Praying Like Napoleon

Photo Credit: Pig by Fabian Blank | Photo in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

Those familiar with Animal Farm1, George Orwell’s allegorical novella published in 1945, will recall that after the barnyard revolution when all the farm animals overthrow the humans on Manor Farm, the pigs, led by Napoleon (the conniving Berkshire boar), issue the Seven Commandments of Animalism for all the animals to live by. These Seven Commandments were summarized by the Seventh and greatest commandment: “All animals are created equal.” Orwell’s classic short story on the rise of the Soviet Union and the dangers of Communism reaches its dolent climax when, at the end, all the commandments are eliminated, except the Seventh…with one small, but important modification: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

I recently recalled this now famous quote from Animal Farm when I had just completed a Nexus Prayer session. That’s because from the very conception of Nexus Prayer, I have always thought of and treated the key words of Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God” – the Five Steps of Nexus Prayer – as all equal. Or so I thought. Today I realize I’ve treated some of those words more equal than others since, from the beginning, I’ve given preferential treatment to the words “Still” and “Be”, as will be discussed.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” – Napoleon

 

ALL WORDS ARE EQUAL
The obvious place to begin my study of Psalm 46:10 back in the summer of 2015 was with the word “Still”, since it is usually that solitary word in verse ten that is beloved by most, truly understood by a few, and assailed by many. “Be” received my attention next, followed by “God”, “I am”, and finally “Know”. However, as already mentioned, the two words or phrases that always dominated my thoughts and prayers were the climax of Nexus Prayer: “Be still” (harpu in the original Hebrew) and “Be.” The first being the place in Nexus Prayer where we drop everything, let everything in our life go (let go) by uploading our problems, sins, concerns, worries to God, and the second, by simply “being” with God, allowing God the Holy Spirit to download directly into our spirit precisely what each of us may need on any given day or time in our lives.

Cows © 2017 Copyright by Erin Theisen Photography | Used with permission. | Nexus Prayer International.ALL WORDS ARE EQUAL…NOT!
All of that changed several days ago during my customary morning prayer when my attention was especially drawn to Step 3 (Know) of Nexus Prayer. This is most likely due to conversations I’ve had recently with a close friend and prayer partner regarding God’s innate nature – another four-letter word (LOVE), and especially spiritual insights I’ve gained from reading Love, Imperfectly Known by Brother Emmanuel of Taize. Brother Emmanuel reminds us that “…the love of a father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, and friend become possible analogies and even indirect reflections here below of a Divine love that is even greater than human beings dare to believe.”2

When I was an agnostic, I tried to know God with my head. After choosing to become a Christian, a follower of Christ, I began to know God with my heart (soul). Today, and especially thanks to Nexus Prayer, I know God with all my body, mind, and spirit. Indeed, Scripture’s simplest “definition” or description of God is found in I John 4:7,8 “…God is love.” I plan on writing a post soon that fully examines this vitally important word “Know” that is strategically embedded in Psalm 46:10 and halfway through the Nexus Prayer cycle, but for now, and in a very real way, suffice it say that when you get to this stage of Nexus Prayer you may feel free with full confidence to exchange the word “know” for “love.” It follows naturally from the previous step: I am …loved. Just as we are letting go to God all our human problems and emotional baggage in Step 4 (Be Still), and allowing God to download His Spirit into our spirit in Step 5 (Be), we can just as easily visualize God placing Her3 loving arms around us and holding us close to Her divine heart in Step 3 (Know). When we reach this third step of Nexus Prayer it is as though we are hugging God and He is hugging us back.

Arguably, of course, when one considers the first word “God”, and the second word(s) “I AM”,  I have to concede there can be no stronger or more powerful beginning to Psalm 46:10. I’ve now used Nexus Prayer on average no less than three times daily for the last two years, and although in my heart of hearts I still believe these five key words of scripture to each be equal in depth of meaning, significance, and power, I must admit that when it comes to Psalm 46:10 Napoleon was right… “all words are equal but some words are more equal than others.” Or are they? God only knows.

Ready to pray? Why not join me? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime.

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 Animal Farm by George Orwell | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

2 Love, Imperfectly Known by Brother Emmanuel of Taize.| p131, Continuum (2011) / Amazon

3 He/She. Truth is, God is a Spirit. John 4:24 “He” simply cannot be adequately described by the limited anthropomorphic labels we assign to God. We understand today that males and females both have feminine and masculine sides to their psyche and personality, and that God created us (male and female) in His image, so why should it surprise us to learn that God’s attributes include both masculine and feminine qualities? This subject is expertly explored by Brother Emmanuel of Taize’ in his book, Love, Imperfectly Known – Beyond Spontaneous Representations of God (Continuum, 2011, see above.)

4 Photo Credit: Pig by Fabian Blank | Photo in Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

6 Photo Credit: Cows © 2017 Copyright by Erin Theisen Photography | Used with permission. | Nexus Prayer International.

Sacred Spaces: Canterbury Chapel

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston

SACRED SPACES SERIES
Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church
14301 Stuebner Airline • Houston, Texas 77069 • (281) 440-1600 • SaintDunstans.org

Given the opportunity to pray in the 800 year old Trinity Chapel of England’s Canterbury Cathedral, you would no doubt take me up on the offer. (You can actually do that you know?) But if you live in the Greater Houston area, you need only trek to the Canterbury Chapel located within Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church. Offering a communion service every Thursday at noon and a Eucharistic service known as “Simple Meal” held most Sunday evenings at 5:00 p.m., this lovely little chapel is located near 1960 on Stuebner Airline Road in northwest Houston.

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Jesus Window | Canterbury Chapel

Although the Canterbury Chapel is not generally open to the public during weekdays, I have found that if you arrive a little early or stay a little late you can “steal” time for private prayer both before and after all services. Of special note is that during all regularly scheduled Sunday A.M. worship services of the church, the chapel is staffed by individuals during and after communion that are especially trained to offer prayers for intercession, healing, and thanksgiving.

Dedicated in 1995, and able to accommodate about 25 persons, this intimate chapel is appointed with inspirational furnishings, religious art, icons, prayer candles, and even its own columbarium! Behind the altar are two gorgeous stain glass windows – one depicting Christ and the other Saint Dunstan (c 909-988; Archbishop of Canterbury.)

Canterbury Chapel | Saint Dunstan's Episcopal Church | Copyright 2017 © Nexus Prayer International

Canterbury Chapel, Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston

 

I may indeed one day be fortunate enough to pray in one of the many chapels located within the sacred walls of Canterbury Cathedral. But until then, I am perfectly content attending the inspired weekly services and praying Nexus Prayer every chance I get in the lovely Canterbury Chapel located in Houston’s own backyard.

Why not join me? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime.

Sacred Spaces: Chapels

First, a personal note …

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts about praying in sacred spaces, also known as hierotopies.¹ And since I recently commissioned a drawing of one of my all-time favorite places to pray, Phillips Chapel, this seems as good a time as any to at least introduce the subject. So, beginning with “Chapels”, today I’m launching the sacred spaces page of this website. Hopefully, sooner than later this section will be full of local, state, national, and even international places of prayer for you to consider visiting…and praying. Meanwhile, I invite you to learn more about sacred spaces through the excellent interview with author, art critic, and philanthropist Roberta Green Ahmanson, “What is Sacred Space”. ²  – aaw

Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International | Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International SACRED SPACES: CHAPELS

There is no wrong time, wrong reason, or wrong place to pray. Indeed, we are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to pray without ceasing for everything, everyone, and everywhere I Thessalonians 5:17, I Timothy 2:1-8. In a very real way then, any place, every place, can be considered a sacred space since anywhere God is present (which is everywhere) is holy ground.

I strive for this noble ideal – praying without ceasing – daily through my morning, noon, and evening prayers; throughout the day as I run my errands around town and go about the work of my prayer ministry and business at hand; my evening prayer walks for our neighborhood and local community; at weekly church services; and, of course, my daily Nexus Prayer. So, when it comes to heeding Paul’s admonition to pray everywhere, I do a pretty good job with portable praying. However, although praying on-the-go is a good thing, if you are like me, sometimes you just need to “get away from it all,” to be still and alone with God. For example, even though Jesus was “always about his Father’s business” Luke 2:49 He frequently removed himself from the people, problems, and public places of his daily life and ministry to pray in a secluded place Mark 1:35. Is there a lesson from Jesus’ example for us today? I think so.

With all the above in mind, I could wax poetic here about all the wonderful places to pray – both indoors and out. But for me, if praying at church or within a cathedral is good, then spending time communing with God in the sacred space of a chapel is great and one of my favorite places to pray. And when I’m able to pray alone in one of these sanctuaries of solitude, then that’s just a bonus gift from God.

By Will Eisner (pencils) and Lou Fine (inks), uploaded by Roygbiv666 (Public Domain Super Heroes) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Flame

CAPE? CHAPLAIN? CHAPEL!

Now, when I say “chapel”, probably the last thing that comes to your mind is a cape like the ones worn by superheroes or religious such as the one worn by Saint Martin of Tours,³ but that is precisely where the word chapel, along with chaplain, from the Latin originates. Instead, the chapel that most likely comes first to your mind is the one made famous by Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” painted on its ceiling or by the white smoke that comes out of its chimney every time a new pope is chosen. I speak, of course, of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The kind of chapels I’m talking about though, and am most fond of, may not be as famous, but are no less beautiful. At least in my mind. Not counting the fifty or so wedding chapels found in Las Vegas, chapels designed for worship and prayer may be found in almost every major city or small town in America. Usually tucked away in places most of us would never think of looking, these sacred spaces are typically small, intimate places that are often, but not always filled with beautiful religious art designed to draw us closer to God. I’ve prayed in many chapels over the years; here is one of my favorites – the humble beginning of the sacred spaces page on this site dedicated to the local, state, national, and international sacred spaces for all of us to discover…and pray.

Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International | Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International PHILLIPS CHAPEL
1906 Bailey Avenue • Chattanooga, TN 37404

Of all the buildings on the campus of Tennessee Temple University, Phillips Chapel³ is the one I most fondly recall as a sacred space and feel the strongest connection to. Built in 1922, Phillips Chapel was the first permanent church building of Highland Park Baptist Church when Dr. J. B. Phillips was its pastor. By the time I arrived as a student in the ‘70s, not only was it being used for lectures, fine art performances, chapel services, and special meetings, but also for prayer.

But the chapel, as lovely as it was with its stained glass windows, bell tower, and arched Gothic architecture, the part of the building that was the most precious to me was the prayer room. It was certainly not the décor of this simple, unadorned, all-too-common room, but the spiritual activity of the room that made it sacred to me. Every day and night countless students like myself would enter the room, kneel at the prayer bench, read all the prayer requests recorded in a notebook, then close our eyes and open our hearts to God in prayer. Available around the clock seven days a week, I spent many an hour on my knees in that “upper room “ (that’s it in the first window next to the arbor on the building attached to the west side of the chapel.)

Unfortunately, Phillips Chapel is no longer open to the public, but I include it here out of respect for the literally thousands of pray-ers like myself and prayers logged in that special and sacred space over the decades. The chapel may now be closed, but in my mind the space remains holy ground to this very day because prayer – the prayers made to God centuries ago, yesterday, today, and tomorrow – have no expiration date. God will answer each and every one in His time. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. And thankfully, all over the world today there are chapels continuing the legacy of Phillips Chapel with their doors open wide waiting for pilgrims just like you and me to enter the sacred space of God’s presence through our prayers.

So, choose a chapel or other sacred space you’d like to visit and, while there, why not explore Nexus Prayer? Ready to begin? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

Note: Although a work in progress, I encourage you to visit the sacred spaces page on this website regularly to discover chapels in your local area or anywhere around the world where you may visit…and pray. – aaw

NOTES & CREDITS

1 Hierotopy | Studies in the Making of Sacred Spaces | Alexi Lidov

2 What is Sacred Space? | Roberta Green Ahmanson for Biola Magazine (2011.)

3 Saint Martin of Tours | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

4 Phillips Chapel | Brief history, with photographic views of both the outside and inside of the Chapel compiled by LoopNet on February 26, 2013 from property record data and historical listings.

5 Photo Credit: Phillips Chapel illustration commissioned for Nexus Prayer International from artist, Mary R. Delamy. Copyright © 2017 Rev. Allen Aaron White | Nexus Prayer International | Many thanks to Piedmont International University for their kind permission to use their line drawing of Tennessee Temple University’s Phillips Chapel as a reference source that, along with actual photographs of Phillips Chapel, were used to create our illustration.

6 Photo Credit: “Flame” Super Hero | Public domain image used with permission via Wikimedia Commons. Illustration by Will Eisner (pencils) and Lou Fine (inks), uploaded by Roygbiv666 (Public Domain Super Heroes) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sacred Spaces: Villa de Matel Chapel

Villa Chapel | Villa de Matel Houston | Used with permission of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word | Nexus Prayer International

Villa de Matel Chapel, Houston

This journal entry continues my introduction to chapels and sacred spaces. The sacred spaces page may be found under the “Resources” menu at the top of this page.

VILLA CHAPEL | VILLA DE MATEL – HOUSTON
Ruah Sprirituality Center | 6510 Lawndale St. • Houston, TX 77023 | Phone: (713) 928-6053

Located near the heart of downtown Houston, the circa 1920s Villa de Matel Chapel (Villa Chapel) is closer to a Gothic cathedral than a small church building designed for prayer. Yet, despite the breadth of its size and the depth of its beauty, I’ve been blessed to spend many an hour there in both community and solitary contemplative prayer, as well as attend many church services, Taizé prayer services, and weekend centering prayer retreats at the Ruah Spirituality Center.  This is indeed a very special, sacred space to me (that’s the Villa Chapel in the background of my bio photo.)

Ruah’s mission as described on their official website says it best: “Ruah’s spaces are set apart for silence. Silence is presented as nonnegotiable: it is offered as a gift and guarded as a treasure for those who seek. Here people are led to rest in God’s presence; then the same Breath of God (Ruah) who drew them here sends them out to confidently echo the good news of God’s love on the streets of their lives.”

I encourage you to visit the Villa Chapel (reservations required) and, while there, enjoy the healing, spiritual environment of their nature walks, labyrinth, silent prayer retreats, and their contemplative prayer of choice, centering prayer. But while there, I also invite you to give Nexus Prayer a try. Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as five minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!

Note: Although a work in progress, I encourage you to visit the sacred spaces page on this website regularly to discover chapels and other sacred spaces in your local area (or anywhere around the world) where you may visit…and pray. – aaw

NOTES & CREDITS

1 Photo Credit: Villa Chapel photograph Copyright © 2017 Villa de Matel. Used with express written permission. | Many thanks to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and The Ruah Spirituality Center for the gift of their ministry to the Greater Houston area, as well as their kind permission to link to their website and use their photo of of the beautiful Villa Chapel on this website.