I was thinking last night about how I approach scripture and God in prayer. I have so many questions about my life and am typically seeking answers. So, I open up my Bible in hopes to find some kind of wisdom for my circumstance/problem. Or I’ll ask God for clarity or help to see my plans through.
I started to wonder, however, if I’m coming at this from a wrong angle. What if I didn’t come in looking for answers to “my” questions or looking for clarity for “my” plans, but instead came in posture of openness and listened more broadly? What if I sought God to and allowed Him to really direct my steps and future instead of asking Him to bless what I bring before Him? I thought of how scary and yet how freeing it would be. It’s scary because I know it would stretch me, break me, and challenge me. It’s freeing because I wouldn’t be so locked into my plan and what I perceive to be “detours” would actually be “the” path…
I have to admit that 2009 was my worse and toughest physical year yet. I slacked on my workouts and slacked even further when I fell from a ladder in my garage and tweeked my back. In the Fall, I passed out from fatigue and had to force myself to rest and take my health more seriously. Through all of this, I’ve definitely become more aware of the necessity to keep my core strong. I don’t work out the vanity muscles anymore (c’mon guys, you know what i’m talking about – the biceps) but rather make sure that my core muscles are in shape – i.e. abs and lower back.
This idea of “core strength” is challenging to me as I consider my spiritual well being as well. I think that it’s what Christ means when he talks about doing things like praying and giving in secret instead of displaying them in public. I think it’s what Paul means when he talks about Christ in us and growing in “inner strength” through his Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). If we remain focused on our public display of strength and only work out those muscles (spiritual or physical), we may be weaker than we think. My inner strength grows as I continue to trust in HIm and as I continue to give more and more of my will over to Him. It’s from this “core” that I’m able to make tough decisions, remain steadfast in times of uncertainty or opposition, and love when it seems like it’s impossible to do so… How’s your core? How would you gauge your inner strength?
i spent last thursday and friday at our denominational conference (PSWC) annual celebration. it was a powerful time of listening, praying, and reflecting. one deep conviction that is brewing in me since then is the importance and need to pray more. i wrestle with this because most of the time nothing “happens” DURING my prayer time. i’m always hoping that something miraculous will happen on the spot. don’t get me wrong… i think that there are moments where revelation and miracle happens in the midst of prayer, but for the most part, i don’t “feel” or “see” anything change during my time of prayer.
as part of the celebration, they honored our previous superintendent (John Notehelfer). They particularly emphasized the fruit of his prayers in us ten years later. it was at that moment that i realized that i am so shortsided. i always want things to happen now. i always feel like it’s pointless if things don’t change right before my eyes. i think that it’s more productive to focus on what i can accomplish and finish quickly. but real, lasting, impactful transformation happens through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. and, it may not happen in a moment. and it definitely happens when God’s people fall on their knees and pray. i mean, God calls us to this posture for healing of our communities:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will healtheirland.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
so, maybe we if we can get beyond the shortsidedness of our “quick results” oriented life, we’d get on our knees and truly know in our hearts that it makes a difference in our world when we pray…
we live in an age where efficiency and effectivity are the marks of success. speed to delivery, visible change are all things that make me wonder sometimes if our spiritual activity changes anything. i was reading some henri nouwen over the weekend and he talks about silent prayer and how silence actually changes us. it was incredibly profound to think that God speaks to us in silence. we’re constantly listening to a barrage of voices. we listen to emails, txts, tweets, fb updates, websites, blogs, billboards, tv, movies, news, etc. we’re bombarded by so much stuff that to sit in silence is outrageously difficult and painful. there’s a detox or an “unplugging from the matrix” that is liberating and clarifying in so many ways. i believe that by pursuing God in this venue that we ultimately change; thus, creating change in the world around us. can silence change the world? i believe it can. as much as our productivity changes things, so can silence and the choice to stop and center ourselves on Christ.
i’m spending this week (passion week) in extended times of prayer (silence) and fasting. as i enter into this week, i’m believing more and more that what we do in our spirit (spiritual disciplines) affects the world around us more than we recognize or choose to believe…
as a pastor, one of the burdens of my heart is the prayer life of my church. so, in an effort to grow in this area, i thought i would teach our core team this spiritual discipline over the course of four weeks. when i began to think about how i would teach this, i had to ask myself an even more basic question: what would make me feel like my church was prayerful? unpacking this quite a bit, i realized that deep inside, there’s a need for people to pray like me. i wanted people to be eloquent (ok, i may not be that eloquent, but enough to pass in a group prayer), comfortable praying in public, and sharing their prayers. but, is this what it’s about? i thought about my own journey and remembered a season when i wanted to listen and hear God. I remember being at a prayer retreat trying to listen to God when a 1st generation korean woman (these women are true prayer warriors) came up behind me and told me that i needed to start praying. i thought in my head, “but i’m listening for God.” she kept pounding my back and egging me on to pray. so, in a moment of frustration, i shout out, “God, IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME???!!! IS SHOUTING OUT TO YOU WHAT MAKES MY PRAYERS EFFECTIVE???!!! IS THIS WHAT MATTERS MOST???!!! THEN I’M TRULY LOST!!!” the woman looked at me said, “good… keep going…” i felt completely empty at that moment.
i realized that we enter into prayer in different seasons of life and in different ways because we’re in different places in our faith journey. i realized that we have different needs, different backgrounds, and different degrees of education. so would we or should we all pray the same? maybe as a leader, pastor, and teacher i’m called to help people find their voice in prayer. maybe i’m more of a barrier breaker than a method maker. maybe we’d all be more honest in prayer if it reflected who we are… have you found your voice?