Friday, April 8, 2011

Hope and Prayer

No youth study this week but we do have a Men's study.  It's an overview of what we've been doing for the youth, with the questions tuned for this group of Wise Guys.  It's a bit long (3 pager), so if we're out of time at (12), I'll skip to (18).  While we're on prayer, Bev Van Kampen passed along the Operation World prayer movement that helps in praying for the countries around the world.  My family started tonight with Afghanistan.
Manliest prayer image I could find.
Romanian soldiers praying in Afghanistan.

During Lent there are three traditional disciplines, all of which are worth considering throughout the year: prayer, almsgiving and fasting. But certainly prayer is something we are called to constantly. So then during Lent, maybe it’s really an opportunity to reexamine what we’re doing.

0) What is the purpose of prayer to you?

One model of prayer that has been helpful for many people is the ACTS prayer format. The idea is to pray scripturally, following the modes of prayer that we see people using in the Bible.

Adoration – We adore God for who he is. (No asking for anything.) “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2
Example: Praise the names of God. 1 Chronicles 29:11 and 2 Corinthians 12:9

Confession – We see our sin as God sees it. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Example: Confess hiding our sins. Psalm 32:3-5, Psalm 51:6a, Psalm 139:23-24 and James 5:16

Thanksgiving – We focus on what God has done. “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2
Example: Thank you for providing a way. Isaiah 30:21, Isaiah 42:16 and Proverbs 15:19

Supplication – We call on God for guidance and help, and intercede for others. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” John 14:13a
Example: Please help our friend to know Jesus voice and follow him. John 10:4-5, John 18:37 and Revelation 3:20

I think an alliterating friend I have might have said - Adore, Admit, Acknowledge and Ask.

1) Which of these is especially fruitful for you? Are any more difficult or more likely to be omitted?

Of course, this is an area where Jesus taught directly. The Our Father was what Jesus told the apostles when they asked him to teach them how to pray. We find this in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6.

We often pray a version close to the first widespread English translation, King James, followed by the more modern God’s Word translation.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespass, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy.
Let your kingdom come.
Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
Give us our daily bread today.
Forgive us as we forgive others.
Don’t allow us to be tempted.
Instead, rescue us from the evil one.

2) Is there anything that we might be missing by praying the older version?

3) Jews are not allowed to even speak the name of God, that we say as Yahweh. How would they have reacted to being told to call him “Our Father?” Some writers think that the word Jesus used is more like Daddy.

4) I usually remember to pray “forgive me,” but I don’t usually tack on “as I forgive other people.” And in case we didn’t catch that difference, right afterward Jesus says: “If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failures.” Why did Jesus put that in his prayer instructions?

5) Is there anything else in this prayer about which you wonder?

6) Do you see any of the ACTS principles in the Our Father?

7) One of the problems with knowing a prayer by memory is that it’s easy to pray it too fast and without thinking. Do you have any tips for praying the Our Father instead of reciting it?

I think Jesus wasn’t telling us to pray with these exact words, but remembering these ideas. The most important Jews at the time tended to pray making a big fuss, and acting all holy. With lots of very precise gestures and bows and rituals. Jesus was freeing his disciples from all of that. Telling them it’s simple, and that prayer is talking to a loving parent who wants to do good things for you.

In the gospel of Luke, after he shares Jesus teaching the Our Father, he shares the story of a persistent and annoying friend. Read Luke 11:5-11

8) In the second paragraph, Jesus explains the parable, which he doesn’t always do. How does he get that point out of the bread story?

9) What does the “Even though you’re evil…” part mean? Is Jesus calling us evil? What is his point?

Later in the gospel of Luke, Jesus again is teaching about prayer. Read Luke 18:1-8

10) This time Luke gives the reason for the parable up front. How does this story fit “pray all the time and never give up?”

11) Why does Jesus make the judge, who’s in God’s place in the story, a dishonest judge?

12) The last sentence has gotten a LOT of attention. What do you think it means and why is it in this story?

Nadia Bolz-Weber (the Sarcastic Lutheran) has written: (abridged from

The best way to suck the life out of a parable is by attempting to neatly allegorize it or worse try to figure out the so-called moral of the story. Parables aren't about morals they are about truth - hidden, unyielding, disruptive truth. The kind of truth that simply can't be contained.

13) Why would telling the point of a parable “ruin” it?

It's tempting to look straight on and see the story of the persistent widow as a self-help technique by which we can get all the cash and prizes we want out of God's divine vending machine if we just kind of bug God to death through ceaseless prayer, when it comes down to it, we know better. … Do we only think God answers by giving us what we ask for?

14) What does it mean for God to answer a prayer?

Yet Luke tells us that this parable is about our need to pray constantly and not lose hope. So maybe an alternate reading of this parable is that it's yes, about persistence and prayer and hope but maybe it's about the persistence of God. … Maybe prayer isn't the way in which we manipulate God but is simply the posture in which we finally become worn down by God's persistence. God's persistence in loving us …God's persistence in forgiving and being known and being faithful and always, always, always bringing life out of death.

15) I connect this with the weird idea that by praying we are changing God’s mind. If praying changes me, it makes more sense. But then why do we pray?

In Luke and throughout scripture we are told to pray constantly, pray without ceasing, so that we do not lose heart. And how do you pray without ceasing? Only by having others pray for you, with you. … So to pray without ceasing is not an individual sport if anything it's a relay race. It’s what we do for each other, and it’s what we do for the world. And these prayers are like these gossamer threads connecting us to God and God’s people. When we pray on another's behalf we become connected to that person through God, and we become connected to God through that person. And in these connections God gets stuff done. Not necessarily the stuff we think God should do, but the work that God is always about, which is redeeming us and all of creation. These gossamer threads of prayer, woven through the space and time of our lives, are like the network through which God sends God's own love for the world.

16) What is she trying to get at here?

It hurts sometimes. But the more you see suffering and injustice around you, the more you pray and the more you pray the more connected you are to that suffering, and the more connected you are to that suffering the more connected you are to the crucified and risen Christ. For these silken threads of prayer which connect us to God and to one another and even to our enemies are how God is stitching our broken humanity back together. So church, pray without ceasing and do not lose heart. For God has some stuff to do.

17) The way humans are we can’t go from no prayer to prayer without ceasing. We have to build up and train for it. So to start, when are some times in your day you could or do pray?

18) If you were teaching a new Christian about prayer, or a Christian that has little prayer experience, what would you emphasize?

Photo credit:  AfghanistanMatters and spiritz from Flickr.

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