Friday, March 15, 2013

Praying These Days

God continues to teach me about many things every day, particularly about my relationship with Him.  God has taught me, and continues to teach me, about being quiet in His presence, spending time in His Word, and I've been learning to rely on Him to work in me and, by His Grace, through me.  I have learned that His major concern is not my work, as important as that may be, but, instead, my relationship with Him and His character that he continues to develop within me.  Only as I let Him work in me can I expect that He will work through me.

Chapter 4 of Romans shows us this clearly.  Here the Lord teaches us from the example of Abraham and Sarah.  Their story shows us the futility of trying to accomplish something for God under our own power, by our own efforts.  Those of us who know their story know how they gave into the temptation to hurry the fulfillment of God's promises along.  You can read that story in Genesis 16.  But their "work" on God's behalf had no effect on getting God's promises fulfilled.  It would have been better for them to simply wait and pray.

This is part of what God is teaching me.  Taking time to pray and read scripture and TRUST that God IS at work, sometimes behind the scenes--that is the pathway of blessing.  Scurrying around trying and working (for example) to "make my church a success" is not helpful UNLESS I (and we) hear clearly from God that THAT is what needs to be done.

Yesterday in an email to the friends of Crossroads Community Church, we included a quote from Gemichis Buba:
My Jesus spent most of His days praying. Isolated places. Mountaintops. Gardens. People’s homes. Upper rooms. Lower rooms. He was praying. Asking God. A church that prays will be powerful. A church that does not pray will be powerless! It is as simple as that. That is why Jesus said, "In the face of a reality where the workers are few and the harvest is plentiful, your solution is to pray."
I am learning to pray.  After 27 years of pastoral work I'm still learning.  The people of our church are learning too.

One thing that has helped me so much is to be part of prayer groups.  Becky Sorenson, who will be sharing a message on prayer at Crossroads this Sunday (please pray for her) and other women of prayer have been such great teachers for me.  The early morning prayer group that I participate in now is really helpful too.  If you're not part of a group that gathers for prayer, please find a way to do that.

As you pray, make sure you take time to listen.  That's a new part of prayer for me.  Ever since God arranged for Bjorn Pedersen and Karl Kruse of Prayer Watch International to come to Cokato for a seminar on "Listening Prayer" many of our local people have been learning this.  I feel as though I'm still quite a novice, but I am hearing from God more as I practice spending time with Him.

I pray in many ways but there is one pattern that has become consistent over the past year.  In harmony with our 6:30 a.m. prayer group I read scripture.  We have agreed to read the same scripture passages before we meet for prayer.  That puts us on a sort of similar Holy Spirit "page" when we have our 15 minute prayer group meeting... but even more important is what God has been doing in me as I get up early (or stay up late or wake in the middle of the night) and take time to read and study the scriptures.*

Over the past few years my life has been far less stable and secure from an earthly or "churchly" point of view.  That's actually been a very good thing because I find myself NEEDING GOD!  And when I do, because I now have a regular pattern of scripture reading* that fits me pretty well, I know what to do when "feelings" of various sorts threaten peace and energy God gives me for my work.  I will go and read the Psalm or the other readings assigned* and find God speaking to me there, encouraging, directing, correcting, leading.

It is a good thing to go to the Lord directly instead of just depending on finding peace and significance in my work.  Very good.  Much better.  And I'm so thankful for that work God has done in me.

I'm here if you'd like to talk or if you'd need help getting going in a life of prayer.  God deals with each of us individually so my pattern might not fit you, but if you don't have a way of praying these days that seems to work, let me know and at least we can pray together about it.  Actually that's the best thing we can do!


* It's very helpful to have "assigned" readings.  There are many ways to assign yourself Bible readings for each day.  Speak with friends, or talk with me, about ways that you can get into a pattern of daily Bible reading, study and meditation.)

The group I gather with for a 6:30 a.m. prayer phone call reads from the  Moravian Daily Texts.**  I find that really great because they include quick "watchwords" for the day and also longer readings from the Psalms, Old Testament and New Testament .  The desire to be on the same Holy Spirit page with my group keeps me reading.

The way our group works is that when we call in we chat for a bit and then one of the senior leaders suggests a prayer focus -- and today Jean Bearden brought us to Romans 4.   We have a sweet time five days of the week.  I'm so thankful for Jean, Kim, Per, Marcus, Jo, Chris, Eric, Bob, Phil and others that get up early for prayer five days a week.  Let me know and I'll let you know how you can join us some morning from the comfort of your home or wherever you happen to be! (I'm usually in the bus garage!) It's really sweet!

**That link will take you to the site of a Moravian church in Winston-Salem North Carolina that happens to put the daily texts on their website--so convenient!

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