(In The Life Of The Church)
Prayer, Pt. 4
If you haven’t figured it out yet, we have a rotation for writing the newsletter. For the past several months, I’ve been using my entries to talk about prayer. You can find the previous posts here: (part 1, part 2, part 3).
Our former teaching pastor, Kyle Lake, wrote a book called [Re]Understanding Prayer (and if you haven’t read it, we have a bunch of copies at the church, so just ask one of us for one). As a whole, that book is an exploration of different approaches to prayer. One of the things that has stayed with me over the years since I read it is an appendix titled “Historical Prayer.” In it, he briefly outlines three types of prayer and includes a collection of short prayers from prominent figures in Church history.
Last month, I said that this post would be about prayer practices throughout history. The breadth of information that could be conveyed about that topic is way to much for a blog post, so I want to highlight the practices that Kyle highlighted, then I’ll add one or two things.
This is a sort of prayerful reading of Scripture. It’s a space that is created to read Scripture slowly, to sit with it, and to see what rises to the surface of your mind. The idea here is that God is using the text to shape us in some way, thus we should make ourselves open to listen to the text—or perhaps the Spirit of God within and around the text. If you’re wondering what makes this prayer, you can file this under the “active listening” column of interpersonal communication. Or you could think of sitting down for this task as a petition for God to shape/speak to you. I was going to walk through a how-to of Lectio Divina, but you should really just check out this resource from Vox Veniae (This resource is written for groups, but if you’re doing it alone, you can sub in journaling for the discussion part).
This is more of a school/category of prayer than a single practice, but perhaps the most famous practice from this realm is the Prayer of Examen. Long story short, this is a practice of looking back over your day, or maybe the past week, noticing the good and the bad that has occurred, how you responded, and measuring that response against the person of Jesus. This practice puts prayer, memory, and imagination into conversation with one another, and likely has many benefits, but I think a big one is the opportunity it offers us to stop for a moment and notice subtle gifts of our lives, or perhaps to confront concerning trends in our own selves. There just so happens to be another well-organized resource from Vox for this practice, so rather than re-inventing the wheel, I’ll just link to that here.
The final practice Kyle highlights is “Deep Breathing.” This is pretty self-explanatory—it’s taking a moment of slow, deep breaths, for the sake of entering into a more relaxed rhythm of breathing in order to be present to God in prayer. Controlled breathing is a known way for locating one’s attention in the present moment rather than in the tempest of anxieties that accompany the fast paced life of the modern world. It is a mechanism for being present and attentive. I think that this pause is in-and-of-itself a kind of prayer, but you also might think of it as a way to prepare to pray—a stillness that precedes and follows your prayer—or maybe it’s both. Anyway, mindfulness meditation seems to offer us a way into this (being still in the presence moment, focus on breathing, etc). You can find a pretty straight-forward how-to about that here.
Praying with “Eyes Open”
Several years ago, I remember reading Eugene Peterson talking about Annie Dillard praying “with eyes open.” I think that was in a book called The Contemplative Pastor, but I know he also talks about it in this article (and you should really read it). He references her work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and notes the wonder-infused descriptions she has of seemingly mundane nature scenes. It’s as though she is wearing Creator-calibrated glasses, that allow her to see the glory of the ordinary and the significance of the insignificant, and Peterson identifies this as a posture of prayer. This prayer neither starts nor finishes, it’s more of a condition of life. That condition is presence of mind to one’s immediate surroundings, and perhaps a curiosity as to how something came to be and what it might mean.
Finally, there are any number of voices throughout church history whose prayers have been recorded or preserved in some way. We would do well to seek those out, to find a couple with whom we resonate particularly well, and make a habit of offering those prayers as our own. After all, like we noted in discussing the Psalms, the things that happen to us, the things that concern us, what we think and feel about God, etc. are not special. Other people have carried similar kinds of experiences, and we might sometimes find language from them that help us make sense of our circumstances and express ourselves in prayer. For me, this person has been John Baillie, a Scottish theologian whose book A Diary of Private Prayer is pretty famous. If you’re looking for a place to start in tracking down a collection of prayers, the end of Kyle’s appendix on historical prayer is pretty good place to start.
So those are some places to start in investigating prayer throughout the history of the Church. Like I said, this is a woefully incomplete introduction to such things, but you should have enough to meaningfully Google your way into more information.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about any of this, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Waco Halloween Festival
This Wednesday night (10/25) is our annual Halloween party with the South Waco Community Center. We still need a lot of volunteers, so make sure to sign-up on Sunday after church (or you can email email@example.com). The festival is promising to be bigger and better than ever this year, and we need your help to make it happen. The festival is from 6-8pm, but volunteers will need to arrive at 5:30pm. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org #yourbesthalloweennow
Junior/Senior Retreat - November 3-5th
The annual Fall Retreat for Junior and Seniors is coming up, and sign-ups will be the next two weeks after church. The cost of the retreat is $40 (includes: all meals, lodging, and t-shirt). We will be leaving Friday afternoon, and will return on Sunday morning in time for church at UBC. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com. Space is limited to the first 26 who sign-up.
Faith and Family Night
UBC is partnering with Baylor to support the first Faith and Family night for the women’s soccer team. The game is at 7pm on October 20th. We will be tailgating before the game starting at 6, just outside the baseball stadium. Tickets are only $3! There will be time for the kids to get on the field during halftime and participate in some games, and we will have a special time with the players afterwards hearing some of their testimonies, and UBC will gather around them to say a word prayer over them. Make sure to put this on your calendar. If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Auditions for a Christmas Production by InSite
UBC is hosting a Christmas production from InSite, a new arts organization presenting performing and visual arts around Waco. "The Second Shepherds Play" is a hilarious 500-year-old English nativity play, like the one Shakespeare would have grown up seeing. Performances are December 15 and 16, and UBCers are invited to audition! Visit www.insitewaco.com/2shep or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Andrew Sabonis-Chafee
Mug Cleaners: Maddy S.
Money Counter: Anna Tilson
- Sunday Sermon: Special Guest Preacher Chris Seay
- Quarterly Leadership Team Meeting 10-29
- The Big Meeting: our annual meeting with Finance, HR and Lead Team, 11-1
- College Retreat, 11-3-15
- Finance Team Meeting 11-9
- McLennan County Orphan Care 3: CASA, 11-15
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UBC Finance Team
Do you have a question about UBC’s financial affairs? Please feel free to contact any of your finance team members.
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UBC HR Team
If you have concerns about staff and would like contact our human resources team, please feel free to email any of the following members.
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