A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

beatitudes 3

Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus,
We receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.

Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.

Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.

Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.

Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.

We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.

Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.

In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.

Make us
One with you and each other
One in your great work of peace
One in your words and ways
One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness
One in the face of falsehood
One in the bloody bonds of persecution
One in your joy
One in your promises
One on earth and one in heaven
Amen

****************
A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Using the Beatitudes for Self Reflection and Growth

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

In his book, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, Jim Forest makes a terrific recommendation: use The Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12) as a set of questions for self reflection. Think about the possibilities for using them to prepare for prayer or worship or the start/end of the day. This kind of reflection provides a framework for discovering our next steps in more fully following Christ.

So, here are the questions which came to mind for me.
What questions do The Beatitudes stir in you? – Lisa <><

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

  • Am I still trying to save myself or am I completely depending on God’s love, mercy and grace?

Blessed are those who Mourn

  • Do I mourn my destructive thoughts and actions, my sin, my brokenness?
  • Am I heartbroken over the brokenness of my community and world?

Blessed are the Meek

  • Do I think too lowly or highly of my gifts, talents and strengths?
  • Have I places my gifts, talents and strengths fully under the authority and discipline of God that they may be used by God for a greater good?

Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

  • Am I doing all I can to build right relationships with God, others, myself, and the rest of creation?
  • Are other appetites taking first place in my life?

Blessed are the Merciful

  • Have I forgiven those who have done me harm?
  • Do I need to ask anyone for forgiveness?
  • Have I rejected revenge and bitterness fully?

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

  • Who or what rules my motivation and desire? God? Others? An addiction? Myself?
  • How am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the development of an undivided heart?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

  • How am I building bridges and breaking down dividing walls in Jesus’ Name?
  • How can I more fully abandon violence, prejudice, bias, and hate?

Blessed are the Persecuted

  • How am I loving my enemies and praying for them?
  • Am I living and practicing my faith in gracious ways everywhere I go or am I hiding it as a way of protecting myself?

***************
Click here for a meaningful and deep sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Webber entitled Some Modern Beatitudes.

Click here for an interesting perspective on the Beatitudes by Richard Rohr entitled How to Win by Losing. Rohr encourages us to read the Beatitudes from the perspective of how they describe Jesus as the suffering servant.

Click here for a post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled More Beatitudes. He used Jesus’ Beatitudes as a starting point for writing a few more reflecting modern issues. Consider trying this exercise as well.

You are welcome to use this work in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Beatitudes: Blessed are Those Who Mourn

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Matthew 5:1-2, 4 NIV
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying… “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

In the Greek, the word for comforted has three meanings: 1) to be consoled 2) to find an ally or helper 3) to exhort or encourage. An understanding of comforted helps us flesh out a more complete understanding of mourning. Mourning is an intimate, intense, heart-breaking sorrow. It is natural to sorrow over loss and affliction. For those who follow Christ, we grow to also sorrow our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world. In each instance, Christ not only consoles us, but is our ally in healing brokenness and our encourager to join him in the healing of the world.
– Lisa Degrenia <><

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God grant us the gift of tears: for those whom we miss, for our past sins, for the sins of others, for the violence we do to each other and to the world God gives to us each day.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Tears are a gift. They fall on our hard hearts, cracking them open to the truth of who we are and the truth of the world around us. As they fall, our hearts grow softer and softer in God’s hands. – Lisa Degrenia <><

There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness but of power.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love.
– Washington Irving

MOURNING OUR BROKENNESS AND SIN
Psalm 38:18 NRSV
I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

Psalm 51:1-3 NIV
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

The mourning for which Christ promises Divine comfort is a sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow. – Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer

The Lord first makes known our emptiness, and so humbles us; and then, next, he makes us mourn over the deficiencies that are so manifest in us. Then comes the second beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn.” First there is a true knowledge of ourselves; and then a sacred grief arising out of that knowledge.
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Beatitudes

James 4:8-10 NIV
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

MOURNING THE BROKENNESS OF THE WORLD
2 Corinthians 7:10-11a NIV
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

An immediate consequence of poverty of spirit is becoming sensitive to the pain and losses of people around me, not only those whom I happen to know and care for, but also people I don’t know and don’t want to know. To the extent that I open my heart to others, I will do whatever I can to help– pray, share what I have, even share myself.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

The kind of mourning referred to here is not so much mere sadness or weeping but prayers of lament over the hurt in the world. The mourning grows out of an awareness of the difference between the world as it is and the world as God wills it to be.
– Tom Long, Matthew Commentary

Click here for a deep reflection and call to lament by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled For the Hurt of my People.

The one who sees unceasingly the limitless goodness of God came to the world, saw it broken to pieces by human sin and was moved to compassion. The same eyes which see into the heart of God saw the suffering hearts of God’s people and wept. These eyes which burn like flames of fire penetrating God’s own interiority, also hold oceans of tears for the human sorrow of all times and all places.
– Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord

Revelation 21:1-5 NIV
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

**********
This is the second of eight posts based on the Beatitudes, Jesus’ short pronouncements of blessing at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1-12) In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the present and future reality of God’s kingdom and that the kingdom is available for all people.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

Worship Resource: Take My Life

Horsing Around by David Pasillas

Horsing Around by David Pasillas

This worship resource was inspired by a sermon on Jesus’ blessing in Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

When we hear the word meek, we tend to think timid, passive, wimp, doormat. In Jesus’ day, the word he uses for meek actually refers to a powerful, wild animal who is now trained for work. Think of a stallion and rider, a mighty force of perfect collaboration and unity. A meek person is one who follows Jesus in a disciplined way in order to join Jesus in his saving work. Thus meek means strength under authority, power under discipline, a teachable spirit desiring God’s greater good. – Lisa <><

Worship Resource: Take My Life
ALL SINGING
Traditional Setting: Take My Life, and Let It Be
United Methodist Hymnal #399, verses 1 and 2

Contemporary Setting: Take My Life
Arranged by Chris Tomlin (CCLI #4162843)
Verses 1, 2 and chorus

Instrumental music continues under the scripture reading.

VOICE ONE: Psalm 25:4-5 NIV
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths;
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
For you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

VOICE TWO: Psalm 25:6-7 NIV
Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
For they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
According to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

VOICE ONE: Psalm 25:8-9 NIV
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

ALL SINGING
Traditional Setting: Take My Life, and Let It Be
United Methodist Hymnal #399, verse 3

Contemporary Setting: Take My Life
arranged by Chris Tomlin (CCLI #4162843)
Verses 3 and chorus

**********
Be sure to check out the beautiful photography of today’s featured artist David Pasillas at his blog iPhone Photographer. You will also find him on Facebook.

Worship Resource: Take My Life compilation © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

If you know the name or photographer of this work, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Matthew 5:1-3
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Blessed are the spiritual zeros- the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them. – Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

What does poverty of spirit mean? It is my awareness that I cannot save myself, that I am basically defenseless, that neither money nor power will spare me from suffering and death, and that no matter what I achieve and acquire in this life, it will be far less than I wanted. Poverty of spirit is my awareness that I need God’s help and mercy more than I need anything else. – Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes 

God sees all the many kinds of suffering in the world. The world tends to define poverty and riches simply in terms of economics. But poverty has many faces–weakness, dependence, or humiliation. Essentially, poverty is a lack of means to accomplish what one desires, be it lack of money, relationships, influence, power, intellectual ability, physical strength, freedom, or dignity. Scriptures promise that God will take care of such people, because they know they have to rely on God. – Richard Rohr

Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It is because we all need to stand in that position for our own conversion. We each need to stand under the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God— to understand the very nature of reality. When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning— and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. When we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, religion is always corrupted because it doesn’t understand the mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, and how life flows. It has been said by others that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.
– Richard Rohr

An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God
than a deep search after learning.
– Thomas a Kempis

Every aspect of Jesus’ mission (Luke 4:18-19) is restorative. His audience is comprised of the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. His actions are to transform these conditions of existence into abundant life, which he described as bringing good news and effecting release, recovery and liberation. The challenge (then and now) is for us to realize we are the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. As long as we think Jesus was talking about someone else, we will miss the invitation to transformation which launched his ministry and led him to the Cross. – Steve Harper

When you can get little enough, naked enough, and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect from other people. – Richard Rohr

Extended quote by Arthur W. Pink
from his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer

By nature every sinner is Pharisaical, desiring to be justified by the works of the Law. By nature we all inherit from our first parents the tendency to manufacture for ourselves a covering to hide our shame. By nature every member of the human race walks in the way of Cain, who sought to find acceptance with God on the ground of an offering produced by his own labors. In a word, we desire to gain a standing before God on the basis of personal merits; we wish to purchase salvation by our good deeds; we are anxious to win heaven by our own doings. God’s way of salvation is too humbling to suit the carnal mind, for it removes all ground for boasting. It is therefore unacceptable to the proud heart of the unregenerate.

Man wants to have a hand in his salvation. To be told that God will receive nought from him, that salvation is solely a matter of Divine mercy, that eternal life is only for those who come empty-handed to receive it solely as a matter of charity, is offensive to the self-righteous religionist. But not so to the one who is poor in spirit and who mourns over his vile and wretched state. The very word mercy is music to his ears. Eternal life as God’s free gift suits his poverty-stricken condition. Grace—the sovereign favor of God to the hell-deserving—is just what he feels he must have! Such a one no longer has any thought of justifying himself in his own eyes; all his haughty objections against God’s benevolence are now silenced. He is glad to own himself a beggar and bow in the dust before God. Once, like Naaman, he rebelled against the humbling terms announced by God’s servant; but now, like Naaman at the end, he is glad to dismount from his chariot of pride and take his place in the dust before the Lord.

Humility, that low sweet root,
From which all heavenly virtues shoot.
-Thomas More

From the original meaning of the word humility (from the word “humus”—earth), it means that our first encounter with God is to come to the realization that God is God, and I am not! I am creature, not Creator. I am of the “earth.” … Humility is the sign that we have moved into a “for” mentality— a life for God. It is what Jesus meant when he spoke of “denying ourselves”—which does not mean a cancellation of the self, but rather a consecration of the self. It’s what E. Stanley Jones meant when he said, “Your self in your own hands is a problem and a pain; your self in God’s hands is a power and a potential.” Humility is allowing God to have you in His hands.
– Steve Harper, A Life of Humility

Revelation 3:17 NIV
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

A “poor spirit” is an authentic spirit because it has nothing to claim or cling to but itself.  When we are poor in spirit, all we can say is, “i am”—not “i have” or “i do.”  But it is in the moment of “being” that we are in alignment with the “I AM” of God.  Jesus said this is where the spiritual life begins–in the paradox of nothingness, which turns out to be everything.  For there is nothing more holy or precious than a living soul who offers to God and others the purity of itself. – Steve Harper

Isaiah 64:6 NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Can we surrender the mantle of trying to be, as someone has described us in our driven-ness, “General Manager of the Universe?” Many of us are so accustomed to trying to be good – doing what is right, covering everything on our to-do list – that we live our lives, even our spiritual lives, at a frantic pace. We cram every minute of every day with activity and achievement, measuring our worth by what we earn or what good deeds we have done. But this beatitude says that approach is all wrong. When we offer to God what we cannot be or do – our weaknesses – then the kingdom is ours. God says in this beatitude, “When you give up your illusions of control and power and acknowledge your absolute need for me, all that I have opens to you.”
– Mary Lou Redding, The Power of a Focused Heart

Luke 18:10-14 NIV
Jesus said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.
-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

The following quotes and prayer are from The Beatitudes, by Charles H. Spurgeon

  • It is worthy of grateful note that this gospel blessing reaches down to the exact spot where the law leaves us when it has done for us the very best within its power or design. The utmost the law can accomplish for our fallen humanity is to lay bare our spiritual poverty, and convince us of it. It cannot by any possibility enrich a man: its greatest, service is to tear away from him, his fancied wealth of self-righteousness, show him his overwhelming indebtedness to God, and bow him to the earth in self despair.
  • The cause for placing this Beatitude first is found in the fact that it is first as a matter of experience; it is essential to the succeeding characters, underlies each one of them, and is the soil in which alone they can be produced. No man ever mourns before God until he is poor in spirit, neither does he become meek towards others till he has humble views of himself; hungering and thirsting after righteousness are not possible to those who have high views of their own excellence, and mercy to those who offend is a grace too difficult for those who are unconscious of their own spiritual need. Poverty in spirit is the porch of the temple of blessedness.
  • “Poor in spirit;” the words sound as if they described the owners of nothing, and yet they describe the inheritors of all things.
  • Lord, keep me low; empty me more and more; lay me in the dust, let me be dead and buried as to all that is of self; then shall Jesus live in me, and reign in me, and be truly my All-in-all!

**********
This is the first of eight posts based on the Beatitudes, Jesus’ short pronouncements of blessing at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1-12) In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the present and future reality of God’s kingdom and that the kingdom is available for all people.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page