Posted tagged ‘prayer support’

Meaningless Prayer

June 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 28, 2018

                                 

“Rub-a-Dub! Thanks for the grub! Yeah, God! Amen!”

There’s been a few of those prayers that I’ve said through the years. How about this one?

“Good food! Good drink! Good God! Let’s eat! Amen!”

Yes, I know! A tint of irreverence in there. Here’s my daily irreverent offering!

“Cream and sugar, sugar and cream! Thank you, God, for coffee with steam! Amen and amen!”

A lot of prayer has a sliver of meaning and a lot of meaninglessness. It gets uttered or muttered, but not spoken. That is, I may speak the words with my lips, but they’ve detoured around my emotions and belief. 

Carol and I gently hold hands as we pray before partaking of the meal in front of us. (Gently holding hands because of her sensitive pinky finger, mind you!) I’ve become accustomed to saying “Thank you, God, for the food and this time together! Amen!” Simple, short, steam still rising from the bowls of mashed potatoes and peas when I’m finished. Quite often, however, I realize that I’ve simply said the words in order to get to the entree! They have carried no meaning, no true sense of thankfulness. 

Being fully present in the words of my prayer is difficult. It’s like when Carol would be saying something to me while I was watching a basketball game. She could throw in a few ad lib lines like “The house is on fire!” and I’d respond with an “Aha”!

Focus, Bill! 

Jesus had a few “Come to Jesus moments!” with the rigidly religious folk of his day. He harped about their words that had no meaning and depth, no urgency or heartfelt thankfulness. The people that he encouraged and affirmed were those who risked something in their prayer and committed themselves to the words they spoke. In essence3, they stood behind their pleas and praises. 

Mark 1:40 tells us about the man with leprosy who begged Jesus to make him clean. To others he was meant to be seen only from a distance, but he risked coming close to God. Mark 5 includes several stories and encounters with Jesus. One of them is about a woman who had a feminine bleeding issue that had spanned twelve years. She simply touched the hem of Jesus garment. That, in essence, was her prayer act…her reaching for the mercy of God. 

And Jesus affirmed her!

We talk a lot about who needs prayer (Look at the prayer concerns list in the weekly church communique!), and discount the praying. It’s like getting all the ingredients together for a double-layer chocolate cake, but never actually making it!

The awareness I have of the prayer shallowness in my life has caused me to focus more of my heartfelt praying in a certain way…asking for forgiveness!

Rearranging My Prayer List

December 17, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 17, 2016

                           

Prayer is not my strength.

I recognize in writing that sentence in that way that it was read in different ways by different people. Some may have read it thinking about the power of prayer, and what in the world am I thinking!!!!

Others may have read it and thought I was referring to the lack of effect…the absence of strengthening… that prayer brings into my life.

And still others read it the way I intended it. That is, when compiling a list of my strengths prayer is not one of them. That is not to say that I do not pray, and it not to say that I do not believe in the power and potential of prayer…the difference that prayer makes, but rather it is to say that prayer is seldom my reaction. My first reaction is to think of solutions and construct plans.

Over the years some folk have assumed that prayer was my strength since I am a pastor. Perhaps they thought I had a habit of rising at 5:30 and heading into my prayer closet. The truth is that I do often rise at 5:30, not because of an urgency to pray but because of an urgency with my bladder. I know…I know, too much information!

Recently, however, like casseroles at a church potluck, God seems to be heaping more concerns on plate. And interestingly enough, it isn’t because I’m a pastor, but rather because of the people I’m encountering during this time of my life journey. Let me give you some taste of my “prayer portions!”

-While sitting in Starbucks one morning and writing one of my blog posts one of the Starbucks employees that I’ve gotten to know a little bit, Sarah, was wiping off the counter beside me. She gave me one of those looks that non-verbally said “I want to say something to you!” I asked her how she was, and she told me her mom had passed away a couple of days before and the funeral was to be the next day. We talked about the loss of a parent, the pain and the sorrow, and I told her I would be praying for her and her family. Having lost my mom three years ago I know the absence such a death brings to one’s life.

-This week I was talking to my good friend Dave, who now lives in the San Antonio area. He told me that his three sons will all be deployed next month. Having been a career military person, he is proud of his sons’ service for their country, but also acutely aware of the heightened risk that deployments bring and raised anxiety levels of parents, spouses, and children back home. I told him that I’d be praying for them.

-Another person who lives elsewhere had an important court date that he was very anxious about. As the hearing came this week I prayed for him.

-Last night I was officiating a women’s basketball game at Colorado College. One of my partners, Tony Exum, was recently elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. As we were talking before the game he told me about his experience of receiving a word from the Lord back in 1993 about running for political office, and how his decision to run for office in the recent campaign was confirmed by three people he had asked to pray for him. At the end of the night as we were walking out of the gymnasium I told him that I would be praying for him as he was preparing to begin his term of service.

-At our Monday night meetings for area basketball officials one of our older officials (Older than me, okay!) has asked me to join him in prayer at the end of our meetings. Our association of officials has had a trying year and so we join together for a few moments of prayer, asking for protection and wisdom for the close to two hundred men and women who blow their whistles at high school games.

-Two months ago I conducted the funeral service for my friend, Greg Davis. At 41 years of age, he left behind a wife and nine year old daughter, plus his parents and brothers. I’m still grieving his passing, but find myself praying frequently for his family.

Sometimes God places people in our lives for a moment to provide prayer support for a season. Sometimes our relationships are long journeys where the support is like a slow movement in a casual ongoing conversation. At other times it’s a short spurt of conversational prayer, like going to 7-11 for a Slurpee…for a moment and then onward. It seems, however, that God is placing people in my path- heaping those relational portions on my plate- to drive me to prayer. They are the relational roadmap of spiritual support.

Prayer may never be my strength, but it is my summons.

Congregational Flossing

June 5, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 5, 2016

                             

My son-in-law, Dr. Michael Terveen, is a dentist. He and my daughter, Lizi, moved to Colorado Springs back in November, and Mike now operates a dental practice in the midst of the city. Flossing is a big emphasis in our family. In recent years I’ve been much better about flossing than I used to be. Perhaps it’s been the fear of losing my teeth and looking like a real Goober, or the fact that the rolls of floss are available in just about every room of our house, but whatever the reason or reasons I floss…often!

As a result, my check-ups where they take the x-rays and then rub that wintergreen tasting stuff on my teeth have been much more positive experiences. It’s like the final exam of a philosophy class where you aren’t quite sure you understood the meaning behind all of those deep run-on sentences that require a nap in the middle, but then your exam comes back with a solid “B!”

Flossing is that practice that doesn’t seem to have any immediate benefit (unless those annoying remnants of the corn on the cob need to get vacated), but results in long-term dental health.

Churches need to floss more!

What?

There are certain disciplines, certain practices, that churches should be about no matter what the budget says, how many people want to do it, or how mundane it may seem…like flossing!

Here’s my thinking!

  1. Prayer Flossing– Every church has those few people who are intimately engaged in prayer. Meetings are opened with prayer, almost like an elementary classroom saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a school day begins. Every worship service includes a couple of prayers. The real flossing with prayer, however, happens in those other settings and encounters of each day. Getting a church congregation to believe in the importance of prayer is equivalent to getting a five year old to believe that cooked broccoli is good for him. He will look at you with an expression that says it is all a conspiracy theory to get little boys to eat disgusting food. Floss with prayer deliberately, several times a day, and have it reach those hidden pockets of life that often get ignored.
  2. Scriptural Education and Understanding- I admit that there are certain books in the Bible that I dread reading. Listen! When I have to munch on a few chapters of Job’s friends rambling on and on and on I want to just say “Get on with it!” No matter now many times I read the book of Revelation it’s still weird! But most churches don’t do much in the area of teaching the background, the purpose, and the history of the Bible. The thing is…we are rooted in scripture. Flossing with scripture helps in alleviating the need for a root canal later on. As followers of Jesus become less familiar with what he taught the risk of spiritual decay heightens.
  3. Community Connectedness- As my son-in-law tells me, floss those areas that you can’t even see. The church needs the discipline of “flossing” in those areas, those lives, that they don’t see on Sunday mornings. Reach those people, and those places in the community that need the loving touch of the hands and feet of Jesus. Too often a congregation, especially the leaders of a congregation, take the view “None of THOSE people come here on Sunday.” The wording is important for it voices two entrenched beliefs: THEM and US, and we will care about you when you come here. Perhaps the church needs to be more like Mother Teresa and live by the belief that everyone is loved by God, even though we have a hard time seeing them. Floss outside the walls.
  4. Have Fun!- My son-in-law gave me a sucker on the way out of his office from my last appointment. Sugar-free, mind you, and in some weird way…good for your teeth, but still a sucker to slowly lick on the way home. A moment of fun after getting drilled! Churches need to floss with fun. Follow me on this! Usually when I eat beef or chicken there is one gap between two of my back upper teeth that meat gets trapped in. I feel the discomfort. I’m not such a flossing addict that I carry it around with me to use at restaurants, so after a restaurant meal I just have to live with the discomfort until I get home. Flossing at that point is a welcome event. It takes the pressure off. I compare a church having fun with that. Since I retired from pastoring last December I have intentionally kept my distance from the congregation I pastored for the past sixteen years, but last Friday night I joined nine others for an hour of recreational volleyball in the church gym. Let me make the point that it is extremely non-competitive volleyball, more along the lines of standing in one place volleyball and once in a while hitting it. But it was fun fellowship. There was much laughter and light-hearted razzing. How often do people leave church frustrated or disengaged with what they were just a part of? Floss with fun to take away some of the discomfort of life.
  5. See the Picture!- Let me close with this! At my first appointment Dr. Terveen used some nifty dental camera to take pictures of my teeth. Then he showed me the pictures and explained to me a few things that were going on in my “community of teeth.” It was disturbingly revealing. I couldn’t see the decay that was progressing, but it was there. That’s kind of like the lives of most of the people who show up in worship on Sunday. Most of the damage in their lives can’t be seen, and most will be reluctant to reveal any of it. Floss with love, floss with care, floss as if their health depends upon it…because it does!

Apple Juice and Glazed Communion

May 25, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 25, 2015

                                     

There were always a few yawns when the men arrived for the 7:30 Saturday Men’s Bible Study group. Ten guys sat around the table, each slurping their first cup of coffee of the day. This was an important part of each man’s weekly schedule. It was where they unloaded, laughed deeply, and uninhibitedly questioned life.

Confidentiality was a valued element of this group. Struggles stayed here. Frustrations didn’t get retold to spouses and girlfriends.

“My brother is considering leaving his wife!” groaned Jimmy.

“Why’s that, Jimmy?”

“He thinks she’s having an on-line affair with some guy that she knew back in high school.”

“Is he assuming, or does he know for sure?”

“I think he’s assuming, but their marriage has been as rocky as Pike’s Peak for some time now. What do I tell him? I can’t condone his walking out on her, but I see the hurt in his eyes every time we talk about it.”

A wise octogenarian named Clarence stroked his silver beard and slowly began to speak. “Jimmy, tell your brother to not do anything…not make any decision for a month. We will commit as a group to pray daily for him, and even more than him, his wife for the coming thirty days. Someone once said that “decisions made in haste lead to a bad taste.”

“I think that someone was you, Clarence,” pointed out another elder of the group named Fred.

Jimmy looked around the table and said “I really appreciate it, fellas’!”

The youngest member of the group, a twenty-something named Matt, spoke up. “A good friend of mine from high school just found out he has advanced cancer.”

Moans and grimaces around the table displayed the group empathy for Matt. Most of them had friends who battled cancer- some won, some lost.

“Have you talked to him, Matt?” asked Steve, a balding forty year old.

“Yes, he’s pretty scared! I told him that we’d be praying for him. He’s not a follower of Jesus, but this has given me some opportunity to talk to him about life and death, hope and faith.”

Steve voiced the group’s commitment to pray for him, and for Matt as he walked alongside his friend.

“This group means a lot to me!” The voice was that of a recently-retired businessman named Daniel, and it was filled with emotion. “I look forward to this every week. Most weeks it’s my highlight. Talking to you guys, especially when I’m dealing with no news from my son from Africa.” Daniel’s youngest son, Nate, was in the midst of a nine-month deployment to a troubled part of Africa.

Clarence, who was sitting next to Daniel, put his hand on his shoulder for a few moments. “We’re in this together, Daniel!”

There was a sacred silence around the table. For a few moments no one stirred or even took a sip of coffee. They sat as a brotherhood.

“Do you know what we should do?” Steve suddenly asked.

“Take a trip to Hawaii and you pick up the tab?” suggested Randy, who was the comedian of the group.

“No…we should share communion together.”

“It’s not the first Sunday of the month, Steve!”

“I don’t think the scriptures say anything about first Sunday communion. That’s just something we created for some reason. No…it seems like it says something in the Bible about having communion whenever to come together…or something like that.”

“That’s not blasphemous, is it?” asked Matt.

“What?”

“To have communion when it’s not even in the sanctuary?”

“Jesus had it in the upper room, Matt.”

Randy spoke up again. “But there’s no grape juice! And you know without a doubt that there’s no wine in this church!”

“Can we pray over water and ask God to change it into wine?”

“Or why can’t we just use apple juice?” suggested Jimmy. Sometimes a question got asked in this group that no one had an answer for. Each man pondered.

“We can,” Clarence affirmed.

“Are you sure, Clarence? Do you think the pope would say it’s okay?”

Randy lightened the moment. “Unless I missed the memo, I don’t think this group turned Catholic.”

“We can…and we will share communion. Do we have a donut left?”

“One glazed!”

“Cut it up in ten pieces. Someone get some of those kid’s size paper cups for the juice and let’s do it.”

There was a hustle of activity as different guys got the substitute elements and prepared the table. Clarence led them through it. The glazed donut had a holy taste to it, not on the tongue, but rather to the soul. After sipping the apple juice Clarence led them in a prayer for Jimmy’s brother and sister-in-law, Matt’s friend with cancer, and for each other. They held hands firmly and with commitment and prayed like the King of Kings himself was sitting at the table with them.

“You don’t think Pastor Bob will be upset by this, do you?” asked Randy.

“Yes, he will be!” responded Steve.

“Really?”

“Yes, he will be upset that he wasn’t here to be a part of this!”

Randy summed it up. “You snooze, you lose!”