Connections 11.24.2019: Prayerful Hopes

Since my daughters were very small, I have written them several letters per year in special journals that I bought for them. The earliest entries detail their milestones (“You crawled toward the remote control today” or “You slept in your big-girl bed all night without waking us up”).

Praying Room

Excuse me. I am going to need some wiggle room, a place to twist and turn, space to squirm under the hands of life’s circumstances. It is a tight squeeze.

Rediscovering Centering Prayer

I went on a run yesterday. I’ve always wanted to be a runner but have never been able to cultivate the strength and endurance and discipline to bring that dream to life.

About Tomorrow

Tomorrow. The word alone is enough to give pause, for wrapped in its syllables are promise and hope. There is the grace of time, too, which we will surely need now and then. I like the fact, Lord, that we get to start over and make a new one each day.

Connections 10.20.2019: Prayed Up

Have you heard the one about the church member who prayed such long prayers that his fellow members cringed when the pastor called on him to pray? They dreaded hearing his prayers drag on for five minutes or longer, which they always did.

Prayer is the Conversation of a Lifetime

Prayer is a fact of life. Like birth and death, puberty, pimples, and periods, marriage and those mid-life crises, there is prayer. If we are to make it through these moments, then we will need to pray.

Flame: Psalm 23 – Overflowing Cup

Verse 5 of the twenty-third Psalm speaks about the overflowing cup that God gives and this craft is a way of exploring and thanking God for His many gifts. Each creation will be unique!

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.

Flame: Boxes Prayer Game

Children love this game and may well be familiar with it, but here’s a twist that adds prayer to the mix. Draw some dots in lines and columns on the paper (see below). I used 10 rows of 7 dots.

Take a Step Back

Prayer is not a question and answer session, an exchange of whys for how this is all going to work out. Prayer is not God’s tell-all. It is not the time to corner God in our prayer closet and demand an explanation.

Say What?

When God knows it all and none of it makes sense to you, what do you pray? How do you respond when the posture of prayer doesn’t feel right?

Crossroads: Prayer

When I was ten, my father asked me where I wanted to go on vacation for my 13th birthday. Turning 13 was a big deal, and so I got to pick our vacation spot. So I thought of the craziest place I could think of, sure that we wouldn’t get to go.

What to Say When You Don’t Want to Open Your Mouth

At one time or another, I’ve said all of these things or some naïve but well-meaning version of them to family members and friends, church members and complete strangers. Forgive me.

The Spirituality of Fatherhood: Prayer

When I enter the hospital one cold January morning after a frantic drive up a North Dallas freeway, I found my dad unresponsive due to complications from surgery.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

The late poet Mary Oliver in an essay titled Upstream wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” She’s right. It begins, not on Sunday mornings, but before we get out of bed each day.

Pray Tell

American philosopher William James said of prayer, “Many reasons have been given why we should not pray, whilst others are given why we should. But in all this very little is said of the reason why we do pray.

The Praying Type

“I’m not the praying type.” This is what it boils down to when I ask some people about talking to God. These persons talk about prayer as if it is not for them.

Pray Like God Is Listening

“I don’t know what to say or where to begin.” This is a frequent response when I ask persons about their prayer life. This seems to settle the matter for them. They figure, “I can’t pray so I won’t.”

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.

Speak Up

No, I am not losing my hearing. This is not about my hearing at all. But, often times, we talk about prayer as if we are talking to each other. We think our prayers are bouncing off the walls, that the words just bounce around in our heads, that they have no place to land.

Have a Little Talk with Jesus

Talking to God can seem like a daunting task. Our prayer list can become a mounting to-do list as we try to write down everything we need to say to God. It can become a shopping list as we look around for the right words to make this a good prayer meal.

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.

A Silent Treatment

This post is not a call to punish anyone, to withhold communication for the purpose of driving home the message. No one messed up. No one needs to come to their senses and apologize. I am not asking you to take my side and refuse to speak to him or her. I won’t ask you to swear to a code of silence.

Flame: Advent Wreath Craft

We’ve now entered Advent and I was thinking of how families could use the tradition of the Advent wreath at home in a craft and prayer activity. Of course it’s great to have the real candles to light, but here’s an alternative to make and do.

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.

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.”