Children Explain Prayer

This summer, our sermon series at Easter Lutheran Church has been exploring the topic of prayer. One major theme has been that prayer is primarily about relationship–our relationship with God.  In the very first sermon, we explored how Adam and Eve “hid” from God after they sinned, and yet, God still reached out to them. God knew what had happened, and yet called out to them, asking why they were hiding.

Like Adam and Eve, sometimes we “hide” from God, afraid or avoiding prayer because we think we don’t know how to pray, or we are not worthy. Despite this, God reaches out to us in various ways because God loves us, no matter what may have happened.  We think we are “hiding” when all the while God is watching over us, like a loving parent or kind teacher. No matter what we’ve done, good or bad, God still wants to be in relationship with us.

We can trust that God wants to be in this relationship with us because God keeps reaching out to humans again and again in biblical history despite people failing him again and again. God’s love is so unconditional that he sent his son (that is, God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ) and died on the cross while people were still steeped in sin.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

I was thinking about these things when this short video of children explaining prayer appeared in my Facebook feed. Their hearts are open and trusting. Creative. Honest. Compassionate.

Being fifty-something doesn’t stop me from learning from these children. Their freshness and youth inspires me to be a little more honest with God, a little more free-flowing–and less worried about “if I’m getting it right.”

But aren’t we sinners? Yes, but we also God’s children, for it is God who gave us life. Little children don’t worry if their words aren’t elegant or sophisticated–and the loving parents around them continue to value what they say. We don’t stop loving children when they make mistakes or have difficulties. God enjoys having quality time with us, just we enjoy having quality time with our children.

Will you pray with me?

O God,
The next time I try to run from praying
because I am ashamed, guilty, or afraid,
please send your Holy Spirit to remind me
that you are the God of Mercy and unconditional love.
The next time I feel “I don’t have the right words to pray,”
remind me that I can say whatever I want or feel,
or even express myself to you in wordless ways,
trusting that you understand my heart
and love me just as I am.
The next time I want to pray, but feel inadequate,
please remind me that prayer is about
spending quality time together with you,
not mastering fancy words or passing an imaginary test.
Thank you, Lord,
for your constant love and attentiveness to us,
and help us to always place our trust in you.
This I ask in the name of Jesus
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

 

Julie McCarty is a spiritual director, writer, budding artist, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Prays / Easter Praise! blog. In her free time, she enjoys nature photography, painting, gardening, and taking long walks with her husband Terry. Julie also blogs at www.spiritualdrawingboard.com  and posts religious and spiritual encouragement on Facebook at Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips on Prayer from Martin Luther

In his short booklet, “A Simple Way to Pray,”* Martin Luther offers a way to dig deeper into prayer, that is, to grow in one’s relationship with God. Written at the request of his friend, the barber, Luther takes what he learned about prayer in the monastery and adapts it for the typical person living “in the world.” Knowing that many people in his time could not read or afford books, Luther describes a way to meditate on material already memorized, such as the Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles’ Creed, or the Ten Commandments. Peasants raking the hay or punching down the bread dough could ponder these Christian wonders in the midst of their daily lives.**

A Simple Way to Pray book by Luther 51NbRdb0PWL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Although most of the Luther’s booklet is devoted to explaining how to pray in meditative fashion, there is also general advice about prayer. Here are 10 tips: 

  1. Morning/evening prayer: Pray the first thing you wake up in the morning, and just before going to sleep at night.
  2. Amen!  End your prayer with “Amen,” to show you really mean it. (The word “Amen” means “let it be so,” “many it be true” or “I believe”!)
  3. Work and prayer: The work you do can be a kind of prayer, if you do your work with good moral values–not if you are cheating others, stealing from your boss, etc.
  4. Quality time with God: Although your work is a kind of prayer, don’t neglect to have certain fixed times to just pray. Remember, Luther wrote this book not for monks, but to encourage his barber to pray.
  5. Pay attention. Do your best to pay attention to the words of prayers (at home, at church, wherever), pondering the meaning of the words. Luther says if you want to do your best at something, you give it your whole attention, doing it with focus and concentration, quoting a saying of his time:  “a person engaged in various pursuits, minds none of them well.”
  6. There are many ways to pray: Sing, recite written prayers, use your own words, meditate on the Lord’s Prayer, and many other ways… The point is to use whatever way of praying helps you to put your mind (attention) and heart (genuine love for God) into the quality time you spend with God.
  7. Be yourself before God. Although Luther is giving examples in this letter about how to pray, he reminds people that his own prayers are different on different days. He encourages the use of your own words and feelings with God–you can be honest with God, no matter what the situation.
  8. Listen to the Holy Spirit.  Luther says sometimes when you are praying using his method, the Holy Spirit will grant you a BETTER insight or blessed way of being with God in the moment. When this happens, let go of your prayer “method,” and allow the Spirit to guide your prayer (that is, prayer methods are not laws to obey).
  9. Having trouble praying? Luther writes that sometimes he feels he’s becoming too cold, apathetic, or distracted in his prayer life. When this happens, he sneaks away by himself into a quiet room with the book of Psalms–or sometimes goes to church to pray with others.
  10. Prayer is about kindling a little flame in your heart. Don’t try to do everything at once. “A good prayer should not be long, nor should it be drawn out, but prayed often and fervently. Don’t worry about covering a lot of ground. It is sufficient if you really dig deep on one idea and pray about it, so that you can “kindle a flame in your heart” — this “flame” is given by the Holy Spirit, who will continue to teach and guide us, in ways we could not plan ourselves.

Candle--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA - Smaller CopyHappy praying!

* Edition used for this article: “A Simple Way to Pray” by Martin Luther, translated by Matthew C. Harrison (Concordia Publishing House, 2012).
**If Martin Luther were alive today, I imagine he would suggest people use short bible passages to practice this same type of meditative prayer–the bibles found on their coffee tables and in their cell phones.

About the writer: Julie McCarty is a spiritual director, writer, and member of Easter Lutheran Church. For more on spiritual direction, visit easter.org and look under “connections”:   http://easter.org/wordpress/spiritual-direction/