Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthA Renewed SpiritualityDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Creative prayer in a hospitable spirit

Lynne Baab • Friday April 5 2019

Creative prayer in a hospitable spirit

In 1999, I read a book that changed my life – Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl. I’ve had two decades to ponder the notion that hospitality is a major theme throughout the Bible. For two decades, I’ve viewed all Christian ministry under the umbrella of hospitality, rather than vice versa, as I did before 1999.

What are the implications of this stance? Each encounter with another person is an opportunity to express a hospitable spirit, a welcoming attitude for who they are and what gifts they might offer to me and to others. Hospitality happens in our homes, yes, but it happens in every setting where we encounter another person. I try to have a welcoming attitude at all times.

This week I’ve been having some new thoughts about prayer. What does prayer in a hospitable spirit look like? I’ve been challenged by Christine Sine’s delightful new book, The Gift of Wonder, where she talks about cultivating a child-like openness to wonder. For Christine and her husband, Tom, hospitality – hosting people in their home – has been a source of wonder as she has opened herself to the gifts that a wide variety of people have brought to her.

Christine asks, “What difference would it make in today’s world if we looked at all strangers in the same way we look at a child – an unknown but welcome person we hope will become a friend in our home?” She cites Jesus’ words in Luke 9:48 about welcoming a child in his name as being equivalent to welcoming him (page 189).

I’m wondering what it would look like to pray for people as if they are valued and cherished children, beloved of God. I’m thinking about politicians I disagree with, family members who push all my buttons, and members of groups that feel like they are “other” to me.

Christine writes,

“How did you respond to the last newborn child you were introduced to? What feelings and emotions welled up within you? How did you greet and welcome the child? What changes in behavior were you willing to make in order to get to understand this child, accommodate its needs, help it feel welcome in your home? What further responses did your meeting invite?” (page 189).

Christine mentions the scene at the manger at Jesus’ birth, where all are welcome: “animals, family, strangers, despised and wealthy are all invited. Who stands around the manger with you today? Who are you still excluding?” (page 197).

Who have I been excluding in my prayers? People I love easily and care about deeply are so easy to pray for. The fact that love empowers my prayers is a good and wonderful thing. But equally good and wonderful is the ability to pray for people who are easy for me to exclude.

My ponderings this week have been fueled in part by the shooting at the mosques in Christchurch, and I’ve been wondering exactly how often I pray for Muslims. Not very often. Not often enough.

For the past two decades, working hard to cultivate a welcoming, hospitable spirit in my encounters with individuals has been fantastic. I have received so many gifts from people I’ve conversed with, gifts that I might not have noticed if I hadn’t consciously tried to be open to the other person. Now I’m going to challenge myself to cultivate more of a hospitable spirit in my prayers. Do you want to join me?

(Next week: Creative prayer – joy spot sightings. Illustration by Dave Baab.)

Previous posts on hospitality:
          Contrasts: Guests and hosts               
          Benedictine Spirituality: Hospitality, service and work             



Next post »« Previous post

Comments