…May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

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In the GPS guide for February 9-13, we read a lot about justice, action, and putting hands and feet on our faith. We will read scripture about caring for widows and orphans, loving strangers and providing for their needs, God’s provisions for the needy, justice that rolls like waters and righteousness like an every-flowing stream, being doers of the word, giving honor to the poor and loving our neighbors as we do ourselves.

Wow.

And what is a prayer we can be praying while we think and see and act and love? There are many, but there is one you very likely know. If you participate in worship here at Resurrection, I know you say it out loud at least once a week.

“…May your kingdom come and may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

This week we could pray this daily, and expand a little, asking God to help us live into our real desire to do his will. We can ask:

  • Where am I called to participate in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven?
  • How can I contribute peace and love to all whom I encounter?
  • How can I grow in humility so that I may seek to serve others?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.* put it this way:

Forgive us for what we could have been
but failed to be.
Give us the intelligence to know your will.
Give us the courage to do your will.
Give us the devotion to love your will.
In the name of the spirit of Jesus, we pray.
Amen

*Thou, Dear God: Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits (edited by Lewis V. Baldwin, Beacon Press, 2012)

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Team

Morning Prayer

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Are you a morning person? For some, the morning begins with eyes popping open and “Good Morning, God!” on their lips. For others, the day starts with a struggle to get those eyes open followed by something more like, “Good God, it’s morning!” I confess to belonging to the less-than-enthusiastic-about-morning group.

Some of us are morning people. Some of us are not. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about morning. Beginning your day by inviting God’s presence into every part of the day to come is vitally important, but can be very difficult due to demands on our time and our own personalities and habits. Today we are going to look at some prayer practices that can make morning prayer a habit and significant part of your day.

It’s not just those of us who don’t exactly pop out of bed every morning who can have struggles with spending quiet, centered time in prayer at the beginning of the day. You folks who wake up ready to go seem to also wake up to a lot of thoughts flying about. Calendar, to-do list, anticipated events, chores, etc. may immediately begin to fight for your attention. You are ready to go-go-go, not sit quietly in God’s presence!

For those who struggle with the noise in their head interfering with their morning prayer, try “dumping” all those important morning thoughts before you sit down to pray. Take a blank sheet of paper and give yourself five minutes to “brain dump” every thought, every task, every chore, that is running through your morning-energized mind. Then put it aside and prepare yourself for your special time beginning the day with God. It will all be there later. Then you can begin your day by asking to see and feel God’s presence in all that is to come.

For those of us who struggle with being present in the morning, who have no interest in conversation, who crave quiet and the blessing of a slow start, just moving into prayer is the challenge. Here is one hint from someone who knows: Do NOT pray anywhere near your bed. In fact, this is a good time to sit in an uncomfortable chair, or stand near the window soaking up some blessed sunlight.

For the happy morning people, and for those who struggle a bit getting started, here is a simple breath prayer to begin your morning prayer time:

Breath in:
Oh God, help me see you in everything
Breath out:
today and all days

Breath in:
Lord Jesus help me be
Breath out:
Your hands and feet and voice today

Breath in:
Holy Spirit help me hear
Breath out:
Your voice above the noise today

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Forgiveness

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Prayer Tip:

This week in the GPS guide we will look at what Jesus taught about forgiveness through several parables.  Who do you think is the hardest person of all to forgive?  The person who hurts our feelings? The person who hurts us physically, or makes our life more difficult?  I believe the person who is hardest to forgive with our whole hearts is our self.  When we pray “forgive us our trespasses,” we need to remember that God does forgive them, and we should too.  Sometimes that is the hardest forgiveness of all.

This Prayer in Brokenness, from Celtic Daily Prayer (©2002 Northumbria Community Trust), is a good one to bring our need for forgiveness and a new start to God, and also for accepting the need to forgive ourselves:

O God,
I cannot undo the past,
or make it never have happened!
– neither can You. There are some things
that are not possible even for You
– but not many!
I ask you,
humbly,
and from the bottom of my heart:
Please, God
would You write straight
with my crooked lines?
Out of the serious mistakes of my life
will You make something beautiful for You?
Teach me to live at peace with You,
to make peace with others
and even myself.
Give me fresh vision. Let me
experience Your love so deeply
that I am free to
face the future with a steady eye,
forgiven,
and strong in hope.
AMEN

– Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Not the Genie in the bottle…

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In Aladdin, the Genie sings “You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me.”  He promises, in the many voices of Robin Williams,

I’m here to answer all your midday prayers
You got me bona fide, certified
You got a genie for your charge d’affaires
I got a powerful urge to help you out
So what-cha wish? I really wanna know
You got a list that’s three miles long, no doubt
Well, all you gotta do is rub like so – and oh

Don’t we sometimes treat our prayers like this? We go to God expecting the Genie to come out of the bottle and grant our wishes. But God is not the Genie in the bottle, and for that we should be grateful. Sometimes our prayers are asking for God to help us clean up the mess we’ve made trying to run our lives without God, who created us and knows more about us than we know ourselves.

Richard Foster wrote, “Prayer frees us to be controlled by God…In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.” God, who is greater than any magic Genie, gave us the gift of prayer because it can change us and bring us closer to the mind of God. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring our hopes and dreams to God, or our fears and troubles. It does mean we can be blessed as we trust that God only wants good things for us, even at times when we aren’t yet able to fully understand what those good things are, or why they’re better than the things we think we want.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done.” He prayed that prayer himself at one of the darkest, hardest, scariest times anyone has ever had to face. As we pray that prayer in worship, and every day this week, we can trust that God, who is wiser than we are and sees much farther than we can see, will be working in our lives to direct us to what is best. Now that’s a Friend who is really worth having!
–Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministries

Listening

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Over the next four weeks at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, we will be learning about Jeremiah, God’s prophet who lived through times of war, want, and fear. Through all the trials, Jeremiah heard God’s voice.  He listened for God.

When you pray, do you really listen for God to speak to you, or do you do all the talking? I found a list of “Ways To Be a Good Listener” and many of the points speak to how we should listen in our conversations with God.

  • Don’t focus on how what the other person (in this case, God) is saying will impact you. Don’t interject your own thoughts.
  • Create a mental and physical space that is conducive to listening. Get rid of distractions.
  • Practice “summarize and restate.” If it helps, write down what you hear God saying. Ask God to tell you if this is, indeed what God wanted you to hear.
  • Ask meaningful questions. Seek answers using the tools God gave us for discernment: Scripture, especially Jesus teaching, wise counsel of trusted friends and spiritual guides, and yes, even more listening!
  • Wait.  This is the hard one.  In Jeremiah 42:7, we see that Jeremiah waited ten days for an answer from God. Don’t always expect an instant, easy answer.  Read Psalms 27:14, 33:7, 37:7, 38:15, and 40:1 for encouragement while you wait.
  • Be thankful and responsive.  Offer praise and thanks for God’s constant presence in your life and for the promises that God will speak to us and answer our prayers.

In hard times, Jeremiah listened and God spoke.  He heard God’s promise for a future with hope. If you practice being a good listener in your conversation with God, you will also hear that promise.

– Jennifer Creagar, Prayer Ministry & Congregational Care

Journaling and Answered Prayer

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This week at Resurrection we will look at several stories that show God working in the lives of women to bring big changes in the world. Brave women kept Moses alive as a baby. Ruth began the family line of David, into which Jesus would be born generations later. These women were not superstars or leading citizens of their time. Just the fact that they were women marked them as insignificant in their culture. Yet their actions changed many lives forever.

Sometimes it is easy to see God working through our prayers.  We pray for healing, and receive the good news that the cancer is gone, the illness has vanished.  We pray for a change in circumstances and that change comes, or for guidance and feel a new peace about our direction. However, in our ongoing conversation with God, answers to prayer are not always so black and white. Not all prayers are simple requests where the answer must be “yes” or “no.” Like any conversation, the changes that occur in our lives most often do not stand alone, but are woven into the fabric of day to day living.

A journal can help us see how God is working in our lives. By journaling your conversations with God, you can look at the record of these conversations and often see answers to prayer in the “big picture” of your whole life.

A journal is a personal document, so there are not any “right” and “wrong” ways to journal. You can begin with a pad of paper, a notebook, or one of the beautiful blank books found in book and gift stores. It is a good idea if it is bound together in some way so you can flip back through the pages. For a period of time, say a month, write your prayers, concerns, thoughts. Don’t just write requests. Add praises, worship, questions–all the things that would be part of a normal conversation. Periodically, find a quiet place and go back and read everything you have written. Pray before you begin and ask God to show you what you need to learn from your journal. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What did I pray about most?
  • What was my tone?  Have I been joyful, sad, angry, confused, excited?
  • Is there, as they say in Celebrate Recovery, a hurt, habit, or hang-up that appears regularly?
  • What seems to bring me the most joy?
  • If I had to name a theme for the last month of my conversations with God, what would that theme be?
  • What questions do I feel are still unanswered?  What new questions do I have?

If you have never journaled your prayers, give these suggestions a try and expect to see new answers and ways God is moving and working in your life, and new topics for your ongoing conversation.

–Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Prayer to change me

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This week in worship at Church of the Resurrection, we will hear about Esther, who had some very big decisions to make.
Sometimes life puts us in a place where we just don’t know what to do. We turn to God in prayer, but how will we recognize the answer?

C.S. Lewis said, “I pray not to change God’s will, I pray to change me.” A big part of our ongoing conversation with God is the change it brings about in our hearts, minds, and actions. When we are stuck, a good question to ask is, “How is God working to change ME in this situation so that I will be more like him, following his will more closely?”

It is more common to pray asking God to change the situation. Esther could have prayed, “God make Haman change his mind so I don’t have to risk my life by addressing the king.”  She could have prayed, “God, please protect me here in the palace from the terrible thing that is about to happen to all the Jews in the kingdom.”  We don’t really know – maybe she did.  We do know what happened. Esther changed. She became brave and faithful and stepped forward to save her people and her family.

Praying to see the change God wants to bring about in us is a very scary thing. But God has promised us change for the good.  In Jeremiah 29:11-14 God said this to some of his people who were living in danger: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God promised to listen. He also promised we will find him when we seek him, but we must be ready to accept the change that comes with finding his perfect will.  Look how well the change worked out for Esther!

Jennifer Creagar – Prayer Ministry

It’s Spring and everything is new…

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Spring is finally here.  Time for new things – new plants in the garden, new schedules as the days grow longer.  Why not try a new prayer practice or style and bring some of that spring newness into your conversation with God?

Do you usually pray quietly, indoors in your special prayer spot?  Try praying out loud, or take your prayers outdoors.  Spring is a great time to try out a prayer walk around your neighborhood or along a path.

Are you a prayer walker who always moves when you pray?  Give stillness a try.  Sit quietly in one place and listen for the Holy Spirit speaking to you in the quiet.

If you always pray in silence, try using music as part of your prayer time.  If you always pray alone, find a prayer partner and pray together on a regular basis.  If you always pray “on the go” (in the car, in the shower, while you are doing something else) set aside some time for nothing but prayer.

Change the time of day when you normally pray, or add another prayer time to your schedule. If you have never used a devotion book or written prayers, try adding those to your prayer time.

Over time, our conversations, praise, worship, requests, and confessions can all become more of a habit and less joyful communion.  As the natural world around us becomes new, a different prayer practice or routine can refresh your spirit and your time with God.

Note:  A good book for exploring different prayer practices and styles is Paths to Prayer by Patricia Brown.

Don’t think about bananas…

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For the next sixty seconds, please do not think about bananas…

O.K., time’s up!  What did you think about?  If you are like most of us, it was a yellow tropical fruit.  And how is that Lenten fast coming?  It’s been a few days now.  What have you been thinking about?  Have your thoughts been consumed by visions of chocolate, a computer game, or the urge to gossip?  Perhaps your Lenten sacrifice is time to be dedicated to prayer, or scripture reading, or service.  Are you thinking about the prayer, scripture or serving or are you thinking about how you are going to get everything done now that you have dedicated that time to something else?  If we aren’t careful, our Lenten fast or sacrifice can become one big banana!

This happens when we think we can use willpower to observe Lent, or make any other change in our lives.  In her book, Paths to Prayer, Patricia Brown writes, “Willpower is not comparable to prayer. Willpower is momentary; it never sustains you in the long run. Prayer however, gives you access to infinite power with no limit….the strength we receive through fasting prayer encourages us day and night and leads us to abundant life.”  As you move through this season of Lent, remember to rely on the infinite power of prayer, and let your fast or sacrifice bring you closer to the source of that power, a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

– Jennifer Creagar


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