Raw vulnerability can be scary. It can also save our lives. In this book, Brennan Manning has laid out a month of honest prayers to God, whom he affectionately calls Abba, in an easy-to-use format that can guide your own prayers.
Each day contains morning and evening prayers coupled with Scripture and excerpts from Manning’s contemporary spiritual classics—in a modern-day collection of psalms, complete with cries for help, expressions of wonder, and invitations into the comforting mercy of God.
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About the Author
Brennan Manning (1934-2013) was a well-known Americanauthor, priest, speaker, retreat master, and contemplative.His many popular books include The RagamuffinGospel, Abba's Child, The FuriousLonging of God, Ruthless Trust,The Importance of Being Foolish, and AllIs Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.
Read an Excerpt
First Day: Morning
"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." — Titus 3:4-7
To live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is to let go of cares and concerns, to stop organizing means to ends and simply be in each moment of awareness as an end in itself ... We can embrace our whole life story in the knowledge that we have been graced and made beautiful by the providence of our past history. All the wrong turns in the past, the detours, mistakes, moral lapses, everything that is irrevocably ugly or painful, melts and dissolves in the warm glow of accepted tenderness. As theologian Kevin O'Shea writes, "One rejoices in being unfrightened to be open to the healing presence, no matter what one might be or what one might have done."
— A Glimpse of Jesus
The voices in my head this morning are hounding me with the recurring moments I've turned away from You because I could not part with all my rich young ruler wealth, the numerous days I've Judas-kissed Your cheek in the garden of betrayal, and the countless times I've warmed myself by a traitor's fire and declared like Peter "I do not know Him!" But then Your accepting voice scatters them all with a mercy fierce and ultimately kind, and I remember that I am loved. I want to simply be in You this day.
First Day: Evening
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."
— Isaiah 49:15-16
Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and a strong sense of feeling safe. How would you respond if I asked you this question: "Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?" If you could answer with gut-level honesty, "Oh, yes, my Abba is very fond of me," you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness.
— Abba's Child
I've come to the place where I'm letting You love me more each day, but I still struggle with letting You like me. I realize that has much more to do with me than with You, not to mention my ongoing cycle of attraction to tenderness, then repulsion, then back again. Thank you for your still, small advances toward me displaying that yes, my Abba is very fond of me! Please help my unbelief. I want to rest safe in Your arms.
Second Day: Morning
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
— Matthew 18:1-3
For the disciple of Jesus, being like a child means accepting oneself as being of little account, unimportant. This understanding of ourselves changes not only the way we view our worth, but also the way we view God's saving grace. If a little Jewish child received a ten-cent allowance from her father at the end of the week, she did not regard it as payment for sweeping the house, doing the dishes, and baking the bread. It was a wholly unmerited gift, a gesture of her father's absolute liberality.
— The Importance of Being Foolish
Your liberal gift of grace stands in stark contrast to this world's economy of work and wage. It's much more than the difference between black and white; it's like the difference between apples and engine blocks. I want to start this day with an awareness of Your absolute liberality. As the day rolls on and I regrettably slip back into trying to earn Your favor, forgive me I pray, and gently remind me that I am the child and You are the Father, and it is Your kingdom I desire — not mine.
Second Day: Evening
"Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon."
— John 4:4-6
Instead of a mindless drifting through the insignificant, apparently superficial and nonreligious events of the day, our passive union with Christ can be made active by creative acts of the will, intelligence and imagination. How? By studying the life experiences of Jesus and relating them to our own; by poring over the Gospels and seeing the different scenarios not as historical events but as contemporaneous happenings reproducing themselves in our daily experience. Do we feel dry, weary, filled with a sense of failure? In the twinkle of an eye we can relate our mood to Jesus Who one day felt the same way and collapsed exhausted by a well in Samaria. I can invite this tired Jesus into my very discouragement: "Jesus, here I am, whipped, wiped out, in the pits, and all Yours."
— The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus
I feel like I've had to go through Samaria a dozen times today. I'm tired from too many trips to town, each time greeted by thirsty and hungry people, veritable Humpty-Dumptys who've fallen off the wall and want me to round up horse and men and put them back together again. But I had to walk away; I just could not give any more. So Jesus, here I am, and this is certainly not a nursery rhyme. I'm wiped out — somewhere beyond the pits — but I'm all Yours, and I believe You understand.
Third Day: Morning
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
— Ephesians 2:8-10
If a random sample of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed — almost everybody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one's relationship to God — whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as "belief in something that may or may not exist" and faith as "trusting in God" is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged, the second intrinsically brings change.
— The Ragamuffin Gospel
Trust. That's what it comes down to doesn't it? Putting all my eggs in Your basket, the one that says I am accepted and loved beyond measure even if I'm inadequate, insecure, mistaken, or potbellied. Even if death, panic, depression, and disillusionment are as close to me as my own breath, trusting You means that I am not those things, that I am something more than those things. Faith means believing that I am Yours and You are mine, that I am who You say I am: Your beloved, fearfully and wonderfully accepted.
Third Day: Evening
"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet."'"
— Matthew 22:1-4
In Matthew 22, Jesus described the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast. Do you really trust that you are going to a wedding feast that has already begun? Do you really believe that God loves you unconditionally and as you are? Are you committed to the idea that the nature of the world is to be a celebration? If you are, then in the words of Father John Powell, S.J., "Please notify your face."
— Souvenirs of Solitude
I don't have to loiter around the door waiting for the muscle to look the other way so I can sneak in. I don't have to pay scalper's prices for decent seats either. And I don't have to wash cars or sell cookies in order to gain entrance to the party. I am Your child and I've been personally invited to the celebration; there's even a place prepared for me with my nametag and everything. Forgive my doom and gloom. Restore the joy of my salvation to myself, to all of me, starting with my face.
Fourth Day: Morning
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
— Colossians 3:1-4
In my first-ever experience of being loved for nothing I had done or could do, I moved back and forth between mild ecstasy, silent wonder, and hushed trembling. The aura might be best described as "bright darkness." The moment lingered on in a timeless now, until without warning I felt a hand grip my heart. It was abrupt and startling. The awareness of being loved was no longer tender and comforting. The love of Christ, the crucified Son of God, took on the wild fury of a sudden spring storm. Like a dam bursting, a spasm of convulsive crying erupted from the depths of my soul. Jesus died on the cross for me.
— Above All
The ten thousand things are already vying for my attention. Wait, actually make that ten thousand and one. Some of them are shallow — like what shoes I will wear today — but some of them are legitimate: lunch with a friend, a doctor's appointment, responding to a letter. Still, they are all earthly things. So startle me, I pray. Burst into the compound of my senses and steal me away from the urgent tyrannies already seeking to keep my eyes fixed on things below. You died for me. For me. That is the one thing; nothing else compares.
Fourth Day: Evening
"'I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' 'Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,' declares the Lord."
— Jeremiah 31:19-20
The Greek verb splangchnizomai is usually translated "to be moved with compassion." But its etymological meaning is more profound and powerful. The verb is derived from the noun splangchna, which means "intestines, bowels, entrails," that is to say, the inward parts from which the strongest emotions arise. In American argot we would call it a gut reaction. That is why English translations resort to active expressions like "he was moved with pity" or "his heart went out to them." But even these verbs do not capture the deep physical flavor of the Greek word for compassion ... His heart was torn, His gut wrenched, the most vulnerable part of His being laid bare.
— Lion & Lamb
I'm afraid far too many of my moments of compassion are nothing more than the warm fuzzies, experiences I can manage and keep at a safe arm's length. These illusions of compassion can fool my friends and neighbors, but not You. When I consider this day, I don't know if my heart was torn up about anything, my gut wrenched by another's pain, or the deepest parts of me hurled to the surface for all to see. I know it's a dangerous request to make, but teach me compassion so that others might take notice and be drawn to Your beautiful heart.
Fifth Day: Morning
"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever- increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
— 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
The tragedy of our attempts to compel others to be virtuous by force or subtle manipulation is that these efforts are so prevalent in our lives, so characteristic of our relationships with others that most of us, most of the time, are unaware of the problem. We do not perceive that we betray a basic lack of respect for the humanity of those with whom we deal, and that this lack of respect is the essential problem with the use of authority in the Church and in the home. If we really knew the God of Jesus, we would stop trying to control and manipulate others "for their own good," knowing full well that this is not how God works among His people.
— The Signature of Jesus
I'm stepping into a new day brimming with new mercies, fresh- slate-do-over grace extended freely to me by Your hands. But it is not just given to me but to all. So that my attempts to control and manipulate others, even if it's in their best interests, is not only to spit on the grace given them, but also that given to me. Father, the only thing truly "for our own good" is Your mercy. Nothing else comes close. Nothing. Have mercy on me.
Fifth Day: Evening
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."
— 1 John 1:7-10
Impostors in the Spirit always prefer appearances to reality. Rationalization begins with a look in the mirror. We don't like the sight of ourselves as we really are, so we try cosmetics, makeup, the right light, and the proper accessories to develop an acceptable image of ourselves. We rely on the stylish disguise that has made us look good or at least look away from our true self. Self-deception mortgages our sinfulness and prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are — ragamuffins.
— The Ragamuffin Gospel
To spiritually photoshop, or not to spiritually photoshop: that is a recurring question. I've gotten pretty good at cropping and resizing to keep an impressive façade, but the emptiness behind it is the telling thing, telling me that something about the life I'm living is off the tracks. I'm not the biggest fan of mirrors but I realize they do serve a purpose: showing me the reality, the real me. I'm a ragamuffin, always have been, and yet You love me, the real me. Amazing.
Sixth Day: Morning
"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness — the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord's people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." — Colossians 1:25-27
And yet it may happen in these most desperate trials of our human existence that beyond any rational explanation, we may feel a nail- scarred Hand clutching ours. We are able, as Etty Hillesun, the Dutch Jewess who died in Auschwitz on November 30, 1943, wrote, "to safeguard that little piece of God in ourselves" and not give way to despair. We make it through the night and darkness gives way to the light of morning. The tragedy radically alters the direction of our lives, but in our vulnerability and defenselessness we experience the power of Jesus in His present risenness.
— Abba's Child
Even though the darkness has surrendered to the light of morning the desperation remains, a residue from yesterday's tests and trials and tribulations. I've tried to shake it but I can't. There seems only a little piece of You in me right now, maybe no more than loaves and fish. Multiply Your power in me, I pray. Feed the multitudes in me hungry for something more than bread alone. I'm holding on by my fingertips. I do not want to give way to despair. You are my hope of glory. You are my only hope.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dear Abba"
Copyright © 2013 Brennan Manning.
Excerpted by permission of Bondfire Books, LLC.
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