(In The Life Of The Church)
Last month, I began a series of newsletter posts about prayer. If you haven’t read part one yet, you can find it here. We will ultimately talk about both the “how” and the “why” of prayer, but we have begun with talking about the how, and specifically with thinking of the Psalms as a school of prayer. This week I want to begin talking about some insights we gain into prayer through Jesus (you know, because presumably that’s important).
The Lord’s Prayer is probably the most important and accessible insight Jesus provides into how to pray, but there are a couple of places I want to go outside of that first.
To begin, I think it’s worth noting that Jesus seems to have had a preferred location to pray: away from everyone else. There are several moments in the gospels where Jesus is said to have withdrawn to be alone and pray. Luke 5:16 has a summative statement about this, “…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed,” which I hope will stand in for a long parenthetical list of proof-texts that you aren’t going to look up anyway.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in every gospel but John (because John approaches telling Jesus’ story in a drastically different way than the rest), we find Jesus going into the wilderness to fast and be tempted. If you look up those passages, you will not find any specific mention of Jesus praying, but it seems reasonable to assume that prayer was the default posture Jesus took during that time.
Here at the beginning of his journey, Jesus is interrogating his own identity, removing himself from the view of other people, depriving himself of distractions and objects of desire, and instead standing as his essential self before the God who is in the habit of wandering in the desert with people. And, though this narrative surely doesn’t find itself in the gospels for this purpose, it likely has something to teach us about prayer—there is something about the solitude of these desert days at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry that draws Jesus back out into “lonely” places to pray throughout the rest of his story.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets prescriptive with his preference for praying in solitude when he asserts that prayer should be done in secret. Now, the point of this seems to be to get away from any semblance of using prayer to parade your piety before other people; to prevent you from abusing prayer to gain some sort of favor among people. But I think it also feeds into something we noted in last month’s post about the Psalms—praying in secret takes away some of the impetus to use prayer language to paint over weakness and smooth out rough edges for the sake of looking like the person you wish you were, or, worse, the person you think other people wish you were. Instead, solitude invites us to follow Jesus into the desert, stripped of the masks we’ve made, to encounter the Living God as our actual selves.
There are two other memorable prayer moments in Jesus’ life that echo some of what we discussed in part one of this series. First, let’s take a look at Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. In that scene, we see Jesus going off alone, and expressing the actual struggle he was in the midst of at that moment (you know, not wanting to be tortured and murdered). This prayer includes an expression of dissonance, a petition for deliverance, and a summative statement of trust. It’s not unlike the model presented in the Psalms for such prayers. And yet the language is not the language of the Psalms; it merely echoes their form.
Second, let’s look at the prayers of Jesus from the cross. Of the seven statements that are recorded across the Gospels in this part of the story, three of them are prayers. The first is “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” The second is a cry of abandonment: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And the third is, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
Those last two are direct quotes from the Psalms: Psalm 22:1 and Psalm 31:5, respectively. Two thoughts on that: 1) Jesus grabbed specific language from the Psalms to pray when words were obviously hard to come by; 2) that couplet is a microcosm of voicing legitimate lament within the context of a broader story where God is faithful (we might rephrase this pairing: “You have utterly abandoned me//But You are faithful, and as I fade away, I trust You”).
[Side Note: There is also an argument to be made (and a good one) that Jesus is using these quotes as shorthand to reference the entirety of Psalm 22 and 31, or maybe even that the gospels writers use these quotes in the story as shorthand for Jesus singing these Psalms in full from the cross (that one is admittedly more of a stretch, but it is a gripping image nonetheless)].
But the first prayer was not from a Psalm—like Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, it was a petition born out of circumstance. And it’s also the living out of “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” So, lest we get enamored with taking up the language of the Psalms for our prayers to the exclusion of offering our own in the moment, we find that speaking purely out of circumstance is “within the bounds” of prayer. Jesus offers a glimpse into dancing with traditional prayer forms and authentic expression.
To draw a broad takeaway from this, admittedly somewhat disjointed and certainly incomplete, peek into the way that Jesus prayed: Christian prayer seeks to be free from the pursuit of a disingenuous external piety, and instead seeks authentically to speak to and about God as particular people in a particular time and place dealing with particular circumstances, while also having access to a much older tradition of prayer that helps us learn how to organize prayers that cover the full spectrum of the human experience, and that offers us language to petition, thank, complain to, and worship God, when we might otherwise be at a loss for words. (If that sentence is a run-on, my computer doesn't know, and I’m not sorry.)
All this is good and well, but we have a moment in the gospels where we see the disciples straight-up ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He responds with a form prayer that we now call the Lord’s Prayer. Next month’s post will take a close look at that. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about this post, feel free to email email@example.com.
Women and Men's College Groups
Our college women's group will meet for the first time this Thursday, August 31st. This group will focus on the lectionary texts for study, share life together and pray for one other. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be a sign up after church this Sunday.
Gentleman, if you are guy in college, this group is for you. This group will start meeting on September 3rd, and it designed for you to build intentional community within the larger community of UBC. If you have any questions, email email@example.com
Welcome Back Lunch
This Sunday after church UBC will be providing lunch catered by Crucero. So please come with a full appetite and a good attitude. If you have any questions about the extravaganza, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 27 will be the last week of Summer Sunday School, and there will be no SS class on Labor Day weekend, September 3. Fall Sunday School will begin on September 10. Sunday School classes meet at 9:30am and focus on a variety of topics, both scriptural and cultural. This fall, there will be three adult classes to choose from, in addition to the formation for the Order of the Phoenix during that hour. Below is a brief description of each class and information for contacting the class leaders. If you have questions or want more information, add your name to the sign-up sheet on the foyer table after service this week or next week.
“Cheers: The SS class where everybody knows your name”
This class will be a place to grow in our relationships with God and with each other. Each week this semester we’ll study a chapter from the book of Acts, and throughout the semester we’ll have opportunities to eat together, hang out, and get to know each other. Whether you're new to ubc and looking to plug in, or if you’ve been around a while, you’re welcome to join us. Cheers!
"Mental Health and Christianity"
Led by Rose Lorona (email@example.com)
Mental illness is a common experience; we all know someone who has/had mental illness or has been affected by mental illness (whether we know it or not!). Despite the pervasiveness of mental illness, we sometimes fail to appropriately acknowledge mental illness out of lack of understanding, lack of awareness, fear of saying or doing something wrong, or concern of being treated differently. Mental health can be especially difficult to talk about in a church context or from a Christian perspective, which is why this Sunday school class was created. In this class, we will discuss signs and symptoms of mental illness; how mental illness is (and is not) talked about in the Bible; myths of mental illness and seeking psychological care; and how we, as individuals and the Church, can be better friends, servants, and ministers to people who are affected by mental illness. Talking about mental health may seem intimidating, even scary, but that is all the more reason to lean in and learn something new. All are welcome to attend – the diversity in experiences and thoughts on this topic will be enriching for us all!
"The Old Testament: This Should Be Rated R"
Led by Val Fisk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is going on with these crazy prophets and their need to write everything in poetry?! Why is this Yahweh person so angry and mean to the nations? Why does everyone keep talking about Assyria? How does the Proverbs 31 woman manage to do all of that without power tools?!?!
This class will focus on providing a broad introduction to the Hebrew scriptures through a timeline of Israel, major events in the life of the people of Yahweh (spoiler alert: that's God), and basic understandings of the major sections and genres of the Old Testament we have today.
Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Taylors
Mug Cleaners: McNamees
Money Counter: Doug M.
- Sunday Sermon: Matthew 16:13-20 "
- 9-8 UBCYP Board Games Night
- 9-13 McLennan County Orphan Care Event 1: Generation Adoptions
- 9-17 Family Weekend Breakfast
- 9-22 Backside Event 1
- 9-24 NUBCer Lunch
Do you have an emergency and need to talk to a pastor?
254 413 2611
If you have a concern or an idea for UBC that you’d like to share with someone that is not on staff, feel free to contact one of our leadership team members.
Chair- Emma Wood: email@example.com
Byron Griffin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stan Denman: Stan_Denman@baylor.edu
Adam Winn: email@example.com
Bridget Heins: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharyl Loeung: email@example.com
Jon Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Position: Samuel Moore: email@example.com
Student Position: Leah Reed: Leah_Reed@baylor.edu
UBC Finance Team
Do you have a question about UBC’s financial affairs? Please feel free to contact any of your finance team members.
Josh McCormick: Josh.McCormick@dwyergroup.com
Hannah Kuhl: HannahKuhl@hotmail.com
Justin Pond: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Tilson: Anna_Tilson@jrbt.com
Doug McNamee: email@example.com
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.
Rob Engblom: Rob_Engblom@baylor.edu
Ross Van Dyke: Ross_Vandyke@baylor.edu
Jared Gould: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebekah Powell: email@example.com
Kristen Richardson: firstname.lastname@example.org