Praying with Your Pen

When I most need to pray, I grab a pen and a journal. Something about the physical act of writing to God opens my mind and heart in ways that surprise me. As the ink flows, so do the concerns I have carried that day, the questions I’ve pondered, and my longing to be centered again. In praying this way, I do what many writing teachers advise—keep the pen moving, never stopping it, until everything I need to say spills onto the page.

Pray at All Hours

While we have come to expect a twenty-four-hour news cycle and, if we could, we’d stare at our social media feeds for just as long, the idea that God speaks at times and days other than at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings continues to be a stretch for many people.

Faith, a Prayer for Epiphany

God of life,
God of all our becoming
winding
changing
hopeful
fearful years—
we praise you
for your faithfulness.

Flame: Advent Prayer Bags

Lately, I’ve seen a variety of lovely ideas online for helping children and families to get involved with the Advent season. Drawing on some of the ideas I’ve seen, I’ve come up with a little bag of items that will take children through some of the main Advent themes.

Prayer is Not Seasonal

Commercials tell us that it is time for families to gather around the Christmas tree and the television. Jingle the bells. Add snow to the background. Cue smiling families, dressed alternately in red and green, making snowmen and snowballs. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Feeling Prayer

At the start, let me say what this meditation is not about. It is not about expressive versus non-expressive prayer, verbalizing versus praying silently. I am not attempting to make you feel “warm and fuzzy” on the inside or judge persons who don’t feel that way during prayer.

Where Prayer Meets the Road

We talk about prayer as if it is always easy, like it presents no complications. No experience required. Anyone can do it. Our prayer directions read: bow head, close eyes, fold hands, and add words. “It’s a conversation.” “Relax, you’re just talking to God.”

My Will be Done

In my family of origin and true of others in the South, children are seen and not heard. To be sure, it was more instruction in role expectation than reality. The adults didn’t want to hear the children. Their voices, our voices were devalued, prejudged as needy, juvenile, playful.

A Prayer for When Exhilaration Gives Way to Routine

We live on the highs, don’t we, Lord? At least you may have noticed that we try. Of course, this isn’t realistic. But that never keeps us from striving. We become accustomed to the thrill. Addicted to the high of achievement and feedback. We get used to accomplishment and growth.

Praying Time

Though there are times for which it seems that prayer does not work, times when it seems like the power of God has hit a dry spell, we are encouraged to keep praying. But, if I am honest, sometimes it is hard to keep the conversation with God going.

Praying in a Non-praying World

Be “in the world but not of it” is often expressed to help believers understand their place in the world, how not to be affected by its trials or inspired by its temptations. It addresses the tension of being in one place but living for another, namely heaven.

Connections 07.16.2017: God Answers

The dysfunction in some biblical families can be comical. It’s almost like the characters are actually caricatures, drawn larger than life to evoke humor and even a little ridicule. But while these caricatures can make us laugh, more often than not they also make us uncomfortable.

Prayer Is a Journey

Prayer is often described as a conversation with God, and this is true. We are exchanging words—human for holy, mundane for mysterious. But, more than catching up with a really, really old Friend, we open our mouths and enter divine passages.

Praying Between the Lines

Most of us are familiar with the expression, “Read between the lines.” It is an idiom used to capture the practice of inferring. Not stated explicitly or openly, it invites persons to find the hidden meaning behind a text or conversation. “She didn’t say she was frustrated. But, if you read between the lines, you could hear that she is disappointed.”

A Prayer Meeting

When I was a youth, our church had prayer meetings. There was no sermon, no special guest preacher, not even a well-trained musician. But, this was not what drew us. We did not receive text message or email reminders. But, there was no need.

Flame: Pipe Cleaner Intercessions

I love the versatility of pipe cleaners and children seem to feel the same! They are great for playing with and they are also great for praying with.

Praying When You Cannot Find the Words

“Prayer is a conversation, a ‘little talk with Jesus.’ Anyone can pray and everyone should pray.” While no relationship can survive without communication, we talk about prayer as if it is always simple and easy. We suggest that anyone can do it and at any time.

A Spirit Prayer

O God, Thank you for your Spirit that is with us, within us, and among us.
Thank you for the spirit that we are.
Thank you for the spirit of your creation.

Prayer is a Happy Place

“Let us pray” is not a call for sad eyes and frowning faces, shuffling feet or sweaty palms. Entering the presence of God with the thought, “How am I going to explain this?” is not the aim. Prayer should not be treated as merely a confessional for the wrongs we’ve done and filled with apologies for not being God’s “little angels.”

Crossroads: God Hears Us

I had a tough year when I was in the sixth grade. One of the hardest parts, though, was not having any close friends at school. I prayed and I prayed for God to help me. And God heard my prayers.

The Eyes of Prayer

French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is discovering what you believe.” Writing, then, can be an exploration of one’s faith as I have found a keyboard and screen, paper and pen to be great conversation partners. If you want an answer for why I write—and I suspect the reason for many others—it is this.

Seeking, a Prayer for Epiphany

God of all times and places, we move into this new year as travelers seeking the shelter of your presence in all our comings and goings. Like the magi we move from familiar surroundings, crossing borders to enter unknown times and places.

Coming, a Prayer for Advent

Come to us, Lord Jesus,
in every purple-patterned life,
every wrap of loving arms
in shivering December.

An Advent Prayer

O God,
As you come to us, please come bearing faith, hope, and love.
We need to trust, hope, and love more.

Say More

Why is it so hard for us to “have a little talk with Jesus”? Why can’t we find the words to say? No mouthful here. For some of us, it can be downright awkward. Where do we begin? How do we address God? What do we say to the God who knows our thoughts before we are even introduced to them (Psalm 139:2)?

Unless You Come unto Me as These

This one is going to be a problem for us. You know that most adults have forgotten that they were children once upon a time. In fact, how long has it been since most adults have included “once upon a time” in any sentence?

A Prayer that Teaches

Though being asked to talk to someone is not a complicated invitation, prayer is not your average conversation. Talking to God, who is well-acquainted with our thoughts before they are even introduced to us, can be intimidating (Psalm 94.11).

Flame: Playdough Prayers for Peace

Talk with your children about situations where two sides are fighting with each other. They could be taking place anywhere in the world, involving wars or elections, or they could be much closer to home, involving people your children know.

Believing In Prayer

Do we really believe that God hears us when we pray? If so, then why do we say the same thing over and over again? “God is great. God is good. Let us thank God for our food. Amen.” Fourteen words. Sixty-six characters shy of the 140-character limit for a tweet.

Connections 10.16.2016: Suffering. Praying. And…

A parishioner had liver cancer. One day, as we sat talking in his den, he told me that he had recently attended a service conducted by an evangelist who claimed to be able to heal the sick.

Formations 10.09.2016: The Discipline of Giving

Our October unit invites us to think about giving as another spiritual discipline. Maybe this one isn’t so obvious. Depending on your upbringing, you might have been taught that giving, especially giving to the church, was more in the category of a religious duty.

Flame: Sensory Prayer Path

I was inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest recently of a sensory pathway and it got me thinking about how we could use the idea to help children to connect with God.

Crossroads: Pray for Everyone

When I was a kid, I wanted to pray for everyone. Every night as we said prayers at bedtime, I always added “God bless the whole world.” Every time we had prayer request time at GAs, one of my requests was for “the whole world.” Looking back, I realize that it may have been a little silly.

A Prayer about War

O God,
Of the 162 nations in the world, 152 are currently at war or involved in armed conflict. Only ten nations are completely free of conflict.

Praying Hands

These days, prayer is often seen as insignificant. We place it on our programs as a kind gesture, a pleasantry extended out of respect for our Elder God. It is a routine remark given—though not out of necessity.

A Bowed Head

“Give us, this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). It is a prayer answered when we sit at a table for a meal—unless we are on a diet and have given up carbohydrates.

A Prayer about the Genome

O God, We praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
We praise you for the human genome.

A Prayer for Discourse

O God,
We are in the midst of a presidential election season.
It’s been ugly. We expect it to get uglier.

Crossroads: The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus says to ask God for what we need. He tells us to be bold and ask! Here’s the thing: it never hurts to ask for something. You may ask your parents for a new Xbox One and they may say no.

Arm-wrestling Prayer

After more than ten years in ordained ministry, I have found that we do more talking about prayer than actually talking to God. To be sure, we know that we should pray….

A Prayer about Violence

O God,
Our society is so violent. Why are people so afraid? Why do they assume the worst of others and see them as threats?

The Speed of Prayer

I have one speed: fast. If it were possible, I would go faster. As a workaholic (the first step is admission), it is hard for me to feel a sense a meaning without being busy.

The Tale of Two Prayers

My friend was dying. When we met, she told me that she had cancer. Though, right now, I can’t recall why that was a part of our first conversation.

Connections 05.08.2016: The Struggle for a Grateful Heart

Bold, shocking, and even offensive to some, Anne Lamott writes about the rawness of the spiritual journey—especially for a person who has lost much, made big mistakes, and still managed to find God in the process.

Pray Before You Work

Most persons would agree that we are busier than ever. We work from home, participate in a conference call while in the car, and think about work at the dinner table. Calendars are crammed to capacity so now we borrow from Sunday to make the weekends meet.

Praying in the Shadow of Death

The Internet has been good for us in many ways. But, I feel that a warning should be issued at this point….If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, please stop using the Internet and consult a real person in real life.

Lost But Not Alone

My three-year-old is starting to understand and verbalize more about God than he ever has before, and it’s encouraging and overwhelming all at once. The other night after prayers were said and stories were told, there was a period of silence.

Connections 03.06.2016: Powerful Faith

I’ve kept a prayer journal for years. Somewhere along the way, I started writing down the Jesus Prayer as the first line of my daily entry: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”