Morning Prayer Summary for Thursday, April 25, 2024

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Morning Chapel Prayer Today

Pastor Heather…

Good morning, everyone. I’m Pastor Heather. Welcome to morning prayer.

I was praying about what to share today. I always pray “Lord, fill my mouth with your words. What do you want to say to your people today?” Because He knows a lot better than I do. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit because He always seems to give me something.

Practicing the presence of the Lord…

I’ve been thinking a lot about “practicing His presence.” There is a book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. And I think there’s another one called “Practicing His Presence.” There’s a lot of different variations of that book. All of them are really good. The first time I read it, it just lit something up inside of me. Basically, just how often can we practice the presence of God? How often can we make ourselves aware and not even necessarily stopping and praying all the time, but just making ourselves aware of His presence, inviting Him into the daily mundane tasks that we have.

Do we separate our natural and supernatural lives?

And I think sometimes the longer we’re Christians, we separate things. We have our natural life, and we have our supernatural life. We have our spiritual life, and then we have our not-always-so-spiritual life. And I think God wants to invite us into not feeling like we have to separate those things. We might feel like we have a secular life and a spiritual life. No. We’re renewed. We are filled with the Spirit of God. We are spirits. And so everything we do is spiritual. If we can see it that way.

Living life on autopilot…

And that’s hard to think. “Okay, I’m brushing my teeth, praise the Lord. I just do it unto the glory of God.” But there’s those little tasks and those things that we do and we feel like… maybe I should say, “I feel like.” You might have a different revelation than I have. But sometimes I feel like we “check out” or we go into autopilot. We have our ways of doing things. Or I get to work and I have to do the emails and I have to do this. And it’s easy to forget to invite Him into all of those processes. Because we can lean so much on our natural mind just because we’ve done it for so long. And that is our human tendency, to use our mind… And we better use our mind! If you’re not using your mind, we’re all in a lot of trouble. We have to use that but you also engage your spirit. Does that make sense?

We’re a three-part being…

We are a spirit. We have a soul: our mind, will, and emotions. And we live in a body. We’re a three-part being. And sometimes we can get so heavy on our soul part of us or even our body part of us, our body could be telling us like, “Our feet hurt, our head hurts…” But we are a spirit. And just reminding ourselves of that and creating that awareness that even if I am driving down the freeway… For instance, today on freeway 94, people switched lanes, getting in front of me. Lots of chances to get in the flesh. But I’m praying in the spirit. And I was like, “Hey, what is he? Oh, sorry. Yes, Lord. Okay. We’re focusing. We’re focusing.” But it’s just easy to let even small things disrupt that connection that we have.

What does it mean to practice His presence?

And so I wanted to read a little bit out of “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. And then we’re going to do just that. We’re going to practice His presence. What does that mean to practice His presence? It means making yourself aware of the presence of God, practicing His presence, reminding yourself that you have the holy one inside of you.

Are you in the holy of holies or the outer court?

When Jesus died, we know He tore that veil that separated people from the Holy of Holies. So if that veil is torn, shouldn’t we just always be in there? Shouldn’t we always be going in the Holy of Holies? But sometimes we’re in the outer courts, right? We’re in the outer courts getting in strife or doing whatever. But that availability now because of what Jesus did is always open to us. We can boldly go before the throne of God. And there’s many reasons why we don’t: busyness, distractions, shame, guilt. The list can go on and on and on. We all have maybe a reason why we’re not endeavoring to go in there. But what I’m trying to say is it’s easy, it’s simple. He paid such a great price so that we could come freely to His presence.

You don’t have to be perfect to be in His presence…

And sometimes I think we complicate that and we feel like I can’t come to His presence unless I’ve been perfect all day. Well, guess what? You’ll never go into His presence. There never will be a day that you’ll be perfect all day. There might be good days, and there might be bad days. But there will never be a day that we are perfect and without sin because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Why? Because we are living in a fallen world. We have flesh and bodies. So there’s going to be lots of chances. There’s going to be chances to get into strife. There’s going to be chances to get into unforgiveness. You know, all of that.

We must always turn our affection, our heart, toward Him…

And so then what do we do? Well, He’s in us. He’s within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And so, although we come into His presence, He’s always with us. And if we can create that awareness of like, “Lord, I turn my heart towards you. I turn my affection toward you.” And some mornings when I feel like I’m all up here, even praying, you can even pray in tongues in autopilot. Your mind is on something else, right? Your mind is like, “I got to pick up the groceries. I got to make sure I schedule that appointment.” But there is something as simple as just stopping, slowing down and just, “I turn my heart to you. I turn my affection, my gaze on you, Lord.” And you just take a deep breath and you slow down. And that’s so powerful. Especially on a busy day. If you can only take one minute, maybe in the bathroom, if that’s all the privacy you have. And there are days that I’m running from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting that, that is my only private moment that I’ll just stop and just, “I turn my heart to you. I turn my affection toward you. I thank you for peace, for wisdom, for words from on high.” And we need that. Because if we’re just working from everything that’s in here, well we will fall short. No matter how educated we are, how smart we are, we don’t have all the answers, but praise God, He does.

Excerpt from book, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence

So I’m going to read from “The Fourth Conversation.” The author had all these conversations with Brother Lawrence. And then he shares what he gained from these conversations. I really liked this one. I’m going to read little pieces of it.

“The Fourth Conversation”

He discoursed with me very frequently and with great openness of heart concerning his manner of going to God. [He’s talking about Brother Lawrence.] Whereof some part is related, I’ve related already. He told me that all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are sensible does not lead to God. [Just basically all of our thinking and sensible things that won’t always lead to God.] That we might accustom ourselves to continual conversation with Him with freedom and in simplicity that we need not only to recognize God intimately present with us to address ourselves to Him every moment that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us. Offering them to Him before we do them and giving Him thanks when we have done. That in this conversation with God, we are also employed in praising, adoring, and loving Him incessantly for His infinite goodness and perfection. That God always gave us light in our doubts when we had no other design but ask to please Him. That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake, which we commonly do for our own, that it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for an end addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very imperfectly by reason of their human or selfish regards. That the most excellent method he had found of going to God was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men. And as far as we are capable, purely for the love of God. That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. That we are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer. That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but divine love. And that when the appointed times of prayer were passed, he found no difference because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might so that he passed his life in continual joy. Yet hope that God would give him somewhat to suffer when he should grow stronger. That we ought once and for all heartily to put our whole trust in God and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not deceive us, that we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it was performed. That we should not wonder if in the beginning we often failed in our endeavors, but that at last we should gain a habit which will naturally produce its acts in us without our care and to our exceeding great delight. That all things are possible to Him who believes that they are less difficult to Him who hopes, and that they are more easy to Him who loves and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these three virtues. That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become in this life the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be as we hope to be through all eternity. That the greater perfection a soul aspires after the more dependent it is upon divine grace. Being questioned by one of his own society to whom he was obligated to open himself by what means he had attained such a habitual sense of God. So the people in his company were asking him, “How did you get to this place?” He told them that since his first coming to the monastery, he had considered God as the end of all his thoughts and desires as the mark to which they should tend. And in which they should terminate that in the beginning, he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of God so as to convince his mind of and to impress deeply upon his heart the divine existence. Rather by devout sentiments and submission to the likes of faith than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditation. That by this short and sure method, he exercised himself in the knowledge and the love of God resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His presence. And if possible, never to forget Him more. That when he had thus in prayer, filled his mind with great sentiments of that infinite being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen for he was a cook at that time, there having first considered severally the things his office required. And when and how each thing was done, he spent all the intervals of his time as well before as after his work in prayer. That when he began his business, he said to God with a trust in him, “Oh my God, since thou art with me and I must now in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence and to this and do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works and possess all my affections.” As he proceeded to his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his maker, imploring His grace and offering to Him all of his actions. When he had finished, he examined himself now he had discharged his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If he found otherwise, he asked for pardon without being discouraged as he set his mind right again and continued his exercise of the presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. Thus said he, by rising after my falls and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be difficult for me to not think of God as it was as first to accustom myself to it.

As Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others. But his example was a stronger inducement than any argument he could propose. His very countenance was edifying, such as sweet and calm devotion appearing in it as could not but affect the beholders. And it was observed that in the greatest hurry of the busyness of the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering but did each thing in its season with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. “The time of business,” he said, “does not within me differ from the time of prayer. And in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament. [end excerpt]

Our natural and spiritual times don’t have to be separate…

Isn’t that good? So if we can be focused on Him while we’re alone in our quiet time in prayer, we can also be focused when we’re at work… at the grocery store… driving down the freeway and people are cutting us off… all those things. But it doesn’t have to be separate. It doesn’t have to be like, “Okay, now I’m stopping my spiritual time. Now I’m going into my natural time.” You know, carrying Him with us, carrying that presence, which is already with us, but really a better way to say, would be reminding ourselves to be aware of that presence and to bring that presence into every situation, every conflict, every issue, every difficult thing we face. If we can remind ourselves to bring that before Him before worrying or thinking or trying to solve it in our mind, I just think we would be so much further along in all those things. And I can tell you the difference in my own life times where I’ve just tried to figure things out… “This seems good.” And times where I’ve been like… “Ugh, I really don’t know what to do here. I better pray about this.” But really, we shouldn’t wait till we get to that place. We shouldn’t wait till we get to like it has to be Him because I don’t know what to do. Whereas if we just bring everything before Him, even our simple decisions, He’ll give us wisdom. And anytime that I’ve ever done that, He has worked out some of the things that I’ve been so worried or stumped about or didn’t know what to do. But because I brought it to Him instead of stewing on it and worrying and figuring or manipulating things, I just came to Him and said, “Lord, I pray your grace over this situation. Give me eyes for this situation. Give me wisdom in this situation. Help me to do your will… or what would you have me do in this situation or say, or not say.” There’s sometimes too where we’re just not supposed to say anything. And so inviting Him in, practicing His presence.

And so we’re going to do that now. We’re going to practice His presence. We get the honor of doing that. And as we go into His presence, like I said, just the simplest way to do it is just… “I turn my heart to you now, Father.”

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