Thursday, October 18, 2012
A couple of months ago during the summer, one of our youth ministry associates (I think that's her title) asked me to master teach in the middle school youth on Sunday morning. Well, if you've met me, it probably won't surprise you that I love to be on stage and I love to talk… and both of those loves are easily fulfilled in teaching to our youth. So, of course, I accepted! And then I asked if there was a topic on which I should speak. Ooooo, I was hoping for something good and juicy… gossip, or drinking, or sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Ya know, a topic where I could whip out some good ol' fire and brimstone passed down from my Southern Baptist preacher grandfather. But when her text came back that my topic would be prayer, well, I was a little disappointed.
Ohhhhh, prayer. Ummmmmm, oh, okay. Prayer. Yeahhhhhhhh. Cool. Yeah, that's cool… cause you know, I like… pray… and stuff.
How was I supposed to teach middle school kids about prayer for 40 MINUTES?!?!
Well, I won't tell you the whole story in detail (although I am having to restrain myself from doing so because I do so lovvvvvve to tell overly detailed stories!), but in essence, I came up with something to teach that I'm pretty sure mainly just revealed that I knew very, very little about prayer.
But that started me doing some introspection… I was thinking: I am a good Christian. I love Jesus. I read my bible. But I just… don't pray. Well, I do the whole "pray continually" thing (and somedays that is as good as it's gonna get), but even on days where I have time, I don't sit down and pour out my heart to God.
What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to ask for? Or not ask for? Am I asking for too much? Does it really, REALLY make a difference if I pray? Does God change His plans based on what I pray?
So, I found that the "formula" that I used to use in teaching reading tended to apply to other things as well: "If you want to learn how to read, then you have to start reading." And in this case, I said to myself, "If you want to learn how to pray, start praying."
I began by getting out a cute little lime green journal my mother bought me and I "agreed" to journal pray (lest my thoughts get lost in space as usual) for fifteen minutes every day after I get my sons down for their nap. I figured I could book fifteen-minutes for that. I just talked to Jesus… well, I wrote to Him in essentially what is letter form.
And about twenty or thirty days into that process, I realized that I was just chatting AT Him. There was very little two way communication happening because I was just writing away. So, I prayed one day that God would teach me… that He would transform me… that He would transform my prayers.
Wouldn't you know that at that very moment my phone lit up with an email from Lynn Q about one of the women wanting to make sure she was signed up for a her bible study… she wanted to make sure she was signed up for the Transforming Prayer study.
Well, that was all the hint that I needed. I immediately got on my phone and signed up for bible study as well.
And it was totally a game-changer for me. I learned that prayer is SO MUCH MORE than lists presented to God via Jesus.
Duh. You're probably thinking.
But it was sorta new for me.
After some teaching about moving away from Request-Based Prayer and into Worship-Based Prayer, we spent some time going around the little circle and praying "God, you are…" and then filling in the blank with one of His attributes. Beautiful. I start ALL of my prayers this way now.
And then I learned that prayer in the bible was almost always a group thing. The beginning Christian church: pretty much all they did was pray together. And so I started asking myself, when do we pray together? Pretty much there is a hurried little prayer at the end of Sunday School given by the teacher and oftentimes we say the phrase "Let's pray SO THAT we can be dismissed"! Eek- how that must hurt the heart of God! Or maybe we pray one prayer over a gigantic list of prayer requests that refer to everything including my brother's co-worker's sister's dog-walker who stubbed her toe last week on the job. And then we all agree to pray for the list during the week. Or there is the person that offers to pray and we all groan inwardly because we know that he will drone on for a solid five minutes.
These amazing ladies in my bible study taught me "new" things…
Group prayer isn't intended for us to go on "babbling on like the pagans", but to be short, focused prayers. (But feel free to ramble allllll you want at home when you are talking to Jesus!)
Pray for people who make a request right THEN! Don't wait for it to move on to someone else's request! If a woman expresses that she is estranged from her father… stop and pray for her! If another woman says that her husband has a job interview that could potentially change their lives… pray for her right then! Yes, it's different. Yes, some people might think you are a "Holy Roller" at first, but do it and you will start to be transformed by prayer. You will start to see how prayer CAN transform others as well!
Pray the scriptures: The women often said "Pray with an open Bible." We took Psalm 27 one evening and slightly reworded it into us speaking to God… I was a dribbly mess by the end of it cause it was so moving and powerful!
And my favorite is something my friends on Facebook or my blog followers might recognize… but for the sake of repetition helping us to remember:
"The antidote for spiritual lethargy or heaviness is to put on a garment of praise."
As I recently struggled back out of a deep, cavernous pit of apathy towards God, I can assuredly say that making a concerted effort to praise God in the morning before anyone else was up (including the sun) and then to praise Him all day long and then to praise Him at the end of the day… well, that is what put me back on track. In my prayers of praise, I was reminding myself of who God was and is and is to come.
Again, some of this (or all of this) might be so elementary to you guys… if so, then do what you can to bring the rest of us along! Start a prayer group in your home! Interrupt the long chain of prayer requests by offering to pray for one at a time! Walk up and pray for a sister struggling in the grocery store!
And for those women like me that have been indifferent and possibly unbelieving in the power of prayer, test drive a few of the things above, and you, too, will probably discover a life filled with a newfound passion for prayer!