The prophet Anna appears in only three verses of New Testament scripture, in the story of Joseph and Mary presenting the baby Jesus in the Temple. She and the prophet Simeon were two seriously patient lovers of God, waiting as they did their whole lives in and around the Temple for the moment when the child of destiny would be sent to them for their blessings.
Think about that. Some of us can’t even wait for dinner and drinks on a Friday night–or for football season; or for the President or GOP’s minority leader to be gone from elective offices; or for the porn fest of ultra-violence with little or no redeeming social or spiritual value coming soon to a theater near you.
Anna and Simeon waited, and waited, patiently, prayerfully, for something that mattered.
Does anything matter anymore in Western culture?
Get out your Holy Bible, if you will, and read Luke 2: 21-40. Then, for today’s step in our continuing Lenten journey, mull on this excerpted profile of Anna from The Life with God Bible (NRSV), which was previously published as The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible.
And God bless the women of the world who have made such a difference in this broken world in what is International Women’s Month (March).
Anna, a prophet of the tribe of Asher, had married and lived with her husband seven years before becoming a widow. She never remarried, choosing instead to take up residence in the Temple. Luke tells us she ‘worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day’ (2:37). Her love for God and worship of him filled all her waking moments. When Mary and Joseph came to present Jesus, eighty-four-year-old Anna gave thanks to God and spoke to them about their miraculous baby, the promised Redeemer.
We may not identify with Anna’s call to prophecy or her living situation, yet her commitment to the Spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and worship–a life focused in mind, body, and activity on engaging with God–is a commitment we all can pursue.
Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century monk, informs us in his writings that we can pray and worship both in times of focused quiet and spiritual activity and in times of work and routine daily life. Brother Lawrence served in the monastery’s kitchen, performing mundane work familiar to most of us, yet he developed a way of focusing on God’s presence throughout all his days. In his timeless work Practicing the Presence of God, he reveals his focused perspective: “Applying my mind to these thoughts in the morning and then spending the rest of the day, even in the midst of my work, in the presence of God, I considered that he was always with me, that he was even within me.
The disciplines of prayer, fasting and worship are powerful tools that allow us to practice God’s presence through all facets of our being, to live daily and hourly as a dwelling place of God. As Anna rejoiced at the coming of Jesus, our Immanuel, we too can experience the thrill of Jesus, “God with us,” in increasing measure as we make prayer, fasting and worship central in our lives.
— How often during the course of a typical day are you attentive to God’s presence with you? Is your prayer limited to mealtimes and formal devotional times, or do you often turn to God in the activity of your day?
— Have you tried fasting, either from food or from some other habitual activity in your life (TV, radio, newspaper, e-mail, Internet), in order to engage in greater worship of God? What kind of difference would, or could, or does, the practice of fasting make in your life with God?