Archive for category Prayer
Prayer is extremely powerful. When you pray sincerely to God and what you are asking for matches up with His desires for your life, amazing things can happen.
Over the past couple of weeks, our team has been praying for direction and help when it comes to the community dinner we’re supposed to have on Saturday nights. Since we got back from the holidays, we’ve received a lot of “no’s” when we asked people if they wanted to come over for dinner. After some reflection as a team, we realized that many times we would ask the parents of kids we know and often times they would say no, but the kids were usually sitting there asking to still come over. Then the idea struck us, what if we see if the kids can come to dinner and we’ll offer to walk them home afterwards.
This past week we began putting this idea before God and praying for an answer, and God definitely decided to provide us with an answer.
By lunch time on Saturday Josh had put out an invite to a family we know, the parents said no but they were more than willing to let their two boys come over. The two of them were extremely excited to help cook dinner. By mid-afternoon, after I got back from working at the clinic, I found myself walking back home with three more kids coming over for dinner. By the time dinner was ready, we had one more join us for dinner. In the end we had 6 kids/youth, varying from ages 5 to 16 over for dinner.
At the end of the night I was exhausted. There was a point in the evening that Josh and I looked at each other in the kitchen, agreed that we loved having all these kids over, but we definitely didn’t want to have 6 kids of our own.
The best was in youth group today when the 16 year-old stated to the group that the best thing that’s happened to him lately was coming over to our place last night for dinner. And it was great to share with him that dinner last night was one of our best moments lately too.
I am extremely thankful to God for answering prayers and providing us with needed direction. Even though at points yesterday evening things seemed crazy, I am more than happy to be a place where these kids can come and hang out, have fun, and be safe. I feel honored and blessed that their parents trust us enough to let their kids spend the evening with us. And I feel loved by a God who is there walking along side me every step of the way.
While strolling through one of our local book stores, my husband was trying to pick out a new book or devotional to work through for his time with God. Both of us being considerable Shane Claiborne fans stopped in our tracks when we came across a Common Prayer book with his name on it. Now if you’re sitting here wondering who is Shane? No worries, he’s a co-founder of a Christian intentional community in Philly and is well known for his activism for non-violence and service to the poor (I’ll be writing a blog soon about him and one of his books). So the idea of seeing his name on a Common Prayer book surprised us at first.
Now I grew up in a church where we had the hymnal and that was it. There were several times that I went to church with friends and got really confused why the book next to the hymnal wasn’t the Bible. The concept of a “Common Prayer” book was quite foreign to me. Then I went to college at Xavier University, which is a Catholic school (more specifically Jesuit); thus, entered a whole new introduction to the idea of liturgy, common prayer, and readings.
So before you start thinking back to your days of pulling out the “Prayer Book” from the church pews, reading something aloud, and usually trying to keep up with what is being said, this prayer book is different yet all the same. The book is combination of prayers from various Christian traditions – Catholics, Orthodox, Methodist, Lutheran, Mennonite, etc. The prayer book is Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals”, put together by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.
The idea of a prayer book comes from the concept of liturgy, which “comes from the Greek word leitourgia, meaning ‘public worship.’ When we hear the phrase public worship, many of us think of large meetings like Sunday morning services, and while public worship can mean that, it doesn’t have to take place in a big group” (10). Your public worship can take place amongst your friends, biological family, or the family you have created with others. They created this book as a way of sharing songs, prayers, ideas, and memories with community, in public worship.
What I find most powerful about the idea of liturgical prayer is that it shows, “we are never alone, because we are surrounded by the thousands of folks who are singing and praying with us around the world. And as we pray, we are lifted up into a place beyond the building or city we are in. We are living in the ‘city of God,’ which isn’t something you can find with a GPS” (13).
My husband and I have become quite found of liturgical prayer ever since we bought this book. We may not get to sit down every day together and read, but we really enjoy the times we get to sit together in prayer knowing we are in community with people across the globe.
So I leave you with this Celtic Blessing that ends each morning prayer in the book:
May the peace of the Christ go with you:
Wherever he may send you;
May he guide through the wilderness:
Protect you through the storm;
May he bring you home rejoicing:
At the wonders he has shown you;
May he bring you home rejoicing:
Once again into our doors.
When we are younger we begin talking first with short little words, to phrases, to whole sentences, and then finally we hit a point where sometimes people can’t get you to stop talking. A friend of mine recently posted a video of MIT researcher Deb Roy giving a talk about how language is learned, how language is connects to an event, and how this creates a social/media network. His research started by placing video cameras throughout his house and then putting the 90,000 hours of footage together to watch how his son was able to turn “gaaa” slowly into “water”.
His research showed how many children learn a word and how it can be traced back to the utterances of the child’s caregiver. Children begin with simplicity and move to complexity. The caregiver tends to feed into the child’s level of understanding, using more simple words, and meeting the child where they are at.
I watched this video thinking, isn’t this how we learn to talk with God? Don’t we start in the beginning thinking I have no idea how to pray, and then we move slowly to small words and phrases like “Help me God” or “Thank you God”. But how do we get from this point to the point of long lengthy prayers, a point where we can’t stop talking with God? Just as Deb Roy’s research shows, our caregiver reaches us at our own level understanding. God finds us where we are at, comes along side us, and helps us move forward. He helps us make those steps from simplicity to complexity.
Many times when I think about the idea of learning to pray, of talking with God, I often turn to Matthew 6:5-15 where Christ lays out how to pray using what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, what I think we often miss is that prayer did not start here nor is this the only way to pray. Christ simply lays out a foundation for our prayers. Just turn to the book of Psalms, where we have an entire book of prayers in The Bible. Prayers of rejoicing, prayers of lament, prayers of suffering, prayers of thanksgiving.
Now I am no expert on prayer, but is anyone? Our time with God is an ever expanding process. God isn’t sitting their judging us on if we used the right language when we prayed. It might fell odd at first sitting there trying to think of what to say, but that’s the point. God simply wants us to pray. And the more we take the time, the more God can move us from the simple daily requests to the complex yearnings deep inside.
What does it mean to pray? Is it a time where we sit with our heads bowed, hands folded, and eyes shut? Does it only occur when we are sitting around the dinner table? Am I actually talking to God or am I talking to the ceiling? Can someone hear my prayers? Is prayer for me?
Recently while studying for a certification test in holistic nursing (look it up if you want to know more J), I was reading a section about spirituality and religion, and I became transfixed with the notion that prayer is more than our words, it’s our yearnings and willingness to present ourselves to our Maker. “The most fundamental, primordial, and important language that humans speak, prayer is an endeavor that starts and ends without words. In this understanding, prayer flows from yearnings of the soul that rise from a place too deep for words and move to a space beyond words” (Dossey, Holistic Nursing Handbook).
In our fast paced world, I find it hard to allow myself the time to truly speak with God and allow him to hear the inner cries of my being, those desires, yearnings, and fears that I am either to afraid to speak or I am totally unaware of their presence. I find it easier to make the quick and simple prayer as I do the little things in life. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with shooting that quick little prayer up to God, but how much do we really get out of these prayers?
We spend a lot of time talking to God without taking much time to listen. It’s in those times, where we are unable to find the words to say, that God really talks. Elijah did not find him in the “great and powerful wind” or the earthquake, but he found God in the gentleness of a whisper (1 Kings 19:9-18).
Taking the time to truly pray, to actually listen, is hard, but it is in those moments that lives are changed, people are moved, and God’s love reigns down. I challenge you to take the time to present yourself before the Father with the willingness to let your inner being, your soul, cry out to him. Just remember to take the time to listen.