26.1.23: A blessing in disguise

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33; NLT). 

Yesterday morning I learned something that was completely new to me. I had begun a migraine the evening before, so I knew I needed to have a day of complete rest to help it pass. This rest-day happened to coincide with the day a friend’s husband was due to have major surgery.

Suddenly I saw the migraine as a blessing in disguise, because it created the time, space and opportunity I needed to pray for them both throughout the day. Immediately after this, I grasped that many other illnesses and adverse circumstances could also be used in the same way.

It may be that seeing our own sickness as an opportunity for intercession is linked to our willingness to embrace suffering, and to thank God for it. There is much I don’t yet understand about this subject, but I hope to learn more.

For now, I glimpse that this approach to illness could become a helpful, meaningful way of sharing Christ’s suffering, and of serving others. Perhaps it could even be described as a “vocation”.

Together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT). 

So, as a prisoner in the Lord, I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the vocation to which you have been called: with all humility and meekness, with patience, supporting one another in charity (Ephesians 4:1-2; CPDV).


References

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT).

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; NKJV). 

Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:10; NLT).

I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

24.1.23: Speak, Lord

A few days ago, as I was waking up, I heard a voice calling my name twice (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-deF). Sleepy and confused, I thought it must be my husband, so I went downstairs to check, but it wasn’t him.

Then, to my dismay, I realised that I should have answered, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9; NIV). I prayed about this immediately, and said I was sorry, but still felt very sad that I had failed to respond at the right time.

However, yesterday the voice called my name again, just once, as I was waking, and this time I was ready to answer with the words Eli gave to Samuel in similar circumstances, so long ago. 

As soon as I replied, today’s prayer came to me. It was difficult to write, because I had no idea what God might be going to say. So now I must, “Wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7; NLT). 

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).

Was it you who called my name, Lord?
Was it you who hailed me?

Last time, Lord, I didn’t answer –
Dazed, confused, I failed Thee.

This time, Lord, I said the words
That Eli gave to Samuel:

“Speak, Lord, for your servant listens” –
Yahweh, may I listen well. 

Listen to God’s voice (Deuteronomy 26:17; TIB).


Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; NIV.

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.

The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was.

Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.”

And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”


The Rosary Hospital 

Yesterday I received an exciting parcel by post – a collection of broken rosaries. I very much enjoyed taking them apart, and adding all the usable components to my trays of rosary-making materials. My huge thanks to P.M., their donor. Here are a few beautiful pieces, some of which I suspect are quite old:

Hot news: When I was praying this morning, I realised that when it’s time to pause, I don’t need to count all the beads I’ve prayed with so far that day. All I need to do is to note which “decade” I’m on (actually there are nine beads between each cross, but I don’t know the word for a “decade” of nine. Does anyone know this?) Then I just count which bead I’ve reached in that “decade.” For example, if I had just reached the third bead of the second decade, I would remember 2/3. I hope this makes sense! It’s such a simple and obvious way forward, but it’s still a significant breakthrough for me!

22.1.23: Help me to pray

Last Friday I was praying sleepily with my circlet, saying my favourite set morning prayers. As soon as I reached the first cross-bead, and asked the Holy Spirit to help me to pray, today’s couplets shot into my mind. All I had to do was to write them down.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26; RSV). 

Holy Spirit,
Help me to pray.

Help me with every word
I say.

Help me with all I think,
And do:

Help me to live
In you.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25; KJV). 

God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us (1 John 4:13; NLT).


Stop Press:

Whilst I was waiting for the kettle to boil, an idea burst into my mind: I can put small sticky notes in places where I do specific tasks, during which it’s easy (and safe), to pray. Here are a few examples: next to the kettle, on the shower-screen, by the sink, at the foot of the stairs, on the frame of a favourite icon, on a work-top, and so on. Each note will show the name of one person or cause I want to pray for. 

As I begin each task I will see the note, and be reminded to pray for that person whilst doing that specific job. The person to be prayed for will quickly come to be associated with the task, so praying for them will become doubly easy to remember.

Sticky notes are simple to put up, remove and change. Hopefully this will help to stop my intercessions seeming like an insurmountable list to be waded through all at once. Instead, they will be spread out over the course of the day.


The Rosary Hospital 

Yesterday someone asked for a prayer-circlet for a member of their family. I offered to include a cross in it, which worked out well. Now I’m planning to make a similar one for myself.

20.1.23: Teach us to pray

Yesterday morning I began praying with my prayer circlet for the first time. Suddenly, on the seventh bead, today’s blog started to arrive:

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1; NLT). 

Lord,

Teach us to pray,
As you taught your disciples.

Help us to pray,
And make our hearts your own.

Pray, Lord, on our behalf,
Without cessation,

Making our fragile souls
Your earthly home.

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them” (John 14:23; NLT).


References 

The Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26; AMP). 

I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19; NKJV). 

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion (Ephesians 6:18; NLT).

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NKJV).


The Rosary Hospital

Now, with plenty of slack in my prayer circlet, and a cross after every ninth bead, I can hold each bead with space on both sides whilst praying. This makes it very easy to know where I’ve got to: I count the beads I’ve already prayed with, and remember which number bead I’ve reached. Then I continue from that place later on.

This new approach does away with the need for a marker. I’m also keeping silence on the cross-beads for as long as it takes for the next prayer to arise in my mind. This silent waiting gives a very unhurried,  unpressured and spacious feel to praying with my circlet. It doesn’t even matter if I don’t get to the “end”, as I can simply start afresh next day.

Of course, the whole point of the circle of prayer is that it has no end, so what I’d like to discover next is a way to join the cord which doesn’t “interrupt” the circlet of beads. If anyone has any ideas about how to do this, please could you let me know?

Stop press: Yesterday evening I found a couple of different connectors at my favourite on-line rosary parts shop. Having sent for them, I’m now waiting as patiently as possibly for their arrival!

19.1.23: My reason for living

Although this little prayer began to arrive early one morning, I didn’t finish it until almost midnight on the same day. As I wrestled with it, I felt in my bones that it wasn’t going to work. However, I didn’t give up on the original inspiration, and eventually today’s blog emerged. I wonder why the simplest prayers are so often the very hardest to write?

I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things (Ecclesiastes 7:25; NLT).  

You are my reason for living:
Lord, may I seek you each day.

You are my reason for loving:
Lord, may I worship, and pray.

You are my reason for giving:
Lord, may I serve you in all.

You are my reason for dying:
Lord, I’ll rejoice when you call.

Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:26-7; NLT).

If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NIV).


The Rosary Hospital

Today I had a second try at making a simple prayer circlet, but this time I used nine beads in each section, whilst marking the beginning and end of each group with small crosses.

There are no static beads in this circlet, apart from at the join. It’s much slacker than a normal rosary. This should make it easier to pray with whilst walking, or carrying out simple tasks. Only one hand is needed to hold the circlet and move the beads along. I’m right-handed, so I can easily pray with it in my left hand. Having just finished my circlet this evening, I’m really looking forward to  trying it out tomorrow.

Here are two shots of today’s circlet. The first is atmospheric, taken in my bedroom late at night, while the second shows more detail:


18.1.23: Help me to pray

Today’s little couplets began to arrive yesterday morning, when I kissed my icon of Jesus. To my surprise, everything I receive is still about prayer, so I’m just going with the flow.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28; NLT). 

Help me to pray with you, Jesus,
All day and all night.

Help me to pray in your Spirit,
And walk in your light.

Help me to pray to our Father,
In heaven above.

Help me to join you in Oneness,
And live in your love.

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).


References 

They will pray day and night, continually (Isaiah 62:6; NLT). 

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18; NIV).

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12; NLT). 

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy (Matthew 6:9; NLT). 

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” (Genesis 1:26; NLT). 

The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6:4;NIV). 

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).


The Rosary Hospital 

Yesterday I made a simple, experimental prayer circlet to wear around my neck, and to hold. It’s loose enough to be able to move from one bead to the next using only one hand. After trying it out, I plan to re-make it with a moveable cross at intervals, as I think that will be helpful when I’m praying.

16.1.23: Prayer #4

Yesterday morning, using my rosary, I said my five introductory prayers. When I reached the centrepiece, I asked the Holy Spirit to help me, then fell silent, but within seconds today’s blog arrived.

It was a great relief to hold the centrepiece with my left hand, whilst typing with my right, confident that I wouldn’t forget where I had got to. I’m so glad that writing now feels like a continuation of my prayers, rather than an interruption of them. If you would like further details about this, please see: https://wp.me/p45bCr-df0.

Here is the little prayer I was given. Although it’s so short and simple it was really difficult to put into words:

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).

Give me the will
To pray for others.

Give me the steadfast faith
I need.

Give me the love
To plead for others.

Pray, Lord, on my behalf,
And intercede.

The Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26; AMP). 

15.1.23: Prayer #3

Ah! To my great relief, yesterday I discovered that using my rosary to pray has greatly eased the long-standing problem I mentioned a few days ago. This is the need to break off my personal prayers whenever a new prayer I need to write down starts to arrive. Each time this happens, I experience an inner conflict. I recognise the new prayer’s significance immediately, and know I need to start writing, but I don’t want to break off from whatever I am seeing, saying, or experiencing in order to do so.

However, yesterday morning brought a change. Using the new approach to prayer described the day before (https://wp.me/p45bCr-deF), I discovered that I could use my left hand to keep hold of the bead I was praying on, whilst typing on my iPad with my right. It’s hard to describe what a huge step forward this is for me, but the bottom line is that it worked.

Pausing to write in this way didn’t interrupt my prayers at all, because the writing simply became part of them. As soon as I’d written down what I’d been given, I was able to go straight back to the bead I’d reached, and to continue my prayers without experiencing any loss of continuity. Praying and writing became one.

This might not sound very important to anyone else, but it’s an answer to prayer for me, and a great relief. Even as I type these words, I’m still holding the bead I had reached when I had to start writing this blog. Thank you, Jesus, that my circle of prayer can remain unbroken.

My rosary prayers can continue on and off throughout the say. When I need to use both hands for a task, I can mark the bead I’ve reached with a plastic-coated tie (see photo below), but I’m hoping that a better marker will come to me before too long. Any suggestions would be very gratefully received.

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

14.1.23: Prayer #2

As I was  beginning to surface from a bad dream early yesterday morning, I heard a voice call out my name: “Ruth!” A few moments later it happened again: “Ruth!” I felt disorientated and confused, too sleepy to respond.

Sitting on the edge of my bed (I have to stand up slowly), I tried to pray about what had happened, but I don’t think I made much sense. 

Even once I began to move about, it took me several more minutes to realise that I could have answered: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9; NLT). I prayed about this, but felt sad that I had missed my chance to respond.

After breakfast it was hard to pray for others, as discussed yesterday (here is a link: https://wp.me/p45bCr-deo). Then a possible way forward suddenly came into my mind.

Introductory prayers
Using the first section of my five-decade rosary (the cross and the five beads which lead to the main circle), I kissed the cross, and used it to make the sign of the cross. Then I said five of my favourite morning prayers, one on each bead. Pausing at the centrepiece, I asked the Holy Spirit to direct my prayers, and to help me to pray.

First decade: Praying for others
Next, I held the first bead of the first decade whilst praying for the first person who came into my mind. After each bead, I moved on to the next, waiting to see who it was for, then praying for them, as described in the link above.

When I reached the fixed “Our Father” bead, I kissed it, and made the sign of the cross with it again, whilst saying: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then I rested for a moment with my arms crossed on my breast, wondering what would come next. 

Second decade: Giving thanks
Almost immediately, I saw that the next decade was for giving thanks, so that’s exactly what I did. On each bead, I waited to see what came into my mind, then gave thanks for it. I knew that this could include saying thank-you for “bad” things, as well as “good” ones.

Half-way through the second decade, I saw what needed to come next: asking God’s forgiveness. Pausing to write this down, I continued giving thanks, until the next “Glory be”, when I rested again.

Third decade: Saying sorry, and asking forgiveness 
On the next group of beads, I said I was sorry for ten different things I had got wrong, one at a time, including my long-standing flaws and weaknesses. I asked God’s forgiveness and help on each bead, as before.

Fourth decade: Forgiving others
By the time I reached this point, I was tiring, but could see that the next ten beads would be about forgiving others. In fact there was no one at all I needed to forgive, so I moved straight on to the last ten beads.

Fifth decade: Praising God
The final decade was devoted to praising ten different aspects of God, which was very easy to do.

Conclusion
I’m hoping that this way of using my rosary might be particularly helpful when praying with words feels like an unmanageable task, or I’m finding it hard to concentrate. Holding the beads one at a time will hopefully help to keep me centred and grounded. It also limits the number of prayers on each subject to ten, though obviously this shouldn’t be too rigid.

The prayer on each bead will be as short, honest and direct as I can make it, so it will hopefully be possible to develop a momentum that keeps me moving forwards to the next prayer, and the next, rather than getting bogged down, or feeling overwhelmed and giving up. Finally, I plan to try starting and ending my circle of prayer by holding the cross during a period of silence.

13.1.23: Prayer #1

I find that interceding for others can easily become a burden. More and more people are added to my list, and hardly anyone is ever crossed off. Praying for them all can become a lengthy, repetitive, exhausting task, rather than a caring, heartfelt appeal for God to help them. Sometimes I’m just not well enough to manage it at all, even though I don’t want to neglect anyone who is suffering.

As I was reflecting on this a couple of days ago, today’s prayer came to me:

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).

It doesn’t need to be a burden:
Pray, right now, for everyone,

Asking God to heal and bless them:
Simply pray through Christ, the Son.

Let the Holy Spirit pray
On your behalf, to God above.

Lift this troubled world to heaven:
He will help us all, with love.

The Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26; AMP).

After writing, then saying, this prayer, I suddenly saw that I could use my rosary to help me pray for others. So I tried it out, like this:

Holding the first bead of the first decade, I waited silently to see who came into my mind, then I prayed for them. Moving on to the next bead, I waited again to see who came to mind, and so on. When no more names appeared, I knew my intercessions were finished for the moment.

With this approach, I didn’t have to think about who to pray for, which was a relief. It also felt less mechanical than using a list – more natural, spontaneous, and supported by the Holy Spirit.

I quickly saw that I could use my rosary like this to pray discreetly for others in different settings, such as during medical treatments, or journeys, whilst walking, or waiting somewhere, and so on. Normally, I do this without a rosary, but find that it’s very easy to be distracted, to forget who I’m praying for, or even to forget that I’m praying. The more creative I can be with my intercessions, the fresher and more alive they will become. I already know that there will be more on this topic over the next few days. God is good!


References 

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion (Ephesians 6:18; NLT).

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father (John 14L13; NLT).

I am the LORD who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT). 

I am the one who wounds and heals (Deuteronomy 32:39; NLT).