Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Advent Day 13: Ordinary

Advent Day 13

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.   (Prayer atttributed to St. Francis)

Today, pray in the car.  Or in the shower.  Or while walking the dog.  Pray anytime, and all the time.

When I was in seminary, I helped facilitate an interfaith discussion group for undergraduates.  One person who was Jewish talked about the many prayers in his tradition for ordinary things:  getting up, eating, going to work, whatever.  St. Francis, to whom the prayer above is attributed, supposedly prayed about whatever he saw around him, and other Christians have written beautiful prayers about everyday stuff.

Somehow we think that prayer needs to sound grand, and needs to address a grand subject matter, like world peace.  That way of thinking about prayer just leads to one thing:  not praying.  And why would you want to deprive yourself of time spent with God, unless you’re trying to run away?   (That’s a discussion for another time!)

So today, talk to God about the weather.  Lift up your concerns, frustrations, and celebrations, however small or large.  Lift up prayer for the world around you, and pay attention to what God is doing in your world.

today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

Advent Day 10: Alert

Advent Day 10

Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap… Be alert at all times … (from Luke 21)

O taste and see that the Lord is good … (Psalm 34:8)

What does it mean to be alert? 

If you watch a TV show around 9 or 10 pm, after many children have gone to bed, you’ll see ads for energy drinks that promise alertness.  To be alert, according to these ads, is to be pumped full of vitamins and caffeine.  The point of being alert, according to the ads, is to be a functioning parent and employee despite the fact that you’ve had no sleep.

Is that it?  Does God call us to be hyperfunctioning, hypervigilant, constantly in need of another shot?

Today’s spiritual practice is alertness or awareness, but no chemicals are required.  Instead, this type of awareness is more like paying attention, or living in the moment.

Take a walk today, preferably in a place with some grass or trees and away from car exhaust.  As you walk, make note of what you experience with your five senses.  In some places, you may even be able to taste the fresh air!

Later, in your journal, write about how you experienced Creation.  How did it feel to walk on ground instead of concrete?  Was it quiet, or did you hear some birds singing to each other about good sources of winter food?  Reflect on all five senses, and if possible, reflect on how you have experienced God’s care in the past.  Maybe you have a specific memory connected to something you heard or saw.

I think this type of alertness is very different from the over-caffeinated version.  When we’re high on artificial energy, we’re actually “drunk,” in a sense, and we are paying even more attention to our worries (that’s why we drank the drink — to get more things checked off the to-do list.)

Spiritual awareness, or awareness of what God is doing, only requires paying attention.  Simply by noticing, we can better understand how God is trying to reach us.  Simply by noticing, we can notice Christ in the face of someone right in front of us, and better understand our mission and calling.

Today’s Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

See the Prayer and Temperament book (info on the Resources page) for more about praying with the five senses.

Advent Day 3

Advent Day 3:  Prayer

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,  praising God and saying,
   “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 1:14)  

Ah, the dreaded outline.  Did you ever have to make an outline for a class:  an outline of a paper, or of a chapter you read in your textbook?  Boring, huh? 

Yet I think the opposite can be true for prayer.  Sometimes we just have no idea what to say to God.  If you’ve ever experienced a lack of words (or if you think your words are getting in the way), try “outlining” your prayer.   It may feel fake at first, but after a while it may help you guide your thoughts.  Here are some suggested outlines, and you can make up your own.

“ACTS” outline:  this contains all the elements of the Lord’s Prayer, by the way.  I’ll write more about the Lord’s Prayer in a later post.

Adoration:   praising God.  Begin your prayer by reflecting on what’s great about God.  My experience using this outline is that this is the most difficult step.  What can I say that doesn’t sound cheesy, or hasn’t been said better by someone else?  Sometimes for this step I just sit and enjoy God’s presence, to help me stop worrying about what to say and to put me in the right frame of mind for prayer.  Or, I repeat the words to a hymn or praise song.

Confession:  letting go of whatever you did wrong and asking for forgiveness and restoration.

Thanksgiving:  just like what it says.  Give thanks to God.

Supplication:  this means asking for things.  It’s OK to ask for healing for sick people, and guidance for confused people, for world peace, and so on.  I don’t think supplication is about asking God for magic tricks.  Instead, sometimes as we pray over and over for something, we begin to see the world through God’s eyes, and we see how God is already answering our prayers.  Also, sometimes through supplication God helps us accomplish what we pray for.  Those who pray for peace may learn over time how to become peacemakers, for example.

“Breath Prayer” outline.  You can do this in one of two ways. 

First, you can say a word such as “ask” when you breathe out, and “receive” when you breathe in.  Other useful words:  peace, love, hope, Spirit, shalom, I, Thou, one, many.

Second, you can stretch the prayer out, spending some time looking inward and then considering the world around you.  I used to do this in a particular place I would walk every morning:  on the first half of the walk I would lift up whatever was going on in my life to God, and on the second half I would ask God for direction on how I would be a servant in God’s world that day.

May your prayers be like the breath of life.  (see Genesis 2.)

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):