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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Advent Prayer, Day 8: Searching for Christ

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney
The second Sunday of Advent

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ He said, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my father’s house?'” Luke 2:46-48 NRSV


Last week we pondered the annunciation, birth, and infancy of Jesus. This week we’ll journey with him as he grows into an adult, and meditate on the confounding grace that “God with us” brings into our daily lives. We begin, once again, at the temple in Jerusalem. Twelve year-old-Jesus has gone missing. It would be one thing if he were gone three hours, but three days had passed. Who can blame his frantic parents for their reaction? It’s his answer to his mother that challenges us: why were you searching for me?
We look for Jesus through slick television preachers, retreats, seminars, and through the multiple millions of dollars worth of Christian living books sold. We scour the Internet for signs of him, but too many times we come up empty. Advent and Christmas season are evidence of the arrival of Christ, yet caught up in holiday madness, so often we fail to find him. What can we do to trust that the Lord as available as he said he would be?

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My Father God,
Have I frantically looked for Jesus everywhere except for the main place He said I could find him? Jesus promised that he’d be in the midst when two or more of us gather in his name. He’s present in the Word, and can even be found when I look into the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Still, like Jesus’ parents, I find myself steeped in anxiety, wondering if I am truly connected to Him. Enlighten my eyes to see Christ in your house, good Father, and may I come to know him there, in fresh, life-changing ways.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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Advent Prayer, Day 7: Embracing Jesus

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney
Saturday, the first week of Advent

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on Him. It had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him in His arms and praised God…” Luke 2:25-28


This story is often overlooked in the Christmas narrative, but its importance can’t be underestimated. Simeon was a just man who listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God had promised this old, faithful servant would never see death until the Messiah was revealed. I’m certain the Mary and Joseph didn’t announce, “Hey, this is Him. He’s the One. You don’t even have to bless Him like these other babies. No, they arrived and did what all Jewish parents did. But there was something about the life and faith of Simeon that prepared Him for the special revelation he received. God rewarded him for His fidelity. When he took a child who looked so very ordinary in His arms, the Child revealed Who He was. Imagine what will happen in our lives when we live right and embrace Jesus.

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Beloved Consolation,
The just man Simeon lived for You in a way that I only dream of. Help me to be as faithful as I can be. Your Holy Spirit rested upon Him. Let Your sweet Spirit hover around me, as in Creation the Spirit brooded upon the face of the waters. I open my arms, and my heart to you. Come into my embrace, dear infant Jesus. Reveal to me who You are, as You respond to my love and receptivity. And should You be so gracious to grant this favor, I will give you all the glory forever.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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21 Ways to Pray: Connecting with God in my Car

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Prayer doesn’t always require lofty language in a sacred space. It can be richest when it’s simple and spontaneous.  All I need to do is see our ordinary moments as the occasions for communicating with God. One of those simple spaces is my car. A few years ago someone challenged me to begin praying while driving. It might sound crazy, but it’s been one of the most profound changes I’ve ever made in my life. I love praying on the move.

And I love my car, though it’s dying fast. It’s served me well for 138k miles, but last week I got the grim diagnosis for my mechanic that it’s terminal. The transmission is in the process of eating itself into tiny pieces and the engine is making the kinds of noises indicative of pending disaster. These problems are fixable, but only at a cost well beyond the bluebook value of the old beast.  I’m weighing that cost/benefit tension. Is it time to dump her?

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The problem for me is emotional. I admit it. I love my car, with the kind of affection the Greeks called “storge” – a fond attachment which comes from associating something with precious memories and experiences. My car is familiar and comfortable and (until now) dependable. Change at this point means losing these simple comforts and “starting over” with a new relationship with yet another box of bolts. The real matter is not the car itself but the value I place on it, and that in large part comes from the rich experiences I have alone IN the car.

My life is filled with people, and the mostly good but taxing encounters people bring into my life. I value times alone because I’m at root an introvert. My car is one of the few places where I can be utterly alone. It’s my private little closet where I can think by myself, talk to myself, sing along with the radio, or hide. I really value my solitary drive times before and after a day filled with people-encounters. My car in fact is my best and most sacred “prayer closet.” I’ve had some of my most profound spiritual moments in my car. God meets me there, when I’m otherwise alone and undistracted.

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Over the years I’ve developed certain patterns talking to God in my car. I drive a series of similar routes to work, to pick up my kids at their schools, to go to the store, to visit my mom. Along these familiar highways I pass familiar landmarks the repeatedly trigger familiar thoughts. Instead of letting those thoughts happen randomly, I’ve “installed” those places as triggers to remind me to pray about certain things. My car therefore takes me on both practical and spiritual journeys.

I don’t always have time to sit alone in my home office to pray. But on my way to work each morning I drive past the baseball field where my boys play each summer. I use that familiar image to remind me to pray for my boys. I pass the street where my wife’s parents live. I sometimes breath a short prayer for them. On my way to pick up my son at school in the afternoon I pass the home of a good friend who is struggling with Parkinson’s disease. That prompts me to pray for him and others I know who are ill. I pass City Hall and that triggers me to pray for government leaders and our country. Sometime I even play a kind of “game” praying for strangers in other cars. My drive time has becomes more than routine; it’s become a routine for my spiritual development.

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I’m not always perfect with this, but it is a growing practice that has connected me more deeply with God, with the people in my life, and I suppose with me old car as well. When I reluctantly go buy a new one – soon – I have to remind myself that it too can and will become a “space” for moving prayer!    

This month I’m blogging about  a meditation I’ve writing called “21 Ways to Pray.” Check it out. And of course, dive in and offer your own experiences and insights.

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Advent Prayer: Enduring Tribulation

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Friday, the first week of Advent

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the Inn.” Luke 2:7
 

One of the biggest myths that I bought into as a new believer was that the Christian life was a seamless journey to heaven, and Jesus would make everything better. I may have even had a t-shirt with what looked like the Coca Cola logo that proclaimed as much. While it’s true that Jesus has made everything better, my journey to meet Him face to face has been far from seamless. Even Jesus had it rough: He was conceived by an unwed teen; the king put a contract out on him while His mother was pregnant, and He was born in a filthy stable because there was no room in the Inn for a woman ripe with child; all because of a government-mandated event. Yet we find no evidence that the Holy Family complained bitterly about their fate. Does their response mirror your own, not just to the challenges, but tribulations of life?

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Patient Lord and Master,

I don’t know how to suffer. I’m afraid to even have this conversation with You for fear that more pain and hardship will come my way. But this is silliness. You’ve already told us in the Gospels that in this world we would have tribulations. Help me to remember that You are with me, and that you will not put more suffering on me than I can bear. Lord, you endured far more than I will ever have to. Help me to look upon You always, and take strength for my journey from Your example. When I am cowering in fear of the darkness of life, illuminate me.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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