Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

The Rim of Life

September 4, 2009

A beautiful prayer by Sue Monk Kidd

To be fully human, fully, myself,
To accept all that I am, all that you envision,
This is my prayer.
Walk with me out to the rim of life,
Beyond security.
Take me to the exquisite edge of courage
And release me to become.

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Knock.Ask.Seek

February 26, 2009

Prayer has been an allusive discipline to me.  When I first became  a Christian, I used to journal my prayers which consisted of list upon list of people I was thankful for, people who I was asking God to bless, and things I wanted or thought I needed.  I don’t remember how long this lasted, but it was definitely not more than a year after the point in my life where I understood Jesus as the Son of God and the Redeemer of all creation.  At some point I think someone told me that prayer is more like a conversation with God.  This seemed to me to be a much easier way to think of prayer and I tried very hard to pray in this way.  But for some reason that has also been short-lived.  It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you can’t see in the flesh or hear audibly with your ear drums.  Somewhere along the way, someone recommended the book Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  And I read it.  And it was good.  I liked how he talked about being in prayer to God at all times.  He seemed to have figured out how to “praywithout ceasing.”  I remember where he wrote about praying while he did the dishes at the monastery.  It is almost as if the very act of being was a prayer to God.  I have tried to walk in that but it did not last either though admittedly due in part to my lack of discipline. 

Over the past year I have been challenged in prayer.  At the beginning of this year long period, I was going through a book called Discipleship Essentials, by Greg Ogden, with a friend of mine and somewhere in there (I don’t have it in front of me) there is a part where it talks about prayer and focuses on Matthew 7.7-8 which reads,

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

But there was something that didn’t make sense to me.  Hand in hand with this passage, was the Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18.1-8. 

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

 4“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”

 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

These two ideas seemed to contradict themselves.  Ask and you shall receive, but you have to ask a billion times to change God’s mind with your persistence.  Now I realize that part of what is going on in this parable is the fact that Jesus is saying something along the lines of,

“If this unjust, uncaring judge will grant the widow her request, how much more would God who is the very definition of love, justice, and peace grant your requests!”

But that doesn’t seem to add up either when you take into consideration the fact that we often pray for God to heal people of cancer and other sickness and it doesn’t happen.  This has more to do with “the problem of pain.”  It is things like this that cause me to wonder.  Does God answer our request but just not in the way we had hoped?  Maybe those individuals were more in need of a healing that could not be seen by human eyes.  But then that just seems like a cop out.  And to make things more complicated, we have this gem :

2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  (James 4.2-3, emphasis added)

But there is another reason the “Knock…seek…ask…” verse did not sit well with me.  It seemed to me that, like the persistent widow above, asking for something over and over again was an indication of a lack of faith.  I wanted to just be able to ask for it once and have faith that God would grant my request.  To my dismay, the verb tense of the Greek words translated in Matthew 7.7 indicate a constant knocking, seeking, and asking.

I wasn’t sure why at the time, but this just didn’t sit well with me.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could not reconcile this fact.  But lately I have realized something that I think will be revolutionary for my prayer life.  I think that I did not like the idea that prayer requires a constant knocking, asking, seeking because

each time I ask

        I am admiting over and over again

                             that the thing I desire or need

                                              is beyond me and out of my control.

Every time I ask for something, a small piece of the little ‘g’ god I allow myself to be dies.  Every time I ask for something I realize how much I need God.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t like that.  But now my little attempts to rebel against my Beloved have been shown for what they really are.  I am saddened by them, but thankful to have eyes to see it for what it is.

The Eyes of Your Heart

February 22, 2009

In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (vv. 18-19a)

I read Ephesians 1 this morning.  I feel as though I am abiding in Christ much more lately.  The pressures of this world are still there and have increased in some respects, but they don’t seem as pressing somehow.  As I read the verses above I had a flashback.  I saw myself sitting at the kitchen table at the apartment I shared with a friend of mine during my last year of college.  It was a renovated carriage house so it was kinda shabby, but it was my first real place away from home since I lived in the dorms for my first 3 years of my time as an undergrad.  So I see myself sitting there, reading the Bible and realize that the moment I am remembering is when I read this same passage almost 6 years ago.  And I remember praying

Please enlighten the eyes of my heart, God.

And while I have not yet arrived I can definitely say that God has answered that prayer.  What a wonderful thing to realize!

Gracious God, Thank you for that memory!  Thank you for patiently teaching my heart to hope!  Thank you for the inheritance and the power that I have access to because of your redemption.    Thank you for you.

Our

February 17, 2009

 Pray, then, in this way:Photo by: Ms. Tea
          Our Father who is in heaven,
          Hallowed be Your name. 
          Your kingdom come
          Your will be done,
          On earth as it is in heaven.
          Give us this day our daily bread.
          And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
          And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
          [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] 
                    (Jesus, Matthew 6.9-13)

Let me start this post off by saying that I love the Lord’s Prayer.  my favorite part, by far, is “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  How amazing.  I could talk about that here, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about the words

OUR and US.

Have you ever noticed how many times these words are used in this prayer?

OUR = 4

US = 4

I didn’t realize this until I read Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution.  It is mind boggling to me that I have never heard it before.  He writes about how if there was a food shortage in early Christian communities the whole community would fast until there was enough for all.  And then he moves on to the “ours” in the Lord’s Prayer and says,

To pray for “my” daily bread is a desecration; we are to pray for “our” daily bread, for all of us.*

This is envigorating!  And yet it makes me hang my head in shame.  It makes me hopeful!  And yet I am saddened by how far we are from this.

OUR.  Give us this day our daily bread.   And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6.11-13)

UNITY.   “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “ (Jesus, John 17.20-23)

LOVE.  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

* Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 170.

nothing is ritual

January 9, 2009

Awhile back I posted a book review on here for The Shack by William P. Young.  I really liked the book.  I was simultaneously taking a class in systematic theology and it was incredible to see all the theological ideas I had studied dance around on the pages in ways I never would have dreamt.  Whatever you think of the validity of ideas presented, it is a well crafted book that will challenge your view of God, yourself, and really every other person you might meet.  My favorite line is this book is

“nothing is ritual”

This is said by God, or if you wish, the way God chooses to present God’s self to the main character in the story.  And it is directed at the main character who is having dinner with the Trinity.  Yup…that’s right…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To get a real grasp of the power of these words, you might need to read the book.  And it might not hit you the ay it did me, but I was moved.  Something deep in me shifted when I read those words.  In a world of “shoulds” and “musts” that are crammed down our throats from infancy, God would not have us be slaves to the “shoulds” and “musts.”  There is no formula for a relationship with God.  There is no secret handshake, special prayer, or required reading.  While the reading and praying will undoubtedly will help us get to know God, that’s not the substance of our relationship to God.  So while I love tradition and appreciate those who encourage me to be disciplined in my efforts to seek God, I was reminded in this book that “this’ does not equal “that.”  Bible study, prayer, church attendance, ministry service, fill-in-the-blank-here, does not equal relationship with God. 

May I always seek to understand the underlying meaning of the traditions in the body of Christ and never forget they are only a very small part of what God wants from me: my heart.