Prayer- August 17, 2014
So for those of you who do not know me yet, my name is Wes Rasbury.
Some basic facts about me:
I am currently 23 years old, I am working on finishing up my Master’s work this semester in Abilene at ACU, where I have been attending for the past 5 years. I am originally from the suburbs around St. Louis, MO. I have two older sisters who are both married and have at least one kid, and I have a younger brother who just turned 16 two weeks ago. My dad works for the Home Depot, and my mom is a stay-at-home babysitter.
Before working at the Home Depot, my dad was a preaching minister for 25 years of his life. So, I was what some people call a “pew-baby.” I was basically born on the church pew. I grew up going to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and whatever other night any other activity was going on at our church. I grew up in a Christian home, surrounded by Christian people. Every single person in my extended family, on both sides, that I can think of is a practicing and professing Christian. Maybe some of you can relate a little to my story.
So what I picked to talk about this is something that I grew up around, nearly everyday if not multiple times throughout the day. It is something that I have heard being practiced a lot, as well as talked about and discussed a lot. And, as I have grown in my own faith, and as I have gone to college and have been required to read and learn more about it, this is something that has increasingly become an interest in my life. Call me a nerd if you want to, (because honestly that is probably a fitting title), but I have become interested in this topic and in this practice in probably some weird ways- (such as I have thought of different research studies that I want to conduct with this topic.
Can anyone guess what it is that I am talking about?
Exactly- I chose to talk about prayer. Like I said, I have grown up around it all of my life, (and I would bet that most of you have as well), and have become more and more interested in it over the past three years or so. Prayer is close to my heart, and probably close to yours as well. I have wondered why it is that we pray, but more especially, why we say what we say when we pray. And the words that we use, what do those signify or mean? Thus, I have tried to read anything and everything I can on this topic, (and if y’all have any suggestions, I would love to chat about that).
Now a couple disclaimers before we jump into class: first, I am new here and do not know how y’all usually do class. However, I tried to safeguard myself in this way, and set this lesson up as a discussion lesson, so feel free to discuss with me and with one another, because I would rather not try to get through a discussion lesson by myself.
So first off, I want to ask- have any of you ever prayed before?
Okay, now tell me- when do you or when have you prayed?
At meal times, in the morning, at night, at church, etc.
Okay, now lets dig a little deeper- what is prayer? Take a couple minutes, split up into groups of 3-5, and answer that question- what is prayer?
Bring them back:
Okay- I want to hear what y’all said. What do y’all think? What is prayer?
Those are all really good ideas.
Here is what some other people have said about prayer.
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
“The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.”
“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
Saint Teresa of Avila
“If any of you should ask me for an epitome of the Christian religion, I should say that it is in one word - prayer. Live and die without prayer, and you will pray long enough when you get to hell.”
“The Irish Catholic side was married to the life of an actor and I found out acting could be a form of prayer.”
“The fruit and the purpose of prayer is to be oned with and like God in all things.”
Julian of Norwich
“The physical voice we use in prayer need not be great nor startling; even should we not lift up any great cry or shout, God will yet hear us.”
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
Corrie Ten Boom
As you can see- prayer is not a new thing or idea. Prayer has been around for a very long time- even in the days of the Bible.
Let’s say, for our purposes, that prayer is simply a conversation between God and one of God’s children. Is that a simple yet adequate enough definition?
What else needs to be added into it?
And this is hard isn’t it? I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes it seems that God is not listening to my prayers. He at least doesn’t always answer them. Have y’all ever experienced that? It’s hard, but we have to believe that prayer continues to be a helpful practice, and God even calls us to pray- to communicate and converse with him.
What goes into that conversation?
What are the contents of prayer?
Take a minute and discuss that with those around you.
Is it thanksgiving? Is it requests? Is it intercession? Is it confession? What else?
Okay, so we have a working definition of prayer, and we have a working definition of what prayer includes. Yeah?
Alright now, I want to complicate ‘conversation.’ Dictionary.com defines ‘conversation as the “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.”
Can prayer be anything else than a “conversation”? Are there any other practices that we do that are maybe very similar to prayer and could possibly also be included as prayer?
Colossians 3:1-2; 12-17
What I am getting at here, is that I believe that the way that I have been taught how to pray or the definition of prayer that I have received is good. I viewed prayer as a formal time and conversation set aside, and that it was done either corporately in the church setting, or individually on your own. I was also taught more or less that I should pray in the morning maybe, before every meal, and before I go to bed. And each of these different times had different content, right?
The before meal prayers, were specifically giving thanks for the food and asking for blessing. The morning prayer was praying over the day ahead. The night prayer was thanking God for the day.
I prayed these prayers so much that I developed a mental script for them, especially the meal prayers.
“Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for this food that we have. I pray that it would nourish our bodies. Please help those who are sick. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Short, sweet, to the point. Maybe it was because I was hungry and wanted to eat. Anyways, I prayed that exact prayer for at least 2 years while I was growing up. Every time I was asked to prayer before a meal, that is what I said. And again, that’s okay.
And that’s good- that’s definitely a way to pray. But I think, as I have studied it a bit more, there are more ways to pray that we are, or at least I myself was, not exposed to.
So, breath prayers.
Lord Jesus- have mercy on me, a sinner.
My God, and my all.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
Closely connected to these are rope prayers
Also, connected to the whole mystical spirituality, there is the prayers of via negative
Describing God by saying what God isn’t
- God is not confined by time, God is eternal; God is not confined by knowledge, God is omniscient; God is not confined by power, God is omnipotent; God is not confined by space, God is omnipresent
The four rounds of the sweat lodge- prayers for others, never yourself
They started off on a large scale, the whole world, and each round got closer and closer to you as an individual, but never for yourself.
In fact, there are so many different ways to pray and forms of prayer, Adele Calhoun, in her book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, lists 14 different forms of prayer. 14! Some of these include:
There is contemplative prayer- in contemplative prayer, we rest and wait; we depend on God to initiate the conversation
Centering prayer- simply sitting in the presence of God and give God our undivided love and attention; center ourselves in God’s presence
Inner-healing prayers- use words that focus on emotional wounds, needs, lies, vows, and dysfunction
Liturgical prayer- like praying the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday here at Highland; a repetitive prayer developed in the church
Praying scripture- a way of approaching the text with a heart ready and prepared to learn something
There are so many different types of prayer. So what? I think where I really wanted to end today, (which I took awhile getting to), is that I wanted to broaden your definition of prayer and what it is. I hope that you have been exposed to a new or different type of prayer than you are used to. What I would love to challenge y’all to do would be to try one of these other types of prayers that I very briefly covered. Maybe there was one that stood out to you. It can be as simple as breath prayers, or it could be the labyrinth prayer.
If nothing else, I hope that this lesson encourages you to pray more. I know for my own life, I often get caught up in the busy-ness and school work and job work that I often forget to pray. But I hope this has helped encourage more prayer.
Because prayer is extremely important for us as Christians, isn’t it? It is our way to communicate with God. And, I will get more into this in my sermon in a bit, but it is act of fully trusting in our God to take care of things, isn’t it? Thus, I hope that this has encouraged you to be more prayerful this week.
Whether it is through one of these new forms of prayer we have learned about today, or through your own prayer, may we all be more prayerful people this week.