Pray Like This

How do you pray?

Do you set aside intentional time, sit with a list of prayer concerns, and go straight into intercession? Do you pray spontaneously throughout the day as random needs present themselves? Do you only pray on Sundays when the pastor leads you? Do you say grace at meals?

Prayer is such a personal and individual thing. At its heart, prayer is simply our opportunity to speak with our loving parent who is always ready and able to have any conversation we desire. I know God has heard my most complex and my silliest, simplest prayers, and I am so grateful for his love and attention … especially when I am running up a big hill and pray, “Oh, Lord, just get me up this hill. Amen.” The fact that I am sitting in a chair writing this morning is evidence that God has gotten me up every big hill that I have ever encountered in my life. Thanks be to God!

When Jesus instructed his disciples how to pray in a passage that we refer to as “the Lord’s Prayer,” he was offering a basic outline for how we might fashion our prayers. There is no right or wrong way to pray. Scripture assures us that God even hears our prayers that are expressed in “sighs and groans.”

26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. (Romans 8: 26)

So let us take a moment to unpack Jesus’ prescription for prayer:

Matthew 6 (Common English Bible)

Pray like this:

Our Father who is in heaven,

uphold the holiness of your name.

Point 1: acknowledge God’s holiness.

10 Bring in your kingdom

so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.

Point 2: Ask for God’s will to be done in your situation.

1Give us the bread we need for today.

Point 3: Ask for what you need.

12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,

just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.

Point 4: Ask for forgiveness but be ready to offer that same forgiveness to the people around you who have hurt you. Yep, that’s what it means.

13 And don’t lead us into temptation,

but rescue us from the evil one.

Point 5: Petition God for his protection against all manner of evil that comes at you in the form of temptation.

Jesus offers this short outline as a place to start when we sit down to talk to our Father. It is important enough to be included in every protestant denomination’s order of worship and worship liturgies, including weddings and funerals. But do you know what is even more important than reciting the Lord’s Prayer? Just talking to God.

Take some time today to have a conversation with your Abba today. Use words if necessary.

Morning Chat by Michelle Robertson

What Are You Waiting For?

My church has been blessed with four baptisms lately, and a fifth one is on the way. Do you know what pastors call new babies in the congregation? JOB SECURITY. It brings us such joy to welcome these precious children into our family! We wait with the mothers as their bellies grow each week, and we celebrate their good news with each arrival.

Having been in that place twice myself, I know that pregnancy-waiting is a unique experience. It is filled with hope, anticipation, fear, pain, dread, and eventually release.

What are you waiting for right now? The final, official end of the pandemic? Getting out of a bad marriage? Finding a new job? The completion of an overwhelming project, college courses, or graduation? Are you waiting to move on with your life?

God is with us in the waiting.

Romans 8 (Common English Bible)

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

In this passage, Paul is writing to the church in Rome about their hope that Christ’s return is imminent. Paul reassures them that their waiting through the persecution and rejection they are experiencing will end in full deliverance. Even in the hardest moments, he encourages them to see their waiting as “joyful expectancy.” The Spirit of God is present within them.

Is God encouraging you to see your waiting as joyful expectancy? Do you believe that he is with you?

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

This is such a powerful reminder! When we are wordless in those moments of despair to the point that we don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays through our sighs and moans. What a relief! Sometimes the best we can do is fall on our knees in a mute stupor and look to heaven for help…and that is enough.

He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Be assured today that you are not alone in your waiting. God is very involved in your situation. He is present. Know that God is working things out for your good even when you can’t see his activity. He knows what you need even better than you do. So wait on him, and he will deliver you.

Our mothers were right. Good things come to those who wait.

Waiting for a Bite by Michelle Robertson

For the Good

A very long time ago, I worked for a wonderful church that went through a major building project. We purchased 63 acres of land three miles from our building and built a second campus with a thousand-seat worship center. Just months before we took occupancy of the building, the congregation was invited to write their favorite scripture on the concrete floor before the carpet was laid. Folks were encouraged to figure out where they would probably sit in the new sanctuary (based on where they sat every Sunday in the current one) and write their scripture in that spot. See! We understand how important “your pew” is to you!

The other pastors and I chose a place in the front where we anticipated sitting. I took the big Sharpie pen and wrote, “For God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him, and who are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I left that church 11 years ago, and those words are still there on the floor. I have experienced the truth of that scripture all of my life. No matter what comes our way….death, cancer, job loss, estrangement, pandemics….God can use those things for our GOOD.

If we let him.

And that’s the point.

Let’s back up a moment and look at that verse in its context:

Romans 8 (Contemporary English Version)

26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. 27 All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God’s people.

The power of these two verses is profound.

When we are weak, the Spirit is here to help.

When we don’t know how to pray, all we have to do is groan.

God knows our thoughts at all times.

He understands what the Holy Spirit is doing…and what the Holy Spirit is doing is praying the prayer you can’t form the words to say.

Feel better yet?

 28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.

Here is the trick. God is always at work for our good, but we have to yield to his understanding of what is good. We have to train ourselves to have the faith and humility to lay down our concept of “good” in exchange for his.

When I left that church, I was convinced it wasn’t a good thing. I was wrong. When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I knew no good would come of it. Good things did come. When this horrific pandemic hit, I gave up all hope that there would be anything good in life again. Yet all around me I see evidence to the contrary. I see people reaching out to help others in ways they NEVER would have done in their pre-pandemic busyness. I see families slowing down and spending quality time with each other. I see ingenuity, creativity, compassion, and scientific understanding growing exponentially. People are reading more scripture and experiencing the presence of God in new and surprising ways. And as a nation, we are confronting and discussing centuries-old issues that we have suppressed for way too long. Do we see a lot of bad right now? Absolutely. But yielding to God’s understanding of “good” requires that we see beyond the bad.

Need more convincing? How about this:

Because we are driving less, places like Washington DC, Los Angeles, and cities in China are reporting the cleanest air they have seen in decades.

Less large ship traffic in the waters is providing relief during the annual migration of sound-sensitive animals such as humpback whales.

Walmart just announced they will be closed this Thanksgiving. Folks, that is not only good, it’s a miracle!

So is the pandemic good? Oh, heck no. But can God use bad things for our good in some way? Yes. Even in this horrific time, God is still and always will be working for our good.

Where can you claim the good today? What one thing has gotten better since this started? What aspect of your life would you not go back to when the pandemic is lifted?

Think on those things, and ponder them in your heart today.

Quiet at the Docks by Michelle Robertson