October 7, 2018
Does prayer come to you naturally?
Do you find yourself in prayer throughout the day, or are you more intentional in your prayer as you set time aside in the morning or before you go to bed?
There are days when I find it easier to pray and other times where I am so distracted that I find it hard to focus. However, that is probably the time that I need to pray the most. I am sure that some of you can relate to this.
Some of you may have been praying since you could kneel beside the bed and say your nightly prayers. While others struggle with the whole notion of prayer.
Every Sunday we enter in to prayer several times during worship. From the Prayer of the Day at the beginning of the service to our prayers following communion, we lift our prayers to God. During our lessons, we have the opportunity as a community to raise our voices in unison as we chant the Psalm. The Psalms were meant to be sung and are prayers to an ever-present God. Those prayers come in many forms: lament, thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and asking.
This morning, Psalm 8 reminds us that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are guided in prayer. We praise God, “whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children.” This praise bubbles up through our beings as we enter into worship.
In the depths of prayer, we encounter the holy and grow in relationship with God.
While prayer comes easy for some, others would rather have root canal surgery.
Part of this could be shaped by our interactions in the church as we were growing up. Or, for some of us, lack of interaction.
It can also be easy to get discouraged when we pray. Depending upon who you listen to, you may think that you will get everything you ask for in prayer. Unfortunately, that is not the way that prayer works. If it were, life would be pretty boring. God is not a genie in a lamp granting our every wish.
Struggles and challenges come to all of us. It may be in the form of losing a job, a serious diagnosis from our doctor, or a death of a loved one. We are not immune to the happenings of life. When our prayers in these times do not get answered the way we want them to, we get angry at God. Some of us have probably even turned away from God at these times. While our prayers at times may not be answered the way we want them to be answered, it does not mean that God is not present with us. In prayer we are encouraged to turn to God even in times of lament. It is okay to express our frustration and anger with God. This opens us up to a new and right relationship with a loving God.
The power of prayer connects us to our own spirituality and the Triune God that is present with us in all eternity.
Brian McLaren presents four movements of prayer as an example for us to follow, using The Lord’s Prayer in his illustration.
- Wake-Up: To the loving and mysterious works of God. We do this when we pray, “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
- Tune-Up: We know that we all have our own personal desires. The thing is, God also has desires for us. When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven,” we begin to tune God’s desires to ours.
- Ask: Do not be afraid to ask for what you need. Ask for where the burdens on your heart may be lessened and what it is you need right at this moment. We do this when we pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
- Re-Enter: The truth is, we cannot stay in church forever. We are called to go out into the world to love and serve as Jesus did. We pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” so that we are prepared to enter the frantic chaos that can surround us in the world and our daily actions.[i]
While the Lord’s prayer is used as the framework for this model of praying, these movements can be used in any prayer. Our practice of prayer draws us closer to the loving God that desires to be in relationship with creation. In our prayer, we begin to wake up to the mystery of God and are able to tune ourselves in to the will of God and the calling that has been placed in our lives. As we ask for what it is we need, we begin to prepare ourselves to re-enter the world where we will encounter evil.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are not alone in prayer as he writes to the Romans:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Sprit, because the Spirit interceded for the saints according to the will of God. (8:26-27)
The Spirit is present to support us in our prayers. As we live our faith, we are shaped by the practices that guide our daily life. Jesus teaches us how to pray in the words of the Lord’s prayer. It is before his death on the cross that the disciples are prepared to carry his message forward and this prepares us for our life as we walk in the way of Jesus Christ. May you be freed to enter into the depths of prayer to encounter the holy and grow in your relationship with God.
Let us pray. God, wake us up to the wonders and mysteries of your creation. May we be open to your desires as we ask for those things that we need. In this relationship, you prepare us to enter into a world that is in need of your love and compassion. Amen.
[i] Brian McLaren, Prayer, Animate: Practices Video Series, Augsburg Fortress