Sunday School on Prayer
The desire of the Holy Three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is an intimate relationship
with humans. We are created, redeemed and in covenant with the Lord
God. Prayer--talking to and worshiping God--is a formal and informal way
to nurture that relationship. It opens us up to the "life" or "energy"
of God's Word (Jesus) and Spirit (Holy Spirit) to flow into us. It opens
us up to receive from the Father what He desires to give us for
ourselves and for our mission to others.
Today I want
to share an exercise in prayer. Much of the language and the concept is
Celtic, the ancient Christian church associated with Ireland and the
British Isles. One image is (en)circling prayer. Jesus called the
disciples to follow Him, but also simply to be with Him. Companionship.
In John we read Jesus say, "I am the vine and you are branches. Abide in
Me and I abide in you." To remain, stay in and be with Jesus--to
abide--is a central feature of Christian spirituality. Salvation is not a
moral or legal obstacle course or a puzzle to be deciphered. It is,
first of all, a relationship--being with in loving holy communion.
I use the word "pray" I mean a trusting, intentional, focused
communication with God. The intent is to be open to the outreach of our
So we pray:
Holy Three encircle us/me.
Father God breathe your Spirit in us/me
Lord Jesus flow out of us/me
can be additional petitions. Inviting God's presence into the circle.
Asking Him to fill it (us) with Faith, Hope, Love, Mercy, Joy, Peace,
Wisdom, Strength, etc. Then, there can be a prayer of "freedom from",
keep out doubt, despair, indifference, selfishness, fear, confusion,
illness, hurt, conflict, etc. [This is a sacramental worldview. God is
incarnate--the material world is drenched in the Spiritual; people,
things, places and events are "windows" through which God can be seen.
God is active in the real world we live in. The Celtic expression of
faith includes the natural realm, seeing God's creation as a font of
blessings. "Bathe me Lord in your sunlight, cleanse me in the rain,
whisper in the wind, be with me in the calm." Additionally, they believe
in the heavenly realm and would ask "Saints of heaven walk with me.
Saints of heaven be my companions this day. Angels guard and guide me.
Angel worship fill my heart." There would be protection prayers as well
"light of God keep out the dark, break every curse, keep my free from
Satan snare, disperse the demons, keep my body from harm.] Imagining God
as the Friendly Three is an especially beautiful concept to me.
key to prayer is thanks and praise. It is a gratitude which looks not
only to the past benefits, but confidently trusts the Three for future
blessings. "You have blessed, thank you, You are blessing, thank you,
You will bless, thank you! Thanks is the best soul treatment as well, it
changes our attitude toward the world, from whining, worry and 'woe is
me" to an awareness of how wonderful life really is. Thanks focuses on
the blessings of The Holy Three, but praise is higher still. It is pure
worship of the One Who is worthy, The Three Who is worthy. Praise looks
directly at God, not at any benefits I receive but at God as the Perfect
Beauty, Perfect Light, Perfect Love, Perfect Source and Eternal Goal
and Fullness of Life....
To open and receive His
presence is 'active passivity.' It is letting go of control and just
opening to receive. Perhaps a verse of Scripture or a prayer. Maybe a
word. However, at some point one must enter the place of silence. At
some point one must cease trying to reach God, find God, create a prayer
experience, become holy--at some point one must simply understand that
the Holy Three is the One Who creates and saves. We are active partners
in much of that, no doubt, but in the end it is God's work alone. So
deeper prayer is silent trusting love. Quiet reception. The infilling
happens, whether we feel it or not (its probably more fun to feel it
though!). If we (honestly) say to the Lord, "Here I am, I am yours, fill
me and use me" then He does. Most importantly, He fills us with the
Ministry, being the Body of Christ in the
world. "Do you love Me?" "Feed the lambs, tend the sheep." What we
offer people in need is our Spirit filled self. We are present to them
with time, talent or treasure. To hear them speak and wipe away a tear.
To hold them and comfort. To give them food or drink. To provide for
sustenance. To bring joy. To heal and set free. But the single most
important gift we give anyone is being a conduit of relationship with
the Three: The Creator God, the Rescuer Who is Love. If we are tapping
them into the Lord then all else will eventually flow.
praying with and for another is centered there, not on "worries and
needs," but on the one thing that is needful (or better, "the One Who is
needed"!). If we start and finish in focus on The Father through Jesus
in the Holy Spirit, then we can pray without doubt or fear. We can pray
with confidence and that is the framework for other prayers (including
intercession, deliverance and healing).