Family Weekend…that one holiday that we don’t care what government introduced it, we’re just glad they gave us another day off in the year 🙂
We’re thankful for another reason to spend time with the people we love the most and do life with.
Becoming family – it’s wonderful, messy and beautiful, all at the same time. If that’s having a child or two or three, becoming family with your spouse, or discovering that you’re family are the people who love you and that you love back. There’s always more to the warm and fuzzy feelings – we have to figure our HOW to be family – day in and day out.
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Think about it this way: comparing Theory vs Doing or Instructions vs Action. they are always fun to balance and figure out. Easier said than done.
This week, I almost played pickle ball for the first time. Almost. My friend’s text instructions are worth mentioning…they said, ‘watch the video’…so I watched the video, and texted back, ‘I’m ready’…and they texted back, ‘that’s what I thought.’ (theory vs doing)
My kids recent got offered a side gig…a side hustle you might say. They both have part-time jobs, but figure they would use this little bit of extra money to put towards education. I was out at Costco and they called to tell me they were going to start this project (putting candy in gum ball machine capsules. They hadn’t received any instruction yet, so I had to slow them down and ensure they had all the info they needed to get started on this job. Not a fun thing to do while trying to shop at Costco and get out as soon as possible. Instructions vs Action.
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Two weeks ago we came across this line in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
We have been talking about prayer the last few weeks. Figuring out how to pray???
3 things about prayer from our first talk:
- It’s Human to pray
- It’s Biblical to pray
- Praying happens everywhere & somewhere
3 things to keep in mind when we pray from our second talk:
- Keep it simple
- Keep it real
- Keep it up
What is prayer? (conversation/time with God)
Why do we pray? (develops our faith, heart, and life)
There have been many approaches to teach us HOW to pray. One traditional acronym is A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). One approach from Anne Lamott is, Help, Thanks, Wow. Simple, but good.
I came across one from Gordon Smith that felt like the perfect blend of all of them. The reason why I feel good about using this approach from Smith is:
- Gordon Smith is…an author, a teacher, and most importantly, a spiritual director
- He teaches people how to discern next steps, through prayer.
- One of his best lines or pieces of advice is this, “You can only make one decision at a time”
When you sit down to pray (find that somewhere), assuming that you will naturally ask God for help, Smith suggests 3 movements:
Thanksgiving / Confession / Discernment
Remember, our desire to figure out prayer is based on the disciples question in Luke 11, “Teach us to pray” and then in the crux of the Lord’s prayer that follows “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
With this prayer we are expressing the longing of our hearts & minds that the will of God would happen…here…on earth…in our everyday lives. Out of that main prayer, come these three movements.
We see and respond with gratitude to the ways in which God is already at work in our world and in our lives.
This is always the best place to start: when you feel it and when you don’t.
If it’s obvious, great, if not, then look for how you may have missed God at work in and around you.
If you can’t see his kingdom come just yet, thank him that you will see it very shortly.
Gratefulness is foundational to the Christian life, and therefore it’s gotta be foundational to prayer. We probably would agree that…
- grateful people see the world differently
- grateful people appreciate what they have
- grateful people love more, serve more, give more, help more, etc.
Not sure if you’ve seen The Mandalorian, a star wars series on the new Disney Plus. The Mandalorians are a tribe of people in the Starwars Galaxy. Not to take too much of your time on this, I will say that when this Mandalorian is faced with an ethical dilemma, his tribe reminds him of his way of peace and protection, and they say these words, “THIS IS THE WAY”.
The scriptures are very clear that ‘gratefulness’ is the way of the Christian. Followers of Jesus are, and must be, grateful people. This is OUR way.
Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with…Thanksgiving”
Colossians 3:15 “And be thankful” ( a simple, yet powerful 3 word sentence)
Colossians 2:6-7 says, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
We only pray well when we give thanks.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always important. There is none, or at least very minimal growth in the Christian life, and no maturity, without gratefulness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We don’t enter into community as demanders, but rather as grateful recipients.”
Thanksgiving is the first movement of prayer. Then comes…Confession!!!
In the Lord’s prayer we are encouraged to ask for forgiveness and express forgiveness. Confession is our way toward forgiveness.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “Repent and believe the goodnews” This starts with confession.
When we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” We become aware of the ways our lives and wills are not in line with God’s ways. Confession helps us with awareness. It gets us to our authentic self – the real me
Important to note that repentance isn’t about feeling bad, it’s an act of intentional alignment, or better yet, realignment, with the ways of Jesus. Prayer is relationship. Prayer is also recalibration…re-centring.
Also important to remember that Confession is not about getting God to love us more. It flows from knowing that God already loves us a lot.
Prayer is the safest place to bring our mess ups to light. In whatever area we mess up: words, finances, integrity, sexuality, relationships, ethics, etc.
Confession is the second movement of prayer. Then comes…Discernment!!!
One thing we don’t often do in our praying, but should most definitely do, is ask God for direction, for discernment, for wisdom in all things.
Discernment is considering how God is calling us to live and act as participants in his kingdom, played out in our work, our families, our neighbourhoods, our decisions. We are discerning…what way to go, what direction to turn, what path to choose.
Why? Because our words and actions matter.
We read in 1 Kings 3, an amazing exchange between God and Solomon.
God says, ‘Ask me for anything’
Solomon says, ‘give me a discerning heart’
How would you respond if God asked you that question? Money. I’ll take Money. Since you’re asking, I’ll take some form or currency please. There are so many things we’d ask for before we get to wisdom and discernment.
But…if we had the discernment to make the right choice in every decision, just think about the possibilities???
Why is this such an important aspect to prayer? Because our actions matter, our work matters, our conversations matter, our decisions matter.
This is important to remember: we are not called to do more or less than what God is calling us to do. There are so many distractions, external and internal, that take us away from the right choice before us. If we could just realize that all we have to do is what God is asking of us, what God is leading us to, not more, nothing less.
“Discernment is always a matter of doing the best we can, with what we have, amidst the complexity and noise.”
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Why are these three movements essentials in our practice of prayer? It’s because of the temptations we fight.
Temptation #1: We frequently focus on what God is not doing, and the ways we wish he was more present, more active, more attentive.
Being thankful in our praying opens our eyes to see what God has done and what he’s actually doing.
Temptation #2: We tend to look at how others fall short, and how they aren’t living up to how we think they should be living.
Confession in our praying takes our eyes off of others and helps us see where we need to change.
Temptation #3: Two-fold. 1. See what’s wrong in the world and do nothing about it. 2. See what’s wrong with the world and try and do everything.
Praying for discernment helps us recognized what we are called to do, called to fix, called to serve, and do it with confidence & humility.
This week, when you pray, try using and implementing these three movements.
Start with thanking God for what he’s done, or what you believe he will do. Ask him to open your eyes to what you need to be grateful for.
Move to Confession. Be real with God. Don’t hide your brokenness. God loves you anyways.
End with Discernment. Ask God to direct your steps, your conversations, your conflicts, your difficult decisions.