Tag Archive: Prayer

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  Genesis 1:2

As we journey through Lent it can feel like a season of despair or gloominess.  We begin on Ash Wednesday when we worship in a dimly lit sanctuary.  We place ashes on our forehead to remind us of our mortality.  Over the 40 days of Lent we practice more intimately prayer, fasting, and self-evaluation.  We give up something – not because it would be healthy or beneficial – but so that we might get closer to God.  Lent can feel like the dark days before the bright Easter morning.  And in many ways it is.

Genesis 1:2 reminds us of the primordial darkness, the darkness before the joy of God’s creation.  Yet, even then in the darkness the Spirit of God is present.  God hovers over the waters.  God is near the formless emptiness.  But out of that – out of nothing – God brings newness and creation.  God forms vibrant life out of the murkiness of the shadows.

During Lent allow God to hover over you.  Spend time in the darkness of self-reflection and self-denial.  God is there.  Ask God to bring life out of this season of darkness.  For on Easter morning, we will celebrate the Resurrection of the One who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

Prayer: O Eternal God, we find ourselves in the midst of a seemingly formless, empty, and dark season. Yet we know that you called all creation out of such an environment.  We glorify you for forming the formless, providing fulfillment for the empty, and revealing light to the darkness.  Heavenly God, remain present when we experience personal and communal emptiness or doubt.  As You hovered over the waters, we ask for your hovering love and grace in our lives.  We pray in Your name, Amen.


Offensive Prayer

“You just offended me!”

“Huh?” I stammered. Apparently, I upset the holier-than-thou sitting next to me in class.

As usual, the professor began class with a prayer. Some people bowed their heads. Others closed their eyes tightly. Some removed their hats, while others fidgeted with their notebooks.

I leaned back in my chair and threw my hands over the back of my head, resting my head in my palms. I kept my eyes open, fixating them on something beyond the ceiling I suppose.

After the prayer ended, my friend scolded me.

“I’m offended you’re offended. How did I offend you?” I responded.

“You prayed while slouching in your chair and leaning back. And you had your eyes open. That’s just wrong and offensive!” he chided me. Shouldn’t his eyes have been closed anyways?

I guess I’d given little thought as to how the posture of my body affects my prayer. I always prayed believing that the posture of my heart was more important than the posture of my body. I thought it more vital to lift up my heart than to bow my head. Why make an appearance of praying if I really am praying? Didn’t Jesus caution, “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so as to be seen by men?” (Matthew 6:5)

However, the more I thought about my friend’s comments, the more “research” I did.  And in fact, I found many instances in the Bible when individuals prayed “with their body.”  Recall Elijah on the ground with his head between his knees (1 Kings 18:42).  Or Jesus looking up to heaven (John 17:1).  Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to lift up hands (1 Tim 2:8).  Daniel knelt three times a day in prayer.  Solomon stood with his hands spread out during  prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22).  Jesus, our Lord,  prostrated himself during that memorable time of praying in Gethsemane.

So, maybe…the posture of our body does affect prayer.  Maybe what we do with our bodies during prayer matters.

Paul writes to the Romans, ” Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. (Romans 15:30).   Paul’s urging, “to strive together with him in prayer” tell me much about his spiritual life and much about my own, that praying is striving.  Praying is no timid act.  It takes energy, commitment, and power.  It takes our whole being, maybe even our whole body.

Jesus does call us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  We are called to love God…to pray to God…with our whole being.

Maybe my friend was right…perhaps the posture of our bodies during prayer is as important as the posture of our hearts.

United Methodist Lectionary Scripture for Sunday, April 19, 2009

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Prayer Focuses
1. Those who have suffered tragic loses
2. Those facing difficult decisions
3. Church food ministries around the world

Thought to ponder
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”  — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in Germany from 1906-1945. He was a theologian, spiritual writer, a Lutheran Pastor who played a central role in the struggle against Nazism.

Links of Interest
Hoops turn fears into friendship
Youth fast today to change tomorrow

As Inauguration Day approaches,  conservative and evangelical Christians continue to fume over Pastor Rick Warren’s decision to participate in Barack Obama’s Inauguration.

But what are they so mad about?  Why are they so angry and put-off by Warren’s role in the historic day?  I thought prayer…the power of prayer….were central to evangelical belief?  Why then, are they less than enthused to offer prayer for the person who job certainly requires it?

Pastor Warren is doing the only thing he can do: pray for the President of the United States.  As Warren wrote, “Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements nor political posturing. They are humble, personal appeals to God.”

Christ calls all Christians to pray without ceasing….to pray for all….to pray for our friends and family…to pray for our enemies and those with whom we disagree with.

Perhaps we should heed these words Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, Life Together:

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died.

Praying Prophets

Lately, I have spent a considerable amount of time in my office.  Between school assignments and church-related tasks, there is always something that deserves my attention.  But when I need a break, I often lean back in my chair and scan the walls.  I look at my college diploma.  I focus on an icon of St. John that I got in Greece.  I like to study a famous photograph of Joe DiMaggio “at bat” on one wall.  But, there is something else: a painting.

Upon leaving the church where I worked last summer, one lady in the congregation gave me one of her paintings.  She told me she had painted a similar image before, but mine was unique.  It is a painting of a longhaired, bearded man.  The man’s body does not have much shape, and one is immediately drawn to his face.  His mouth is shut.  His eyes are closed.  It appears he is deep in thought.  Calmness and serenity seep from the painting.

As she presented me with the painting I initially thought it was a depiction of Jesus.  However, before I could say anything she informed me that the painting was not of Jesus, but of a praying prophet.  A praying prophet.

Today, when I turn on the news and read the newspaper, it is becoming more apparent that we need not only more pictures of praying prophets., but we need real praying prophets.  We need people who will stop in the course of the chaos to offer a prayer to God; perhaps a call for help, or a word of trust and assurance.  We are desperate for pillars of calmness and serenity in the midst of turmoil.  The world needs those who will momentarily shut their eyes to the world around them, and focus their vision to God.   We need people who will silence their words intended for the world, and instead, redirect their words to God.  We need prophets praying unceasingly.  We need prophets praying as if it will make a difference.  Our church, our community, our state, our nation, our world…..all need more praying prophets.

Prayer in peculiar places

I hope everyone has had a blessed week. The Holiday weekend is almost here! Hang in there!

The past few weeks the idea of “prayer” has weighed on my mind. I’ve asked myself: “Do I pray enough?” “What do I pray for?” “When do I pray?” “Am I doing it right?” Do you ever wonder about prayer? Sometimes it’s difficult to ask ourselves tough questions, but asking them is a must. We must ask ourselves, “How is my prayer life?”

Lately, I’ve been encouraged by seeing prayer in a lot of places. I’ve seen people praying in restaurants, at meetings, at sporting events, and over the phone. I’ve seen people praying while standing, seated, holding hands, kneeling, etc.. Still, though it is a joy to see others praying, it also prompts me to ask myself, “How is my prayer life?”

Can prayer simply be conversation with God? Is it something more to it than that? Is there a model or a pattern? While I certainly have my own thoughts about prayer, I’d love to hear your ideas regarding prayer. Instead of me presenting my ideas, I’d love to hear your stories. I’d love to learn more about the “how,” “why,” “who,” and “when” of your prayer life. Prayer is such a vital part of our spiritual life, so that sharing and learning from one another can only strengthen our walks.

Also, I’d like to present the idea that we will have a 2 week sermon series on prayer. On June 1 and 15 we will explore prayer. Through the sermons I hope to answer your questions about prayer, dispel “prayer” myths, enhance our understanding of prayer, and provide ways to improve our prayer lives.

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