A lesson on Prayer from our pastor…
Prayer is difficult to define but it is easy to understand in terms of our human boundaries. As persons we live in time and space. This is the ‘place’ where our lives happen. It is also the place where our prayer happens. We do everything in our given time and space.
Our time and our space are under our control in the sense that we have a will. We do things intentionally. Our time and our space is out of our control in the sense that we are part of a whole larger than ourselves. We are part of creation. We feel the effects of creation in our time and space. We call it our environment.
We can have an environment in the material world and in our inner world (our thoughts, fantasies, desires, insights, fears, etc). Lent is a time to consider your environment especially your prayer environment.
Our prayers happen in our environment(s):
1. We light a candle to feel close to God. We sing in church. That’s the material world.
2. We feel wonder at creation. That’s the inner world.
Here is the hard part to grasp!
1. In the first example we intended to pray.
2. In the second example prayer happened to us.
Intentional Time and Space
In general this is where the prayer we initiate exists. Our intentional time occurs when we are using our will. When we use our will in prayer - It is a DECISION to pray!
This is time and space the ‘conscious’ plans and executes. We usually want something. We also usually just want it the easy way. We want God to assure our getting.
Sometimes when we are thinking like this we do not give a thought to others or the creation. Sometimes we promise to help God get it for us by working (too). SOMETIMES we even throw in a little extra to sweeten the pot and promise to do something for God (like try harder, be better, go to church, remember to feed the cat or be polite to the neighbor, etc.)
This kind of prayer falls into two groups:
The Immoral Prayer The Bargain Prayer
WE ASK God to cheat We think we can bribe God.
and give us something This is the ‘if you’ll do, then
we haven’t really worked I’ll do’. This forgets who God is
for. God is a just God! and what God expects from us
That would not be fair. anyway!
So how can we ask for God’s help without being immoral in our prayers (asking God for what would not be just or fair) nor bargaining as if we could bribe the Creator of all things!
Prayer, like all kinds of human communication, grows out of relationship. We learn to ‘have’ certain attitudes about the people and things we communicate with and we treat them according to our ‘learned’ attitudes. Some of these attitudes we are not wholly aware of.
When we write notes to our best friend, we are casual, we can joke, use symbols and know we will be understood. When we order things from a clerk, we are polite and to the point.
Within our families we may even use words in strange ways and everyone understands.
Some persons we do not think much of may not even get our attention. When they speak to us, we may just give them a ‘thoughtless’ comment in return.
Some persons may bring out respect when we speak to them because of the reputation they have.
Our attitude about God will determine how we talk to God.
1. God, as creator of the universe deserves respect, awe, and our undivided attention, when we pray (speak to God).
2. But God has also made it clear that God is accessible.
3. God wants to be close like the ideal family relationship.
4. God is also our employer and has designed us good, gifted and part of a creation that is always coming into being (renewing).
1. Respectful. All things are of God.
2. Attentive. God is always present. We may forget about God. GOD NEVER FORGETS US! We may speak to God any moment of our life.
3. Connected. God loves us and cares deeply about the things that concern our lives.
4. Committed. God honored us with trust by making us the stewards of creation and gives us management of our own life.
5. Grateful. ….for all of the above!
Read these sample prayers…
All of the sample prayers are ‘good’ prayers. They are respectful. They show an on going relationship (family). They do not ask God to be immoral, do not bribe God, and they do reflect some concern for stewardship. Each prayer also assumes God is listening and cares.
Can you find these points in each prayer? Some parts of the prayers reflect more than one point.
These sample prayers reflect the person praying is concerned about a good grade (a school age person), advancement in one’s job (an adult).
Lord God, Creator of all things, I sometimes can’t believe You made me. I’m so stupid. No that’s not exactly right. I guess I can be just lazy. No that’s not right either. Actually I just like having fun. I’ve read Jesus liked to have fun too. So I didn’t study last night (I didn’t get my report ready) and now I’m going to mess up my average failing this test (now I’m going to loose all of done so far to work toward my promotion). I really do want to be all I can be so that I may grow into the stewardship you have designed for me. Help me Lord to focus my thoughts and use all that I have already learned the best way possible. And most of all next time I start to make a bad decision help me remember how rotten it feels to be unprepared. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen
Lord I have to pass (I have to give a good presentation). I don’t know how. I didn’t study (prepare). Help me do the best I can. Thank you for being with me even when I’m not at my best. Your faithful ‘goof-up’. Amen.
Lord I saw a poster that said you do not make junk. I know sometimes I treat ‘me’ like junk and fill my time with wrong things that spoil what you have created. Help me now to at least try my best and show me how to feel better about myself and how to make more of me…the me You created. Amen.
Gracious God, You have given me a great mind and I am thankful but sometimes being smart is hard. People always expect a lot. I feel like I can never have a bad day. Help me appreciate the gifts you have given me and help me do my best but please also show me how not to worry so much or feel afraid before every test (presentation). Amen.
Making Time for Prayer
Designated time can be clock time or activity time. For example:
Clock …bedtime prayers, praying at noon
Activity…grace, before a test, during a walk
These things represent time intentionally given to be in prayer with God. Think about your prayer times. Which category do the majority of your prayers fall into? How is that working for you?
You can enrich and increase your prayer time by designating a sacred place, an object, a category place…
- A sacred place may be your church’s sanctuary, a cemetery, the area around the family Bible in a home, a place in your yard/garden.
- An object may be a cross, a candle, a chalice.
- A category may be an icon of church, the sea or mountains, the desert (for example…no particular mountain – just whenever you see a mountain).
When we intentionally devote prayer time to God,we also designate prayer place with our attitude. IN OTHER WORDS ‘ALL OF US’ PRAY… We pray with our ‘whole’ self.
When we pray, we stand in HOLY TIME on HOLY GROUND!
What attitudes do you think make ‘holy’ space (place).
Prayer Time in Your Church
Is it Holy Time….Holy Place
How do you behave in church? Does behavior matter in prayer? Do you think your behavior can affect another person’s ability to feel Holy Time and Holy Place? Can other people’s behavior affect you being able to feel like you are praying?
What do you think of the attitude you feel when you enter your sanctuary? What do you see in the behavior of others (you can’t know their attitude unless they tell you but you can guess from their behavior) what helps you feel like they are (not) aware of God?
The service time is set. That is the formal prayer time. It is ‘intended’ time for prayer. However, our time ‘feeling’ like we are with God may not last that long. To understand this happening to you, you will need to define what makes prayer time during the service for you.
Unintentional Time and Space
Have you ever all of a sudden realized that you were praying? Have you ever caught yourself just thinking about God?
You had not intended to think about God; it just happened!
This is thought and/or activity the conscious becomes aware of without neither planning nor executing. It happens in your time and space.
It happens! We are not in control!
Think about it! God ‘can’ initiate prayer!! We may not even recognize it as prayer at first.
These Bible verses give us some examples of how God can call us (that is how God starts prayer).
Psalm 50:7, 14&15
Gen. 35:10 Jer. 13:15-17
Exodus 3:4 Mt. 15:32
1st Sam. 3:4-10
As we become aware of the prayer God is calling us to, we may feel ourselves taking over the conversation. We stop listening to decide if that was ‘really’ God ‘talking’ with us; we start asking for our needs or thanking God for helping us. It is hard for us to be the listener!!
Prayer can be initiated by us or by God. When we take the lead, we are intentional. We give God our time and space.
When God takes the lead:
- Time is invaded …Space is invaded…
- God’s call to us is part of God’s love and care for us.
- It is God’s gift to us.
As part of our stewardship (right use of all God gives us) God has given us the task of managing our time and space. Have you set aside time for pray? Is there variety in your prayer life? Have you remembered to ‘intentionally listen’ for/to God? What is the hardest part of prayer for you? Lent is the time to ask ourselves these questions.
How Do We Pray?
1. We just talk to God.
2. We say something to God we learned.
3. We listen.
Using a composed prayer, that is one that someone else wrote is a common way of praying (example: The Lord’s Prayer). In some denominations objects like the rosary are used for prayer. Using the rosary is an example of designated ‘time’ in prayer. Time is set aside to focus on God by using the counting of beads as a clock. The Bible and Prayer Cards can be examples of designated space. When they are seen, God is remembered. That remembering can be prayer. When these objects move out of sight, we forget God…we cease to pray…until we become aware of God in another way.
There is no reason to be picky in the labeling of the categories.
There is no prize for getting prayer into the right slot. If the rosary is displayed rather than in use than it is in the category of ‘prayer place’. If someone sees the rosary and remembers God, they have prayed. If the prayer cards are designed to be used to limit the time in prayer then that changes their category. It is not the category that is important but the concept that
prayer requires time and space…..
To know you are praying you have to be ‘aware’ of it.
To prevent all our time being used in distractions from time with God or all our time labeled as not with God, we have to intentionally set some time and space to focus our attention on God.
To realize how religious we are and how in touch with us God is, we have to recognize the appearance of God’s presence into our time and space and consciously label it prayer. After all to have a relationship with someone we have to let him/her speak too. The same is true with our prayer life and relationship with God!
To know when we are praying we will have to decide what is prayer!
Prayer is more than words. It is also time spent with God.
Check off the appropriate column…….. and answer the question, “WHY?”
Description is prayer, is not prayer, can’t tell
1.Saying the Lord’s prayer
2.Reading the Bible
4.Lighting a Candle
5.Sitting in Church
7.Doing Your Homework (school or school)
8.Feeding Your Pet
9.Donating Money to Charity
10.Being an Acolyte
11.Feeling Sad When You See
12.Asking God for Help
14.Eating Ice Cream
15.Watching A Sunset
16.Using A Gift Well
19. Hearing Praise
20.Shouting for Joy
Please join us for additional lessons. We are anxious to welcome you to our church family. Bring the topics you would like to discuss. We do requests!
The answer to the top section is that all of those feelings and activities may be prayer but without the act/work of labeling them prayer, you will miss the prayer time you just had.
We have all enjoyed the sessions that our pastor has brought us on prayer. We have learned that God can speak to us even while we are watching TV. We look forward to having you join us for Church School at 9:30 a.m. Sunday mornings. Come in, grab your cup of coffee or tea and other goodies and get ready to be welcomed, nurtured and supported in your journey.
Our pastor is a certificated Spiritual Director. We appreciate the special insights and tolerance that this brings to her lessons and we think you will too.