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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Prayer 2: Rule of Life

We know that Jesus prayed. He went to synagogue and He identified with God's people, Israel. The word ekklesia (=called out, church) indicates that it is a people called to be God's own. The Judeo-Christian faith is shaped by this: We gather together. "It is not good for the man to be alone," God declared at creation. Each of us is made as part of the wider body.

I re-emphasize the corporate nature of faith because in our age it seems to be lost on most people. We are too individualized and isolated. Even so, we are also connected in many ways. We no longer write letters, though, we 'text' one another. Our communication on Facebook or Twitter usually consists of a sentence or two. How does that sort of communication impact our prayer?

The upside, we are reminded that there are so many other people. Social media connects us in real time with  hundreds of others. At least it feels like we are connecting...

The downside, we may lose the capacity to engage in deeper forms of communication. When I was a little Catholic school boy we were taught prayers called ejaculations. It is a term I rarely use in public because of its more common meaning. An ejaculation is a short expression like: "My Jesus mercy" or "My King and my God." We were taught to utter such prayers regularly. I did then and I still do today. But for most of us, that must be part of a larger discipline. Throughout the day I try to add this to my foundation (private  prayer time coupled with corporate liturgical prayer).

"How do you pray with Scripture?" David asked me last night. It depends. Sometimes I read only a small part. I meditate on words or phrases. I might think about how the characters feel. The main characters as well as others. I try to reflect on God's role. How is He different from my assumptions? This meditative approach aims to learn about God, to confront myself and my life ethic or to give me an understanding of the future. Frequently, this meditation leads to prayer (asking, thanking, repenting, praising). It can be very free-wheeling and spontaneous.

I love to pray the Psalms. In the Psalms they say things that I never would on my own (I am too shaped by piety and the desire to "do it right"). So when the psalm blasts at God about being "silent" or "slow to save" (I was taught not to complain) it opens me to be honest about my real life experience: God does not always seem to be around! What really enhances my prayer time with psalms is imagining the words comng from the mouth of Jesus. As I pray, I think of Him praying with me. On the cross He prayed a psalm ("My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me?") Jesus praying the psalm makes the words different for me. And Jesus really is there, even if I cannot see Him!

Praying with Scripture is also an act of discovery. "Who are you, Lord?" I ask. As I wrestle with the Bible I see glimpses of God. Then, I can progress to reflecting upon my own life. I review His activity in my daily living. I try to make connections between my life and the Bible stories. It is often difficult but I do not get discouraged. I believe that God will use all these hours and hours I have spent seeking Him. Sometimes it seems like a waste of time, but usually I know, at my core, that I am better for it and the world is better for it.

As you read this I hope it is helping you clarify your own prayer regimine. Begin the day, first thing, thanking God you woke up and offering to Him your day. And during the day, spend the time allotted, as often as you allot it, to engage in real prayer. Not just Tweeting God, but actually talking and listening, actually desiring a connection with the Eternal, Holy, Loving, Creator-Redeemer of the Universe. And do not try to measure the impact it makes. In the end, that is God's work so trust Him. [We really are not that good at assessment any way!]

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