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Archive for October, 2008

ACTS Prayer

A few days ago, I received a nice comment on this blog from Renwood Flagg. “Ren” describes himself as “sorta retired,” but acting as “technogeek” at Spring Arbor University, a Christian college near Jackson, Mich. He says he is a life-long Presbyterian who “became a Christian just a few years ago.” Here is what he said:

Dear Kimberly:

I’ve read and enjoyed your book, especially the history and the prayers surrounding the Anglican Rosary.

I’ve been making rosaries for several years, and am always amazed at the response from many people who see and touch a rosary for the very first time,,, very extroverted people become shy and awkward to the extent that many of them have a friend contact me to make one for them! Others will not ask but I usually make a special rosary and offer it to them as a gift. I’ve never been refused! How strange it is that when offered an aid to speak with God, we become fearful.

I always include suggestions for praying the rosary and have found that for the truly inexperienced, A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication) works the best.. It’s easy to learn and to apply your own prayers, and the four week Anglican rosary is uniquely adapted for the prayer.

Thank you for your good work,

Ren Flagg,
Elder
Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church,
Jackson, Michigan

I wrote back to say I had never heard of this ACTS prayer, and I wrote to Ren and asked him to elaborate. His response came today:

Wow!! Here I am writing to a real live author!!  How cool is that?

About ACTS:  ACTS is a four step prayer formula, definitely not my invention, that helps people to focus on their prayers.  The Anglican rosary is ideal for ACTS because of the four weeks (duh!).  Basically it’s Adoration, Contrition/Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (your own prayers).

My personal formula is: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” at the cross. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” at the Invitatory.  “Open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise” at the first cruciform.  Either the Gloria “Glory be to the Father, and to the son….. as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…..” or the Doxology “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” on each of the first weeks beads. This is the Adoration.

“O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace” at the second cruciform bead.  The Agnus Dei (O Lamb of God…… have mercy upon me.  O Lamb of God….. grant me your peace) on each of the beads of the second week.  This is the Contrition/Confession.

“Thanks be to God, the Almighty, the King of Creation”, on the third cruciform bead and on each of the beads of the third week.  This is the Thanksgiving.  I modified the words to a Presbyterian hymn “Praise Ye the Lord” to fit.

“Oh Lord, hear my prayer; when I call, answer me” on the fourth cruciform bead and then your own personal supplication (prayers) on the beads of the fourth week.  “O Lord, hear my prayer” comes from both Psalm 4 and Psalm 141 and has been adapted to a beautiful Taize’ hymn chant. Our congregation sings this before the Prayers of the People during Lent and there’s not a dry eye in the house!

The Apostle’s Creed on the exit bead, the Lord’s Prayer on the Invitatory bead and “In the name of the Father, the Son…” at the cross.

Anne Lamott says that there are only two types of prayer:  “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”  This is true, in my opinion, because most of us do only reactionary prayer… not that there’s anything wrong with that!  The ACTS device helps start the new pray-er on the path to contemplative prayer.  It can also be used as CATS (seriously!) where the Confession comes first, the the Adoration, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

Thank you very much for asking me about ACTS.

I cannot wait to try this! Now, just to chart it out for you, Ren’s ACTS Prayer would go like this:

ON THE CROSS

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

ON THE INVITATORY BEAD

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock. and my redeemer.

ON THE FIRST CRUCIFORM (Adoration)

Open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

ON THE FIRST SET OF WEEKS

Glory be to the Father, and to the son. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, Amen.

or

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

ON THE SECOND CRUCIFORM (Contrition/Confession)

O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

ON THE SECOND SET OF WEEKS

O Lamb of God, have mercy upon me.  O Lamb of God, grant me your peace

ON THE THIRD CRUCIFORM (Thanksgiving)

Thanks be to God, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

ON THE THIRD SET OF WEEKS

Repeat the above.

ON THE FOURTH CRUCIFORM (Supplication)

Oh Lord, hear my prayer; when I call, answer me.

ON THE FOURTH SET OF WEEKS

Your own personal prayers

RETURNING TO THE FIRST CRUCIFORM ( Ren calls this the Exit Bead)

The Apostles Creed

THE INVITATORY BEAD

The Lord’s Prayer

THE CROSS

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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This morning I awoke to find a message in my inbox from blog reader Laura, the brains (and fingers) behind Heart of Compassion Malas, handmade malas she sells via Etsy.com. Laura told me that she has the honor of having a show of her work in a local book store, The Book Works in Del Mar, Calif. You can read what Laura wrote about her show on her blog.

In her message to me, she wrote something I wholeheartedly agree with:

“I have to tell you, every person I’ve talked to who makes prayer beads, of whatever background, has more in common than not. We share a faith, a creativity, a hopefulness. I hope that merging craft and faith continues to get stronger for people, the world could sure use it. “
This is a picture of Mare on vacation. Lucky girl!
So if you are anywhere near Del Mar, please stop in and ask so see Laura’s show. And while you’re at it, have a cup of coffee or buy a book in this great community place she describes. They are too fast disappearing from our franchise-obsessed society.
This is a picture of Laura’s show!

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My friend and fellow prayer beader Eleanor Wiley (Eleanor, I SWEAR a blog post on your work is coming soon) recently gave me a copy of a magazine called Sacred Journey. It is a publication of something called The Fellowship of Prayer that is located in Princeton, N.J. Though Eleanor gave me this magazine several months ago, it was only today that I opened it up and discovered just how inspiring and creative this magazine is.

The focus of the magazine is on what unifies, rather than distinguishes, all the world’s religions. What greater unifer than prayer is there? So the issue Eleanor gave me has

The volume Eleanor gave me – Aug/Sept 2007 – had a section on prayers, contributed by readers, that included some that would work on prayer beads. Here is one titled “Dear Spirit of the Morning” by Susi Richardson that could be said with a Catholic rosary (use all 10 counts) or an Anglican rosary (pick 7 you like best):

1) Bless you!

2) As the sun gently rises to its home in the sky, I pray:

3) May my heart be open to the wonder of the day.

4) May I be mindful as I move through the hours.

5) May I bow to the Divine in each being I meet.

6) May gratitude uplift me, patience guide me.

7) My I feel the embrace of the Light that is Love

8) And radiate from the inside out upon the world.

9) Humbly I ask this.

10) Humbly I pray.

Oooh, and how about this, from the current Sept/Oct issue and which appears on the prayers/meditations/poetry page of the website:

An Artist’s Creed

by Janice Elsheimer, in The Creative Call

I believe my talents are gift from God,and I am to use them to fulfill his purposes in my life and in his world.  I humbly acknowledge and accept my gifts as I ask to receive God’s vision for how I am to use them. I ask the Holy Spirit to free me from self-doubt and self-absorption. I pray this work will being me into closer alignment with God’s plan for me as I seek to bring my gifts and talents into his light and to become the whole and complete person he intends me to be. Amen.

Isn’t that great? It would go well on an invitatory bead on an Anglican rosary. And can you see how it can be adapted to a non-Christian faith (try substituting “Goddess” or “Creator” for the nouns and pronouns that do not fit your vision of the divine).

Poke around the Sacred Journey’s site. One of the articles I particularly liked in the issue Eleanor gave me was an interview with three spiritual leaders – a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim professor and a Roman Catholic priest on what prayer means in each of their traditions. And why don’t some of you more creative types out there send in some of your prayers or poetry? They have writers guidelines online.

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Some Baha’i Prayers

Last month, at the Religion Newswriters Association convention in Washington, D.C., I visited the booth of the U.S. Baha’i Office of Communication. They had a small book of Baha’i prayers titled Illumine My Heart: Baha’i Prayers for Every Occasion. I explained how I have a blog about prayer beads and that I had written about Baha’i prayer beads and included some prayers and asked if I might have a copy of this book to share some more prayers with my readers. The folks in the booth could not have been nicer and said, “Of course!”

The book is divided into chapters with prayers for different stages of life and different needs: spiritual growth, healing, children, marriage, peace and unity. And while the book has no specific prayer for Baha’i prayer beads, I have pulled out some that I think would work on all sorts of prayer beads – Catholic, Anglican, Pearls of Life, malas and subhas for sure.

Here are some that I have been using this last week. If the antiquated language bothers you, trade out the “thees” and “thous” for something more modern. Mix ’em and match ’em on whatever set of beads you use.

For Our Father (Catholic) , Cruciform (Anglican) or other single beads:

Oh God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and brilliant star.

He is God! O God my God! Bestow upon me a pure heart, like unto a pearl.

O God, give me a new life at every moment, in order that I may remain steadfast in Thy love.

Make firm our steps, O Lord, in Thy path and strengthen Thou our hearts in Thine obedience.

And try this one on a set of decades (10 beads, Catholic rosary), or combine a few for a set of weeks (7 beads; Anglican rosary):

1) O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit

2) Purify my heart

3) Illumine my powers.

4) I lay all my affairs in Thy hand.

5) Thou art my Guide and my Refuge.

6) I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being.

7) O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me.

8) I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.

9) O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself.

10) I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.

All of these prayers are attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Baha. He was the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith, a man named Baha’u’llah.

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For those of you who have read Bead One, Pray Too, I hope you noticed that the book is dedicated to my late friend Sandy Olson. Sandy died a year ago last March when I was still working on the book and it was her passion for prayer and faith and just plain old living that inspired me to finish. I have been thinking about her a lot lately, and then today I saw this story in the New York Times about Sjogren’s Disease, which Sandy suffered from and which ultimately contributed to her death. I wanted to make everyone who reads this blog aware of the story and aware of the disease for Sandy’s sake. If you have any of these symptoms or know anyone who does, maybe this will help you get a diagnosis. So, in memory of my beautiful, dear, kind, gorgeous friend Sandy who I miss all the time, please take the time to read the story.

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Praying in Jerusalem

The air over Jerusalem is

saturated with prayers and

dreams like the air over

industrial cities.

It is hard to breathe.

I read this verse in a story in Monday’s New York Times (which I read today – that’s how busy I have been) and I wanted to share it because of the way it describes the kinds, quality and quantity of prayer that goes on at this time of year in Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

I have never been to Jerusalem – or anywhere in the Middle East – and I would love to hear from readers who have been there. What was it like to be there? Did it feel, as one of the people in this story says, as if “the heavens are open to our prayers” there more than in other places? What did it feel like to pray or to worship there?

Sadly, on the opposite page of the paper was another story, about the Taliban’s assassination of Malalai Kakar, the highest ranking female police officer in Afghanistan. This story made me want to cry. It made me want to scream. It also made me want, somehow, to confort this woman’s family, friends and colleagues with my own prayers for her. Her name should be a prayer.

What a world.

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