Children Explain Prayer

At my church this summer, we’ve had a sermon series on prayer. One major theme has been that prayer is primarily about relationship–our relationship with God.  In the very first sermon, we explored how Adam and Eve “hid” from God after they sinned, and yet, God still reached out to them. God knew what had happened, and yet called out to them, asking why they were hiding.

Like Adam and Eve, sometimes we “hide” from God, afraid or avoiding prayer because we think we don’t know how to pray, or we are not worthy. Despite this, God reaches out to us in various ways because God loves us, no matter what may have happened.  We think we are “hiding” when all the while God is watching over us, like a loving parent or kind teacher. No matter what we’ve done, good or bad, God still wants to be in relationship with us.

We can trust that God wants to be in this relationship with us because God keeps reaching out to humans again and again in biblical history despite people failing him again and again. God’s love is so unconditional that he sent his son (that is, God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ) and died on the cross while people were still steeped in sin.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

I was thinking about these things when this short video of children explaining prayer appeared in my Facebook feed. Their hearts are open and trusting. Creative. Honest. Compassionate.

Being fifty-something doesn’t stop me from learning from these children. Their freshness and youth inspires me to be a little more honest with God, a little more free-flowing–and less worried about “if I’m getting it right.”

But aren’t we sinners? Yes, but we also God’s children, for it is God who gave us life. Little children don’t worry if their words aren’t elegant or sophisticated–and the loving parents around them continue to value what they say. We don’t stop loving children when they make mistakes or have difficulties. God enjoys having quality time with us, just we enjoy having quality time with our children.

Will you pray with me?

O God,
The next time I try to run from praying
because I am ashamed, guilty, or afraid,
please send your Holy Spirit to remind me
that you are the God of Mercy and unconditional love.
The next time I feel “I don’t have the right words to pray,”
remind me that I can say whatever I want or feel,
or even express myself to you in wordless ways,
trusting that you understand my heart
and love me just as I am.
The next time I want to pray, but feel inadequate,
please remind me that prayer is about
spending quality time together with you,
not mastering fancy words or passing an imaginary test.
Thank you, Lord,
for your constant love and attentiveness to us,
and help us to always place our trust in you.
This I ask in the name of Jesus
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

St. John of the Cross: Love Unites

Here is a jewel of a quote on compassion:

36 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--St John of the Cross(click on image to enlarge)

 During this Lent, I’ve learned that quality quotes or passages from spiritual writers can offer great prayer-starters. This has led to something I call D.E.A.P. (Drop Everything And Pray) on my public Facebook page.   I see something interesting or inspiring and I just write a prayer about it, spontaneously, right then.  I don’t worry about polishing the words much or “being a writer” (that is, fixating on making it sound elegant or brilliant or whatever), because it’s a prayer to God. I can just be myself before God and share the prayer moment with anyone else who wants to pray on Facebook.

Here’s the prayer I wrote this morning as I was thinking about St. John of the Cross’ quote above. I was also thinking about how it is Lent and Palm Sunday tomorrow as I was writing/praying.

Will you pray with me?

O Lord,

dreamstimefree_140915--Milogu--Dreamstime Stock Photos--Free - smaller with sig Cropped CopyI know you long to pour your love
into our hearts, like a pitcher of water
pouring into a glass on the table.
Yet, sometimes I fill my glass with other stuff:
sand and glitter and even sticky tar.
Help me to set aside all that other gunk
and open my heart more fully
to the inflow of your pure, flowing
water of love… so much so that
the water both nourishes me
and overflows to nourish others, too–
abundantly so–for you, O Lord,
are the living water of Love. 

Until next time, Amen! 

Fasting, priorities, and time use

[P.S. FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m eating a chocolate donut while writing about fasting!]

15 Lent--week 2--fasting--Hoste (click on image to enlarge)

I am not very good at fasting–so sometimes I think about other ways to “give up” something in order to have time for the really important things in life. For example, there is nothing wrong with relaxing with a little “screen time” (TV, social media, YouTube, etc.), but most of us would agree, it’s easy to get roped into spending an hour or two with our “screens” than what we originally intended. So sometimes I have given up some television time during Lent–and I find I suddenly have more time on my hands.

It’s not that what we are viewing is wrong (hopefully not), but rather that some of us (myself included) slip into habits involving increasing screen time–and without realizing it, we are saying things like:

  • “I don’t have time to read the bible”
  • “I don’t have time to go to church”
  • “I don’t have time for exercise”
  • “I don’t have time to read a book to my child”
  • “I don’t have time to volunteer”

We live in a time when people are working very hard to make ends meet–I’m not saying it’s easy to find time. Neither am I saying that anyone should feel they have to “earn” God’s love or feel guilty about things (such as TV) that are basically a part of life in our times.

However, it is good during Lent to ponder how we use our time. We humans are limited creatures–we have a limited number of hours in the day, and a limited number of years in our lives. Lent is a good time for us to examine:

  • What are my priorities?
  • What is most important in my life?
  • Is there anything I might want to leave behind in order to do something else of greater value?

Lent is a good time for experimenting with this sort of thing. It gives us a time frame in which to try out something new and see how it works. Some of my past Lenten experiments were of great help to me–and others didn’t work out so well. However, even the ones that “failed” were good learning experiences for me.

God be with you in your Lenten journey.

Until next time,  Amen! 

Prayerful meditation–quote from J.I. Packer

Thought for the day. . . about Christian meditation. . .

11 Lent--Week 1--Prayer--Packer

Christian forms of meditation aim at paying attention to God, or at least sitting quietly in the presence of God and allowing grace to work in the soul (whole person). This quote from J. I. Packer is “packed” with meaning for me (no pun intended!).

Until next time, Amen! 

The Holy Spirit’s Work in Prayer

Sometimes we are tempted to stop praying because it “doesn’t seem like anything is happening.” That is, our prayer may feel boring, confusing, or useless. Sometimes these are just the normal phases of our own moods at work. It might be that God is inviting us to begin praying in a renewed or different way.( For example, some people pray while walking, write prayers in a journal, join a prayer group, meditate on bible passages, or like to pray in silence.)

These words of Evagrius, famous Christian of the 4th century, bring me comfort at those times when my prayer seems “boring” or “ineffective.”

08 Lent--Week 1--Prayer--Evagrius Ponticus (click on image to enlarge)

In the quotation above, Evagrius refers to some mysterious process happening inside us when we pray–some invisible action deep in our souls.  When someone prays, even if alone in his or her room, that person is not really alone. The Holy Spirit, the very presence of God in our midst, is with the praying soul.

When we open our hearts to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit is at work in our souls, in our whole persons, transforming us, like water slowly dripping on a rock. The Holy Spirit also fills us with the spirit of love and compassion for others during prayer time. As a result, this Spirit of Love also draws us more deeply into relationship with God and other people, a kind of communion with God and each other.

So, no matter how “futile” your prayer might feel, continue to pray. It’s important not to give up. If you think God is inviting you to a newer way of praying, seek out that new way–just so long as you keep praying. (Oftentimes, a spiritual director can help you seek out the way of praying that God is inviting you to at this point in your life.)

So, “keep on praying” . . . and until next time,  Amen!