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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Advent Prayer: Welcoming Grace

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney
Thursday, the first week of Advent

“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country where she entered the house of Zechariah, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…” Luke 1:39-41, NRSV


This is such a startling moment. Elizabeth had waited a lifetime, living righteous before God and blameless, yet she bore the shame of being barren until she received the promise of a miraculous birth, around the same time Mary did. Mary’s visit set a number of wonderful actions in motion, beginning with Elizabeth’s immediate recognition that Mary was indeed, full of grace. How often does God actions come to our homes? Will we recognize His work and praise God, or will we simply miss Him, once again, not seeing the holy in the wholly ordinary.

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Generous Father,
When your grace comes to me in such a personal way, do I recognize that it is You? Or do I go on doing things the same way I always do, or seeing things the same way I always see them, without Your knowledge and insight? Will you please help me, kind Father, to know when You indeed, have come to visit me. And may I rejoice as Elizabeth did, at my marvelous fortune, saying,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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21 Ways to Pray: Imperfection Required!

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I played the trumpet until 9th grade, the year I moved to a large suburban school. When I first entered the band room and heard the trumpet section I knew I had to quit. They were fabulous, and I felt I couldn’t measure up. I enjoyed playing trumpet and actually, I wasn’t bad. But I wasn’t great or at all close to the best. I just wanted to be best. When I was younger I wanted to be best at everything. If I wasn’t excellent I didn’t want to be involved. I was “perfectionistic,” so I quit playing trumpet. What a pathetic mistake!

Throughout my life I have given up on good things because I didn’t feel competent or informed or practiced. Not knowing “how” is a great shame to me. This is a character flaw, rooted in unhealthy pride and my competitive nature. At times this tendency has corrupted even my relationship with God. If I can’t pray perfectly I may fail to pray at all. If I can’t have an uninterrupted 30 minutes, or if I feel distracted or worried or haunted by some regret I may stay away from God. In other words, I often avoid prayer the very moments I need God most. Waiting to be perfect at the perfect moment in the perfect context for prayer… well, I end up away from God all the more.

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Many of us have been conditioned to associate prayer with “perfect.” But what if instead we learned to prayer at times and in ways that are exactly opposite of “perfect?” What if we prayed more often and less completely, more honestly and less formally, more simply and less accurately?  

In our book, “Six Prayers God Always Answers,” Jennifer Schuchmann and I suggest that maybe “honest” is really the only way to pray. And there as many ways to be honest as there are states of trouble in which to find ourselves. Here’s how we put it:

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We talk to God, but we don’t all speak the same language. One person’s prayer comes wrapped in a work of art, like Fabriano’s The Nativity, Handel’s The Messiah, or little Jimmy’s finger painting, Jesus Raises Stinking Lazarus.

Another prayer might appear as a dramatic enactment, like the Jewish Passover or a Native American rain dance. Prayer might waft above a city sung from atop a mosque tower. It might tumble from the lips of a sniffling child, meander along the lyrics of a Kentucky bluegrass song, or be concealed in the eloquent silence of a Benedictine friar.

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Communicating with God takes many forms in its effort to express our common predicament. Our reach is never long enough, our fingers never nimble enough. We run out of time, stamina, and will. Our ambitions outpace our capacity and the gap cannot be spanned by noble savagery or advanced technology.

And then? We kneel down. We look up.

Maybe true prayer MUST be imperfect, because it grows out of our honest need of God. Maybe too we pray best when we let our words rise from present, natural moments. I’ve learned, now that I have experienced many failures in my life that prayer can be richest when it’s simple and spontaneous. In fact, I can pray anywhere, at any time. It doesn’t require lofty language in a sacred space. All I need to do is see our ordinary moments as the perfect occasions for communicating with God, then speak from my heart.

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I’ve written a series of meditations about this called “21 Ways to Pray.” Over the next three weeks I’ll be posting about these simple, down to earth, in-the-middle-of-life spiritual practices. Check it out the presentation.

And of course, dive in and offer your own experiences and insights along the way! 

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Crashing God’s State Dinner

posted by Mark Herringshaw

The Salahis have chutzpah, you have to give them that. Michaele and Tareq got their 15 minutes – plus – of fame last week when, much to the shame of the secret service, they managed to slink their way into the White House as “guests” at the State Dinner held in honor of the visiting Prime Minister of India. Presumptuous in the extreme.

I scoff at the Salahis’ insatiable need for attention, yet again, I admit I’m curious about – dare I say almost respect – their audacity. Vice President Joe Biden, who posed for pictures with the party crashers later explained, “I just assumed like everyone else they were guests. They acted like they knew everybody in the room, like they were my old buddies.”

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In better days The White House used to be accessible to every citizen at almost any time. Abraham Lincoln supposedly set time aside every week to engage anyone who decided to walk through the door with a question, request or suggestion. No longer. These days visitors are suppose to pass through multiple layers of security, screenings, scanners and ID checks. Obviously something broke down at this event. But the point remains – It’s suppose to be nigh on impossible to get close to the President of the United States.

Thank God the King of the Universe doesn’t have such boundaries around him. The Bible says that God has an open air policy in the “Oval Office” of heaven. Once we’re given a pass – the Bible says that coming to God in “Jesus’ Name” gives us that access – we can waltz in like we own the place. We’re children of the King after all. We do “own the place” so to speak. We can come to God in prayer like party crashers approaching God as if we’re “old buddies.” Chutzpah is good in the posture of prayer!

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There’s a famous picture of three year old John Kennedy Jr. playing under the Resolute Desk in the White House. His Father, John F. Kennedy is busy running the affairs of State, but at that moment Little John felt perfectly at home. The Cuban Missile Crisis threatened nuclear annihilation, but the child of the president played at the feet of his father. He didn’t “crash” the White House because it was his home.  

In my book “The Karma of Jesus” I speak about the amazing fringe benefits we enjoy by having a blood-line connection with God. We are his children with all rights and privileges! That’s the simple “audacity of hope” God offers us in his presence. We can pray confidently in his presence. We can “crash the party” because it’s ours by right. We can come confidently to God. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

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“Now that we know what we have–Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God–let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:16 The Message).

Today, barge in like you own the place. Ask and ask boldly. You’re at home. Pray like you belong. You do!

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Advent Prayer: Grant Us Understanding

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney
Wednesday, the first week of Advent
“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for he will save people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21, NRSV.

Joseph was obviously a compassionate and deeply devout man with every instinct to protect Mary from public shame, and possibly a stoning. But even with his remarkable qualities, he could not see what God had done. Most of us would have reacted the exact same way. We do so daily in some way or another. The holy and sublime breaks through our ordinary existence, and we fail to see the gift we’ve been given. But all is not lost. God, in His great love for Joseph, simply found another way to reach him.

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Merciful Father,
How often do I fail to understand what You are doing, but You are always sending me help, and even deliverance from my sins. Do not give up on me, good Father, when I am too practical to see the miracles right in front of me. You know how to get my attention. Quiet me, Lord, so that I may hear from you, and see the magnificent gifts you have placed in my life. Help me to receive them, be obedient, and always cry out from the depths of my soul,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”

Previous Posts

A Prayer for Perspective
Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire” 2 Kings 6:17.  Things looked ...

posted 10:24:35am Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

A Prayer for Servant Leadership
“Here I am Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  “Father, not my will but yours be done…”  ~Jesus Before I can be trusted to wield the blessings, authority, power, and resources of God – and this is certainly His intent– I must come ...

posted 12:17:30pm Aug. 25, 2015 | read full post »

A Prayer To Win the Battle
Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,     for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and ...

posted 1:27:27pm Aug. 24, 2015 | read full post »

A Prayer for A Revived Conscience
But my people…have stumbled off the ancient highways and walk in muddy paths. (Jeremiah 18:15) Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their ...

posted 11:24:10am Aug. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Paul's Instructions on Prayer
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness ...

posted 11:08:59am Aug. 21, 2015 | read full post »

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