Praying by Serving

Ways to Pray : Lent 2017

w2p

Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. I am sending a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.


Praying by Serving : 3-9 April

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OK, so this Way to Pray is quite simple. And yet, it doesn not come naturally (or come to mind) for many of us. Have you ever thought of serving as a form of prayer?

I am not talking about prayer SO THAT we can serve. You know, preparing ourselves and then “doing.” I am talking about praying AS YOU are serving. Praying blessing with each sweep of the broom. Asking God to lift someone’s burdens as you carry their boxes. Praying for nourishment – physical and spiritual – as you prepare a  meal for someone.

Some of you will be familiar with Brother Lawrence. Known mostly through his thoughts and words in the book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence is famous for praying while washing dishes. Or more accurately, he is known for advocating and demonstrating that we can connect with God in prayer in the mundane tasks of the day. He is the Saint for all of us who don’t prefer to sit for a morning “quiet time” but would rather pray as we go/do. He says, “that type of spirituality is ok too!” Or as David Bosch calls it: a spirituality of the road. For those who believe we should DO more than just “sit and pray,” this is for you. And for those who aren’t always sure how to pray for someone, don’t like praying out loud, or find it EASY to serve but DIFFICULT to pray, this is for you too.

A few ideas you might try, if Praying by Serving sounds good/helpful/intriguing/refreshing to you (and don’t forget the few mentioned above). These are mostly intercessory-type prayers but you could also do listening prayer instead. And as always, be alert to what God is saying and what is happening with the people and situations you are in:

  • Run an errand for someone and pray for them, God working through whatever you are doing, and blessing those you are interacting with
  • Do filing or sorting for someone and pray related to the things you are filing (finances, work needs, relationships) and that God works in different areas of the person’s life
  • Go with someone as they run errands or appointments – pray for them and those they are interacting with as they conduct their business.
  • Clean, do dishes, etc. for someone and ask God’s Spirit to work through different parts of their life. Pray for refreshing as they have a little more space in their life.
  • Babysit and pray for the children as you interact with them, and the parent. Pray for the family.

But really, the list could be endless on what you can do to serve. And also, in the ways you can pray as you do. These can apply to serving and praying for people you know, organisations or churches, or in many cases people you don’t know. Two tips and then be creative!

  1. Listen for what someone says they need to do but dread or won’t get to and ask if you can help them. This helps if you can’t find a way to serve just by looking around.
  2. Enter into serving and then pray. Let God lead your prayers.

And don’t neglect asking if you can pray with or for someone before, during, or after serving. Don’t make a requirement, but I find many people appreciate and accept the offer.

May we all serve and pray this week.

-Arthur


That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique  way to pray.

 

The Ways to Pray series for Lent 2017:

1 March – Praying in Colour

6 March – Prayer of Examen

13 March – Praying in Nature

20 March – Prayers of Lament

3 April – Praying by Serving

10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures

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Prayers of Lament

Ways to Pray : Lent 2017

w2p

Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. I am sending a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.


Prayers of Lament : 20-26 March Lamentheart2

I had intended to share a different prayer practice this week, but I spoke on Lament yesterday at church and felt like it would be helpful to write about here.

How long, Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
(Psalm 13:1-2)

That is the beginning of one of the Psalms of Lament. Do you relate? Are you comfortable crying out/complaining to God like that? Do you prayerfully kick and scream and throw things about what is wrong in your life or in the world?

Not me. I’m not personally inclined to voice my grief to God. I think it comes from believing that complaining doesn’t change anything. Or that dwelling in the negative just reinforces the negative. And honestly, I have always wondered if complaining shows a lack of trust in God, betrays my limited perspective on things, and is just childish. Maybe you feel the same?

Or perhaps you are one who already knows that lament allows us a good way to acknowledge the reality of pain, suffering, and injustice in our life and in the world. It allows us to connect hearts with God’s uniquely, and provides an acceptable and necessary means of working through our grief. It’s not pretty, but it is very health and important.

People in our world complain (don’t we all know it?!). Music, movies, fb all tell us what’s going wrong. In the Bible, people complain too (Daniel, Job, Jesus…). There is an entire book – Lamentations – describing the state of the destroyed nation. Of the 150 Psalms, nearly half are Psalms of lament (I counted). Some are personal, some are corporate.
In doing my research, I came across this very good explanation:

The function of a Lament is to provide a structure for crisis, hurt, grief, or despair; to move a worshipper from hurt to joy, from darkness to light, from desperation to hope. This movement from hurt to joy is not a psychological or liturgical experience only, although it includes those. And it is not a physical deliverance from the crisis, although that is often anticipated. The movement “out of the depths” from hurt to joy is a profoundly spiritual one… A lament arises from an immediate crisis or emotional state that faces the worshipper. This can range from physical threat either externally (an invading army) or internally (physical illness), to interpersonal conflict with others in the community, to betrayal or injustices perpetrated by friends or family. All of these can be referred to metaphorically as “the enemy” or “foes,” even when the crisis is physical illness. This becomes a stereotypical way of describing any crisis that threatens or diminishes the vitality of life. In this same vein, “death” is a frequent metaphor for this crisis, whether or not the crisis is physically life threatening. The theological significance of a lament is that it expresses a trust in God in the absence of any evidence that He is active in the world. Through a sequential and deliberate structure, the lament moves from articulation of the emotion of the crisis, to petition for God to intervene, to an affirmation of trust in God even though there has been no immediate deliverance from the crisis.

How to Lament

Different cultures lament uniquely (closing the curtains and staying inside with only family visitors, holding a wake, public displays of mourning or displeasure). Different personalities lament uniquely (wanting to be alone or with others, being quiet or being loud, being busy or staying still). I would suggest that any way in which you express your frustration to God is an acceptable form of lament. Therefore, my “how to do this prayer practice/try this” is a little different than in our previous posts in this series.

For now, we’re just dealing with the personal lament. If you, like me, struggle with doing this, you might try using the pattern found in the Psalms:

  1. Address God [This is a prayer. We are talking to God, not just complaining to our friends or shouting into thin air]
  2. Say what is bothering you. What is wrong? What needs rescue or help or God’s intervention?
  3. Remind yourself that you trust God [use your own words]. I think this is important to keep us from being overwhelmed by the problem.
  4. Say what you would like God to do
  5. Praise/thank God in advance, or commit to do so [a bit of faith needed here]

When we did this at church, we wrote our prayers on crumpled hearts (image above) to remind us that this prayer is a hurting heart prayer – ours and God’s.
That format may or may not resonate with you, but at least it is something if you don’t have your own way yet. One thing about lament taking a particular form (did you know, for example, that the Book of Lamentations was written as an acrostic poem, not just a long dump of complaint?): when we are at our lowest, many find it helpful to have a little guidance in how to do something.

 

I am not telling you that you need to be upset about something in particular. But I’ll bet there is something in your life that isn’t all that it should be, that angers or hurts you, that you can pray lament to God. I am encouraged that God is a God who allows us to complain – nothing is off limits. God hears, holds, and identifies with our travails.
Lament is an important part of a healthy prayer and spiritual life.

  • It helps us find ways to articulate what is bothering us
  • It reminds us to call on God rather than our own wisdom and strength in times of trouble
  • It keeps us humble, real, honest, and relatable
  • It is part of processing our individual and collective pain
  • It manifests in creating: writing, drawing, singing, building…

Therefore, may we be all people of lament.

-Arthur

 

That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique  way to pray.

 

The Ways to Pray series for Lent 2017:

1 March – Praying in Colour

6 March – Prayer of Examen

13 March – Praying in Nature

20 March – Prayers of Lament

27 March – Listening Prayer

3 April – Praying through Service

10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures

 

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Praying in Nature

Ways to Pray : Lent 2017

w2p

Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. I am sending a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.


Praying in Nature : 13-19 March

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How has trying these prayer practices over the past weeks been for you? I haven’t been able to do them every day myself, so just an encouragement that this series is mostly about exposing us to different ways to pray. Try them as you are able!

This week, we are going to pray in nature. Now, I realise that your weather, location, time of day, or the season may affect how much you are able to do this one. BUT, basically if you can get out your door, you can do this 🙂

Why?
Some of you LOVE to be outside and deeply connect with God in the outdoors, particularly natural spaces. You find beauty, and breath, and depth, and life there. I also know that some of us really DON’T feel this way and prefer the quiet controlled indoors or other urban active settings instead. We all have different preferences and often don’t understand how others can’t appreciate what we find most helpful. On a more theological level, it has historically been maintained that one of the primary places God is revealed is through the creation. So I think it is important to not neglect this way of uniquely encountering God, even if it’s not your preference. Perhaps most important in my mind, however, is the reality that most of us do not live our day-to-day lives in contact with nature. Without writing a treatise on why we need to be in natural spaces (others have done this, and there is plenty of debate elsewhere), can I just say that it is important BECAUSE it is abnormal for most of us. In other words, we will encounter God in natural spaces because the unfamiliarity opens us up to seeking, hearing, and experiencing God in different ways.

So what are we doing?
I think the name “Praying in Nature” about says it all 😉

You need to find a place. You mind want somewhere that is more quiet or uncrowded, but that’s not necessary (go where you are able, although some places will work better for you than others). I’m thinking of gardens, parks, mountains, forests, beaches, trails, streams, backyards. It doesn’t need to be exotic or cost you.

Here are five suggestions of what you might do (pick one to start):
1. Sitting (or walking) in silence
I’m an unashamed advocate for silence. In my experience, being silent in nature produces something entirely different in me than sitting quietly at home. I would suggest a minimum of 5 minutes (you can do it!). Listen for God’s voice. Talk to God. I also find that if I am walking in silence, my thoughts tend to collect themselves. This is something different than thinking or even talking to me. It’s more like lots of thoughts that are already there seem to fall into place or make more sense. I am not sure WHY I experience this, but God seems to work with me this way. I wonder if you find the same to be true?

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2. Find an Object
Jesus often used the things around him to teach: consider the lilies, see these birds, it is like a road, this rock, this temple, be like these children… God has a way of taking things and using them to say something to us. So when we are in nature, there is LOTS for God to use. This could be something small – a rock, an insect, a leaf; or I find myself often drawn to things like paths, mountains, clouds, and streams. As you consider this, ask God to speak to you using questions like:

  • how is this like me/my life right now?
  • why does this draw my attention?
  • what is God saying?
  • is there a lesson here for me to learn?

Sometimes you might actually use the opportunity to talk to God about something on your heart or taking place in your life that doesn’t necessarily seem connected to the object (looking at a stream while praying for a sick friend, for example), to allow God’s Spirit to speak with you beyond all the words you might otherwise bring to the conversation.

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3. Prayer Circle
I have shared this idea (which I got from Christine Sine) on my fb page before. The idea is to sit or stand somewhere and imagine a circle around you representing God’s love or protection or healing or provision (what does God want to surround you with today?). Because you are outdoors, you can also use something(s) to represent this circle – rocks, twigs, shells… I think it can be helpful to have something tangible like this to connect with my prayers (similar, in this sense, to the function of prayer beads and prayer shawls, etc.). Below is a photo showing how you could also do this with paper and words as well. I will add that this is a symbol – a physical expression of something spiritual. It is not magic – there is no spiritual power inherent in any objects you choose to work with.

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4. Psalms
You will need a Bible for this
There is something very meaningful about reading a Psalm while in nature, particularly the Psalms which reference the creation in which you are sitting. How silly of us to read about the sun or mountains or seas while sitting in our bedrooms. Go see those things God is talking about! One can also walk while reading a Psalm [did you know that Psalms 120-134 were read/sung while ascending the road to Jerusalem/the Temple?]. Similarly, you can pray a blessing or written prayer or even a poem. Here is one website where you can find quite a few.

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5. Build an Altar
Is there something in your life that you need to commemorate, mourn, celebrate, remember, start, or end? Build an altar as you pray. You can use just about anything (depending on what is available, how long you want it to last, and what is appropriate to where you are). People build altars and monuments all the time. This is a powerful prayer practice and is very well suited to the outdoors. On some Selah days I have led, people have built altars, taken photos and journaled/written prayers (to remember/share with others), and then removed them because it was a public space.
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Most people seem to say “why don’t I do this more often” after time praying in nature using exercises like these. May God meet you and bless you as you get out into God’s creation to pray.

-Arthur


That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique  way to pray.

The Ways to Pray series for Lent 2017:

1 March – Praying in Colour

6 March – Prayer of Examen

13 March – Praying in Nature

20 March – Listening Prayer

27 March – Prayer with Song

3 April – Praying through Service

10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures

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Prayer of Examen

Ways to Pray : Lent 2017

w2p

Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. I am sending a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.


Prayer of Examen 6-12 March

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The Prayer of Examen is one of the spiritual exercises advocated by St Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuit order). As someone who is wired with a somewhat contemplative spirituality, I personally find the Prayer of Examen (and Ignatian Spirituality in general) to be very helpful. Many Christians (and pretty much every spiritual director I have ever worked with) use this simple prayer practice.

Why?
In our world of information and activity overload, I believe taking some moments for quiet reflection is critical to our spiritual life, regardless of our particular temperament or devotional preferences. This practice was developed specifically for followers of Jesus with busy lives rather than monastics with countless hours to spend with God. Not much has changed in the past 500 years in this regard…

And what is it exactly?
Questions. Not magic questions, but very good ones. They are intended to allow you to sit with God and think back over the day in some particular ways. You can do this purely by thinking/talking with God, or journaling your reflections. As with all prayer practices, remember this is a tool, not the goal. So don’t feel overly constricted by the specifics when it comes to how long you spend with this or trying to “answer every question.”

You will need

  1. Be still and become aware of God’s presence
  2. Review the day with gratitude (you can use the Examen questions heexamenUse can use the Examen questions here)
  3. Pay attention to your emotions
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it
  5. Look toward tomorrow.
You will probably feel that you can’t make the time to do this. But, DO THIS. The timing is what gets most people. Maybe try doing it in one of the following times:
after you’re done working for the day, but before leaving work;
stop somewhere between work and home for doing this;
do as soon as you are able when getting home from work but before beginning your evening routine;
first thing after dinner or putting kids to bed;
or as a way to ending the day before bed.

As I said, use the questions as a guideline – the image at the top of this post is even slightly different from the other docs I’ve attached here. It’s easy to modify them to suit your needs (just don’t cut out questions because you want to avoid them) or to do with children of various ages. There is also this really cool “lunchtime examen” – takes ten minutes and designed for the middle of your day.

If mindfulness or the thought of slowing down just for a moment in your day sounds appealing, you may love this. And if the mention of “sitting and thinking with God in silence” terrifies you, it just might be a helpful way to grow in your prayer life by giving it a go.

Resources:
I like the websites (they are also on fb) Ignatian Spirituality and Busted Halo which both have a lot of information and resources like this. This app is pretty amazing and has more versions of the Examen than I have ever seen before. I also recommend the books God of Surprises by Gerard W. Hughes and Paying Attention to God by William A. Barry but you can find a lot out there.

What resources do you use/find helpful? Let me know!


That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique  way to pray.

 

The Ways to Pray series for Lent 2017:

1 March – Praying in Colour
6 March – Prayer of Examen
13 March – Praying in Nature
20 March – Listening Prayer
27 March – Prayer with Song
3 April – Praying through Service
10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures

 

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Praying with Colour

Ways to Pray : Lent 2017

w2p

Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. After this initial practice, I will send a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.


Praying with Colour : 1-5 March

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So for these first days of prayer practices, I have chosen something that may be different for many of you – praying with colour. The idea is to draw, doodle, or colour while praying for a person or situation.

Why? Well sometimes we have someone or something in mind, but don’t know exactly what/how to pray.  Another reason this is a helpful prayer practice is that it gives those of us who aren’t “words people” something to do as we pray. It is creative and I believe therapeutic. And I think helps us connect with God with a different part of ourselves – allowing the “Spirit to interceded on our behalf.”

You will need

  • a colouring book (children or adult:), doodles (my favourite to use for this!), drawing templates, or mandalas for this. I am attaching several for you to see what you prefer: cross, mandala, calendar, vine.
  • crayons or paints or markers. I find it helpful to have as much as possible on hand so I can choose what to use as I go along.

How to do this
The practice itself is rather simple. I would suggest writing down the name of a person or situation. This will vary depending on the picture you are using – it could be in the centre of a circle, on a tree brach, on a blank space of the page. And then start colouring – around the word, over the word, on another part of the page. If another name or word comes to mind, you can write it down too – next to or connected to the previous one if that feels appropriate, or somewhere else on the picture/page. You can also do this with names of attributes of God is you want to make it more of a praise-focused prayer. There is no rush. Don’t feel the need to fill the page – or your mind – with words. Simply dwell with God and the things you are praying for. You can use a page for each day/prayer time, or build on the same one over several days.

I use these pages quite often for people I am designing/leading on Selah (retreat) days. If you struggle with words when you pray, or find yourself praying as a “to-do list” rather than a conversation with God’s heart, this may be very helpful for you. I also find this a very good practice for people who struggle to just “sit and pray” and for children.

I am indebted to Sybil Macbeth who has done a lot of work with this prayer practice (check out her website for more).


That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique  way to pray.

Upcoming:
6 March – Prayer of Examen
13 March – Praying in Nature
20 March – Listening Prayer
27 March – Prayer with Song
3 April – Praying through Service
10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures

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a very simple Advent 2016

This year I’ve put together a practice for Advent that is very simple. It is built around the idea of giving and receiving gifts. You can do this alone or along with others (including and especially children!). If you miss a day, that’s ok… I suggest you find a consistent place where you can do your reading, daily practice, and leave your gift box/jar.

This is what I am using myself this year and it’s a gift for you. It’s free and you are welcome to share it with as many others as you like.

click here for the downloadable/printable PDF

What you need:
Bible
A candle
A box or jar
Scraps of paper

Reading:
We are taking the approach of slow, repetitive, meditative reading. There is one scripture passage for each week. Therefore, you can read it in small amounts each day/when you read or you can choose to read the entire passage (or parts thereof) several times during the week.

For the week beginning 27 November, read Matthew chapters 1-2

For the week beginning 4 December, read John 1:1-18

For the week beginning 11 December, read Luke chapter 1

For the week beginning 18 December, read Luke chapter 2

Daily practice:
You might choose to do your reading before or after this daily practice

* Light candle – a reminder that this is a special time and season of focusing on God’s gifts.
* Think of one gift you are thankful for today. Write or draw a picture or symbol of this on a scrap of paper.
* Pray for a specific person, situation, or place – what gift do you want to ask God for them? Write or draw a picture or symbol of this on a scrap of paper.
* Place both scraps of paper in your jar or box. As you progress through Advent you will be able to see the gift grow.
* If you are doing this with others, you might choose to talk and pray about some of these gifts with one another.
* When you are done with your time, blow out the candle.

You might want to also decorate your jar or box. When you are done, it could go under your Christmas tree or in a visible place to recognise THESE gifts you have received and given during this Advent season.

More to the Story

Reflecting on Mary coming to the tomb that first Easter morning and having God reveal an entirely different reality than she could imagine. She came to tend to Jesus’ dead body – he wasn’t there – he was alive.

May we all experience God’s surprising miracles and mercies today and every day. We need God to do what we can not.

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Doubt, Unbelief, and Faith

I find it frustrating that so many churches and religious people equate questions with faithlessness. Consequently, people who are wondering about so many things don’t feel welcome in the faith community or experience. This certainly isn’t how it worked in the Bible – or for most of us! Church isn’t the place with all the answers. It should be the place where we can work out all our questions together.

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Truth isn’t just a story from the past

The power of the Easter story is not simply the history-changing events from years ago, but the timeless truths of Holy Week which are very much like our own lives today.

originally posted on facebook

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God understands sadness

I took a much-needed walk & talk with God this morning. Reflecting on so many things that aren’t how they should be, disappointments, frustrations, etc. I am also currently Bible reading on Jesus in the time leading up to his death. I am reminded that God understands sadness and thankful that we can bring ANY feelings to God

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