Save us from our selfish selves, a prayer of confession (Matthew 11)

save me from myself

Based on Matthew 11:20-24

Mighty One,
We call to you for deeds of power
You answer
We see them moment by moment, day by day
The steadfast outpouring of your grace and saving love

But do we thank you, Jesus?
Do we bow before you in awe?
Do we lift our songs in adoration?
Do we turn from our selfishness and sin to testify?

No.
We see but we do not repent
We see but we do not praise
We see but we do not follow

Lord have mercy
We are hard-hearted
Entitled
Apathetic

Lord have mercy
Work your most gracious miracle in us
Save us from our selfish selves
Lord have mercy

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Save us from our selfish selves, a prayer of confession © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Quotes: Fasting and Prayer

Fasting Prayer graphic

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Fasting calls us to the remembrance that Christ alone is our “food and drink,” and as we make him our Source, we are liberated from the addiction to secondary things.
– Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (1)

Many of the traditions of spiritual life that have developed within Christianity are intended to help that dying to self that Christ describes as poverty of spirit. Fasting is one of these traditions– a small dying to certain foods and drinks. The chief value of fasting is not dietary but is linked to intensified battle against the tyranny of one’s never satisfied appetites and desires. Fasting is always linked with increased prayer and almsgiving: the deepening of communion with God and with neighbors in need.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Extended quote from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr
There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. (That’s merely an ego trip, and because of this need, churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Until we each look these three demons in their eyes, we should presume that they are still in charge in every life. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious, controlling, and self-righteous we all are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.

John 4:13-14 NRSV
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

John 6:35 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Fasting kind of “hangs the soul out to dry,” and in doing so we find that we can live (indeed, live better) when we are not attached to things which are subject to loss, decay, and death. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (2)

Prayer, fasting, watching may be good in themselves; yet it is not in these practices alone that the goal of our Christian life is found, though they are necessary means for its attainment. The true goal consists in our acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
-Seraphim of Sarov

Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV
Jesus said, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The value of fasting was (and still is) not the amount of mortification we practice, but rather the concentration of our attention upon God.  The value of fasting is not how much we suffer, but rather how much we allow the time we would have spent eating to become time we spend “feasting” on God. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (4)

Click the link for an excellent article on the concept of a “perpetual fast” from “inferior appetites,” by Bill Guerrant entitled Rethinking Your Lenten Fast

Click the link for questions and reflections to consider as you experience your fast, Fasting by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Praying for Enemies

destroying_my_enemies_by_hellhoundp2k

Destroying My Enemies by hellhoundp2k

Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
Jesus said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes you conscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings…. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. –Henri Nouwen

We cannot love our enemies until we see those twin truths:
God loves me. God loves them. – Mary DeMuth

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared? – Martin Luther

Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the ultimate example of love for one’s enemies, both in general and in particular. The Lord forgave those who committed the most evil deed in the world – who crucified Him to the cross, and in such forgiveness the Lord revealed the greatest love. But on a larger scale the Lord also revealed the greatest love for us, sinners, by taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and that means our sins, too. Sins are God’s enemies, because they go against the goodness and perfection of God’s creation, and thus the Lord showed love for His enemies, i.e. our sins, by erasing them through His sacrifice on the cross. – Father Rostislav Sheniloff, On Loving One’s Enemies

Luke 6:27-29, 31, 32, 35, 36 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also … Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies… Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

It’s hard to love someone really,
especially the annoying, the arrogant, the cruel—
because I want to be separate from them.
I don’t want to be one with them,
soiled by their sin, associated with their dirt.
I want to push their boat off in a good direction
but not be in their boat.
But to love someone
is to cease judging their cruel as more cruel than I.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, excerpt from Why It’s Hard to Love

Let your religion be this,
to tend to the unloved,
to heal the world with kindness
as you have been given unearned kindness,
to be present to the grace
that flows in and around you.
And those who are against you—
tend to them, for they are unloved,
heal them with kindness they can’t expect,
be present to the grace hidden even in them;
or you have already abandoned your faith.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, excerpt from A Thousand Ways

You can’t know everyone’s struggle, but you can honor it. You can’t see everyone’s pain but you can be gentle. You can think highly of everyone even if they’ve learned to make how they live look easy. You can be forgiving; you can be encouraging and not judging; you can give people room to fail and improve; you can free people from your own expectations and projections. You can be so loving, in fact, that though it’s apparently hard for others for you it’s just normal. It won’t be easy, but with discipline you can do it. Be so loving that you make it look easy. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, They Make it Look Easy

Click the links for other reflections on loving our enemies by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
A Different World and The Other Cheek

Anyway by Kent Keith*
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

*Kent Keith wrote this poem in 1968. Mother Teresa made it well known by placing it on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta in a slightly different version. As a result, many have attributed it to her.

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