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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Writing When It Hurts

Writer and activist James Baldwin concluded, “The price for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” When I answered the call to preach the gospel, the invitation was delivered by one of Gabriel’s mail-angels.

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.

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.

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.”

Formations 04.23.2017: Sitting a While with Thomas

According to a new survey, fully one-fourth of British people who identify themselves as Christian say they do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Hobson urges a certain degree of restraint in our responses to such people. After all, our universal human experience is that dead people stay dead. To say otherwise flies in the face of all that we know about how the world works.

Connections 04.23.2017: Four Things to Remember in John

For me, this passage contains some of the most moving and powerful moments in John’s entire Gospel. There are four specific things I love about it.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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)?

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.

Crossroads: Seeing Is Believing

Has something ever seemed too good to be true? Was it? Talk about a time when you didn’t believe something someone said until they showed you proof. Why didn’t you believe? Did the proof change your thinking?

Flame: Doubting Thomas, Recognizing Jesus

This Sunday we’re telling the story of Thomas. A lot of the time when we cover this story with children, we focus of the idea of faith and being able to believe even though we don’t see.

Crossroads: I Doubt It

When I was a child, we always played a game called “I doubt it” when we went on vacation. It was a card game and the point was to be the person who got rid of all of their cards first.