given on Sunday, March 22, 2015
For five weeks, the goal was to consider praying for specific themes, and to encourage a conscious effort to pray regularly creating a 24/7 awareness of our relationship with God and the world around us. We see the physical needs of preserving the world, the relationships that are part of our daily life, and the wide range of issues that complicate our lives. Unfortunately, the weeks have challenged my resolve to develop a prayer-filled Lent.
What happened? Life did. And because life does hand us so many unknowns interrupting even the best plans, the need for prayer is even more critical. Today, prayer is one of the very best defenses in managing life’s ups and downs. Prayer keeps us God-centered; prayer keeps us active as Christians.
What happens when prayer seems to fail you? What can you do to revive your prayer life? Check out a proven resource: always first is the Bible; locate a devotional or prayer book; or turn to the web. The web may seem surprising, I know, but the Upper Room, the devotional magazine, has long guided readers in prayer and now even it is available on the web.
Since this Lent has challenged my own resolve to maintain a prayer-filled, reflective attitude, I followed these three suggestions. I continued reading the lectionary, following up on the study notes and seeking more scriptures via the concordance. Prayer is actively reading God’s word.
The second suggestion to locate a prayer book took me to my Book of Worship and to the 365 Days Prayer Book I use each evening. The Book of Worship helped manage the sermon last week since life threw a couple of roadblocks up. I trusted what our denomination has created to carry me through the funeral and the time crunch of Course of Study. This week Spring Break lulled me into a mental state of leisure, so to manage, I went to the web and found the Upper Room prayer resources.
The focus this week is praying for family and self. Prayers for those closest to us may seem the easiest, but not necessarily. As parents, prayers for our children may be natural, but as children grow up and become more independent, prayer may seem futile, ineffective, and untimely.
As children, prayer is learned. First, prayer may be lived out as children discover God’s glory and grace first hand. As children begin experiencing life, parents are the first teachers in their faith journey. Blessings at the dinner table demonstrate prayer as thanksgiving. Saying a bedtime prayer often asks God for protection. Slowly, children develop the prayer life that they will use as parents, too.
For adult children, prayers for family span the generations. Not only do they ask God for guidance in their own lives, they ask for protection of their children, and they also ask for the health and well being of their parents. The sandwich generation prayers are far more complicated when there is request for personal guidance in the care of three generations, for the health of all three generations, for the mental well being, for the independence, and for a wide range of specific needs of three generations.
At times, prayers become like a canned responses or maybe even dropped from conscious thought. That is when using a devotional publication or website comes in handy. The Upper Room does offer a daily devotion (in written format as well as on the web). Not only can the devotion guide you in your prayer life, the web site offers additional insight into prayer. In fact, I found that there is a ‘Spiritual Types Test.’ The questions are surprisingly simple, but when completed a composite is presented for you in the flash of hitting return.
The four types the Upper Room identifies are the mystic, the sage, the lover, and the prophet. The reasoning is that there are different styles or focuses for individuals to use in their prayer life. The Upper Room’s spiritual type test guides the individual in understanding how they feel most effective in prayer as well as in their Christian journey. Of course, reading through all the various types, one discovers that it is also possible to conscientiously develop one’s prayers to more specific needs using the different types.
In one of the articles, the verse James 5:16 is referenced as one of the key verses about prayer:
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Dr. Candace Lewis writes in one of the website’s articles, “Powerful and Effective Prayers,”
When listening to friends share their work, health, financial, relational and spiritual challenges; I hear the need for powerful and effective prayers. . . . Maintaining a right relationship with God and others enables us to pray powerful and effective prayers. The verse states we should “confess our faults one to another and pray one with another that we might be healed”. . . . God’s grace enables us to pray powerful and effective prayers for the needs of self, others and the world around us.
That last line confirms the importance of prayer and that even when we feel we are without words, God still hears our silence and is always available once the words begin tumbling forth again.
When we feel overwhelmed by family or even with our own issues, the resources are available. We, though, must remember that we have God present at all times. Prayer allows us to have that ongoing talk with him, even when we feel alone and unable to use words.
One of my favorite modes of prayer is the breath prayer. Even though I do not always know what to say or how to say anything, I can use a breath prayer. The concept is that it is such a short phrase that you have practiced so frequently that it just surfaces at all the times you need to call on God.
The prayers of supplication are those we use when we are praying for others. The prayer chain is an example of that. We ask God to care for someone who needs help. In a sense it is like placing a magnifying glass on a specific need from as many sources as possible. Over the past several years, the prayer chain in this church has been an invaluable resource not just for the members but also for those in the community who value the prayer chain enough to ask to use it, too.
Still the means of prayer are as numerous as the people who pray. Unfortunately, as we develop our prayers and the methods we use, remember that the prayer is not about what we want, but what God knows to be best. Our prayers need to take self out and put God in.
Our human, selfish side wants prayer to be answered in the way we want it answered. We want someone healed and/or back to the perfect state of being that we want. Sometimes that condition is no longer attainable due to physical damage or age-worn. The prayer needs to focus on what God wants and for us to accept God’s decision.
Sometimes our prayers fail because the person for whom we pray may not receptive to the prayers nor to God. That does not mean stop praying, it means the prayer may be to allow God into that life. Once God is part of one’s life, the prayers may be transformative.
Prayers for our family and even for ourselves are automatic in many cases. We see the issues in the lives of those immediately around us and it is easy to ask God for answers. We witness poor decisions, we watch health decline, we see hurt, and we feel helpless. These are the very reasons we should rely on prayer. Yet the toughest part of prayer is allowing God to take over and accepting his sense of timing not ours.
Make the prayers you offer a conscious act of piety. Use the sources available to you from the Bible, to devotionals, and even to web resources. Apply various tips for prayer that can enrich the practice of talking with God. The list of tips vary, but some of the most common ones are:
- Plan a time and place to pray
- Keep a prayer journal listing the concerns and reviewing them
- Pray specifically—use names; use issues (One source adds “God knows the needs. He wants us to acknowledge that we are concerned about those individual requests, too.”)
- Use a prayer guide which is a short list of reminders such as salvation, protection, leadership, ministry, opportunity, etc.
- Find a prayer partner because “. . . Jesus admonishes the disciples . . . that there is more power in going to God as a group rather than only as individuals.”
[“10 Prayer Tips: How to Talk to God” accessed at www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com]
Finally, in your prayers, ask God for the strength to turn it over to him and to let him work in his own way and in his own time. Prayers that seem unanswered due to our human demand to see an answer in our time frame, not God’s time frame. The hardest part of prayer is turning it over to God. Certainly we can repeat the prayers, but we must let go. Faith means knowing God hears and will answer.
(Praise) Awesome God,
Your love shines as the sun springs above the horizon.
Your grace peeks above the brown earth as the crocus bloom.
Your words echo like the peepers sing along the waters’ edge.
(Apology) Forgive us for groaning and complaining through short days.
Forgive our selfishness wanting more than we need.
Forgive us for our poor patterns of Christian living.
(Thanks) Thank you for patience in waiting for our complete trust.
Thank you for tolerance of our selfish demands.
Thank you for unending forgiveness as we make mistakes.
(Help) Help us to put your teachings into practice.
Help us to use prayer to stay in constant connection.
Help us to rely on you for answers to prayer
in your time, not ours;
as you decide, not as we demand. –Amen