Thursday, February 28, 2013

Attitudes Before God

When my youngest sister was at a youth event many years ago, she learned about her kinesthetic self. She came home that evening explaining that the group had formed a circle. The leader had instructed them to lunge to the left. So, she lunged to the left and stepped on the toe of the counselor standing next to her. Oops. Then the leader asked them to imagine themselves lunging to the left without actually moving – using what she called their “kinesthetic selves.” So, my sister lunged to the left with her kinesthetic self and promptly stepped on the imaginary toe of her neighbor. We all had a good laugh, but this lesson has stuck with me for many, many years.

My sister may not even remember the event, but I have used her lesson over and over in my prayer life. As I have come to God in prayer over the years I have often imagined myself in some particular posture or position or even moving in a sort of dance before God. Prayer does not always (and for some, may never) mean using words. Sometimes prayer is simply bringing who you are and how you are and where you are to God and just being there.

Miriam Webster online includes the following in the definition of attitude: the arrangement of the parts of a body or figure, a position assumed for a specific purpose , a mental position, a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state. As we look at prayer this week, let us consider the attitudes: the postures, mental positions, and emotions in which we come before God in prayer.

I have collected the angels you see here over several years. At different times in my life, they have represented the ways I have come before God. Yearning for knowledge and understanding as I entered seminary, contemplative as I pondered my relationship with God, victorious and grateful after passing the first round of interviews on the road to ordination. Each of them has a special meaning for me and speaks to an aspect of my relationship with God.

At the same time, this is not a complete representation of the way I or any of us come before God in prayer.  There are some angels missing from this collection; angels that probably wouldn’t sell well in gift shops or Christian book stores. There is no angel collapsed to the ground in utter grief, no angel shaking a fist of anger at God. There is no angel wrestling with God like Jacob, or lamenting over a situation as Jesus wept for Jerusalem. There is no angel trembling in fear in a hospital bed or under the hand of violence. There is no weary angel, seeking only to rest. Yet, these too are ways we find ourselves coming to God in prayer.

Wherever you are today, whatever your posture or position or attitude, I invite you to simply come before God – be in the presence of God.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'll Pray for You

During Lent, I have asked the members of Oak Grove to pray for people in the communities that surround the church. Each Wednesday, we we will have a brief prayer service. I first thought I would find readings and devotionals to share at those services. Then I began to think about what I wanted to share about prayer. So my plan is to share a brief note on prayer at the service on Wednesday and then post it here the next day. Yes, I'm already a day behind in the first week. Sigh.

Below you will find this week's reflection on praying for others: “I’ll pray for you.” What does it mean when we say that? For some it rolls off the tongue as easy as “How are you?” and sometimes with equal lack of interest or intent. For others the thought of uttering those words is frightening. What are we committing to? How often do we need to pray? What words will we use? Will it even make a difference? What on earth does Pastor Liz want us to do when she asks us to pray for our community?

These are questions that used to bug me (well not that last one). I worried that I might not pray for the right things, or it might not “work” or I might forget, or not have time or…or…or… Then as I began to read some of those books on prayer that filled my shelves, I began to realize that I didn’t have to have all the right words or even know what to pray for. If I prayed for God’s presence and God’s will in the lives of my friends and even in the lives of strangers that was enough. If I didn’t have time to sit down and write a whole list, I could simply pray for folks as I went through my day. I didn’t even have to use words at all. I could imagine holding each person in my heart and before God. Praying for others became much more a way of life than something else on my “to do” list.

 During this season of Lent, I invite you to join me in holding those around us in our hearts and before the Lord. Pray for specific needs, pray for God’s will, or simply pray for God’s presence. Pray with words or pictures or with your whole body. Pray while you meditate. Pray while you walk or exercise. Pray while you drive. Pray while you wash dishes or do laundry or bathe children. Pray in thanksgiving. Pray in hope. Pray in faith.