Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Advent Prayer, Day 20: Jesus is Family

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Friday, the third week of Advent

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” John 1:10-12 NRSV

Recovery literature speaks of family dynamics, and the roles each member takes on. There is the clown, who takes the tension away by offering comic relief when times get tough, and there is the forgotten child who’s, well… forgotten. Imagine being the forgotten God, the awaited Messiah that only a few recognize? But we can rejoice, because not everyone missed this loving God, so humble that he left his glorious existence to hang out with us mortals. And not only did he grace us with his presence, he made us into his family, insuring that we’d not only be God’s people, but also his children.

Brother Jesus,

It’s hard to believe that in you’re so humble that you don’t mind me saying you’re my brother. You have come, and rather than hiding your identity from me, you’ve enlightened me.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”


21 Ways to Pray: A Walk in the Woods or Freezing my Toes

posted by Mark Herringshaw

By Mark Herringshaw

My car broke down on Tuesday morning this week, and I sat for an hour beside the road waiting for the tow truck. Not a big deal, normally, except that it’s winter in Minnesota a full week before winter solstice. Outside my car it was 25 degrees below zero wind-chill. That was a long painful hour. My toes are still thawing. But, with a stiff inner reminder, even in that miserable state, I found a moment to pray. In fact, that encounter with nature’s bitter side gave me pause to connect with God in a new way, to see and appreciate new sides of his power and mercy.

I can pray in church; but I can pray more freely on a walk in the woods, or running along the beach, or sitting in a rowboat in the middle of lake at midnight, or yes, sitting in a freezing car. Creation is a crystal clear window into God’s creative power. The beauty and even the fury of nature reveal his wonders. We Christians don’t believe that nature is God, but we do know it comes from God and reflects back to us aspects of his nature. Today, find a moment to be in nature, and there, connect intimately with God. Even a miserable moment in the elements gives us cause to pause…


In our book Nine Ways God Always Speaks, Jennifer Schuchmann and I write about this aspect of communication with God. Here’s an excerpt.

In 1869 John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, and one of America’s first conservationists, spent the summer traversing the rugged granite passes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. In late August, Muir came to Upper Tuolumne Basin, home to a cluster of majestic, heaven-reaching granite spires named the great Cathedral Peak. A bit of a spiritual free spirit, John recorded the moment in his journal:


It is a majestic temple of one stone, hewn from the living rock, and adorned with spires and pinnacles in regular cathedral style. The dwarf pines on the roof look like mosses. I hope some time to climb to it to say my prayers and hear the stone sermons.

Most of us would just see rocks and trees, but Muir saw a cathedral. He wanted to climb the mountain not for the physical challenge of conquering it and getting a T-shirt to prove he did. He wanted to climb it for spiritual reasons. His desire was to experience God through nature, to say his prayers and listen to God speak through the rocks.

That’s remarkably similar to a verse in the Gospel of Luke. During the triumphal entry, the disciples are praising Jesus, bursting out in song, and dancing about. Then the Pharisees turn to Jesus and say, “Tell them to shut up!”


“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

If the disciples stop praising Jesus, the stones will cry out?

Can stones speak?

Rocks reveal?

Boulders babble?

If so, what do they say? Muir believes they were issuing an invitation to a holy church.

No feature, however, of all the noble landscape as seen from here seems more wonderful than the Cathedral itself, a temple displaying Nature’s best masonry and sermons in stones. How often I have gazed at it from the tops of hills and ridges, and through openings in the forests on my many short excursions, devoutly wondering, admiring, longing! This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California, led here at last, every door graciously opened for the poor lonely worshiper.


He describes this bulge on the earth’s surface as a place that has beckoned him–a place he has pondered, admired, and longed for. Muir recognizes it is a church–nature’s church–a place for a lonely worshiper to enter.

Come in.

Sit down.

Pray and listen.

When he listened, did he hear rocks cry out with a language we can’t speak but only hear? A language we can’t study but only experience?

Perhaps in this natural church God’s sermon is subtle.


Check out the other “21 Ways to Pray” in a special Beliefnet devotional I’ve written. And as always, feel free to add in your own perspectives.



Advent Prayer, Day 19: Let Your Light Shine

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Thursday, the third week of Advent

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe in him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:6-9

I believe it’s possible to take Jesus’ saying we are the light of the world, and use it to puff ourselves up with pride. But a careful look at John the Baptist’s humility can set us straight. We are not the light. If we’re honest, we can admit that on our own we’re shrouded in inner darkness. At our best we merely reflect the numinous light of Christ. This takes the confusion out of our call to be witnesses. We don’t have to have everything right and know all there is to know about Jesus. All we have to do is testify–tell what we know–about him. This alone is a reason to rejoice.


Light of the world,

I’m so glad that you are the light, and I can only be light by being close enough to you to reflect your radiance. Help me to stay in your presence, so that I can share your light well. If there is any sense of self-importance in me, please take it away. I only want to tell others what I have seen, and what I know of you. You are love. This I know. So make me a lover, of you and others. I rejoice that you’ve given me your light, and I need not wallow in darkness anymore. Bring light to the whole world.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”


21 Ways to Pray: Echoing Ancient Words

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Today I’m praying by borrowing some of the ancient words of the Bible. Psalm 23 is a good place to start…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing…”

These words have been said to and of God many millions of times, over thousands of years. God loves hearing and responding to this beautiful statement of faith. Try it!

Using the Bible as a precedent is a great place to build prayer patterns. When we don’t know what to say, we can say what’s been said before. We can speak God’s word back to himself.


Worthy aside: My wife Jill is good at this. She’s recorded a CD that helps people – especially children – pray the Bible. Check it out.

The scriptures are our basis for living, and what was true thousands of years ago remains true and relevant today. When you echo ancient words you connect with the wider human experience and with our never-changing God.

Try it. Pick a passage like Psalm 23 or Romans 8 and read it slowly. Your words make it a prayer – a familiar prayer – to God.

Check out the other “21 Ways to Pray” in a special Beliefnet devotional I’ve written. And as always, feel free to add in your own perspectives.

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