How does Jesus model Prayer?

jesus_praying

This Sunday, in our sermon series on the power and practice of prayer, we ask the question “How does Jesus model prayer.” This blog post is a reflection on that question.

“Be still and know that I am God” is one of my go-to verses in the Bible. When I’m stressed, or really needing to sit in quiet with God, I will often meditate on this verse, matching my breath to the words. It quiets my mind, and helps me center my heart and mind on God. It clears my head so I can just listen for God’s voice.

I wonder if Jesus had his own go-to mantra. Of course, I don’t know. There are plenty of places in the Bible where we read that Jesus went to a quiet place, or to the mountains, or just “away” to pray. I like to think that in those times, he, too, was meditating on some comforting word that helped Him find his Father. But I don’t know.

Just as often in the Bible, Jesus demonstrates other ways of praying. He teaches his disciples formulaic prayer in the Lord’s Prayer. He wallows audibly in anguish in the garden where clearly there are witnesses, taking his deepest fears and desires and laying them at God’s feet. He prays contemplatively and intentionally for his disciples and the world – most likely in some public way, since it was captured in Scripture. He spent time in retreat, one of them 40 days! He fasted.

How does Jesus model prayer? 1 Thessalonians tells us to pray without ceasing. I would say THAT is how Jesus models prayer – by making His life a living prayer. Maybe Jesus prayed in so many different ways in order to show us there is no right or wrong way to pray. Maybe, as long as we’re loving God with all our heart and soul and loving our neighbors as ourselves, Jesus smiles and says, ‘That’s it. That’s how to pray.’

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Our Father, Father’s Day, and Parable of the Father’s Love

Today’s devotion is from Chris Cairo:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”

How easily we say these words, sometimes without even thinking about what we are saying, about what the words mean to us. The Lord’s Prayer becomes rote memorization and blind (spiritual) repetition.

Father and son at lakeGod as our Father (let’s side aside any discussion of God’s gender for a moment): what does that mean to you?

There are many stories in the bible, both Old and New Testament, that give us insights into God’s character. One such story is found in Luke 15: the story we call “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.

In a book of the same name by Henri Nouwen, Nouwen suggests that this story could/should be called “Parable of the Father’s Love”. This parable in Luke is told by Jesus after He hears the Pharisees complain that Jesus associates with sinners.

The story has three main characters (the Father and his two sons) and seemingly spends more time on the exploits of the younger son, who goes off and squanders the inheritance his father has given him. It is hard to miss the point that the Father (God) is filled with compassion and joy when the son returns, and holds no grudges: he forgives and accepts. End of lesson, right?

But then there is the older brother who resents that the Father treats the prodigal son so well when he returns. “He is not deserving!” (Or at least not as deserving as me!)

How many of us have moments of jealousy when attention or praise is given to one of our (less deserving in our eyes) siblings by our Father? Or a classmate by the teacher? Or coworker, by our boss? Or when a friend gets complemented on what they are wearing and not us?

I am guilty of this. Sometimes it’s hard not to be jealous, as the world is always comparing us, evaluating us, grading us. Constant competition.

But not God.640px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

In the story the Father runs out to greet the prodigal son as he is returning home. But the Father also goes out to the older son, to bring him into the celebration in the house.

Jesus’s point with the story, seems to be that not only does God love sinners, but that God loves all of us, equally. The Fathers love is not given in measure to our goodness or success. Thank God! (No pun intended) You do not have to have better grades than your brother or sister. You do not need to be the best athlete in the family. Or the smartest…There is no comparing.

Your Father simply loves you.

And so it is “on earth as it is in heaven”.

In the famous painting by Rembrandt of this parable, he shows the son kneeling, and comforted, in the warm embrace of the Father. The light in the painting symbolizing the fathers love. The father reaches out to give love, and equally important, the son has returned and learned to accept the fathers love.

I hope you each can bask in the love of your Father on Father’s Day, whether he is with you or not. That’s all He wants.

 

Easter member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students and others, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to encourage their faith to thrive in their daily lives.

 

The Fire of the Word: Meeting God on Holy Ground

Today’s reflection comes from Sam Rahberg: 

Open your heart afresh
to the living Word of God. Fire of the Word image--!cid_image001_png@01D07A79
The Bible burns with
unquenchable fire.

Before all else, God wanted you.
God draws near, yearns for you.
Can you endure and embrace
God’s meeting you in Scripture?

Read prayerfully, openly,
humbly, expectantly.
God is fully present;
we are often less so.

Allow Scripture to become internalized.
Christ offers mysteries as enticements
to come back for more.

Christ is the goal,
the destination, the end point.
How should we live
in response to Christ revealed?

Holiness—love rightly ordered—
is life in all its abundance.
As God’s grace draws us,
we increasingly reflect God’s character.

God-believing, Christ-centered,
Spirit-empowered Christians
are formed and fortified by Scripture.

Contemplative prayer is simply
enjoying friendship with God.

If your reading leads Christ-ward,
you’re doing it right.

 

–Reader’s poem by Samuel Rahberg, based on the book  The Fire of the Word: Meeting God on Holy Ground by Chris Webb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011).

 

More about reader’s poems: 

After I finish a good read and before I tuck it away on the shelf, I like to spend some time synthesizing what was most important to me. I use the author’s own words, varied only slightly, and follow the themes that speak most strongly to me at this time. The reader’s poem above remains a summary and serves only as my own interpretation, so I take responsibility for any deviation from the author’s original intent. Even so, may it be a helpful reflection for others and an encouragement to read a fine book in its entirety.  

 

Sam Rahberg is the Director of the Benedictine Center , spiritual director, and writer who offers ministerial support to both lay and ordained Christian ministers.  Sam has experience in parish education and administration and holds a master’s degree in theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Visit Sam at www.samuelrahberg.com .

 

 

Feeling the Effects of Many Prayers

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Caring Bridge these last few months, mostly as a writer, but sometimes to check in on friends or acquaintances.  What a terrific way to ask for and receive prayers — lots and lots of prayers, from lots and lots of people.  Nearly everyone writes that they feel the effects of these prayers in one way or another.

One of the most profound times I felt prayers working was before my husband Mike’s surgery to amputate his lower right leg.  It was a terribly difficult time, as we faced losing his leg and an unknown and profoundly changed future.  We asked for prayers on Caring Bridge, Facebook, from the people of Easter. People were praying for us left and right — people from church, the Saint Thomas Academy community where Mike is the assistant headmaster, Facebook friends, friends from high school, people we hardly knew and people we didn’t know at all!

Before surgery I was very anxious and it just felt like everything was hard.  But one morning while in the car, I felt the tension in my body, the fear in my mind and the anxiety in my heart physically melt away and be replaced by a profound sense of peace.  It was a physical transformation, as well as a spiritual and emotional one.  Every bit of me relaxed, and  I was able to rest in God’s love and tenderness. Mike must have felt it too, because the night before and the morning of surgery we were calm and completely without fear, and completely at peace.  It was weird.

I know that this feeling of peace was due to the prayers so many people were praying for Mike and for our family.  There is strength in groups, and profound strength in praying in groups.  In this case, I don’t know if a group was praying together, or if it just happened that many people were praying at the same time (yeah, right, it just happened!).  But I do know that we felt them. And they made a huge difference in how we felt and how we faced the surgery and recovery (which all went wonderfully, by the way!).

Prickly Passage, Prayer, and Forgiveness

Today’s post is written by an Easter member who wishes to remain anonymous: 

Jesus and Fig Tree--medium size --01_Fig_Tree_JPEG_1024Lately I’ve been focused on a BFF* who has hurt my feelings.  Waaaay too much focusing!

So when I was reading Mark and came upon this one story I was speechless.  (That’s probably a good thing.)

Mark 11:11-26 contains that prickly passage about Jesus and the fig tree that had no figs (never mind that it was out of season anyway). Here’s part of the story:

 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:12-14)

Jesus and the Fig Tree--medium size --06_Fig_Tree_JPEG_1024After this, Jesus and the disciples go into Jerusalem, where Jesus casts the money-changers out of the temple. As he and the disciples head back out of town, Peter notices that the fig tree Jesus cursed has now withered:

20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:20-25**)

Jesus replies by assuring them that whatever they pray for in prayer, they will receive.

But someone at church once pointed out something I’d missed in the many times I’ve read this passage: Jesus tells them that whenever they pray, they are to forgive.

Wow. What if, in every prayer we offered, we asked for the grace to forgive those who we feel have wronged us?

And what if God granted that request?

Ponder this…

 

 

*BFF: best friend forever
** Bible passages from NRSV online at www.biblegateway.com