What is prayer?

We do not know how to pray as we ought.
(Romans 8:26; NRSV).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Prayer is sharing every thought,
Sensation, feeling, word and deed
With God.

Prayer is sharing all our weakness,
Judgement, sin and selfishness
With God.

Prayer is sharing stillness, silence,
Darkness, need and loneliness
With God.

Prayer is sharing all our joys and sorrows,
Pain, fear, life and death
With God.

Prayer is listening, trusting, loving –
Facing all we undergo
With God.

Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).


References 

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Home shrines

1. Welcome

Hello! A warm welcome to everyone who visits “Seeking God’s face”, and to all who follow here regularly. I pray for you all each day.

2. Home shrines

This blog brings a very simple message: to suggest that many people could find joy, comfort, support and self-expression through having a home shrine, especially those of us who are sick or disabled, and can no longer go to church.

3. My shrine 

My shrine is in my bedroom, on the chest of drawers. In this room, I can close the door, and pray in private. The shrine has developed slowly over several years, having started with the large wall cross, a few flowers, a candle, and an incense burner. 

Whenever I want to, I make changes to it, removing items that have served their purpose, and introducing others which are particularly significant for me at the time. As my faith becomes increasingly universal, I plan to incorporate relics from other faiths. Nothing is included out of a sense of obligation or pressure.

4. Personal spiritual practices

A home shrine offers an opportunity for the daily expression of personally meaningful spiritual practices. For example, I stoop to kiss the small wooden cross at the front, just as a priest kisses the altar before saying mass. Then I dip my fingers in the small bowl of holy water, blessing myself with the sign of the cross. Sometimes I do this in the Roman Catholic way, sometimes in the Russian Orthodox style, just as I wish. 

Occasionally I light a candle or an incense stick, though I never leave these burning in my absence or whilst I’m asleep, in case of fire.

5. Prayers

My shrine includes two framed prayers which mean a lot to me. Their presence enables me to include them in my daily worship whenever I want to, and reminds me of the words, if I forget them.

The first is about the “little way” of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, whose name I took at confirmation (https://wp.me/p45bCr-acZ), whilst the second is a prayer for world peace (https://wp.me/p45bCr-aCa).

Sometimes I am able to stand in front my shrine to pray for a minute or two. However, when I’m too tired, unwell, cold, or lightheaded to do this, I simply begin praying there, then get into bed to continue whilst lying down. Last thing at night, it’s a pleasure to thank God for all my day has brought, both good and bad. Then I say goodnight, and settle down to sleep.

6. Icons

Whether I’m just passing my shrine, or staying a little longer, I often touch each icon with love before I move on. My room also includes three large wall icons, hanging at just the right height to touch, hold gently with both hands, and kiss, as I whisper my prayers.

7. A very private place 

Some people might scoff at these  practices, judging them to be sentimental, foolish, pointless, or even idolatrous. However, for me the beauty of my home shrine is that it is a very private place where I can be honest with God without any kind of  formality, using my own words, however few or many they may be. It’s also a very good place to “be still and silent” before God, for a few, precious moments. 

8. A safe place….

Furthermore, my shrine gives me a “safe place” to return to in my imagination when I need extra support in the outside world. This grounding effect is enhanced by a holding cross, made in Bethlehem from the prunings of olive trees. When I received it, I blessed it at my shrine, then left it there overnight to absorb the essence of its peace and beauty.

9. …coupled with a holding cross 

During the daytime, I wear this cross around my neck on a long cord, hanging beneath my clothes. When I need it, I discretely retrieve it with the cord. Visualising my shrine whilst holding my cross hidden in the palm of one hand, or clasped between both, is a great source of help, strength and comfort. I do this when I face traumatic events, flashbacks, unpleasant medical treatments, pain, strong emotions, interpersonal conflict, or feared situations. Despite its small size, this little cross powerfully re-connects me to the peace and safety of my shrine. 

At night, I have a similar cross, but on a much shorter cord. Secured around my wrist, it stays in my hand whilst I am asleep. This cross is a tangible, comforting reminder of God’s presence each time I wake up.

10. Final words 

It feels strange to share these very personal, central aspects of my life with you, yet it seems important to do so. The opportunities offered by home shrines for spiritual nourishment, and for direct, free self-expression before God are far too valuable to keep to myself.

May God bless you all each day.
With much love from Ruth xxxxx

 

References

1. Welcome

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT). 

3. My shrine

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

5. Prayers 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

Be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT).

7. A very private place 

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10; NLT).

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity (Zechariah 2:13; NLT).

8. A safe place…

You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress (Psalm 59:16; NLT). 

This I declare about the Lord: he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him (Psalm 91:2; NLT). 

9. …coupled with a holding cross

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18; NLT).

When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

10. Final words

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

Personal change 16.5.22.

1. Diagnosis

My health has been deteriorating for several years, but I have never had an explanation for this. However, last Thursday I was given a diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy (AN).

AN is an incurable degenerative disorder, in which the brain loses the ability to regulate processes that normally happen automatically. It affects the functioning of multiple body systems, including, for example, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature control, bladder, digestion, eyesight, balance and energy.

There are several sub-types of AN. Some are more severe than others. Some progress more quickly than others. A battery of tests over the next few weeks and months should eventually indicate which type I have, how quickly I can expect to deteriorate, and my anticipated life-expectancy.    

2. Realisation

About a year ago, as my health deteriorated, I reached a point where I could no longer go to church. Since then, I have hoped in vain that some of the people there who I thought of as friends might notice my absence and make contact with me. However, only one member of my local congregation has stayed in touch.

Over the last few days I have realised how deeply I lack sources of spiritual nourishment with like-minded people. This has made me see that I need to stop hoping for contact, understanding and support from church, where there is so little available. Instead, I want to accept, share, and develop, relationships that are available to me, for example, with spiritually-minded friends online.

So, it’s time for me to start afresh, to change, and to focus much more on some reciprocal relationships. This feels like a very positive realisation. Indeed, it’s already leading me to explore a much more universal faith than is possible within the narrow confines of a single, rule-based denomination. 

With this new-found approach, I can start putting my very limited energy into seeking and finding God in everyone and everything, a prospect which fills me with joy. God really does work in mysterious ways, bringing good even out of situations that can appear wholly negative.

3. Recognition

Accordingly, yesterday, as I prepared my blog for posting, I found great pleasure in illustrating it with a wonderful photo of a woman priest joyfully celebrating communion. This simply  doesn’t happen in my denomination, where all women are automatically excluded from the priesthood, simply because of their gender. 

Using the photo of the woman priest made me recognise that I could also include photos of older women and disabled people amongst my website headers, so I spent a very happy hour or two on this task. Until today, my thinking had always been so blinkered that it had never occurred to me to do this.

4. Freedom

Right now, I feel my diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has made me realise that I’ve only got one life here, and that it might be a lot shorter, more limited, and more unpleasant than I had previously imagined. So, as my heath and mobility deteriorate, I want to make the most of whatever freedom and independence I have, at each stage of this disorder.

However, I’m not thinking of the conventional “bucket list” of places I want to go to, or things I want to do before I die. Rather, I’m already experiencing a deep, joyful sense of inner freedom to be myself. This gives me space and permission to think what I think, believe what I believe, feel how I feel, and be how I am. I am also working on my outward freedom, by speaking the truth in love, and taking pleasure in doing what I still can, however limited this may be. 

5. Future 

I’m sharing all this with you because as I deteriorate, I will probably need to change my approach to blogging. This might mean expending less energy on formal, disciplined poetic structures, instead describing whatever spiritual insights God gives me in simpler, more direct prose.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling optimistic, the future looks exciting, and I will continue to post here each day for as long as I can.

✝️ My greetings to every follower and visitor to this website. I appreciate every one of you, and pray for you all each day.

With love and blessings, from Ruth xxxx


References 

1. Diagnosis

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave (Psalm 89:48; NLT). 

2. Realisation

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

Truly, O God of Israel, our Saviour, you work in mysterious ways (Isaiah 45:15; NIV). 

We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28; GNT).

3. Recognition

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him (Luke 24:31; NLT).

God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27; NLT).

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NIV).

The Almighty … blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb (Genesis 49:5; NIV). 

“As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother” (Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 59, Julian of Norwich).

4. Freedom 

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NLT). 

If the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36; NLT).  

When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go (John 21:18; NLT).

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24; NIV).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NIV).

5. Future

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts (Psalm 90:12; CSB).

Stand up*

Stand up and praise the Lord your God!
(Nehemiah 9:5; NLT). 

Stand up to fear and panic,
Depression, hurt and loss,
To loneliness and anguish
With Christ, who faced the cross.

Stand up to pain and sickness,
Exhaustion, grief and stress,
To suffering and sorrow
With Christ, who shares each test.

Stand up to hate and envy,
Temptation, pride and sin,
To selfishness and anger
With Christ, who waits within.

Stand up to them with Jesus,
Confront them every day,
Then you will gain your freedom
With Christ, who is our way.

🖤

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; NLT).

*This prayer can be sung to the tune of “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.”


Trust

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
(John 14;1; NLT).

He knows everything (1 John 3:20; NIV).

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my joys,
My sorrows, too:

My loneliness,
My sins and fears –
You bear them all,
And share my tears.

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my health,
My sickness, too:

My suffering,
Each loss and strain –
You bear them all,
And share my pain. 

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my strength,
My weakness, too:

In heart and soul,
In mind and flesh –
You bear them all,
And share my death.

🖤

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.
(Psalm 68:19; NIV). 

Through all that they suffered, he suffered too (Isaiah 63:9; NET).  

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).

Be sure of this: I am with you always (Matthew 28:20; NLT).


It’s not lonely

As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you, in your holy temple.
(Jonah 2:7; CSB). 

We all fade like a leaf (Isaiah 64:6: ESV).

1. Father,
It’s not lonely as we fade:
Even when no one comes,
You hear our cry.

2. Father,
It’s not lonely as we ebb:
Even if no one cares,
You share each sigh.

3. Father,
It’s not lonely as we yield:
Even though no one helps,
You soothe our fear.

4. Father,
You receive our final breath:
Dancing beside you,
Paradise starts here.

🖤

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you,
today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43; NIV).

 


References

1. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38; NLT).

The Lord hears the cries of the needy (Psalm 69:33; NLT). 

2. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7; NLT). 

You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh (Psalm 38:9; NLT). 

3. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; KJV). 

He helps me (Psalm 28:7; NLT).

4. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NIV).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

 


 

Remembrance Day

Nation will go to war against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom.
(Matthew 24:7; NLT). 

I pray for all
Who go to war:
They suffer fear, like you;

For all whose lives
Are scarred by war:
They know your anguish, too.

I pray for all those
Crushed by war:
They share your pain, dear Lord;

For all those
Who are killed by war:
Each lonely death, like yours.

♥️

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
(Mark 15:34; NLT).

 


You’re here (#2 of 2 linked prayers)


He made darkness his hiding place
(Psalm 18:11; BSB).

You’re here, Lord, in my darkness:
You share it every day.

You’re present in the loneliness
I face along your way.

You’re here, Lord, in my silence:
A place I know too well.

You’re present in the weariness
Which locks me in this cell.

You’re here, Lord, in my weakness;
My wretchedness; my pain.

You’re even in my emptiness:
For I am your domain.


The kingdom of God is within you
(Luke 17:21; NKJV).

_____________________________

Share my darkness (#1 of 2 linked prayers)


Pray about everything
(Philippians 4:6; NLT). 

I want to share my darkness, Lord,
With you throughout today –
My foolishness; my ignorance;
My weakness, and my sin.

I want to share my emptiness
With you, Lord, all day long –
My brokenness; my barrenness;
My silence deep within.

I want to share my loneliness
With you, Lord, day by day –
My weariness; my suffering;
My sorrow, and my pain.

I want to share my littleness
With you, Lord, every day –
My worthlessness; my nothingness:
Then I won’t live in vain.

Pray continually
(1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

___________________________________

In the darkness

If you are walking in darkness,
without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
and rely on your God
(Isaiah 50:10; NLT).

Lord,
You’re in the darkness
That surrounds me:
I rejoice to have you
As my guide.

Lord,
You’re in the sorrow
That afflicts me:
I delight to journey
By your side.

Lord,
You’re in the loneliness
That fills me:
I exult to know you
As my friend.

Lord,
You’re in the silence
That engulfs me:
So I’m content to stay here,
Till my end.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him
(Psalm 62:5; ESV).