Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

When Jesus Didn’t Pray

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Jesus prayed, but not always…

 

Jesus stayed constantly connected with God, his Father. This proved the source of his life and power. But Jesus didn’t always pray when facing challenges. Sometimes he just spoke words directly, and let the words themselves do the work.  

 

When Jesus faced sick people he didn’t pray for their sickness. I looked through all the accounts in the Gospels and I couldn’t find one instance where Jesus prayed for the sick. Instead, he took authority God had given him, authority over pieces of broken creation, and he spoke at the problem. And that fixed it.  

 

I was startled when I first discovered this pattern. I read and re-read the Gospels, particularly Mark’s account and I came away amazed at the number of times Jesus used words as tools of authority instead of direct prayer. He prayed, a lot, in secret and away from the microphones, late at night and out of sight. Prayer bolstered his power supply. But when he engaged a problem he tapped that power and used words AT the issue.

 

A while back I tackled this subject in a personal study. I went through Mark’s Gospel and found a series of nine commands of authority that Jesus uttered in different situations he faced. He said these words to change things, and remarkably, things changed. It struck me that I face similar challenges every day. You probably do as well. Sometimes my impulse is to struggle to fix it myself. Sometimes I simply resort to praying. But Jesus showed me another way, a kind of “prayer of faith,” or “authority declaration” that I could employ as he did. Actually, it’s not my authority or right that does anything. But I can borrow Jesus’ words in his stead and face the challenge down.

 

Out of my personal study and the trial and error of borrowing Jesus’ word as I faced daily challenges I wrote a report outlining what I discovered. Over the next few days I’ll post portions of this on the blog. You can also download it free it in its entirely on my website. I call it, Fight Like Jesus. Get a copy and pass it around.

 

 

Jesus’ Template for Talking with God

posted by Mark Herringshaw

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

 

Reb Yeshua bar Yosef attracted crowds everywhere he went.  Along the Lakeshore of Galilee in Palestine thousands pressed around him to hear his words.  On one occasion he commandeered a fishing boat and asked the fishermen who operated it to pull it off shore so he could address the throng that had gathered to hear him.  His teachings rang with a fresh joy, and he backed everything he said with uncompromising authority and – some said – miraculous powers.  Expectations about Yeshua rippled throughout Galilee.  Might he be the One promised by ancient prophets who would bring freedom and prosperity back to Israel? 

 

Yeshua was a carpenter by trade.  But at the age of 30 he had left his native Nazareth to take up the role of itinerant teacher, or rabbi.  Rabbinic ministry was a respectable occupation for a Jewish man in Israel in first century A.D.  By all accounts, at least in the early months of his work, he was widely esteemed.  Like other teachers of his time Yeshua invited young men to leave their families and join him as he traveled instructing the people in the ways of God.  His process of training was familiar to them.  For he taught as other rabbis taught.  He told stories to relay eternal truth.  And he explained his messages on the run, by first modeling the principles in his own actions, then challenging his followers to do the same, then finally interpreting the meaning to the wider audience. 

 

Yeshua (Jesus in English) was a master teacher.  Like all great teachers he somehow managed to lead his students to ask the very questions he was eager to answer for them.  So when Jesus’ followers finally realized that prayer was the secret to his power and authority for ministry they asked, “Rabbi, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).  When they asked, Jesus was primed with an answer they could immediately put to practice.  

 

“Our Father in heaven…”

 

His words are familiar to many of us.  Even irreligious people recognize the rote

and rhythm of the lines often called the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster or the “Our Father”  But beneath these four lines rests something much richer than words for recitation.  What Jesus is offering here is a kind of template for our dialog with God.

 

How can these simple lines help frame our understanding of God and how we can relate with him?

“Our Father”

“May your name be worshipped!

“May your regime come here to earth in the same way it is in heaven.”

“Give us today everything we need.”

“Forgive our sin, as we forgive others.”

“Lead us away from temptation and from the evil one.”

 Pray these words today… perhaps again, for the first time.

Does Prayer Make Me Smarter?

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Check out this story: Andrew Newberg argues in his new book “How God Changes Your Brain,” that meditation alters our gray matter, strengthening regions that focus the mind and foster compassion for others, and calming those areas linked to fear and anger. We already knew this, didn’t we? It’s nice to see science catching up…  

 

 

Putting “Play” in “Pray”

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I have a new spiritual director: the four year old daughter of a friend who confides her heart to God the way she whispers to her Teddy Bear and the way she giggles when her father whisks her off her feet. I don’t often put “play” and “pray” together in the same sentence; she does. Not that she’d actually say it in those terms, but she acts it in those terms. I use other language to modify my efforts at praying, words like “labor,” “discipline,” “perseverance,” and “pressing through.” For me, talking to God takes the form of a mission of utmost serious business. For my four year old mentor, prayer is simple and pure wonder. I have a lot to learn, and unlearn to discover the “play” in “pray.”

Not easy! Last week I attended a conference hosted by my home church, a Lutheran Church mind you. During an extended time of music and worship someone in the crowd inflated five beach balls and began batting them about. Yes, I said “beach balls” in a worship service in a Lutheran Church! A rush of giddiness broke loose among the 2,500 people present. They began to play through the songs of worship, and the songs thanking God, and the songs asking God to do something. As we prayed we played. And there, in the middle of it all was my friend’s daughter dancing – yes, I said “dancing” in a Lutheran Church – and marching and waving things in the air as if she owned the place. Of course, as a daughter of the True King, she most certainly did own the place.

Jesus said that unless I come to God as a child, a small child, I can’t find my way into his Kingdom. Coming as a child means coming with beach balls, with dancing, with things waved in the air, and with my heart laid bare. Praying as a child means playing as a child. Of course! After all, in light of all eternity we’re all still like tiny children. The sooner we see this and relate to God as we really are – dependent, unpretentious tikes – the better and truer our prayers.

My pray quotient needs the play quotient.

How can you increase your play as you pray? Play is different for everyone. Maybe you play by walking in the woods, or skydiving, or painting a picture, or making music, or making love. Anything pure as play can also become a way to pray, when we focus the fun on and with God! Try it.

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