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Prayer-filled Lent Reflection #5: Praying for family & self

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.

Closing prayer

(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

 

 

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A Daily Dose of Devotion

given on Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Daily Dose of Devotion

 

Days are so packed.  We wake up in the dark right now, rush around to get out the door, and end up at work already feeling overwhelmed.  Or, we wake up, stop to consider what the day will bring, begin the coffee/tea and wish we felt a bit more perky.  The business of living gets in the way of our relationship with God.

Jesus tells us that we need to spend time with God.  How else are we to talk with God, how do we hear God talking to us, either?  How do we clear our head and let go of all the old garbage running around in our brains?  The solution is a daily devotional.

Certainly that seems simple enough, but at the same time we all end up asking how do we ever put in the time for a daily devotional.  Our time is already packed full.  Add in something else!  Preposterous.  But establishing a new routine that includes some form of devotion provides benefits to our faith’s health that then influences other areas of our health—mental and physical.

How do we add in this extra?  First, find a comfortable source.  To begin with do not try to add in a 30-60 minute devotional time.  This is a new step in your life and you want to make it work the first time.  Start with a smaller devotion first.

Many of you do have a devotion you use.  The Upper Room, Guideposts, or Our Daily Word are all common devotionals that provide a great introduction to the daily routine.  These simple devotions take only a very few minutes to read, including a small Bible reference.  A second step would be to go to the Bible and read the recommended scriptures to add further understanding.

Where do you find these small devotional readings?  The Upper Room is often found right in church, but it is also available through the internet.  If you google the title, you can sign up for the devotional to be delivered directly to your inbox.

Consider one of this week’s Upper Room devotions (accessed on Friday, October 27, 2012)God Is Here 

Read John 16:4-7

Jesus said to the disciples, “Remember, I am with you always,

to the end of the    age.”  – Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

 

It was my son’s first day in kindergarten. Before this his dad and mum had always been near, but now he was suddenly left in a noisy room with people he did not know at all. Children were crying and shouting. The teachers were trying to shout louder than all the little ones. After leaving him in the kindergarten, I immediately wanted to run back and stay with him. He was frightened and lonely, and he needed comfort. At that moment, I realized that our heavenly Father longs to be with us in a fearsome world even more than I wanted to be with my son. The most joyful news is that God is with us through the Holy Spirit, our comforter. We are not left alone in this dangerous world. Every second, with each of God’s children on earth, the Spirit is present. Having calmed down myself, I prayed that my son might also be comforted in knowing that God was beside him, even if his father and mother could not be.

The Author:  Pavel Serdukov (Moscow, Russia)

Thought for the Day:  Stop. Turn around. God is close.

Prayer:  Dear Holy Spirit, our Comforter, bring us words of love, hope, encouragement, and comfort, especially when we feel alone and powerless. Amen.

Prayer focus:  Parents of kindergartners

Another smaller devotional is the Daily Word.  The reflection is available along with one simple verse.  Still the internet has the devotional available any time or any where,

Listen to this example of Our Daily Word from the same day as The Upper Room’s.  The prayer focus is basically the same and I find that is eerie:  (accessed on Friday, October 26, 2012)

Pray for Children

I pray for children, giving thanks for God’s healing power.

As I watch children play, I enjoy their carefree energy and enthusiasm. It’s easy to see their spirit shining. If a child is experiencing a health challenge, it may be sad to see their energy dampened. But the spirit of God within each child is greater than any illness. Rather than keeping sadness and worry in mind when a child is afflicted, I follow Jesus’ example and pray.

Through affirmative prayer, I visualize things rightly. No disease or disorder has any power over a child of God. In prayer, I see the healing light and love of God flowing through all children. Spirit, mind and body respond readily to the power of the Divine. With gratitude, I see every child as healthy and whole.

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  —Matthew 19:13

Even BibleGateway.com provides a mini-devotional by including a Bible verse to consider:

Verse of the Day

“But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

All three of these devotionals were pulled from the internet within 30 minutes of each other.  The internet is immediate, offers variety, and additional in-depth studies if you decide to pursue more about the devotional.

         The Upper Room, Our Daily Word and BibleGateway are not the only internet devotional services available.  Max Lucado has a website which allows you to customize your devotions.  He offers a daily one or a weekly one.  You can look at his various ministries and find other sources of devotions to use.  You might even find a book he has written that speaks to you.

Very quickly one sees that the options are easily accessible and provide all types of variety.  (On the bulletin cover I have listed four different sources to access on the internet.  My favorite for a more in-depth study is The Message//Remix:Solo because it moves to the next level and incorporates the Lectio Divina style study.)  And as you begin looking at Christmas gifts this year and calendars for 2013, you might like looking at all the options which incorporate a demotion for each day or try the devotional Bibles in your favorite translation.

Sometimes a small devotional sitting at your elbows can be good.  For instance, this week I knew I needed a little boost at the end of the work day.  I had found a small devotional titled Time-Out for Teachers.  I randomly opened it up to day 239:

 

To-Do List

Before you leave work in the evening,

take time to write a to-do list for the next day.

Writing down items while they’re fresh in your mind

will help you have a better tomorrow.

I had to smile because I had started doing that this last couple of months and it did make a difference.  So I looked to the other side of the page and noticed the other one, a prayer:

An Escape

O Lord, sometimes we just need to escape.

In the midst of a hectic day, we can hide in You.

You are a safe place to which we can always run,

even when we cannot leave our classrooms.

–Denise Shumway

What better way to end a crazy workday!  Encouraged and relaxed, it was so much easier to walk away and follow the words in that small devotional—taking only about one minute to read and to absorb.  A daily dose of devotion is such a positive way to improve your relationship with God.

Maybe it will be a faith-based song, or a quote about God or your faith, whatever you use to add a dose of devotion, do it.  We all need it, we all need to practice this one more discipline even John Wesley has preached to his followers and yet today, in the 21st century when finding a devotion is so much easier, inexpensive, and flexible.

Most importantly, a dose of daily devotion will keep your relationship to God a priority.  God may not be walking on the surface of the earth with us or we may not know when he will return.  The fact is that we are all too often nonchalant about keeping an open conversation, a full relationship with God.  A dose of daily devotion is the solution.

 

Dear Father and Counselor,

Too many times we ache for your care

   and we fail to open our hearts and minds

   to share with you and to listen for you.

Today we hear the prescription for the ache

   a daily dose of devotion.

Guide us in finding the materials

   to reconnect us with you in ways that we hear.

Strengthen our resolve to spend some time

   reading your holy scripture,

   sharing in other’s experiences,

   and praying to release our concerns to you

   as well as to hear your counsel.  –Amen

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