Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Praying Back to School

posted by Mark Herringshaw

My 12 year old son Michael began middle school today. It was a big day for him, and for Jill and me, his parents. By all accounts Michael had an awesome and carefree summer: little league baseball with his friends, sleeping until 9:00 AM, catching northern pike to his heart’s content. It was the vacation of dreams. But alas, school begins… And for Michael that now means entering the puberty infested world of junior-high-dom.  

 

We’ve been through it all before with our three older children, but the strange reluctance I feel every “first day of school” still haunts me. As he strapped on his backpack this morning, took a deep breath, hopped out of the car and headed toward his new classroom I was struck by the limited power I have over his life. I really control so little!

 

Sure, he goes to a fine school, and his teacher is good, and most the kids in his class are respectable. But the fact is, school is out of my grasp. I’ve delegated influence, and I can’t control his experience there. When he’s home Jill and I can monitor his choices, to some extent. But “out there” in the “real world” of middle school Michael is much more on his own.

 

We know full well the dangers they face: bullying, ideas that run against our family values, the undeniable fact that schools can be Petri-dishes for strange viruses (H1N1), and acts of violence. And most of it no one can stop.  

 

My first reaction today was to let fear chill my blood. Then I caught myself. A quiet Voice whispered a simple charge: “Pray! Pray for him.” I took it to be God’s prompting. “You can’t control his life, and you shouldn’t try. But I can. Pray, and I’ll give Michael my very best.”

 

I did. It wasn’t anything long or profound or grand or sacred. I simply spoke my insecurities and asked God for favor,

 

“God, protect and bless Michael today in his new school.

Give him all he needs. Be with him.”

 

Jill and I bought him new shoes, pants and a shirt. He has a new insulated lunch box, and a fresh haircut. But none of that is really enough for his first day. What he really needs is God, and God’s favor. For that, the very best we can do is pray.

 

Here’s a challenge: for the month of September I’ll be writing about prayers for our children. As they begin school, it’s a fitting topic I think. So if you have children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews or young friends, dive into this discussion. Let’s pool our wisdom and experience and pray together for the children in our lives and let’s talk about what happens as a result.

More on Learning how to Pray – from Kids

posted by Mark Herringshaw

A nun once asked the students in her class to write a letter to God.  Here are some of the results. Lessons in honest and simple prayer:

 

Dear God:

If you watch me in church on Sunday, I’ll show You my new shoes.

- Mickey

 

Dear God:

Did You mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?

- Norma

 

Dear God:

Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.

- Joyce

 

Dear God:

Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before.  You can look it up.

- Bruce

 

Dear God:

I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big, but not with so much hair all over.

- Sam

 

Dear God:

I think about You sometimes even when I’m not praying.

- Elliot

 

Dear God:

Thank you for the baby brother but what I asked for was a puppy.  

- Joyce

Dear God:

You don’t have to worry about me.  I always look both ways.
- Dean

Dear God:

My brother told me about being born but it doesn’t sound right.  

- Marsha

Dear God:

I am doing the best I can.  

Frank

 

Go and do likewise: Short, sweet, honest, true!

Learning from Expert Prayer Coaches – Children

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Children are not instinctively religious. Once when a preacher’s sermon dragged on beyond supposed 12:00 noon scheduled close one little girl leaned over to her mother and whispered, “Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?”  Irreverent, perhaps, but honest. 

 

Paradoxically, it is this bluntness that makes children the most natural pray-ers.  Jesus says as much in an exchange with his students recorded in Matthew 18.  His followers asked him how rank would be determined after the coup they assumed (erroneously) he was mounting against the Roman occupation.  They asked, “Who will be the greatest?”  His answer stunned them.  He called a little child to stand beside him and said, “Here is your role model.  If you want to know how to live life as I have designed it, become like this child.” 

 

Anyone who has heard a child pray understands the radical implications of Jesus’ answer.  Children are generally oblivious – until we condition them otherwise – to the prim and proper forms of right religion.  For a child, talking to God is just that – talking.  No matter is too small or too great for prayer.  I have listened to my own children pray for farmers who need rain for crops, every orphaned child in the world, and a sick toad all in the same breath.  They really can teach us something.

 

Here’s a challenge: Listen to a child pray today, and go and do likewise!

If and only if… part 4

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Jesus makes bold and audacious promises about the power and effectiveness of prayer.  If we ask, we will receive. But in the process of making claims Jesus also connects specific conditions to these promises.  Here’s one final dangerous “if/then.”

 

Special access: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you ask whatever you wish and it will be given you” John 15:7.  Here is a controversy.  Christian prayer is discriminatory.  When Christians pray they do so wielding a special password: the name of Jesus, who they believe to be the Son of God. 

 

This narrow, and narrowing condition has cost Christians dearly.  Down through history many cultures of reacted vehemently to the explicit exclusiveness this condition claims. That is, those who pray in Jesus’ name have access, and those who pray without Jesus’ name do not.  The Romans of the first and second centuries would not mind an additional deity added to their pantheon. But when Christians insisted their path was the only true course, all hell broke loose, literally. Followers of Jesus in India today suffer under similar persecution.  Some Hindus who worship many gods do not object to anyone adding Jesus to the list.  What they do not tolerate his soul allegiance to Jesus alone.  Hundreds of Christians in recent years have lost their lives because of such allegiance.

 

Pluralism is a simpler course. But like it or not Christian prayer is narrow.  Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” John 14:14.  That tag line “in my name” means through my access. Having Jesus’ name prefacing a prayer guarantees an audience with God. The right to leverage Jesus’ name in prayer is literally the power of attorney to assign his identity to our intercession.  And this, Christians believe is the key to the release of restorative spiritual power into this broken world.  “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 13:6.  As hard as it is for pluralists to swallow, Christian prayer is not generic. 

 

This is not to say that God only answers Christians’ prayers. There are many examples of God acting in response to non-Christians’ requests. It is a claim that a Christian’s prayer is given special access because of the relationship Christians have with God through Jesus. Family matters. I will listen and respond when my neighbor’s child asks me to untangle his kite from my tree. I will listen and respond with a higher level of commitment if my son makes the same request. Family matters and Jesus is family. When I use his name I get special insider treatment.

 

What do you think? Does God grant Christians special access because of their association with Jesus?  

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