The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 27: All Saints’ Day

All Saints' Day
Episode 27: All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is one of the great feast days in our church year. Originally a commemoration of martyrs, All Saints‘ draws together several important themes: worship, heaven, redemption, communion, and more. It gives us a window into reality beyond what mortal eyes can see, and reminds us of God’s promise of hope and a future. Join us around the virtual table as we talk about Revelation 7:9-17 and All Saints’ Day.

Please join the conversation! Who is your favourite saint? How do you find hope in God?Add your insights in the comments below.

How to Pray: Bless the Lord

How to Pray: Bless the Lord

Adoration and praise are some of the central acts of being a Christian. In the last reflection, I used the writings of C.S. Lewis to show us that we praise God not because God is egotistic, but rather as an act that draws us out of ourselves and connects us to the source of all that is true, good and beautiful. Today, we’re continuing that conversation with what it means to bless the Lord.

To praise God truly is to be awake to what is. The world around us is shot through with miracle. There is a reason that children can spend a long time just looking at ants! In the right light, everything is interesting and beautiful. G.K. Chesterton points out that the problem is not that the world is dull, but rather that our eyes have stopped seeing:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)

God is even bigger than the creation in which we wonder. The Scriptures invite us to go beyond creation and contemplate the fact that there is a ‘being’ who radiant, sovereign, omniscient, the source of everything that is true, good and beautiful.

Beyond the Creation to the Creator

Then, move even beyond that to consider that this God knows you. God has loved you since before time existed. God knows all your joys and delights and all of your struggles. If we are willing to listen, God guides us and gives us grace. These are amazing truths! What do we do with them? How do we express them? The Bible gives an odd answer that at first doesn’t make sense. It tells us to bless the Lord. Here are a few examples:

And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

Deuteronomy 8:10

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 100:4

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.

Psalm 145:1-2

Does Blessing God Even Make Sense?

This seems odd because of course God is the primal blesser. God is the giver of all good things. When God gives blessing to us, we are somehow strengthened or helped. But we can neither strengthen nor help God in any way. God is perfect. So how can we bless God? Scripture answers that we bless God whenever show our gratitude, whenever we praise him, whenever we give glory.

Blessing God is simple. We give thanks and name before God everything we love and find amazing about creation, life and God. We might talk about how wonderful the mountains are, or thank God for the gift of loved one. Recognizing who God is is part of it as well: thank God for his attributes: his love, sovereign power, grace, goodness. We say them out loud, not because God doesn’t know these things, but because the act of saying them connects us to God in a simple and primal way.

Sharing God’s Life

Each act of praise is one of the ways in which God shares his life and self with us. So why is this a blessing for God? Because it is giving him the one thing he can’t do without our cooperation: we are giving him our heart. As C.S. Lewis reminds us, ultimately God does not want anything from us, he just wants us: our love.


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How to Pray: Adoration and Praise

How to Pray: Adoration and Praise

In the last reflection, we looked at the central action of lifting our heart to God. As I mentioned earlier, finding a time and place is the first step to prayer. After that, we place ourselves before God by lifting up our hearts. The question that often follows is what is the content of our prayer? What is it that we are ‘supposed’ to say?

As we explore the content of prayer, I will be following Pete Greig’s nine paths of prayer: Stillness, Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Perseverance, Contemplation, Listening, Confession, and Spiritual Warfare. (Always note that different teachers have slightly different lists.) Today I want to start with Adoration and Praise.

Adoration and Praise Is Natural

In some ways, Adoration is the simplest and most natural of prayers. If you have ever been in the mountains, and the sheer beauty and vastness of the landscape hits you, and you exclaim “Wow! This is amazing!” then you know adoration.

As Christians, we believe that everything good and beautiful in creation and in the lives of women and men ultimately comes from God. God is the absolute source of all that is true, good and beautiful. This is important because the true, the good and beautiful are qualities of the world that move and inspire our souls. They provoke emotional responses that are meaningful in our lives.

If good and beautiful things move us because of their power, just imagine how incredible must be the being from whom they come. God is the ultimate artist. Therefore, we praise God. The Westminster Catechism calls this the purpose of our lives: “What is the chief end [purpose] for humans? It is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” To glorify God means to praise him for who he is: to be in love with God. God commands our adoration and praise, and this is the reason for our creation.

Does this Mean that God Is Egotistical?

Here, we quickly need to clear up a confusion. C.S. Lewis asked these same questions, and he found this a hard teaching because it made God seem very egotistical. He wrote, “We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand… Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of His worshippers threatened to appear in my mind.” I think this is a common question for people when we talk about the need to praise and adore God. Is God petty and insecure?

Praise Completes Enjoyment

As he pondered this question, Lewis had two insights. The first had to do with the nature of praising itself. He had been thinking of adoration and praise as complimenting God. But then he noticed that “every enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.”

The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

He realized that the praise actually completes the enjoyment of an activity. It is like when you read a great book and you need to find someone to tell. To praise God is to complete the enjoyment of the things that God has made. More than that, in praising we come to enjoy God as the source.

God Communicates Presence in Adoration and Praise

This was Lewis’ second insight. When we say true things about God such as how great and awesome God is, we find that we actually experience God through our praise. Lewis writes, “It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to (us.)” The adoration and praise is not so that God can receive something from us, but that the worship is intimately bound up with God giving himself to us.

In other words, in praising God, we find that we are simultaneously uniting with God. We become part of something that is far greater than we are, and our souls are expanded in the praise. This is the great paradox of worship: it is all for God, and yet we find that we simultaneously grow richer in emotion and deeper in faith.

So how do we Adore God? In the next reflection, we will look at what it means to “Bless the Lord.”


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Contemplative Prayer (Lectio Divina Series – “Contemplatio”)

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplation is the highest expression of [our] intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith.

Thomas Merton

We now reach the last movement of Lectio Divina: Contemplation. This is the natural culmination of everything else you have done. Be aware that it can be the most beautiful part of your time of prayer, but it can also easily be the hardest. Contemplative prayer is also the hardest to explain because of its utter simplicity. Here are the instructions: just sit there. Don’t think about anything or do anything. Don’t expect anything. Just sit there. Actually, there is one other instruction: be attentive to where you are and to the God in whose presence you sit.

Moving Beyond Words

Contemplative prayer is a form of silent prayer. This is sometimes confusing because it often seems that prayer is all about words. We use words in the liturgy, words in praying for others, words in reading the Bible, words while singing, and words when just talking to God.

Word-filled prayer is very important; language is a great gift. But we need to understand that words are not the final goal. They point to something beyond themselves. For instance, when I tell my kids to come and eat dinner, the word “dinner” is not what is important. They don’t stop and say, “What a great word, Dad!” They rush by me to get to the actual plate of food sitting on the table full of food. The food is the dinner, not the word.

Contemplation is similar. It is the recognition every word we use in prayer is pointing beyond itself. Words point us beyond ourselves to the great mystery that words can’t capture. In the end, they are only signposts on the way, leading to what is really important: God. In my story of my children and dinner, the real point is not hearing the word, but that they enjoy the delicious food we have prepared. At some point, in a similar way, we leave the words of prayer behind, and just enjoy the presence of the God who made us for just this profound relationship.

Contemplative Prayer is Savouring and Attentiveness

I recognize that this can still be confusing. Let me suggest two other human scenarios that might help us to glimpse what contemplation is. First, imagine that you are eating the best meal you have ever had. It is in that little restaurant that people have told you about. You didn’t believe that food could be that good, but you went anyways. Then you put the first bite in your mouth… and oh…my… goodness!! The flavours are so rich and succulent. Your table mate asks how it is. You pause because you just want to savour that taste for a moment before answering. That savouring is a form of contemplation. You don’t think about it; you just experience it.

Second, imagine walking on the beach with a friend. It is the perfect day: warm but not hot, the faint scent of salt, the water pleasantly wet on your feet. You talk for awhile as you walk, but over time you just drift into silence. It is just pleasant to be there with your friend, all your senses taking in everything. There is nothing you need to say. It is enough just to be there.

This quiet attentiveness to what is around you is also a form of contemplation. Walter Burghardt calls it “a long, loving look at the real.” While this is easier to do when things are pleasant, to be attentive is a way of deepening spiritually in all circumstances. You can start simply with a few minutes at the end of Lectio Divina.

Beginning to Practice Contemplative Prayer

Contemplation is just sitting there. Don’t think. Just be…in the presence of God. I recognize that this is deceptively simple, so there are techniques to help quiet the thoughts and words that constantly drift through our minds.

Let me give you a little trick that most people use, even established contemplatives. When you have finished praying about your reading, choose one of the words in the reading that spoke to you. Maybe the word was faith or love or God or joy or follow. It could be anything.

As you find your mind wandering, say that word in your mind. Let the word be the tool you use to re-focus on the presence of God with you. When you wander again, say the word again. Say it as much as you need. I find that sometimes I need the words a lot. That is fine. The point is not to accomplish anything, but to be in God’s presence with no agenda. Just sit in the truth that God loves you so much.

Next time, as an example, I will reflect on a session of Lectio Divina I did with Psalm 131.