Barriers

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When I was a fundraising director for an organization in college, I initially had a hard time asking people for money.  I thought I was inconveniencing them and would always try to find indirect ways to do the fundraising.  This was a barrier that got in the way of my ability to do my job to the fullest and, quite frankly, it was a barrier that I had to overcome.  I had a conversation with the previous director who asked me a couple questions that helped me deal with this – he asked, “Do you believe in the organization and what it is trying to do?”   I answered yes.  “Do you think that others will believe in what the organization is trying to do?”  I answered yes.  “So don’t deny them the chance to become a partner in what we are doing here,” he finally said.  I needed to have that conversation in order to overcome this barrier, and that year we raised 10% more funds than the previous year.

Relating this to our prayer lives, each of us have barriers that get in the way of us praying and connecting to God in the fullest.  Since we can seemingly get through life OK without improving our prayer life, many of us often don’t deal with those prayer barriers.  If you desire to only have a mediocre prayer life and a mediocre relationship with God, then I suppose that’s OK.   On the other hand, if you thirst for a better prayer life, then I encourage you to expose your barriers to a loved one or to someone you look up to spiritually.  Talk about the barrier and problem-solve on how to overcome it.  Perhaps you think prayer is boring or wonder if prayer even matters at all.  Maybe you don’t feel like you have the time to pray or just flat out don’t know how to.  Whatever the barrier, talking about it is the first step towards overcoming it.

As I continue to offer “Prayer Tips” in 2010, I invite you to email me (michael.maroon@cor.org) or comment here on the blog about what your own prayer barriers are so that the tips will be relevant and transforming for our congregation (if you have a barrier to prayer, I promise you that others share that same barrier).  In the future, I hope that these prayer tips can serve as a starting point for conversations about our prayer lives on the prayer blog.  Also know that your pastors are here to help you overcome these barriers if you would like to get in touch or setup an appointment with your pastorate pastor.

Praying With Empathy

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There are times when I can feel like my prayers are just lip service and other times when it feels as if it is my heart praying the words instead of my mouth.  As I’ve been praying for the people in Haiti, I’ve noticed something.  My prayers have almost been tear-led as I empathize and imagine the suffering that the Haitians are going through.  It’s almost as if I am praying from their perspective and my heart is connected with them and with God in a way that seems more powerful and meaningful than other prayers.  I have a stronger sense that my prayers are being heard by God as God feels the true compassion that I feel for these hurting people. 

 

I hope that you have felt this sense of connectedness with the Haitians and with God during your most recent prayers.  If not, then I invite you to imagine what it would feel like to lose a child or mother in such a tragedy, or what it would feel like to be pinned under concrete for 50 hours without food or water before you were rescued.  What would it feel like to not know if family and loved ones survived or not?  Now that you’ve pondered such things, you are ready to pray for your Haitian Brothers and Sisters.  Praying for others begins with empathizing and having compassion for what others are going through.  I am thankful to be partnered with you in prayer as we continue to lift up those who were affected by this terrible tragedy. 

Michael Maroon, Pastor of Prayer

Umost humility and sincere devotion…

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St. Benedict writes regarding prayer, “Whenever we want to ask a favor of someone powerful, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the God of all with the utmost humility and sincere devotion.”
Often times we go to God in prayer as if God was a buddy of ours. Of course it’s true that God is our friend. But I have some friends who I am very ‘chummy’ with and other friends for whom I have a deep admiration and respect.  God is certainly a friend who deserves admiration and respect. When we offer up our petitions and concerns to God, we ought to remember that we are going before the one who created us, redeemed us and sustains us! Although God welcomes us before God’s throne with a loving openness, we should still strive to go before that throne “humbly and respectfully,” as Benedict instructs us. Going before God with humility and respect shows God that we understand and appreciate all God is, and that we have no desire to convey a sense of casual disrespect or conditional expectation.
When someone brings a concern before you with humility and respect, how do you respond? I hope it moves you to show that person the same respect and drives you towards an appreciation for who that person is and a compassion for what that person is going through. On the other hand, what about the person who comes before you with an expectation in such a casual way that there is no recognition of the time, energy and compassion that will flow out of you to meet their expectation? Perhaps you will meet their expectation anyway, but it would probably be difficult to do it with a pure heart (although God always does – how much greater God is than us!).
I encourage you to remember the gravitas of who God is as you go to God in prayer. The mere fact that our God, the author of all Creation, invites each of us to be in a personal and communal relationship with God is humbling enough. May we continue in that humility and respect as we go to our loving and welcoming God with our souls’ needs and concerns.

–Rev. Michael Maroon, Pastor of Prayer Ministries

Decisions

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The other day a scripture sort of popped out to me as I had the prayer tip in mind – Luke 6:12-13.  It reads, “Now during those days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles…”

 

Selecting the 12 apostles was an important decision for Jesus to make.  He recognized that these 12 would be instrumental in carrying the Gospel message forward towards the inception of Christ’s Church.  This was so important, in fact, that Jesus spent an entire night in prayer over this decision so that he would have no doubt about his selections.  It is affirming for me to know that Jesus spent so much time in prayer about his apostles – it reinforces the idea that each apostle was there to serve a particular role for the sake of God’s will.

 

Although it isn’t every day that we are faced with such a lofty decision to make, we could still follow the prayerful model that Jesus displays in our own lives.  When you are faced with important decisions, how often do you lift it up to God to allow God’s direction and input into the mix?  When you do lift up an important decision, are you praying for God to ‘bless’ your own direction or is your heart truly open to whatever direction God would have you go?  As we look forward to a new year, I invite you to make God part of your decision-making process at work, at home and in your own personal lives as you seek to live out God’s will for your own life.   

Michael Maroon,  Pastor of Prayer


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