Pray or Stay the Same

Prayer and change go together. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. We say, “Prayer changes things.” First line of defense or last resort, we believe that prayer is the answer. Expecting a heavenly thumbs up or when our back is up against the wall, we bow our heads, put our hands together, or close our eyes and pray.

Undivided Attention

Now, what was I saying? My attention span is not very long these days. I say these days because I don’t remember which day it was that I began to forget when I stopped being able to catch up, to keep up with one day after another. Like these sentences, they all run together.

Crossroads: The Answer Is Prayer

I’m a worrier. It’s who I am. I worry about test results, about family members and close friends, about the future, etc. Sometimes my worry feels overwhelming. And so I pray.

Connections 09.30.2018: A Community of Prayer

For a long time, I thought and taught that prayer is an important part of the Christian life. Somewhere along the way, I decided that in fact the Christian life is a life of prayer. How did I arrive at that conclusion? Like many realizations, it came over time.

Our Prayer Language

We trust God. Of course, we do. We fold our hands and we don’t ever try to raise them to interject our point of view. “Listen God, I’ve been thinking and….” We dare not say a prayer and then intercept. No, God is in control.

When We Have to Choose: The Indecisiveness Roadblock

God’s word is packed with informative insights for Christians who want to move around the roadblock of indecisiveness. In addition, many characters introduced to us in Scripture flesh out these insights in their lives.

Praying with One Eye Open

These days, I am traveling on “a wing and prayer.” While the familiar adage speaks to poor travel conditions, it is all that I could find. The other options don’t fit in the overhead compartment and, of course, would be an additional fee.

Jesus’ Use of the Psalms

For ordinary Christians who experience opposition and negative feelings, we are invited to bring the full breadth of these experiences into the realm of God.

Praying Across Enemy Lines

The times, they are divisive. It is hard to know where to stand as it seems that our society is on shifting sand. With politics finding its way into every corner of our lives and kicking up dust, it is time-consuming to keep the conversation clear, the issues distinct from the arguments for and against them.

Welcome Home

Last week, I was studying at the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina as part of their Summer Institute for Reconciliation. It’s their tenth anniversary and I am certainly benefiting from the depth and breadth of the work of past facilitators, liturgists, musicians, and participants.

Crossroads: God Knows

Talk about a time in your life when you felt invisible, when you felt like no one else knew your pain and it seemed like you were on your own. Did you turn to God?

Something to Talk About

Sometimes, there is this feeling that all has been said to God or that nothing need be said. God knows it all, right? The psalmist tells us God is well-acquainted with our thoughts before we ever form them, sees our perspective before we come to understand it (cf. Psalm 139:2).

Flame: Playdough World Map Prayers

This is a very hands on and tactile way of praying! Ask children to choose a country to pray for and give them some playdough.

Yield

Praying hands are not folded hands, resolved that there is nothing more that can be done. We do not pray as a last resort. This conversation with God is not a last-ditch effort; it is not a stand in or a substitute when all else has failed. Prayer is not a desperate attempt for an answer or assistance after we have exhausted all our options.

Moses in the Bulrushes: Prayers for Safety

When telling the story of baby Moses being left in a basket in the river by his mother, I like to focus on the theme of safety. Here is the prayer activity we ended with. It was so easy but felt so significant!

Brokenness, a Prayer for Lent

God, it takes courage to be the creatures
you made us to be.
Year after year we add to our experiences of the world,
pushing against our limits
to find out what will budge and what will not.

Keep It Short

“Keep it short.” These were my instructions before praying at a recent gathering of faith leaders. While it is not unusual to be advised regarding the time constraints of an event or the page length for a presentation, this was the first time I had been told this about prayer.

Trying to Make the Unhappy Happy

Trying to make the unhappy happy. There probably isn’t much future in this, God. We like to be liked, and we love to be loved. At least some of us. Well intentioned psychology has partly vilified some among us as people pleasers. Take away any personal tendencies, and we are left with more practical concerns.

Mystery, a Prayer for Lent

God, thank you for faithful signs
of spring that tell us you love the world.
Give us glimpses of your creation
that are sights for sore eyes…

Praying Naturally

Thomas Carlyle told a friend in a letter, “Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of man.” There is an urge to pray because as Eugene Peterson writes, “Prayer is a response.” When we pray, we are always and at all times answering God, who spoke to us first.

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.