their own children: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” I assure you that the God of Abraham continues to listen and to provide us all that we need as we journey through this life!

As I wrote today, it occurred to me that I’ve found a second image of God which I must treasure at least as much as that of the father who embraced his prodigal son. In today’s passage from Genesis, the author illustrated the possibilities when we open ourselves to God’s embrace just as that regretful son did. In this account, God and Abraham walk side-by-side. There is no question that Abraham is conversing with God as he would with a dear friend. Apparently, Abraham found this to be perfectly natural. It seems to me that God’s close proximity to Abraham was no accident. God’s close proximity to you and me is no accident either. Though that prodigal son was separated from his father for a while, we are never separated from God. God walks side-by-side with each one of us every step of the way. In our goodness and in our wrong-doing, God is with us. In our joy and in our sorrow, God is with us. So it is that we must take Jesus’ lesson regarding prayer to heart. We must ask and seek and knock because, even today, the God of Abraham listens and responds… Always!

©2019 Mary Penich-All Rights Reserved

Jesus’ Prayer

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

Though I’ve worked to remedy this over the years, I recently caught myself elaborating far too extensively regarding a truly trivial topic. Though I was very tired and not particularly attentive to much of anything, I managed to talk on and on. My friends were kind enough to listen quietly until I interrupted myself. “Who cares about this anyway?” I asked them and me. After a good laugh at myself, I sat back and listened.

Jesus seems to be making a similar point when he teaches his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, Jesus chose the few, simple and powerful words which would become the Lord’s Prayer for this lesson. If Jesus composed that prayer today, he might say something this: God, the best parent you will ever have, resides in heaven and is deserving of your praise. Ask that God’s will be done because God’s plans will take you to far better places than your own plans ever will. Ask for your daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because this God will respond to all of your needs. Take God’s care to heart, and forgive one another and care for one another as God does. So be it!

Loving God, Jesus said it best, didn’t he? Teach me to pray selflessly and with absolute faith in your love for me and for all of your children.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Prayer

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

A string of troubling news from family and friends prompted me outdoors. Though to those around me this appeared to be an effort to get some much-needed exercise, it was actually my effort to get God’s full attention. I had a laundry list of requests to make on behalf of those in need and this walk would provide the time necessary to dictate this list to my ever-patient God.

Yes, this reflection is being written by the very same person who has repeatedly assured you that God knows our troubles better than we do. The good news is that, as soon as I made it to the end of my block, an insistent breeze nudged me. It pushed me along just enough to remind me of this truth. With that, I uttered a single sentence to the Lord God and then continued my walk in silence. “You know what’s wrong, Dear God, and I know you’ll be with us as we deal with it.”

In spite of all of the scripture passages available, when Jesus taught us to pray, he chose the few, simple and powerful words which have become the Lord’s Prayer: Daddy, you are the best parent we will ever have, you resides in heaven and are deserving of our praise. We ask that your will be done because your plans will take us to far better places than our own plans ever will. We ask for our daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because you will respond to all of our needs. We take your care to heart, and we forgive one another and care for one another as you do. So be it!

Loving God, Jesus said it best. Teach me to pray selflessly and with absolute faith in your love for me and for all of your children.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Plain Talk

“This is how you are to pray.”
From Matthew 6:9

Once again, my husband observed that what others are able to say in two sentences, I say in two paragraphs. At first, I responded that I simply choose to provide details to ensure that my listeners understand what I’m talking about. Later, I ignored the dear man outwardly, though I tried to take his words to heart. I admit that the change in my conversational style is minimal. Still, my ability to listen has improved immensely. I’ve discovered that the best part of a good conversation is what my partner has to say to me.

Jesus seems to be making a similar point when he teaches his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, for his lesson, Jesus chose the few, simple and powerful words that would become the Lord’s Prayer: God, the best parent you will ever have, resides in heaven and is deserving of your praise. Ask that God’s will be done because God’s plans will take you to far better places than your own plans ever will. Ask for your daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because this God will respond to all your needs. Take God’s care to heart, and forgive one another and care for one another as God does. So be it!

Dear God, teach me to pray selflessly and with trust in God’ love for me and for all of your children.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Side-By-Side

I’ve shared this numerous times, I know. Still, I repeat that my favorite portrayal of God is offered in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The image of that ever-patient, welcoming and forgiving father who opens his arms to his children, regardless of their carrying on, is something I’ve held dearly all of my life. It is this image of God as our loving parent which encourages me to open my heart to God without reservation or fear.

If you’ve been blessed with a close relationship, you understand the implications of such intimacy. When we open our hearts to others, we hide nothing from them. Neither pretenses nor formalities get in the way of the reality of who we are. When we share ourselves at this level, we put every flaw and every virtue into full view. When God is our partner in such a relationship, even the things we don’t know about ourselves are known to God. Far too frequently, I find myself faced with the reality that I’m not perfect. When this happens, I remind myself that God has been aware of this reality all along. In spite of the pettiness or grandeur of my imperfections, God looks upon me with persistent love. Because God loves me -and all of us- so completely, I approach God with the confidence Abraham exhibits in a passage from Genesis (18:20-32).

Did you notice that each time Abraham speaks he finds God to be both approachable and compassionate? The author of Genesis carefully portrays this encounter as a conversation during which God and Abraham walk side-by-side. In spite of being very much aware that he is in the presence of God, Abraham bargains for the lives of the innocent inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Though God’s apparent anger is in response to the outcries of many righteous people regarding the evil that festers in the two cities, God listens to Abraham. First, Abraham pleads that the cities be spared if there are just fifty innocent inhabitants. Then, he begs for forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty and ten innocent lives. Each time, God responds sympathetically. The chapter that follows tells us that God has Abraham’s plea in mind when God spares the lives of Lot and his family. God also knows the hearts of evildoers and the reasons they do what they do. God loves them as well. You know, God’s mercy is never lost on anyone.

In Luke’s gospel (11:1-13), Jesus refers his disciples to the God with whom Abraham is so familiar. Luke tells us that Jesus has just finished praying himself when the disciples ask him to teach them to pray. Jesus responds with the Lord’s Prayer. After offering this lesson, Jesus goes on to make his instruction regarding prayer perfectly clear. If the disciples have forgotten the persistence of Abraham and God’s generous response to him, Jesus reminds them in no uncertain terms. Jesus tells his friends of a man who responds to his neighbor’s need in the middle of the night, not so much out of love as out of weariness at the neighbor’s persistence. Jesus continues, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus goes on to point out the disciples’ concern for their own children: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” The God of Abraham continues to listen!

It occurs to me that I’ve found a second image of God which I must treasure at least as much as that of the father embracing his wayward son. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the young man separates himself from his father while he lives sinfully and squanders his inheritance. Though this young man is always in his father’s thoughts, he is isolated and far away in his darkest moments. When this son finally comes to his senses, he can only hope that his father will take him back as a hired hand. In today’s passage from Genesis, God and Abraham walk side-by-side. There is no question that Abraham is conversing with God face-to-face. Apparently, Abraham finds this to be perfectly normal. It seems to me that God’s close proximity to Abraham is also perfectly and wonderfully normal for you and me. Though the prodigal son was separated from his father for a while, we are never separated from God. God walks side-by side with each one of us every step of the way. In our goodness and in our wrong-doing, God is with us. Yes, even today, the God of Abraham listens.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved