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Posts tagged ‘prayer’

Teach Us to Pray

Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1b (CEB)

Apparently, John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray and fast, so the followers of Jesus wanted to learn to pray (other scripture references show that there were times when they didn’t fast).  We can also gather that, because Jesus prayed a lot, he set an example for them, so they wanted to know what to say and how to pray.  Maybe they just didn’t know what was the proper procedure.

Well, is there a proper procedure?  The first thing Jesus includes as he teaches them the Lord’s prayer, is to say, “Our Father.”  This isn’t a distant God who is unreachable, but one who interacts with us as human beings like a heavenly parent.  We can have a relationship with God that reflects our love for God and God’s love for us.  Our words, according to the Lord’s Prayer recognize God as provider, care giver, forgiver, and guide in our lives.

So, to go back to my original question:  “Is there a proper procedure?”  I always thought there had to be.  Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as an example, but I had other things to pray about.  Years ago someone told me about using the acronym ACTS:  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  We offer prayer of adoration and praise to God.  We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.  We offer thanksgiving for all God has given us, and we ask for help concerning whatever it is we are dealing with in our lives.

Using ACTS is helpful at times, but is it the only way?  I don’t think so.  Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book about “prayerizing” (The Power of Positive Thinking) your life, which means that we pray all day long, every day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.  In other words, we talk to God whenever, wherever, whatever.  That has been a large part of my faith journey because it reminds me that, like the Lord’s Prayer, God is my heavenly parent who wants what’s best for me, is there to support and inspire me, and helps me to work through things that come up in the day.

Brother Lawrence talked about working to see God in every moment of every day.  He admitted that it’s impossible for us to do that, but it is a practice that we can begin so that we recognize God in even the most mundane tasks.  For many, prayer can be most effective when offered in the moment.  Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies) says that the two most effective prayers are, “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  Apparently she added later the one word prayer, “Wow!”

So how will you pray?  When will you pray?  Just talk to God.  If nothing else, say “The Lord’s Prayer.”  And remember, “the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26) and prays for us even when we have no words.  If you really need words, there are lots and lots of prayer sites on the Internet.  Make a booklet! Or buy a book!  Prayer is talking with God – communicating with God, and then remembering to listen.

In what ways will you make prayer a continuous part of your life?

How will you build variety in the way you pray?

When have you experienced a powerful answer to prayer?

 

Self-Esteem

But [Jesus] passed through the crowd and went on his way.”  Luke 4:30b (CEB)

Jesus never seemed to have self-esteem issues.  He was confident in himself and in his mission, and he was able to face even his hometown crowd, trying to call them to accountability.  Their response?  Throw him off a cliff – get rid of him!  Even in his own hometown, people resisted his message.

Most of Jesus’ ministry was surrounded by controversy.  I mean, think about it.  He touched lepers, healed gentiles, talked with women, contradicted the religious leaders, defied or even revised some of the laws, loved little children, faced angry demons, and stood firm without flinching when people hurled angry questions and words at him. He knew who he was and stuck with it even in the face of death.

So, when I think about my own struggles with self-esteem when I was growing up and even lingering issues now as an adult who is nearing retirement, I wish I could be more confident and not let myself get in the way.  I do pretty well most of the time, and I DO have confidence a lot, especially in my work as a pastor, but there are always those moments that jump up to make me doubt myself.

Then, this week I learned that one of the teenage daughters of a friend of mine was having tremendous self-esteem issues to the point of trying to harm herself.  She is confused and struggling to figure out who she is.  She’s looking in a lot of not-so-great places to find affirmation, but what she is receiving is a host of mixed messages about what she “should” do and how she “should” feel.  That only confuses her more.  Her parents are working with her and counselor to get help for her.

My reaction was that, even though I never went that far (probably because we didn’t have social media), I understood the depression, fear, confusion, and bewilderment that goes with trying to figure out your purpose in life.

The pastor part of me wanted to figuratively “shake” her and say, “You are God’s precious child!  You have an identity!  God loves you!  I love you!  Now you need to love yourself!  Come on, snap out of it!” Unfortunately, I don’t have the right to say that to her, and I doubt that it would be very productive.

So, what do we do to help our children, teens, and even other adults see themselves as God does and love themselves so that they aren’t oppressed by lack of self-esteem.  How do we give them tools so they can move to a better place?  I’m not sure I have any real answers, but I believe we can start with prayer:  for the other person and for ourselves.  We can pray to be open to opportunities to say words that build up rather than tear down.  We can pray for God to give us chances to love, love, love that person.

There are no guarantees that even that will work.  However, we can be assured that the grace of God is with them, and maybe that’s the starting point.

Prayer:  Gracious God, heal, renew, restore, make whole.  Amen.

Pray, Prayer, Praying

Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1b  “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10  (NRSV)

I sometimes wonder if we have made praying too hard for ourselves.  Jesus’ disciples wanted to learn how to pray.  I think we all want to pray in the right way, but what IS the “right” way?  Isn’t it different for all of us?

We have more formal corporate type prayers in worship, meetings, Bible Study, and other group gatherings, but except for praying the Lord’s Prayer together or other well-known prayers, I don’t think there is anything set in place as for the process of praying.  Jesus often said to pray.  So that’s where we begin with this exploration.

Maybe what puzzles and worries many of us can be found in the Luke 11:9-10 verses.  According to these passages, Jesus says to go ahead and pray because whatever we ask for, seek, or knock on the door to see will be ours.  Hmmm.  I know a lot of prayers when I didn’t get what I wanted or expected.

Of course, that’s where the “rub” is located.  Nowhere does it say that we get what WE want or expect, only that our prayers will be answered.  Maybe the content of our prayers needs to have some serious scrutiny.  Maybe we ask, as Jesus did in the Lord’s Prayer, for God’s will to be done.  That’s what so many of us forget – it’s GOD’s will – what God knows is best for us that is done.  We may not always get what we want or expect, but we always get what we NEED.

When we go to God with a grocery list of what we want, we are working out of our own ideas, thoughts and desires.  While God certainly can see that many of the things we pray for are things we can and will have, there are other things that we really don’t need.

Intercessory prayer is another struggle.  When we pray for others who are sick, dying, hurt, in need and those prayers don’t seem to be answered, what then?  Praying for others is often opening ourselves to ways in which we can care for them, minister to them, help them to find strength in times of trouble.  Even when we don’t know the person, we open ourselves to God’s direction and guidance when we pray for them.  Our prayers keep the communication open and help us to stay focused on God.

Praying puts us in line with God and opens our minds and hearts to growth, connection with God and others, and acceptance when we have answers to prayer that we don’t like.  When we ask, we will receive – in some way or another.  When we seek God, we will surely find God.  When we knock, God will open the door – maybe not always in the way we expect, but surely in the way that will give us help and direction.

When we pray, we don’t pray so that it’s all about us, but all about God.  Not easy.  The Holy Spirit can help us, inspire us, and guide us.  When Jesus went off by himself to pray, he spent time reconnecting with God’s will – God’s direction – God’s guidance.  His strength came in that connection.  That’s what prayer can do for us, too. 

God wants what is good for us, and when we can accept that not everything is going to happen the way we want it to, we will be able to let go of our grocery list and listen so that we can align our hearts and minds with God’s.  That happens when we pray – standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down, driving, walking, or in whatever way works for us, and we don’t need any formula in order to get the prayer across to God.

Anne Lamott says her favorite prayers are “Help me; help me; help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  What’s yours?

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