Prayer

Tractor Spirituality: connecting with God in the cab and in the kitchen.

The season has begun where a number of you will be spending a good many hours in seeders and trucks. Some of you always do that, no matter what the season. Below are some things you can do to connect with God and your faith in your tractor/truck as the seeding season unfolds. This could also be helpful to those of you who spend much of your time at home or even working a 9-5 job.

  • Begin your work day by committing it to God and inviting his help and presence through your day. End your work day reflecting on when you were aware of God and when you weren’t.
  • Start your day with a 12 minute scripture-based guided prayer: Pray as You Go (there’s also an app for that! // Android // iTunes //). Or do it anytime during the day.
  • Work/drive in silence for 20 minutes.
    • Offer what comes to mind to God.
    • Repeat the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
    • Take time to reflect on your life with God—confess, receive forgiveness, listen for God’s call for what’s next.
  • Pray the Lord’s prayer slowly, reflectively throughout the day. Pause after each phrase and ponder/meditate.
  • Pray for
    • people in your contacts
    • other farmers or coworkers
    • the day’s prayer items from the bulletin
    • anyone who comes to mind
  • Listen to a Christian podcast. I recommend Unbelievable? (available on most podcasting apps and Spotify), but there are many good Christian podcasts out there.
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Paying Attention

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

– Mary Oliver, from her poem “Sometimes”

Lent is already a couple of weeks underway, but I’m going to suggest something for you to do during this season. I’m not going to suggest you give something up, though if you have, by all means carry on with it. But I want to suggest something to take up, something which will hopefully carry on through the rest of your life: pay attention.

We live in a world of distraction—cell phones, social media, Netflix binge watching, and the general hurriedness of life. Moments, minutes, hours, pass us by without us noticing, because we are in a preoccupied rush.

One writer says that “The present moment is the only moment we’ll ever have to live. It is here, and it will never come again.”** This writer notes additionally—and quite importantly—that God is found in the present moment, too.

In Genesis, after Jacob has the dream about the stairway to heaven, wakes up and says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Gen. 28:16). Of course we know that God is always “in this place,” but so often we miss the present moment, the moment where God is, because of our busy, distracted lives.

So I invite you to deliberate attention this season. Mary Oliver, who is quoted at the beginning of this post, is a poet, and poets pay attention for a living. Perhaps I am calling us to be poets for a season.

Below are some suggestions for paying attention. They may require you to give some things up for a time. They will certainly require you to slow down, to add a little margin to your life, to not hurry from one thing to the next:

  • 5 minutes of undistracted silence and solitude every day (possibly first thing in the morning).
  • Step outside and take a deep breath, look around you, listen (maybe go for a walk): what do you see? hear? smell? What do you notice?
  • Pay attention to the world around you as you drive to town or to work or school, as you shop, as you wait in line. What do you notice—about the landscape, the people you encounter, the world around you.
  • Pay attention to the life of Jesus by reading a Gospel.

And then turn the things you notice into prayer.

And to help you with that, I will leave you with one of my favourite poems (it’s on my office door). It’s called “Praying”, by Mary Oliver.

Praying (Mary Oliver)***

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

_____________

*”Sometimes” can be found in her collection of poems Red Bird or in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.
**Adele Calhoun, The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.
***”Praying” can be found in her collection of poems Thirst or in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

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Palms up, palms down prayer

During worship last Sunday, the children and the rest of the congregation was led through the “palms up, palms down” prayer. This is a prayer that anyone can do at any time.

Prayer is simply conversation with God—listening to and speaking with him. Sometimes it’s helpful to use our bodies when we pray to help us focus. This is not unusual: people lift their hands during worship, fold their hands and close their eyes during prayer, or perhaps kneel or lie prostrate when praying.

Palms up, palms down prayer is a way to help us focus on God by letting go of the things that distract us, worry us, frustrate us, anger us, and so on, and giving them to God, and to give us a posture to receive what God has for us. This is a prayer that seeks God, nothing more, nothing less. It is about being in his presence and trusting him.

It’s very simple—even a child can do it, as we saw on Sunday. Here’s how you can begin*:

  • Sit comfortably and take a deep breath.
  • Place your hands palms down on your legs.
  • Imagine letting whatever is distracting (worrying, frustrating, angering, etc.) you drop out of your hands. You could even give whatever it is to Jesus. Watch them drop out of your hands.
  • When you have let go of as much as you can, turn your palms up in a posture of receiving. Tell God that you want to receive whatever he has for you today. Remain in silence with God.
  • When your mind starts wandering, turn your hands palms down and let those distracting thoughts drop away.
  • When you are ready, turn your palms up again to receive in silence.
  • Do this as many times as you need to release the things that burden you and be with God.

*Source: Diana Shiflett, Spiritual Practices in Community: Drawing Groups into the Heart of God (IVP Books, 2018)

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Inviting God into your day (simple morning prayer)

It’s the time of year where many of us have committed to improving something in our lives or to develop better habits. Some of those commitments are large and some of them have been broken already! Here’s a suggestion for a simple habit to develop: first thing in the morning, before you do or say anything else, invite God into your day. This can be a short prayer you say as you sit on the edge of your bed, bedhead, half-open eyes and all (you don’t need to look or smell good to pray!)

Here are some suggestions for prayer. You can use individual ones or a combination (you may even want to start all of them with a “Good morning, Lord”):

  • “Lord, please walk with me through this day.”
  • “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you today.”
  • “May your will be done today.”
  • “Lord, I need your help to get through this day.”

You can, of course, come up with your own. Or you may want to pray something longer, such as The Lord’s Prayer or what some call the Jesus Creed.

This way you start your day in conversation with The One who gave you this day and it will serve as a reminder throughout your day of The One who is with you.

This is a simple practice you can teach to your children as well.

You might also want to end your day with a prayer reflecting on how God has answered or responded to your morning prayer. (In another post, I’ll tell you about the Prayer of Examen, which is one way you can reflect on your day with Jesus.)

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Praying with scripture (resource for individuals and families)

There is a whole lot of devotional material available. You may have your own preference for that stuff or maybe you’re overwhelmed by all the options and don’t know where to begin. I’d like to highlight one unique resource that I have found very helpful in my walk with God. It’s called Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year.

This book has one entry for every day of the year, beginning with Advent. Each day includes a couple of short scripture readings for reflection and prayer, and/or conversation with your spouse or children, some suggestions for “free prayer”, and a closing prayer and benediction. It’s simple and reflective.

There are two things I especially like about this resource:

  1. It puts very little in between you, God, and his word to us. It’s just you, scripture, and a few prayer suggestions.
  2. It’s simple: everything you need for a given day’s prayer and reflection can be found and read on that day’s entry. There’s no flipping between pages or reaching for your Bible to find the passages for the day.

This is a resource that could work for individuals or families and would serve this purpose for many years. Malmo gives this book to its high school grads as a gift to encourage ongoing conversation with God. It might be too late for you to acquire this before Advent begins, but you can start any time. Consider getting it for yourself or your family for Christmas!**

Here are a couple of places you can find it: Wisemen’s Way // Chapters/Indigo // Amazon.ca.

(Compact edition [smaller size, otherwise identical]: Wisemen’s Way // Amazon.ca)

**Pastor Marc has a copy of his own. You’re welcome to have a look at it. Just ask!

 

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A Prayer for Planting Season

Prayer for Planting Season

Father, we are a church planted in a field.
And though our own fields may be in different places
we are still, in many ways, people connected to the land.

For our food and sustenance, for our daily bread, we give you thanks.
For the strength to work in our fields of service, we give you thanks.
For this place, a gathering place in a field with roots that go down over a hundred years,
we thank you Lord for those who have worked here, before us.

Now oh Lord, we ask that you would again, bless the land.
Bless the seeds and the earth.
Bless the skies and the sun and the rain.
Bless the workers with safety and the
wisdom to know,
when enough is enough.
Oh Lord, bless this season.

It is good for us to stop and to remember and to say it out loud,
that our life comes from you Lord, and not from our fields.

So thank you Father, for whatever you’ll do with the work that we’ve done.
We know that without your blessing, we will struggle.
And without seasons of drought, we forget to pray.

So we’ll take what you give, just as you give it,
for you are our Father and you only give good gifts.
Though we tremble a bit, because we want what we want,
We choose to entrust this year to you, because of your great love for us.
And so we ask for the Blessing.

Father, Bless this year.
Amen.

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