Tag Archives: Simply Christian

Apples and Friends

Is Your Apple Finished?

Yesterday’s I mentioned my childhood friend, David Brown, and our logging adventures.  Our friendship had many ups and downs.    He was bigger and more athletic than I was and so he was often selected for playground teams when I was not.  I thrived in the classroom, where he often struggled.  On most days these differences did not bother us. We were best friends.  Occasionally, however, we get into intense disagreements over trivial matters. 

I remember the day my mom gave us each an apple to eat.  I ate my apple down to the core, savoring every bite.  David nibbled around the outside and said it was finished.

 I said, “Your apple isn’t finished.  You barely started.”

“Oh, my apple is done.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes it is!” 

He stormed off home and I swore we would never be friends again.  But the next morning, I stopped at his house on the way to school and we picked up as if nothing happened, until the next argument erupted.

In Simply Christianity, N. T. Wright describes our hunger and deep desire for relationships and yet our daily struggle to make our relationships work.  Wright writes, “We are made for each other.  Yet making relationships work, let alone making them flourish, is often remarkably difficult.  We all know that we belong to communities, that we were made to be social creatures. Yet there are many times when we are tempted to slam the door and stomp off into the night by ourselves, simultaneously  making a statement that we don’t belong anymore and that we want someone to take pity on us , to come to the rescue and comfort us.  We all know we belong in relationships, but we can’t quite work out how to get them right.  The voice we hear echoing in our heads and our hearts reminding us of both parts of this paradox and its worth pondering”  (p. 30). He goes on to suggest that the “echo” we are experiencing is the love God created us to experience with God and our neighbor, but our human sin has clouded and twisted our capacity to give and receive love.

How have you struggled in your relationships? How has God been faithful?

Prayer Helps

Bishop N. T. Wright

I am preparing for a talk on prayer this evening and wonder if and when anyone uses the written prayers of others to guide their prayers.  I am convicted by N. T. Wright’s comments that, “we moderns are so anxious to do things our own way, so concerned that if we get help from anyone else our prayer won’t be ‘authentic’ and come from our own heart, that we are instantly suspicious about using anyone else’s prayers. . . . We are hamstrung by the long legacy of the Romantic movement, (which) produced the idea that things are authentic only if they come spontaneously, unbidden, from the depths of our hearts. ” (N. T. Wright, Simply Christian, p. 164-165)

I confess that I have at time been such an advocate of spontaneous prayers of the heart.   Yet I also know the value of written prayers that have guided Christian prayer for centuries.   Jesus, being a first-century Jew, learned memorized prayers such as the Shema (“Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one,” found in Deuteronomy 6:4)  and the Psalms.  He taught his own disciples his kingdom prayer, the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6 and Luke 11).  The prayer of St. Francis continues to “make us instruments of God’s peace.”   Martin Luther wrote short prayers for the morning and evening to be included in his Catechism.   AA groups use Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer to close their meetings.  Written prayers can give shape and structure to our devotional life.

One of my favorite written prayers I learned from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but it probably has a deeper history.   The prayer is part of the morning prayer service and I have used it at various time in my ministry, especially at the beginning of something new.

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

What written prayer(s) have shaped your faith life?  In what ways?