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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

by Lynn Turner

Years ago I was given a book by Richard Foster called Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. He begins the book by saying, “Prayer ushers us into the Holy of Holies where we bow before the deepest mysteries of the faith.”

callout-prayer copyI was captured! I admitted that there was a lot about prayer that I did not understand. I was a novice at praying. My prayer life was a one-sided relationship, where I did most of the talking,  primarily asking God for things: for myself, on behalf of those I loved or for direction in making important decisions. I mostly was asking God for things that would make my life easier and better. While I believed that God wanted good things for my life, I was neglecting what God wanted from me.

Foster goes on to say, “Real prayer is about a love relationship, an enduring, continuing, growing love relationship with the God of the Universe.”

It has taken me many years to understand this concept of prayer.

incense 300pxIt likely was Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen that opened my eyes to the kind of relationship that God wants to have with me. I realized that prayer is a loving relationship centered on trust. Trusting my deepest heartaches, my greatest joys to the one who knows me through and through, who loves spending time with me and who calls me his “Beloved.” Nouwen says, “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert.”

This kind of prayer is exhilarating. It is exhausting. It is Holy Ground.

In recent days, I was given an image of prayer that I have never seen in Scripture. It came from writer Mark Buchannan in his book Your God is too Safe.

The vision in the Revelation of John, the book of Revelation chapter 5, is where John describes the worship in heaven, worshipping at the feet of Jesus. In the inner circle, closest to the throne are twenty-four elders and four living creatures. The Lamb, the worthy one, takes the scroll with seven seals. Here is what John sees in verse 8: “When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (italics added)

Buchannan says, “It is a stunning image…prayer as incense. I find it deeply consoling that our prayers are gathered as fragrance in the presence of God, that my prayers this morning for my wife and children, my church, my neighbors, mingle now with the purity and intensity of heaven’s worship.”

I don’t know about you, but I have never thought about my prayers as incense in worship. I have never thought about all the prayers I have prayed and prayers of all the saints gathered as a fragrance to Almighty God in an act of worship.

This image changes the way I view my praying. It encourages me that as I spend time with my loving God in prayer, those prayers linger on as a fragrance for eternity in the very heart of God.

May prayer become for you, as it has for me, more than a time of talking and asking; may it become a time for being and abiding, for trusting in His unfailing love. May it become sweet incense lifted and pleasing to God.

Editor’s note:
The Prayer Ministry of Richmond’s First Baptist Church offers a prayer retreat each fall. Please visit fbcrichmond.org/prayer for more information about A Day of Holy Rest and Soul Care, September 28, 2019.

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Home Is Everywhere.

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Not often do we think about what home means. It means different things to different people, I suppose. To some, it is the house they grew up in. To others, it is the state they are from. And yet to others, it is wherever their shoes reside.

During the past year or so, I’ve struggled with defining “home” for myself. Whenever I returned to the States from being in another country, I would have so many mixed emotions. Only now have I begun to sort through those feelings. Even so, it is still hard.

Home Is EverywhereI almost feel I have done a disservice to people by telling them my at-the-time feelings. It’s hard to relate deep-down feelings associated with a trip; nor is it easy to simply share your soul with everyone you pass in the hall at church. Had I not truly learned valuable lessons, it would have been easy to relate every feeling and facet of my trips, but because of incredible and personal things God showed me, it was difficult to do them justice.

We are similar to trees. Their trunks, along with every branch and twig, are visible to the observer, but the most important part of the tree is underground, unseen. Like trees, as we grow spiritually, our roots grow. To share some of those spiritual lessons and personal experiences is like exposing your roots for all to see – vulnerable and uncomfortable, even painful.

Home Is EverywhereMany have asked me to recount the most memorable moments of my time abroad. I tell them some cool stories or list some pretty wacky foods that I ingested, but who am I to say that one thing I did was more important than another? No act of service is seen as greater than any other, in God’s eyes at least. But in man’s eyes there is no lack of praise for one like me – world traveler, teacher, missionary, etc. People are quick and ready to pat me on the back and wish me well, but what I’ve found to be true over the past year is that I am no better than the smallest GA giving her 25 cents to the missions offering. In the grand scheme of things, God doesn’t care about how many countries I’ve been to, what crazy foods I’ve eaten, or how many people I’ve prayed for. He cares about the motives behind my actions. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God only cares about the love for Him and for others that I demonstrate every day. I can travel all over the world and do all of these things, but if I don’t truly love God and love others, I will never be effective.

Here are some important things I discovered while abroad.

Home Is Everywhere1. We can never pray enough. We have a tendency to become “regulars” at the drive-thru of prayer. We expect God to know our order and then we just leave. He wants to have a strong and hearty relationship with us, not one based on sides and sauces. One way to build this type of relationship is to ask God questions. Unlike humans, God does not get tired of our endless questions. He wants to have in-depth conversations with us. In my experience, life becomes clearer and more meaningful when I talk to God often. Sometimes I don’t even say “amen” because I feel like it allows the conversation to continue throughout the day. “Amen” seems so final.

2. Love appears in ways we do not expect. I learned that love isn’t always as it appears. In my blog, I described an experience I had with a child in Haiti. In that story I related the amazing ability of God to completely change my view of that little boy. I learned love can be found anywhere. And often it’s not the act that defines it, but the absence of action. When we are called to love those who are hard to love, it is nearly impossible to turn straight to love. First we have to stop being annoyed by them. We have to create the absence of that emotion before we can put anything else in its place. We’re often overwhelmed with God’s commands and don’t know where to start obeying. Well, that is one place to start.

3. Peace can exist anywhere, and in any situation. We can be surrounded by agitating events and still be at peace. In the same way, we can be in a relaxed environment and not feel at peace. Peace is a state in which we are aware of life’s difficulties, but are also keenly aware of God’s presence and we intentionally trust our past, present and future to Him.

So, one last thought.

We would do well to remember where our true home lies. Sometimes I think we put too much stock in our physical environment. Our setting often dictates our attitudes toward others and life in general. If we allow God to control our response to our surroundings, we can feel at home anywhere. In the process of discovering this, I struggled with knowing where my true home was. I knew where I was from, but these countries had also become such a part of me. I finally had to realize that none of these places is my true home. Heaven is my home. My true and final resting place.

But while I am still roaming this earth, home, to me, is anywhere my feet and my family – biological or spiritual – reside. Home is where God is. Which is, well … everywhere.

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By Susan Beach.

If your spiritual life is a bit dry, or even non-existent, this Lenten season might be the time to try some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. There are a variety of disciplines because each of us is different, and because at various times, each of us is in a different place. Perhaps one will be just what brings new life to your spiritual journey. Because new life is what Lent leads to.

Each week, beginning on Ash Wednesday, one discipline is introduced. Try each one, even if it’s not familiar – allow God to connect with you in a new way. Adjust it as needed – remember that it is a tool. The point is to grow closer to God. If it doesn’t work for you, change it until it does. For each discipline there is a practical example of how to live out what you’ve learned in your journey with God. Try it or one of your own creation. At the end of each section is a resource for you to use if you are interested in learning more.

Beginning Wednesday, March 9, Ash Wednesday
He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. (
Matthew 14:23, NIV)

Silence, solitude, and listening to God have worked together as part of Christian practice since the third century when the desert fathers and mothers chose lives distinctly separate.

Pick a verse that is meaningful to you, find a place where you will be undisturbed, quiet yourself by breathing slowly, say the verse to yourself several times, then quietly allow God’s presence into your space. When you are distracted, repeat the verse and again quietly await God’s presence.

Live it out: You may want to share with someone or write in a journal what you experienced. You may also draw, dance, or give a gift to someone as your response to God’s presence.

Resource:  www.centeringprayer.com/centering_prayer

Beginning Wednesday, March 16
When you fast, do not look somber. (
Matthew 6:16a, NIV)

For Christians, fasting has a long tradition from the Old Testament patriarchs to New Testament examples. While some churches have an established time and type of fasting, the discipline can be practiced in private by anyone at any time as a personal commitment. In a fast, the believer chooses to do without something that is hard to give up, something that might be interfering with getting closer to God.

Often we think of fasting from food. If you choose this kind of fast, you can give up one meal a day, or eat smaller portions, or give up a specific food. You can fast from reading the newspaper, knitting, serving on committees – anything done so much that it takes away from time with God, that interferes with your hearing Him speak to you.

Live it out: Allow a food fast to remind you of those who are hungry not by choice. Bring a bag of groceries to FBC’s Food Pantry. Let other fasts prompt appropriate responses; if you can’t think of one, ask a friend for suggestions.

Resource: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Beginning Wednesday, March 23
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. (
Deuteronomy 31:8a, NIV)

A prayer labyrinth is a tool for meditation, prayer and connecting with God. Unlike a maze there is only one path to the center; there are no dead ends. The point is to help you focus on your spiritual journey.

It is a physical experience, so pay attention to your pace, what you hear and see, who you encounter. You can pray for a special concern, meditate on a scripture passage, listen to what God is saying to you. You can stop at any point or spend time in the center.

Live it out: Use the labyrinth at 3351 Loxley Road in the Sherwood Park neighborhood of Richmond. Or use the link below to a finger labyrinth that you can print and use anywhere.

Resource: http://zdi1.zd-cms.com/cms/res/files/382/ChartresLabyrinth.pdf

Beginning Wednesday, March 30
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. (
Matthew 20:28a, NIV)

Sometimes the walk out from the center of a labyrinth becomes a journey to service. God is at all times calling us to serve Him by serving others. From the Old Testament’s question of “what do I require of you” to Jesus’ taking up the towel and bowl of water, we know He intends for us to show who He is by how we behave towards others.

Service is part of every believer’s life; it is not just for those who commit their entire lives to service in His name. Find direction from Brother Lawrence: “We must not grow weary of doing little things for the love of God, who looks not on the great size of the work, but on the love in it.”

Live it out: Find time today to do some little thing for someone you don’t know. Tomorrow do something for which you get no recognition. As you approach your regular work this week (whether it is doing the laundry or writing an important paper), do it as an offering to God.

Resource: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Beginning Wednesday, April 6
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you … On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (
Psalm 63:1a, 6, NIV)

The divine offices are the practice of praying specific prayers at specific hours of the day.

Before you get out of bed, begin the day by praising God for who He is in your life – creator, shepherd, parent, teacher, champion, protector, healer…

In the middle of the afternoon, before the concerns of home take over, pray for those you work with or those who serve your meals, fix your car, deliver your mail.

As you get into bed, reflect on the day and thank God for His protection throughout and for how He used you to do His work.

Live it out: Perhaps a thank-you is in order for one of those you’ve prayed for during the afternoon. But before you express that, make a list of all the things you are grateful for about this person. Think of small and specific things, so that when you say thank you, it is received as genuine.

Resource: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

Beginning Wednesday, April 13
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (
Exodus 20: 8, NIV)

The creation story begins with the keeping of the Sabbath. God kept it and expected His created beings to keep it. His intention was to give us a day of rest and restoration; part of that rest and restoration comes from knowing who He is. For Christians, the Sabbath is also a time of celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, of the life that is to come.

Plan how to turn this Sunday into a time of keeping the Sabbath. It’s not about rules that keep you from doing things. It is about setting aside this day, making it different from the rest of the week, so that you start the next week refreshed spiritually, mentally and physically. Begin by acknowledging who God is through worship. If you don’t always have time for a relaxed family meal, make Sunday dinner special – something everyone likes, with enough time to enjoy each mouthful, and hear from everyone present. Or plan a meal for a friend, keeping it simple and allowing for a relaxed time to catch up. If you’re inside at a desk most days, make time for a walk outside. Include time for rest. If reading or listening to music is a rare treat, include that in the day. End the Sabbath with scripture – something like Psalm 98 to celebrate the day God has given you.

Live it out: Commit to making one Sunday a month a true Sabbath for you and all your household.

Resource: http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm

Holy Week, April 17-24

Sunday, April 17, Palm Sunday

Meditate on Luke 19:28-44 several times today. Imagine the scene – the sights, smells, sounds. Watch Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem; listen to His words. Now imagine He turns to you and says “Have you found peace?”

Wednesday, April 20

A contemplative service led by Robert Dilday.

Thursday, April 21, Maundy Thursday

Walk through your neighborhood today or through the halls where you work. Pray for everyone you see, for those you know and those you don’t know.

Friday, April 22, Good Friday

Spend your lunch break in the quiet of the sanctuary at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue, at noon. Remember that “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45, NIV)

Saturday, April 23, Holy Saturday

Set spiritual goals for yourself: Choose one of the disciplines that worked best for you during Lent and one that was a challenge. Commit to doing the former one once a month and the latter once a year.

Sunday, April 24, Easter

As you plan your Easter Sunday, include whatever will make it a true Sabbath celebration.

 

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