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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Parents Praying for Our Youth

We are excited about sharing an opportunity to gather together and pray for our youth and youth program. You are invited to come out once per month (the first Wednesday of the month) for a simple soup meal followed by prayer and fellowship. This will happen at Randall and Lauralea’s house (the parsonage next to the church), so those of you who are dropping off youth can just walk over and settle in for an evening together.

We are starting on December 3 from 6:00-8:30pm (the same time as our youth program). The rest of the dates are: Jan 7, Feb 4, March 4, April 1, May 6, and June 3.

We are very excited about intentionally lifting up our youth to the Lord in prayer as a community of parents and possibly grandparents and adults friends as well (who are welcomed wholeheartedly). It is not an easy world to grow up in; we desire to focus time and attention to prayer of this nature.

Please contact the church if you have any questions.

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In favour of simple and direct prayer (we don’t need to be heroes).

I’m sometimes frustrated by my prayer life, which, when I compare it to what I think I know of the prayer lives of others (that’s probably my first mistake!), feels like it’s weak and shallow. Maybe you feel the same way about your own prayer life, wondering what it takes to be a “prayer warrior,” as some call it. Dallas Willard has some encouraging and helpful things to say to us. It’s maybe a bit of a long quote, but stick with it. I think it’ll be helpful. It might just be that being a “prayer warrior” (if you like that term) is not about length or depth or heights, but about simply starting to pray and doing so honestly and consistently.

* * *

“Prayer, like all of the practices into which Jesus leads by word and example, will be self-validating to all who will simply pray as he says [that is, the Lord’s Prayer] and not give up. It is much harder to learn if we succumb to the temptation to engage in “heroic” efforts in prayer. This is important. Heroism, generally, is totally out of place in the spiritual life, until we grow to the point at which it would never be thought of as heroism anyway.

“There are, of course, people who pray heroically, and they are to be respected for what God has called them to… But that is a special calling and is for very few of us. To look to this calling as the ideal for our prayer life is only to assume a burden of uncalled-for guilt, and, quite surely, it is to choose an approach that will lead to abandoning prayer as a realistic…aspect of life in the kingdom. There will be heroic periods as they may be called for, but with no intention to be heroic. Always, we are simply children walking and talking with our Father at hand.

“…Prayer is never just asking, nor is it merely a matter of asking for what I want. God is not a cosmic butler or a fix-it man, and the aim of the universe is not to fulfill my desires and needs. On the other hand, I am to pray for what concerns me, and many people have found prayer impossible because they thought they should only pray for wonderful but remote needs they actually had little or no interest in or even knowledge of. 

“Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about “good things” that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are truly interested in. The circle of our interests will inevitably grow in the largeness of God’s love.

“What prayer as asking presupposes is simply a personal…relationship between us and God, just as with a request of child to parent or friend to friend. It assumes that our natural concerns will be naturally expressed, and that God will hear our prayers for ourselves as well as for others. Once again, this is clear from the biblical practice of prayer. It is seen at its best in that greatest of all prayer books, Psalms.

“Accordingly, I believe the most adequate description of prayer is simply, “Talking to God about what we are doing together.”

~ Dallas Willard, from The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God

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