Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lord, Teach Us to Pray...Slowly.

Over the next eight weeks, we will be going off lectionary to move line-by-line through what we now call The Lord's Prayer--the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples.  For our first week--when our focus will be the first line, "Our Father in heaven," we will read the prayer in its scriptural contexts--Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:1-13, which can be read here.

"Lord, teach us to pray."  These were the words Jesus' disciples uttered after observing him at prayer and realizing there was something special about the way Jesus related to God--something they wished to imitate with their own lives.

Do you remember who first taught you to pray?  For those of us who were raised in the church, our first memories of reciting prayers before meals or at bedtime or in worship are probably foggy at best--they almost feel like something we were born doing!  For those who came into the church later, we may remember the first weeks of listening to someone offer an Invocation and wondering where they found the right words, or of reading the words of the Lord's Prayer out of the bulletin until we could finally do it without looking.

Yet for all of us who are seeking to be disciples of Christ, prayer is a lifelong pilgrimage of learning.  No matter how many prayers we have uttered aloud or silently, consciously or simply through our intake and exhalation of breath, we are still learning to pray--and we need Jesus to teach us.  Paul the apostle put our continued need well in Romans 8:26: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."

So how do we open ourselves up to being instructed in prayer by letting God's Spirit pray in us, for us, through us?  It is my hope that the time we spend with the Lord's Prayer in the coming weeks will help us hear what Jesus was truly trying to teach us about relationship with God when he offered us these simple petitions to guide not just our prayers but our living.

But praying this prayer once a week is not enough; so, though it is a prayer meant to be prayed corporately and together, it is my hope that over the course of the next two months, those of you who read this blog will try praying the Lord's Prayer in different ways during the week on your own as well. Every week I will suggest a new way to help you enter more deeply into the word and the spirit of the prayer Jesus gave to us as a precious gift.  This week's suggestion?  See below:

Praying Slowly
The prayer Jesus taught was simple and rhythmic, something meant to be sped through but rather meditated upon and absorbed.  In the coming days, try to spend at least five minutes a day repeating the prayer slowly, meditatively, intentionally, and rhythmically.  Pray it with the rhythm of your breath, unhurriedly, over and over, and let it wash over you and fill you like that Spirit that intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

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