“I have learned from St. Francis that where there is no involvement with human suffering, there is no following of God’s will.” ~ Murray Bodo
JESUS, SAINT FRANCIS, & NEXUS PRAYER
A WINNING COMBINATION
So, today, Saint Francis joined Nexus Prayer. (Or did Nexus Prayer join St. Francis?) You decide. Either way, our mission is the same – trying to authentically live out the Gospel in our daily lives while sharing the love of Jesus with our generation.
Nexus prayer has been a part of my daily spiritual activities for more than three years now. During that time, God has been ever-so-slowly transforming me from the inside out as I’ve spent quality one-on-one time just listening to him in prayer. As a result, I believe I’m a kinder, gentler, and wiser version (he said humbly) of my former self. That’s not so surprising since I’m convinced that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.
But what has been surprising this year is my increased awareness of and interest in all things Franciscan. Perhaps I should not be so shocked by my attraction to Saint Francis as I’ve worn a San Damiano cross for over twenty years and, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, most of the spiritual mentors who have been busy planting seeds in my soul for years are all Franciscans – John Michael Talbot, Richard Rohr, and Murray Bodo to name just a few. I just never thought of myself actually becoming a Franciscan. Until now.
“The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.”
The Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, along with their companion values of simplicity, humility, harmony, compassion, service, and prayer all resonate with me, albeit with a modern-day twist. Those admirable qualities notwithstanding, there are several important reasons why I am compelled to embrace a Franciscan lifestyle today, and why since the middle of July I have been prayerfully discerning a call to a Franciscan vocation (Anglican or Secular Order) in the near future.
All of these Franciscan virtues (Jesus’ virtues really) will be explored in future posts to my journal. For now, however, suffice it to say that there are several important reasons I feel compelled by God to continue my walk with Jesus, but now have St. Francis as my traveling companion:
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
First, because perhaps like no other time in the history of our country (at least during my lifetime), many of the government leaders and people in our society (including Christians) seem to reflect the divided states, rather than the United States of America. Whether the issue is immigration, race, gun control, religion, gay rights, women’s rights, or the plethora of other human issues and societal ills, the current social and political climate have never been more polarizing. Us versus them. Still not convinced? You need look no further than the current controversy surrounding the Supreme Court to know that what I am saying is true.
THE NEED TO DO SOMETHING
Second, thanks to nexus prayer, I believe I am closer to God than ever before in my life and clearly hear His call to be obedient to step forward as an advocate for all the disenfranchised and most vulnerable members of our society wherever I am able. I desire to be a voice of love, peace, compassion, and reconciliation in contrast to so many who are stoking the coals of hatred and the flames of bigotry and racism. I can’t do everything, but I can do something and believe it is my Christian responsibility to do so. James 4:17 This is just one reason why my wife works in the mission field of sex and human trafficking at Redeemed Ministries and why I’ve recently begun volunteering and teaching at the Hope Center – a ministry that serves the homeless men and women in the North Houston Area.
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
Finally, although I will never measure up to the examples of Jesus, Thomas á Kempis, and Saint Francis, I feel led to walk this path today because I believe as Christians we are called…
Prayer is good. Nexus prayer is great. But as the Apostle James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:14-17 To this end, I’ve already taken baby steps in my life to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ to my generation (more on this later), just as I believe Saint Francis did for his. In other words, the prayer not written by, but usually attributed to Saint Francis has also become my prayer:
Image Credit | Saint Francis of Assisi
The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. | In Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons and License Art Libre.
Although not explicitly stated in Psalm 46, there is an implicit promise that is made by God each and every time we pray through Psalm 46:10 using nexus prayer.
In essence, we learn from the metaphors used in Psalm 46 that whenever the storms and tsunamis of life come (and they will); when our enemies (or worse, THE enemy) attack us; when we are overwhelmed by our daily trials and tribulations; when the clamor, the tumult, and battles of life cause us to worry and fear; and like Job, even when we lose everything we hold dear – our family and friends, our wealth and health – it is then we are to remember as did Martin Luther¹ …
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46: 1,7,11
But how does God perform His mightiest and miraculous work on our behalf? It is when we are still. Easier said than done, I know, but that is precisely the purpose and promise of nexus prayer, and why verse 10 is the pivotal verse of Psalm 46. It’s not what we do, but what God does. When we become still, our work ends and God’s work begins. Put another way using a very popular and often used expression, we are to “Let go, and let God!”
Not only do we see this principle at work in Psalm 46, but similarly in Exodus 14:13. You probably know the story well. The Jews, being led by Moses out of Egypt, were being pursued by Pharaoh’s army and wound up with their backs to the wall of the Red Sea with seemingly no way of escape. What was needed was Divine intervention. God’s solution? Run? Swim? Defend themselves by fighting back? No! God’s admonition to the children of Israel was to “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” In other words, do the opposite of what would seem common sense in the middle of those frightening circumstances – don’t be afraid, drop everything, stand still, and watch God deliver them from all of their enemies.
The same concept can be found in Psalm 27:7 where we are instructed to “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” In other words, it is only by our patient waiting and resting in God that the Lord will ultimately deliver us from all evil and harm. We are not to worry, but rather wait. Not to work, but rest.
Finally, it was Jesus himself who promised in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
That promise that Jesus made to his disciples centuries ago is the same identical promise He makes to all of his followers today who are willing to be still through the praying of Psalm 46:10. For it is when we become still – still in body, soul, spirit, and mind – that we discover true inner peace. The kind of peace that “passes all understanding” and that can withstand any storm of life, but that God only provides when we are still in His presence. The stillness found through nexus prayer.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
NOTES & CREDITS:
1 It was Martin Luther who composed the classic hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (circa 1528), based on Psalm 46:1 and who sang it often whenever he felt overwhelmed by the persecutions and challenges of life.
2 “Winter Road” © 2016 Copyright Erin Theisen Photography | Used with Permission | Nexus Prayer International
This video features the reading of Tehillim (Psalms) Chapter 46 in Hebrew (Masoretic Text) as recommended by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and as chanted by Elie Malka.¹
Psalm 46 Hebrew Translation in English (1611 KJV)²
(Please note: The Hebrew Tanakh (Bible) includes the title of Psalm 46 as verse 1, so that Psalm 46:10 in a modern English translation of the Book of Psalms is actually Psalm 46:11 in the Hebrew Tehillim²and in the original 1611 King James translation of the Bible. The point is that both the Jews of antiquity and the original translators of the King James Old Testament considered even the titles and headings to be holy, God-inspired sacred writ. )
1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.
2 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
3 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
4 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
5 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
6 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
7 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
8 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
9 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
10 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
11 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
12 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Tehillim (Psalms 46) in Hebrew (Masoretic text)²
Tehillim (Psalms 46) Hebrew Transliteration in English²
1 lamənaṣṣēḥa liḇənê-qōraḥ ‘al-‘ălāmwōṯ šîr:
2 ’ĕlōhîm lānû maḥăseh wā‘ōz ‘ezərâ ḇəṣārwōṯ niməṣā’ mə’ōḏ:
3 ‘al-kēn lō’-nîrā’ bəhāmîr ’āreṣ ûḇəmwōṭ hārîm bəlēḇ yammîm:
4 yehĕmû yeḥəmərû mêmāyw yirə‘ăšû-hārîm bəḡa’ăwāṯwō selâ:
5 nâār pəlāḡāyw yəśamməḥû ‘îr-’ĕlōhîm qəḏōš mišəkənê ‘eləywōn:
6 ’ĕlōhîm bəqirəbāh bal-timmwōṭ ya‘əzərehā ’ĕlōhîm lifənwōṯ bōqer:
7 hāmû ḡwōyim māṭû maməlāḵwōṯ nāṯan bəqwōlwō tāmûḡ ’āreṣ:
8 yəhwâ ṣəḇā’wōṯ ‘immānû miśəgāḇ-lānû ’ĕlōhê ya‘ăqōḇ selâ:
9 ləḵû-ḥăzû mifə‘ălwōṯ yəhwâ ’ăšer-śām šammwōṯ bā’āreṣ:
10 mašəbîṯ miləḥāmwōṯ ‘aḏ-qəṣēh hā’āreṣ qešeṯ yəšabēr wəqiṣṣēṣ ḥănîṯ ‘ăḡālwōṯ yiśərōf bā’ēš:
11 harəpû ûḏə‘û kî-’ānōḵî ’ĕlōhîm ’ārûm bagwōyim ’ārûm bā’āreṣ:
12 yəhwâ ṣəḇā’wōṯ ‘immānû miśəgāḇ-lānû ’ĕlōhê ya‘ăqōḇ selâ:
2 This Hebrew text of Tehillim (Psalms) 46 from the Tanach is derived from the Westminister Leningrad Codex (WLC) of the Westminister Hebrew Institute courtesy of Christopher V. Kimball via Sacred Texts and is in the Public Domain. The Hebrew transliteration was generated automatically from the Hebrew text. The (1611) King James translation of the Bible is in the Public Domain.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ Blaise Pascal,
Today I read Robert Browning’s Andrea del Sarto¹ where, in the dramatic monologue of the eponymous renaissance artist, he has Andrea comment to Lucrezia, “Less is more.” (Yes, that’s where the well-known and often quoted axiom originated.)
I wonder if Browning really had Psalm 46:10 in mind when writing this, but not likely, as for most of his life Robert Browning² struggled with religion. At age 13, Robert announced he was atheist, although as he got older he considered himself a Theist. But I digress. Yes, I agree, Andrea. Less is more. Especially when it comes to nexus prayer.
I’m writing on this theme today because we live in a society where bigger is always considered better, and super-sizing everything is the norm. Subconsciously, I think this creates unrealistic expectations for nexus prayer, especially those new to the prayer practice. That’s because I’ve recently noticed a trend with beginners who (falsely) conclude that if five minutes of prayer is good, then ten, fifteen, or even twenty minutes (an hour?) of nexus prayer must be better, right? Not so fast. I thought so too in the beginning. But I quickly learned that the 5-minute Nexus Prayer was my friend. So, you’ll often here me say, “Embrace the 5!”
“Less is more.”
After you’ve experienced two or three successful nexus prayers of five minutes in duration – especially when you realize how good it feels to just be still in sacred silence – it is quite normal to think you’re ready to double up and jump to ten minutes. Maybe you are. But I strongly encourage you to utilize the five-minute interval once a day exclusively for at least the first week. If you do, by week’s end you will have spent 35 minutes just be-ing with God. That’s a big step when you consider most of us don’t spend any time at all being still and knowing God. Of course, you’ll want more (trust me on this), so keep embracing the 5, but instead of once a day, try twice a day – say morning and night. Do that and you just spent over an hour with God in a week! Then, and only then will you be ready for increased units of time.
All of that said, I had something to celebrate last Fall as I achieved another personal nexus prayer milestone … 500 total hours of duration, more than 3,000 prayer sessions, and over 1,000 days of praying nexus prayer since 2015. Translation? The hours of duration equal the total amount of time I’ve spent being still and knowing God Psalm 46:10 – most achieved in only 5 or 10-minute increments of prayer time. Did you catch that? Most of my 500 hours of prayer were accomplished in 5-minute increments!
Please know that I’m not boasting or bragging here (God knows I should and need to do better.) I’m only sharing this to demonstrate that we should never underestimate the power of spending “only” five minutes with God. Don’t have time to pray, you say? Amazing what can be done with only five minutes a day. Text me and I’ll join you.
Quality, not quantity. Less is more. Embrace the 5!
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 Andrea del Sarto | Poetry Foundation
3 Photo Credit: NXP Stats | © 2017 Copyright Allen Aaron White | Used with permission by Nexus Prayer International.
4 A prayer timer app such as the one by Meditation Timer Pro can be very helpful for Nexus Prayer.
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa