Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More about Prayer....

I was going through the list of prayer quotes I have stashed away in Evernote. I came upon a quote that I wanted to include in this series of posts. I hadn’t saved the source of the quote. A quick copy and paste into Google provided the answer right away. The source was Richard Rohr. He said:

The traditional and most universal word to describe a different access to truth was simply “to pray about something.” But that lovely word “prayer” has been so deadened by pious use and misuse that we now have to describe this different mental attitude with new words. I am going to introduce a different word here, so you can perceive in a fresh way, and perhaps appreciate what we mean by contemplation. The word is “resonance.”
Prayer is actually setting out a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always-present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only inner resonance and a capacity for mutuality (Matthew 7:7-11). The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station.

Or as Anne Lamott wrote in her book, “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

....when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that's always in progress.

One of the sites that popped up in the Google search results led to a blog called “Progressive Redneck Preacher.” He published a post about a week ago entitled “Tuning into the Sacred Song: Our Week in the Living Word.” He included the tuning fork quote in that post.

He mainly wrote about a type of prayer called Breath Prayer. (and his experience with it over the course of a week) A breath prayer is a short phrase uttered soundlessly to the rhythm of our breathing….inhaling and exhaling. Examples that I particularly like…..

Inhale – “Peace”
Exhale – “Be still”

Or how about this one….that fits well with this type of prayer
Inhale – “Closer is He than breathing”
Exhale – “Nearer than hands and feet”

You get the idea. There were several links in the post that led to some websites that went into this prayer (and others) in more detail. I looked around a bit online and couldn’t find any sites better than two of the ones he listed;


The effectiveness of this prayer (in quieting our body and mind and in honing our listening to God skills) seems to be a blending of the physical and the spiritual. We all know that deep, slow rhythmic breathing calms the body. Take a deep breath. Calm down. Take ten deep breaths. Calm down even more. Sometimes when I am very, very stressed I realize I am barely breathing at all. Short, shallow, hardly there intakes of air. No wonder I feel anxious. I’m suffocating.

I have a thing about the dentist. Not a good thing either. It isn't really about the pain. It is more about the claustrophobic feeling that comes with tubes that suck and spray, grinding drills and all those hands in my face. Keith reminded me once to take deep, calming breaths. It was one of the methods he used to help his scared silly skydiving students stay calm enough to focus as they jumped out of the airplane.

The slow, steady breathing involved with this kind of prayer coupled with a calming phrase from or about scripture seems a perfect combination. On the site that talked about various ways to pray, they recommended using your ten fingers to count…yep…ten deep prayer breaths and then pausing to offer a praise or a petition or even just a moment of silent contemplation. 

And in one of the articles I read, they used Anne Lamott’s simple prayer from Traveling Mercies as an example of a Breath Prayer.

Here are the two best prayers I know:“Help me, help me, help me” and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Turn that into a Breath Prayer....

Inhale – Help me, help me, help me
Exhale – Thank you, thank you thank you

More coming about different ways to help us pray....

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Max and Anne - Views on Prayer

While scrolling down through my Facebook feed, I came upon a snippet of an interview on the 700 Club with Max Lucado. Max is my all-time favorite Christian author. His book, He Still Moves Stones, was one of the first Christian books I ever read. I love his writing style….I love how clearly he expresses the love of God for his children. 

They talked about two things in the interview:

His support of Husain Abdullah in a recent USA editorial where he said:
Which is why the sight of Abdullah, a Muslim who sat out the 2012 season to go on a pilgrimage, being penalized was hard to watch. Tim Tebow brought gridiron prayer to the forefront with his iconic kneeling in gratitude. And countless other professional football players have been seen kneeling in an end zone prayer. 
For decades competitors have bowed their heads, crossed their hearts, kissed their rosaries and lifted their eyes to heaven as they sought favor on the fields of competition. Is a little petition or gratitude so bad? If the act is sincere toward God as opposed to insincere, for show, what is the harm?
Indeed, what is the harm? And while so many evangelical Christians got themselves all worked up at Tebow’s critics, where was the outrage about Abdullah’s fifteen yard penalty? Oh yeah…..he was bowing to the “wrong” God.  I think it was quite gutsy of Max to come out in support of Abdullah.   
And anyway, the story had a happy ending because the NFL apologized and said the official was wrong and that players can, indeed, pray.

The other topic of the interview was his new book, Before Amen. Max admits to being a prayer wimp. He’s mentioned his difficulties with prayer in other books he's written. He said “doing something for God” comes more naturally to him that “praying to God.” (That is a paraphrase, by the way) Through the years he’s developed what he refers to as the pocket prayer. He studied all the prayers in the Bible and summed them up into six short sentences.

Father, You are good. I need help. So do they. Thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.

I love it. He succinctly sums it all up in those short sentences.

I rarely say a traditional prayer. I truly believe I always have God’s ear. I feel like he is paying attention as I go about my day….typing reports, checking my email, eating lunch, going to the bathroom.  Doesn’t “pray without ceasing” mean that I thank him for small blessings throughout the day, tell him I love him, ask his to watch over my children or let him know I am quite miffed at the way he is allowing some things to play out.

Anne Lamott (another of my favorites) also has a book out about prayer. In my next post (no, not an empty promise) I’ll talk about “Help, Thanks, Wow: The ThreeEssential Prayers” by Anne Lamott.