Prayer Walking

Throughout the gospel of Luke we see the disciples keeping company with Jesus as they walk from town to town. Jesus pauses frequently in the course of their journey to teach the disciples lessons about what God’s kingdom is like; a place where healing, wholeness, unity and the welfare of all prevail.  In the same way, we can add feet to our prayers by prayer walking.

Adele Calhoun in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, says, “Prayer walking is a way of saturating a particular place and people with prayer, such as the office, the conference room, your home, the school the hospital and government buildings.  The immediacy of context can fuel prayer and offer a way for listening more deeply to God, and to what God’s concerns for this place might be. This discipline draws us out of prayers that are limited to our immediate concerns and into a larger circle of God’s loving attention.”

Calhoun suggests that like the disciples, you might walk through your home in the company of Jesus. Pray for each room and what happens there. Notice if recognizing Jesus’ presence there changes your interaction.  Spend some time walking with others through your workplace. Pray for your colleagues, the custodial staff, the delivery people and the kitchen staff. Offer yourself to be Jesus’ hands and heart in this place. Visit the playground and school near you. Walk through it in the company of Jesus. Pray for those who work, play and study there. Think about what is in the heart of God for this place.

By God’s grace, the qualities of the Kingdom of God are available to all of us today. This week, as a Lenten practice, I invite you to take a walk in the company of Jesus, and with him pray that healing, wholeness, unity and the welfare of all prevail.

Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1st Sunday of Lent

Today is the first Sunday in the season of the Church called Lent. The primary purpose of Lent from the earliest church was to prepare candidates for baptism at Easter. Lent was designed to help the church encourage these candidates to turn away from sin and live more fully into the way of Christ.  In other words, Lent is designed to help us live out the mission of the Church and the mission statement of The Church of the Resurrection:  To build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians.

Lent is the final stage of labor before new birth, a final incubation before “hatching” into new life. Over the past month we have prayed and discerned about how God might use Church of the Resurrection to live our mission and build our future. The season of Lent is the time for us to fulfill our role as “midwife to the Spirit.”

Take time today to look back through the pages of your 10,000 Reasons Devotional [or GPS link] .

What prayers or spiritual practices fed your soul? Have you discovered a prayer practice which you would consider continuing through the season of Lent, such as daily scripture reading, silent, contemplative prayer or fasting as a way to draw closer to God and grow your spirit?

Gracious and Merciful God,
In this Lenten season let us learn new ways of living.
May we fast from words that pollute and feast on words that are kind.
Let us fast from judging others and feast on building others up in love.
Let us fast from despair and feast on an attitude of gratitude.
Let us fast from hatred and jealousy and feast on kindness and compassion.
Let us fast from thoughts of illness and feast on the healing power of God.
May we fast from worry and feast on hopes and dreams.  Amen

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

They Gave Willingly, Joyfully, and Sacrificially

MalawiA poignant memory from our Church of the Resurrection mission trip to Malawi was at an elementary school in a remote village.  Our team packed up the van in the morning with peanut butter sandwiches and bottles of Fanta for lunch before setting out to the school.  We received a joy filled welcome from the 600 school children and the head master before starting our health screenings. When it was time to break for lunch, our team went to the van to eat our sandwich. It was at that very moment when the concept of true hunger became disturbingly real for me. There was neither a morsel of food nor a drop of water anywhere in sight for the school children or teachers. Then I learned that the children most likely did not eat breakfast in the morning and might or might not get a bowl of boiled maize for their evening meal. The van driver took us further away from the school, but large groups of children followed us, peering into the windows to watch us eat. Needless to say I not only lost my appetite, but also became deeply troubled by the injustice of it all.  I was frustrated that that these beautiful faces were suffering with hunger and malnourishment and I couldn’t fix it. Turning to Christian   tradition for help, I found that fasting could be an appropriate response to this injustice.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which Christians sacrifice their natural desire for food in order to spend time seeking God regarding a specific issue. The intention is that all the time that would be spent acquiring, preparing and consuming food will, instead, be spent in the presence of God through prayer, worship or meditation on the Word. Fasting allows us to see how little we absolutely need in a consumer world. Also, the heightened sense of awareness obtained through hunger serves as a reminder of the purpose of the fast, which is to replace the feeding of the needs of physical hunger with the feeding of one’s spiritual hunger by drawing closer to God.  In addition, we become sympathetic with those who are genuinely hungry through fasting.

I believe that our vision to touch 10,000 inner-city children by our school partnerships over the next twenty years actively addresses hunger and other consequences of poverty.  This week I invite you to consider fasting one day this week as you pray about making your sacrificial commitment to this vision.  If you are healthy, a traditional fast is to abstain from food upon waking up, and then to break the fast with a light dinner that evening. If that is not a possibility, then skipping one meal or fasting from electronics all day is another option. We would to hear about your experience with the discipline of fasting. You can join the conversation by leaving a comment on our prayer blog. 

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Click here at www.cor.org/prayervigil to sign up to pray at the 49 hour prayer vigil preceding Commitment Sunday.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The House of the Lord, the House of the Church

This weekend in worship we will hear the plans and aspirations for our permanent sanctuary.  A sanctuary is a sacred or holy place.  It is a place where we gather as God’s people to encounter God and from which we are sent to be salt and light in the world. According to dictionary.com, a sanctuary can be any place of refuge or safe haven or a tract of land where birds and wildlife, especially those hunted for sport can breed and take refuge in safety from hunters.

Contemplative Christian prayer is a spiritual practice of silence in which we can find refuge from the demands of our daily life and rest in God. Contemplative prayer is silently abiding in the Spirit with the goal being our transformation in Christ. This simply means growing deeper in the love of God and neighbor, so that we might be salt and light in the world. Rev. Dr. Robert Martin, Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C teaches that contemplative prayer is necessary for incarnational leadership. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:16-17, Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?… For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” So it makes sense to me that we can also find sanctuary by silently abiding with the Spirit who lives within the sanctuary of our being.

This week I invite you to practice the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer, or silence. Find your favorite place to sit and imagine God sitting in a rocking chair across from you. All you need to do is show up and say nothing, just be silent.  Really, that is all you need to do for twenty minutes three to five times this week. If you are utterly sincere about surrendering to the Godly nature of the present moment, something will happen. It might not happen immediately, but pay attention to what is awakening during the week.

We would to hear about your experience with the discipline of silence.  You can join the conversation by leaving a comment on our prayer blog.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Click here at www.cor.org/prayervigil to sign up to pray at the 49 hour prayer vigil preceding Commitment Sunday.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seeing God’s Vision, Dreaming God’s Dreams

2.9.14 - Seeing God’s Vision, Dreaming God’s Dreams


Prayer Tip:

My granddaughter Anna likes bugs. How I can possibly be related to someone who willingly picks up an insect is one of the mysteries of the ages, but Anna, age 6, thinks those six-legged creatures are fascinating, and she is constantly on the lookout for a new insect friend. Walking down the sidewalk with Anna is an experience. Suddenly she will stop and say “Look!” and there in the grass will be a praying mantis, or a ladybug or some other critter that I would never have seen in a million years. Then, of course, we have to stop and pick it up, make friends with it and examine and comment on its many attributes before we send it back on its way. The funny thing is, for days after I’ve spent time with Anna, I see bugs everywhere. I notice the ants climbing up the curb, the grasshopper sitting under the bush, or the cricket on the porch steps, though I never would have before. What’s more, I feel compelled to stop and look at them (I’m still not so much about picking them up, but I can watch them with interest). They really are amazing pieces of God’s creation. Spending time with Anna has changed the way I look at things.

C. S. Lewis said, “…prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

If we want to see what God sees, if we want our vision for the future to match God’s vision and experience the joy and excitement of living in the middle of God’s plan for us, then we have to invite God into the picture, to change us. That’s what daily prayer does—it invites God in to make changes and turn our vision into God’s vision. It takes time, just like walks with my granddaughter, and focused attention to change the way we see the world around us.

This week, as we explore God’s vision for our church, let’s make a commitment to spending that focused time every single day in prayer, asking to see our church, our community and the world around us the way God sees them—the needs, the opportunities and the plans God has for us. There are so many things to see!

Bless us Lord, this day with vision.
May this place be a sacred place,
a telling place,
where heaven and earth meet.

-Traditional Celtic Prayer

- Jennifer Creagar

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Transformation

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”  –Galatians 5.22-23

“Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” –Psalm 51.10

One of the goals of cultivating a prayer life is to grow closer to Christ in the spirit.  Another goal of prayer is transformation. Transformation means conversion, change, renovation, or makeover. To me, transformation means increasingly seeing the world through God’s eyes. Ideas that used to be hard for me to grasp were like trying to read the newspaper without my reading glasses.  Now, through prayer and God’s grace, I can see more visibly from God’s perspective. Transformation also means, to me, a gradual warming of the heart.  My heart used to be like a frozen over pond, one that you could ice skate on. Now it is like a pond with such a thin layer of ice, you wouldn’t dare to walk on it. The water is bubbling up and pouring out through cracks on the surface. A test to see if I am actually growing closer to Christ is to ask myself questions based on the fruit of the Spirit. Such as, am I more loving and less angry then I was five years ago?  Am I more at peace and less anxious than I was five years ago?  Am I more generous and less stingy than I was five years ago? As you ponder these questions, you can even substitute ten or twenty years as your measurement.

This weekend at Church of the Resurrection we are concluding our Souper Bowl food drive. Years ago I would pull out two or three dusty cans from the far recesses of my pantry, but now I go to Costco with joy and select a case or two of healthy food to bring to church. That is what transformation looks like, and I am grateful for God’s work. Together, as the Body of Christ, we have great capacity to be used by God to transform our community and change the world.  This week, I invite you to repeat the above scriptures two or three times at the beginning of your prayer time.  Together, as we continue to grow closer to God through prayer, we will continue to see Christ’s living presence all around us and everywhere.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Prayer of Examen

The last three years of my life I have spent much time in reflection and discernment in an effort to listen to God’s call on my life.  Over a period of time, I had felt a certain sense of dissatisfaction with aspects of my life and felt that perhaps God had something particular in store for me.  I realized that I needed to make a more intentional effort at figuring out what that was.  Part of that included discussion with other people.  A great portion of it was working to listen to God more effectively.  Jesus understood his mission which was to culminate in his death on the cross; signifying God’s mission of humanity’s redemption was achieved.  Jesus reiterated God’s mission and his understanding of it saying “not my will, but thy will be done”. The prayer of Examen can help with this process.  This prayer is derived from prayer exercises developed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  According to ignatianspirituality.com “the Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” – See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen

The Examen has 5 steps and is recommended for midday or end of day.

1. Stillness:  Become aware of God’s presence.  Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and to help you to look honestly at your actions this day and how you have responded in different situations.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Recall the gifts that God has given you that you can share with others.

3. Reflection: Looking Back on Your Day. Recall your feelings and motives to see whether you considered all of the possibilities and freely followed God’s will. Ask yourself when you were conscious of God’s presence. Think about opportunities you had to grow in faith, hope, and charity

4. Sorrow: Asking for Forgiveness. Express sorrow for the times you failed to follow God’s direction and ask him to be with you the next time you encounter a similar situation. Give thanks to God for the grace that enabled you to follow his will freely.

5. Hopefulness: Resolving to Grow.  Ask God to help you as you look forward to a new day tomorrow. Resolve to cooperate and trust in the loving guidance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Conclude the day’s prayerful review with the Lord’s Prayer.  - See more at: http://www.loyolapress.com/prayerfully-reviewing-your-day-daily-examen.

Written by Kelly Hansen, 2013/14 Resurrection Scholar and seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Contemplative prayer

The day my son Will turned 15, my loving boy transformed into a snarky teenager. He was very quiet to begin with, but at that point in time, his vocabulary shrunk to about three syllables, “good,” “hey” and “k.”  I struggled for two years trying to figure out ways to improve our relationship, yet the more I talked, the more he pulled away. I tried to control and manipulate the relationship so that it pleased me and made me happy, but it wasn’t working. The harder I strived, the more frustrated I became.  Finally, I decided to join in on the things he enjoyed doing, but I wasn’t adept enough at Play Station 3, so that left watching TV as the one thing we had in common. Anything that had “pawn” in the title was quickly eliminated from my point of view, and anything on Oprah’s network was eliminated from Will’s point of view, but we were able to find a couple of shows that were mutually agreeable, Royal’s games, Chopped, The Voice, and the Bachelor. For over a year we sat in the family room together and watched these shows, rarely exchanging words, but we found that we enjoyed our time together.  There was no more pressure or expectation, simply sitting together in each other’s presence was enough. Our relationship became relaxed and comfortable.

Sometimes our relationship with God can be like this. We talk to God, but get little communication back. We get frustrated in our relationship with God and the harder we try to pray the more discouraged we get, until sometimes we give up praying altogether.  If this sounds familiar to you, I invite you to try contemplative prayer.  Jesus says, Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me,” John 15:4. That’s what contemplative prayer means, abiding, resting, remaining or relaxing in God’s presence. Contemplative prayer might look different for each of us, it can be simply sitting quietly for 20 minutes, taking a walk in nature, baking bread, gardening, knitting, or anything else that helps you still your mind. The key is the intentionality of “being” with God in these times instead of forcing a relationship.

Brennan Manning, in “Abba’s Child” says, “Contemplative prayer is above all else looking at the person of Jesus. The prayer of simple awareness means we don’t have to get anywhere because we are already there…Living in the awareness of the risen Jesus is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ.”

 My experience with contemplative prayer has been a blessing that has deepened my relationship with God and then extended into my relationship with others. If you are interested in learning more, join me in a six week Lenten Prayer Study on Resurrection Care Nights this spring beginning March 6th.  Click here to learn more and sign up for this class.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

www.cor.org/prayer

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Believe

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments.”  1 John 5:1-2

I grew up in a non-religious household—in fact, I consider myself the non-religious and nominally religious poster child! However, when I left home to go away to college at the University of Illinois, I developed a yearning to grow closer to God and a deep desire to learn what it means to become more holy.  The three religions that had the most prominent presence on my campus in 1980 were born-again Christianity, Judaism and the Hare Krishna movement. In all honesty, I chose Christianity because upon my minimal exploration, it seemed like the easiest religion to join. Exploring more deeply, I read the four Gospels and concluded that if everyone in the world followed Jesus, we would have an amazing, peace-filled, beautiful world.

One day, at nineteen, I knelt at my bedside and prayed what a friend taught me, “Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins, I want to be more like you; I invite you into my heart and want you to be my Lord and savior.”

I didn’t feel any different after that short prayer, but from that moment on I believed that I was a Christian. Was I one hundred percent certain, without a doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah? Did I understand everything I read about Jesus in the Gospels? Of course not. Was Jesus someone in whom I wanted to place my trust and confidence? Was he someone whose path I wanted to follow and who I wanted to learn to love? Yes, because I believed with my heart that there was something meaningful and valuable and holy about the life of Jesus that I wanted to be part of.

In the three decades that have passed since, God continues to reveal or suggest ways for me to become more perfected in his love, while I try to do my best to love God and keep God’s commandments. If you believe you would like to open your heart to the peace and well-being Jesus offers, that is all the belief that’s required. The prayer I prayed above is sufficient. Then simply be open to where Jesus leads you next. To continue the conversation, you may comment below —we ’d love to hear from you.

—Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Change My Heart, O God

I was baptized in 1998 and I remember that day as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I had great desire for my heart to be changed at that time of my life, but I grew up in a non-religious home, so making the promise to love, follow, and serve Jesus for the rest of my life was going to be a huge decision in my faith journey. I prayed, “God, if baptism is really the promise to start new, then I’m ready. Sign me up. And by the way, God, just to make sure this is really what you want me to do, please provide a concrete sign for me. I would like to see a white dove. It can fly by any time between now and my scheduled baptism, or maybe I will see it perched somewhere, but when I see it, I know it is a sign from you that I should get baptized.” I didn’t tell anyone about my prayer.

The gospels tell us that Jesus begins his public ministry with an act of obedience by getting baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin John. As he rises up from the water, he receives an affirmation by God reminding him who he was created to be. God says, “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then a dove or the sensation of a dove alights upon Jesus. That is why I wanted to see a dove as my sign, but the sign never came.

Even the morning of my baptism, I was half expecting to see a dove descend from the ceiling of the church, but that never happened either. I was baptized at the end of the service, and I along with the other new members left the sanctuary first so that we could be greeted by the congregation after the benediction. Just as I was exiting the sanctuary, a friend met me at the door and handed me a congratulatory card she made for me. In it was a hand drawn picture of a beautiful white dove outlined in glitter. Needless to say, I was in tears as my heart burst in gratitude. God required my obedience first before the affirmation.

The biblical message and my faith experience both have confirmed this equation: Prayer + Obedience to God = affirmation by God that we are God’s beloved. Beginning a new year always invites us to remember that affirmation and renew our faith. If one of your goals for 2014 is the desire to grow deeper in prayer, to be more forgiving, to be more compassionate, to offer more grace to persons who God sets in your path each day, here is a hymn-prayer to help express that desire.
Change my heart, O God,
make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God,
may I be like you.
You are the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
this is what I pray.

Change my heart, O God,
make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God,
may I be like you.

The Faith We Sing Hymnal #2152

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments