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Extroverted Geese, Introverted Geese, and the Way People Pray

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I was out for my walk the other day. Early spring was in the air, still a bit crisp but the hope of warmth had pushed the daffodils up from their beds and the maple buds from their branches.

The clouds were graceful wisps, the sunset tossing delicate pinks across the horizon… when suddenly there burst through my placid musing such a cacophony as I have never heard. Swa-honking calls of Canada geese, only unusually loud.Extroverted Geese, Introverted Geese, and the Way People Pray

I looked up and it was geese alright but the biggest flock I’d ever seen. I stopped counting at 100 and EVERY one of them joyously calling. It was a happy, haphazard flock, no discernible formation. For a few minutes they rollicked westward toward the Chesapeake Bay. Then a couple veered off northwards, as if obedient to the ancient prompting to head north. Within minutes the raucous troupe had joined them. Next thing I knew, a sharp left turn of 100 fat birds and they were headed bayward again. Eventually, it looked like they crossed the Pennsylavania line northward and continued that course, the honking chorus finally faded.

Silence. It was kind of nice after the fun frolic of the extroverted 100.

Then a calm, quiet, “honk, honk”. I looked up and there were 12, exactly 12 Canada geese flying so quietly overhead that I could hear their wings whir. They held a perfect V formation with the lead goose giving an occasional quiet “honk” to keep the group on task. After a few minutes, following perfect goose tradition, he gently dropped to the back left wing of the V and the second in command faithfully, silently took his place at the front tip. Perfect introverted goose-ness.

Meeting Of Support Group

It got me thinking about our weekly prayer meetings. The extrovert pray-ers consider prayertime a social time to which God is invited. They merrily share about everything in life and comment on everyone else’s prayer requests or praises. Extroverts praying together is often a happy, raucous time. The actual “Dear God” part of the session is short because they were confident that God was listening to the whole thing anyway.

When introverts pray together, the request time is shorter. There is no cross-talk and not much merriment is required. It is quiet and purposeful. The actual, “Dear God” part is longer and comes sooner in the session. They pray in orderly fashion, waiting turns, and often allowing moments of silent listening.

Just like both flocks of geese successfully ended up in the right direction, I imagine our prayers do, too. We all have a part to play and a way to pray.

I ran this post concurrently at  7 Sisters Homeschool.

Listening, Imaginative Prayer: Lectio Divina

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One of my favorite ways to pray is Lectio Divina (Latin for Divine Reading). It is to me the most fun and hopeful kind of prayer.

Lectio Divina is an ancient Benedictine form of prayer that is practiced by many people. There are a number of different ways to pray with Lectio Divina. Wonderfu! I never run out of new ways to connect with God through it.

Here is the most common way I practice Lectio Divina:

1) I choose a Scripture passage (my favorite is Revelation 4).

2) I read it respectfully, but not as “Bible study” (which I also love- looking up words and similar passages- that is for another day).

3) I read it again, slowly, asking God to speak to me through the passage.

4) Then, I imagine myself into the scene. What would it have been like if I were there? What would I see, feel, do? I ask God to teach me through my imagination.

5) I read the passage again and ask Him what He wants me to do with or learn from the passage.

6) I listen for His answer.

When I imagine myself into Bible scenes, I never fail to learn something. Usually I learn something about hopefulness, trusting God, or just enjoying the acts of God.

Try this: Read Revelation 4: respectfully, then slowly. Next imagine you are in the Throne Room of God. The 4 beasts and the 24 elders are all calling, “Holy, holy, holy…”. God is on His throne surrounded by a rainbow, lightenings and thunderings are coming from His throne. The elders fall on their faces and cast their crowns before the Lord…. How are you feeling? Read the passage again. What are you learning by seeing yourself there? What is God teaching you?

 

The Perfect Bedtime Prayer- The Daily Examine

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If you’d like a prayer that will truly help improve your nightly rest- and improve your trust in God- the Daily Examine is a good place to start.

I learned this ancient prayer years ago and have made it part of my nightly routine.

The Daily Examine was taught in the early 1500s by Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish monk. He devised the Examine while he lived in a cave for a while, spending his time learning to seek God.

Over the years, many versions of the Daily Examine have been developed. Here is the Examine I practice:

Each night, before I go to sleep:

1. I examine my day. Where did I see God at work in the world around me?

Maybe I saw a beautiful sunrise or heard a wren sing. Maybe I saw God’s handiwork in a the colors of the trees or the chirps of the crickets.

2. I examine my day. Where did I see God at work in people around me?

Maybe a student had a moment of insight. Maybe I saw God bless someone by providing for a need.

3. I examine my day. Where did I see God a work in me?

Maybe He revealed to me another character issue (kind of a daily event…). Maybe he brought a Scripture verse to life for me.

I note these things and thank God for them. That is the Examine.

 

The Jesus Prayer

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This may be the world’s simplest prayer: The Jesus Prayer. It is a brief statement:

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

This little phrase is called “The Jesus Prayer” and has its roots in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. (The story goes that originally, the old monks prayed only the first phrase of the prayer. However, when a number of young whipper-snapper monks joined, they added the humble line to help the novices maintain perspective- they didn’t know it all- haven’t “arrived” yet, everyone is a work in God’s progress…  good thoughts for us all.)

As I have learned to pray The Jesus Prayer, it has become a lovely way to relax with God and ready myself to listen to Him.

I simply breathe in slowly while saying (I say it silently), “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God”.

Then I exhale slowly while saying, “Have mercy on me, a sinner”.

I find that my body slows down, and after a few repetitions of the prayer, my mind slows down, too. Soon, I am able to put aside the chaos of life and simply concentrate on the meaning of the two lines.

And then, amazingly, I am feeling relaxed and trusting. And can listen when God directs.

Give it a try!

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Appreciating the Prayers of the Past

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Lately I have been enjoying joining the saints of the past in praying some of the prayers that they wrote down for us.

This prayer is often called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Try spending a little time with God through this prayer:

I bind unto myself today

The strong name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three.

 

I bind this day to me forever

By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan river;

His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spiced tomb;

His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the day of doom;

I bind unto myself today.

 

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of the cherubim;

The sweet ‘wel done’ in judgement hour,

The service of the seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophet’s scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord,

And purity of the virgin souls.

 

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,

The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightning free,

The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

Around the old eternal rocks.

 

I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

 

Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours,

Against their fierce hostility,

I bind to me these holy powers.

 

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,

Against the knowledge that defiles,

Against the heart’s idolatry,

Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death wound and the burning,

The choking wave and poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 

I bind unto myself the Name,

The strong name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of Whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

This is the 1889 translation by C.F. Alexander

Confusion and Prayer

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Ever felt confused, confounded, despairing, or disheartened? How do you pray when you don’t have a clue or the energy to find a clue?

Here are several ways to pray during dark and difficult times:

Silent prayer or groaning prayer

Did you ever just sit in silence, allowing God to sit with you in your pain and confusion? This is prayer without words. (It works the same way with people- sometimes you just sit silently with them in their pain.)

Sometimes one’s pain is so strong that neither words nor silence will suffice. A simple moan or groan says it all. This is prayer without words, also.

Take a look at Romans 8:26-27 (KJV, biblegateway.com)

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Confusing times are times to pray by casting your care on the Lord. In prayer, tell Him about your troubles and how you feel- be honest. Then wait, wait, wait…

Look at I Peter 5:7 (KJV, biblegateway.com)

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

It may sound trite, but it is ok. God cares. He knows. Simply be with Him for now.

Spiritual Sensitivity

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My pastor works also as a baseball coach. He talks about drilling his players over and over so that they develop “muscle memory”. They don’t need to think about what to do in the middle of a play- their body just knows.

The same thing happens in public speaking. For years I coached homeschoolers on their public speaking skills. If they practiced over and over, they developed the “dominant response”. When they stepped to the platform and experienced a surge of stage fright, it was okay because the dominant response kicked in. Their brain and body simply made the speech happen- it knew what to do.

I think it is a similar thing in prayer. We want to pray, as often as we can, according to God’s will. BUT how do develop the spiritual sensitivity- the “knowingness” to know His will? We’re more likely to be sensitive spiritually if we know His voice.

We know His voice when we know His Word.

We know His Word when we know Scripture.

Jesus said in John 10:27: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

You can develop your spiritual sensitivity by learning His voice well: by learning His Words spoken in Scripture. Learn His Word by reading often, by lectio devina, by meditation on His word, by prayer that quotes His Word back to Him.

Try this:

You have something you are concerned about, right? You want to know God’s will regarding that thing. Ask God for a Scripture that you can pray. Then, as part of your prayer time, start reading your Bible. Read until you run into that verse that jumps off the page and speaks to your heart. Begin offering that Scripture up the the Lord in your prayer time. See what He shows you…

In the meantime, you can develop that spiritual muscle memory to know the Scripture as a whole VERY well. Read it prayerfully till you know the whole story!

Prayer, Doubt, and Unbelief- What’s the Difference and WHY?

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Wow, THAT post title sounds encouraging, huh? What I want to talk about is the DIFFERENCE between doubt and unbelief- and WHY it matters.

I’d like to share a story about doubt and one about unbelief. Then I’d like to challenge you to a special prayer…

Read the story in Matthew 14 of Peter walking on the water (thanks to Biblegateway.com):

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

In this story, Peter had the awesome opportunity to participate in the supernatural. I mean, how many folks get to walk on water? He was doing fine while he was going to Jesus (as in, steering himself in that direction by looking toward Jesus). Then he looked around and saw the wind boisterous- and became afraid. He doubted when he remembered how bad the weather actually was. The DOUBT came from outside him.

Doubt comes from outside. (Remember the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. The serpent sowed doubt by saying, “Hath God truly said…”. It wasn’t Adam and Eve’s idea- it came from an enemy…). The word doubt here is distazo– which literally means dividing your sight- taking your eyes off the thing you should be looking at. It is the result of an enemy from the outside trying to distract you!

When Peter doubted, Jesus fussed at him. Peter was not rejected for his doubt but he certainly was chastised.

Want to see a DIFFERENT reaction from Jesus? Let’s read the story about unbelief in Mark 9 (thanks to Biblegateway.com, again):

And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

Jesus didn’t chastise the poor father at all- He just casted out the evil spirit and healed the boy. The father was trying- he believed but his belief was apistia- incomplete faith. The father’s belief was immature.

I think most of us probably fit in the UNBELIEF category at times. In this we are compassed by a great cloud of witnesses (there’s also one of those for the times our faith is spot-on, see Hebrews 11). Take a look at  Psalms 10, 22, and 74- and the whole book of Job for examples of WHY GOD- incomplete faith. God doesn’t fuss at us in these times- it is our job to turn to Him with our honest emotions (anxiety, anger, sadness, fear) and ask for His help and mercy.

So, WHY am I bringing this up?

I ran into the writings of a post-modern so-called theologian, Peter Rollins, who states it is his job to sow doubt into people’s faith. In fact, he says his “Omega Group” will help people loose their Christian faith in just 12 sessions. Ugh. Why would that be pleasing to God? (Well, what does it matter to him, if as he says in one of his stories, there is no God?)

On the other, there are honest wrestlers with faith. You could say that wrestling with faith is unbelief because it is incomplete faith that is longing for answers. That is a good thing. God gave us wrestling minds. So keep wrestling and keep seeking God’s answers. The key is the seeking God and His answers. (Here’s a blog that, in my opinion does some honest wrestling.)

Here’s the prayer project. Ask God to help you grow in your faith, to give you wisdom and understanding, to help your unbelief. Ask Him to protect you from the wiles of the evil one and to help you keep your eyes on Him at all times.

Knowing Christ by Name (part 4)

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When we pray, it helps to know who we are praying to. Jesus took the time to tell John some of his names in Revelation 1:8. Each of His names reveal something about him.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. -Revelation 1:8 KJV

The last name he lists here is The Almighty. This is the Greek word pantokrator, which means: Ruler Over All, All Powerful.

In our culture, we are used to athletes and celebrities announcing that they are The Greatest. It is easy to become immune to the truth of Almighty when we are immersed in human hyperbole.

Let’s play an imagination game. Imagine that each of the greatest athletes in the world are pebbles (makes them rock stars, huh?). Imagine that the greatest rock stars are pebbles, too. Imagine the greatest political leader alive is a pebble. Now, line them up. You can have your favorites be twice as big as their peers- but they are still pebbles. Now, imagine God the Son, Jesus- He’s Mt. Everest… or more probably, the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

His power is omnipotent (power without end or bounds).  His power is full of justice, love, grace,and holiness. Another imagination game: imagine a hurricane made up of love, holiness, and justice. Kind of weird, I know, but He is omnipotent, almighty in these ways. When He chooses to exert his Almighty Rule over man and nature, amazing, miraculous things happen- like Calvary, for instance.

Think about The Almighty Christ. Spend some time meditating on this name. How does it affect how you pray?