Dear Abbey Members and Friends:
Below is yesterday's meditation by Fr. Don Talafous of St. John's Abbey. Fr. Don's meditation brought a number of thoughts to me regarding the first tenet of our Abbey's Rule of Life: "Pray daily guided by the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) or another Christian format and worship regularly in community." My first thought is that one could interpret this tenet to limit us in our praying to existing words or prayers that others have devised to express the many reasons or things for which we go to God in prayer -- adoration, petition for someone or something, sorrow, confession, forgiveness...and the list goes on. To me it is true that others more skilled with words than I have come up with wonderful prayers that express very well the feelings in my heart...and it is good to use those. Our own BCP has a marvelous collection of collects and prayers for our use. But this gives rise to the second thought...and that is recognizing that we do "have a friend in Jesus." We typically do not talk with our friends in prescribed phrases or sentences, rather words, our own words, come tumbling out that express the thoughts and feelings of the moment. It seems to me that in living into this part of our Rule of praying daily, there is also space for opening our minds and hearts to God (Jesus) and talking as we do with our earthly friends. This may be a more genuine form of praying. I believe our Rule is broad enough to encompass both types of prayer.
Shalom and many blessings, George
"What a friend we have in Jesus." (My unchurched father in his old age and nearly deaf could be surprised at times alone in his house singing "what a pal we have in Jesus," a variation probably more due to failing memory than any desire to be hip.) Just hearing that line from an old-time Protestant hymn might strike some Christians as too chummy or simply undignified. Churchgoing people get so used to the formal language of the service that "what a friend we have in Jesus" seems a bit like bringing the sweet-nothings of people in love into a public auditorium. Yet Scripture itself warrants the language of friendship. In John 15 Jesus talks about laying down His life for His friends. "You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as slaves. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father." Revealing ourselves to another, opening our hearts to another, is the sure sign of friendship, a necessary step in fostering it. In turn Christians have every right to turn to Jesus in times of great need or turmoil. Moments of exhilarating joy or crushing sadness drive us to open up to a friend for comfort and understanding. Similarly, why shouldn't we open ourselves to the Lord in such times? In any budding relationship we encourage intimacy by a willingness to open up, to risk self-revelation. Jesus says He has made known to us all that the Father has told him. We have every reason to think: "What a friend we have in Jesus." Fr. Don Talafous, 7/11/09