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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Prayer’ Category

When I was a little girl
Grown-ups taught me how to pray
No one taught me how to listen
Only words to say

Are you there, Lord?

I’ve grown and life is tough
My heart is broken
My words are few
Rhymes no longer seem right for you

Are you speaking, Lord?

Your word, not mine,
Is a lamp unto my feet
Your word, not mine,
Is a light unto my path

I’m ready Lord…

Teach me now
How to pray
As I listen
To the words you say

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I love change. My husband and I have been married almost 20 years and we’ve had the adventure of four state-to-state moves. Meeting new people. Experiencing new “norms.” Learning to respond appropriately when someone shouts “O-H.” I love it. There is one thing I do not like about moving, the paperwork.

There is the wonderful paperwork of buying a house, shutting off utilities at one place and getting them started at the new place. This past move included the joys of getting our kids enrolled in school. But the worst paperwork for me is going to a new doctor. Don’t know why, but I dread the paperwork regarding insurance and medical history. Can’t they come up with a body scan that can just tell them everything they need to know? Didn’t they have something like that in Star Trek?

Ok, so prayer and paperwork. Does your prayer time sometimes feel like you are just supplying information that 1) God should already know or 2) can’t He figure it out without you telling him? Do you question the purpose of the procedure? Or maybe, like me, you sometimes feel like you are writing a letter that is going to be sent to heaven by snail mail. And you’re pretty sure heaven is farther away and harder to get to than the unknown people groups in Asia – which also would mean you probably didn’t write the letter in a language God will understand. But you do it. You complete the paperwork and check it off your to-do list. Prayer sent.

Fortunately, prayer is not like paperwork. It’s not a letter – why was I taught to start prayer with “Dear God?” And, as much as I love the internet, prayer is not even like email or instant messaging. Facebook is close… no, not really. 🙂 When it feels like any of those things, I have to ask myself, am I opening myself up to the reality of who God is?

God is. Say that out loud. God is. In my humanness I want to add another word after the word “is.” But with God, no other word is necessary. We can add other words that would be true but when I’m praying (talking directly to him), grasping the reality that He is, makes a difference. All that exists, all that I experience, is because God is. God is love. Yes, but even if that were not true about God’s character or about love (depending on how you look at that statement), God still is.

Do you want to get away from the prayer feels like paperwork rut? Before you start spewing your prayer requests, take a deep breath and let the reality of God invade you. That breath is because God is. That thought you are having is because God is. That emotion you are experiencing (even if you feel emotionless) is because God is. Wait until you sense His presence in some tangible way. For me it’s sort of an inner tingling sensation that goes throughout my body or maybe like a wave or gentle wind that moves from my head down. (It’s similar to my first experience of being injected at the hospital with a pain killer that I could feel as it moved through my body.) Maybe for you it’s just “knowing” in some way that doesn’t have a physical description. The first time I recall experiencing God is in this way, I did not have a physical sensation but I knew that God was present because I thought differently.

This may sound weird to some of you and that’s ok. Others know exactly what I’m talking about but would describe your experience totally different. For those of you seeking to understand the concept. Keep seeking. It took me seven years of searching and that was after being raised in church and thinking I was a “good Christian” most of my life. And the really cool thing is that I’m still learning, still experience God is in new ways. I am so glad I cannot fully comprehend God. That would make the rest of this life pretty boring or frustrating. Actually, it is when I’m feeling like I know God fully and understand Him that I can easily fall back into the prayer is paperwork rut.

This is the difference between following Christ and practicing any religion (including Christianity). Jesus came, died, and was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we could experience God is from the inside out rather than just in the paperwork. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Ask questions, give your experience, let’s encourage each other.

Come Holy Spirit. Breathe on us. Fill us with Life so that we may grasp God is.

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“What place does authentic encounter… occur more clearly than when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ with Christ present as promised…?” ~ Bruce M. Hartung

Are you more likely to be authentic in a group of two or three or a group of four or more?

Some larger groups can have very authentic relationships. But it’s more common that in a group of four or more, some are being authentic while others are left to manage their struggles and celebrate victories alone.

Bruce Hartung points out in “Praying Together vs. Private Prayer” that although private prayer is essential to our relationship with God, it is easy to protect ourselves with God. We need to be in vulnerable relationships with other people. And, we need to bring the authentic relationship with God into our relationship with others.

I don’t think I’m the odd one when I say that my words are self-censored when there are more people in the conversation. Ok, yes, sometimes I forget to censor and I end up regretting it because there is not enough of a relationship or time to interpret my words with everyone. A smaller group generally creates a more comfortable environment to share differing opinions or personal struggles which lead to quicker resolution.

In my experience, the most powerful prayer groups break down into groups of two or three at least for the asking of God part of prayer. For most of us, this is extremely awkward and is probably one reason people don’t want to go to prayer groups. However, once you experience that intimacy in a group of just two or three people who are truly seeking the presence of God together, you’ll be hooked. There are no words to describe it.

There are times in large groups when someone’s prayers seem to move us in some spiritual sense. However, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 20:47, those types of prayers usually stir up more awe of the person speaking than awe of God. The God-awe inspiring large group prayers generally contain a lot less words. And the significant cries of a person’s heart are generally spoken only in the presence of one or two others who are all seeing God right there in that little circle.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

My challenge to you (and to me), push through the awkwardness. Find just one or two other people who want to talk freely to God with you and see what happens.

Vulnerable Moment of Confession: I have only truly experienced what I’m talking about in this post a few times – so it’s more than just the number. But it is those few experiences which give me hope and determination to try to be authentic and find others who are also trying to be authentic in prayer with others. It doesn’t happen naturally for most of us. And, it’s not for the sake of the experience but for the sake of the relationship with God and with others. For it is the supernatural connection of genuine relationships, not the experience itself, which sustains me.

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“‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.'” ~ Luke 22:46

Looking at this segment of scripture usually leads me to focus on Jesus’ prayer. Beth Crawford’s study on Luke 22:39-62 placed my focus more on the mental and physical circumstances of the disciples in this scene.

Jesus warned them many times that things were going to get rough. But the disciples didn’t understand what he was talking about. And they certainly didn’t understand how quickly things would happen.

Verse 39 says “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives.” The disciples may have followed him other times. He was only a “stone’s throw” away from them. Did they sleep through this learning session every time?

What are you learning in the peaceful times? Do you wait until the difficult stuff hits to start praying?

If we want to be true followers of Christ, our “as usuals” should be like Christ. Do you think that he knew what was about to happen only because he was fully God? I don’t. I think he knew because he talked to God often in the very same way we can.

Temptation and crisis will come, there’s no doubt about it. We are not given the privilege of a warning from Satan as to when he will strike. The best way to be prepared for the difficult times is to have conversation with God when things seem to be going as usual.

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I’m focusing on one verse a day from Psalm 119. Yesterday I was praying about how to encourage someone in how to pray. Then I looked at my Psalm 119 verse:

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Ps 119:103

When prayer seems awkward or difficult, pray his words.
The Psalms are a great place to find his words to pray.

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“Really the whole purpose of prayer is not to get our will done but to get God’s will done.” (Thomas L. Constable, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Terre Haute, IN: Prayer Shop Publishing, 2008)

Are you amazed when God answers prayer? Are you disappointed when it seems he doesn’t answer your prayers?

If we approach prayer with an earnest desire to know God’s will, we are more likely to find ourselves leaving the prayer time rejoicing for what he has shown us will be done rather than waiting to see if we are amazed or disappointed.

Originally posted to Central Ohio Praying Moms, April 4, 2009. 

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Fascinating information on the “Jewish Traditions of Prayer” in Giving Ourselves to Prayer. Here are two of the “Questions for Further Thought or Discussion” which I found insightful.

“Select a prayer from the Pentateuch*, Psalms, and the Prophets**. Compare and contrast their content and style.”
“Describe how each style can be used effectively in discipling believers in the Christian expression of prayer.”
*The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Old Testament.
**The Prophets are the books from Isaiah through the end of Old Testament.
I’ve posted a couple more quotes from this chapter at www.Grow2Sow.org

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