Learning to Pray- Three P’s for a Richer Prayer Life

Praise Proclaim Promise

The longer I seek God, the more there is to find. It seems I get my head around one aspect of God’s character and another mystery appears. I feel the welcome of God’s tenderness and patience. Then I start discovering the rest of God’s protection and encouragement. Next, it’s learning to walk in God’s strength and guidance.

But what am I to do with God’s transcendent power and holiness and glory.
What am I to do with WOW?

“Wow means we are not dulled to wonder. … Wonder takes our breath away and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.”
– Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow

To wonder, to WOW, is to be alive. It’s having eyes to see and hearts to thrill and souls quickening to respond. It’s Isaiah overwhelmed by a vision of God seated on the heavenly throne. (Isaiah 6:1-8). It’s Moses encountering God in a burning bush, a presence so near and divine he must remove his shoes for even the ground is made holy. (Exodus 3:5-6)

WOW is also found in small things, like the tiny toes of a baby or the stillness of a deep blue night, or a belly laugh spewing mashed potatoes across the diner counter.

The “size” of the inspiration doesn’t matter. What matters is how it awakens us. How it connects us to being fully alive. How we pause to acknowledge the One who makes it possible.

Classically, acknowledging God in this way is called praise. It’s often accompanied by proclamation and naming/claiming God’s promises. (3 P’s)

Don’t let the fancy church words intimidate you. Your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be profound or formal. It’s as simple as finishing a sentence.

Finish this sentence. God, you are… 
This is how we praise God. We acknowledge who God is by naming God or an attribute of God. This can come from the scriptures or you can create it yourself.

God, you are the Light of the World. God, you are King of Kings. God, you are mighty. God, you are loving. God, you are near. 

Now finish this sentence. God, you have…
This is how we proclaim God’s power, goodness, and blessing. It’s a form of testimony, of bearing witness. It may be something you read in the scriptures, saw in the news, or heard from a friend. It may be something you witnessed firsthand.

God, you have heard the cry of the needy. God, you have made a way in the wilderness. God, you have brought me healing and hope.

Finish this last sentence. God, you will…
This is how we claim God’s promises. We’ve acknowledged who God is and what God has done. Now we acknowledge that God will continue to be God and will continue to work all things for good. The promises of the scriptures and the testimonies of others are for you and for all.

God, you will never leave me. God, you will hear the cries of my heart. God, you will walk with me all my days, you will raise me to new life now. God, you will lead me home to heaven. 

David Crowder in his book Praise Habit sums it up this way.
Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your hands and let them clap of His goodness. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to ground, trembling with life and awareness that we are found by a holy God.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, dear ones. In the comments, share how you’re finishing these sentences. May these simple sentences bring you fully alive now and all year long. – Lisa <><

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This is the third in a series of posts on Learning to Pray. Click here for the first post, God, Please Help. Click here for the second post, Thank You, God.

Learning to Pray- God, You Are © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Learning to Pray- Thank you, God

Thank you god for

Imagine yourself as a little child. You didn’t need to be taught how to ask for help. You were born knowing how. Asking for help was as natural as breathing. We just have to remember to ask.

What wasn’t so natural was saying, “Thank you.” We have to be taught and reminded.

Consider this moving truth about saying, “thank you” by author Ann Voskamp.
“All the brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting — forgetting that God is enough, forgetting that what He gives is good enough, forgetting that there is always more than enough to give thanks for.”

Wow! So, learning to pray is actually re-membering. This takes place when we remember to give thanks.

Finish this sentence. Thank you, God, for…
Finish it ten times. Ten thousand times.
Literally, count your blessings.
We re-member by remembering the goodness in our lives.

Now finish this sentence. Thank you, God, for your…
That one extra word shifts our attention to the One who provides every goodness.
We re-remember by remembering the Giver and the gift.

Ann Voskamp continues
“Though we forget, though we’re prone to chronic soul amnesia, You never forget us, You never abandon us, You never give up on us. You have written us, our very names, on the palm of Your hands, written even me right into You — though we forget, You re-member us, You put us & the broken bits & members of us back together again. We are re-membered in You — You who engrave Your love letter to us right into Your skin…. right into Your beating heart.”

Wow again.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones. In the comments, share how you’re finishing these sentences. May these simple sentences help you re-member and give thanks all year long. – Lisa <><

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This is the second in a series of posts on Learning to Pray. Click here for the first post, God, please help.

Learning to Pray- Thank you, God © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Palms Down, Palms Up ― A Prayer of Letting Go

left human hand photo

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

A few short weeks ago I discovered Kaisa Stenberg-Lee on Instagram. I was immediately struck by her tender spirit and creative, hands-on prayer practices. I’m thrilled to welcome her to the blog today and for you to get to know her and her work through this guest post.

Kaisa is a gifted spiritual director and workshop leader, born in Finland, educated in the Netherlands and Wales, and now serving in Denver, Colorado. Kaisa also enjoys “walking in nature, drinking tea, reading, trying new Korean cooking recipes, biking, embroidering, watercolor painting or whatever other craft my hands have landed on at the time.”

This post was originally written for and published here. Be sure to check out her other writings and prayer resources on her beautiful website, Kutsu CompanionsMay you have a powerful experience with God through this simple practice. – Lisa <><

Palms Down, Palms Up ― A Prayer of Letting Go
This simple prayer is supported by bodily movements that express the inner postures of the heart. I have modified Richard Foster’s “Palms Down, Palms Up” prayer, and added some elements to it. In essence, this prayer helps us to bring our worries to Jesus and express our longings to him.

The Prayer follows four movements:
1. Hands on the stomach for grounding and tuning into our inner center. 2. Hands on the lap, palms facing down as a symbol of releasing and letting go of concerns and worries.

3. Hands on the lap, palms up to signal readiness and desire to receive from God.

4. Hands on the heart to express gratitude.

“Palms Down, Palms Up” Guided Prayer
1. Settle down and sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Close your eyes. Gently place your hands on your stomach. Take a few deep breaths. Notice how your body moves to the rhythm of your breath. Deepen your breath so that you can feel it fill your chest, stomach and rib cage with air.

Now start paying attention to the whole of your body, your feelings, and thoughts. Do you notice any tension, pain, numbness or tightness in your body? Does anything worry you or make you afraid? What else do you feel? Where can you feel those emotions in your body?

2. Lower your hands to your lap, palms facing down. Let this turning of the hands be a symbol of your wish to turn any worries or concerns that you might have to God. Give the worries to God and say to him in your own words quietly: “I let go of this … frustration/ anger/ fear/ worry/ guilt, or whatever it is that you want to let go off,” and give it to God. Don’t rush this. Keep turning those things over to God as long as they keep coming to your mind. God is near. He is reaching out to take over the carrying of your burdens.

Can you let go of your fears and worries? Can you trust him to carry them for you?

3. Once you have handed over your burdens to God, and your mind has come to a still, turn your palms up as a sign that you are now ready to receive from God.

Relax, and imagine placing your hands, palms up, into God’s caring hands. Feel how you are being held by God. You don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. You are safe. You can fully relax and trust that you will be taken care of, and that you will be provided for. Enjoy the feeling of God holding your hands in his hands, and loving you.

Imagine God gently whispering to you, “(Your name…), what do you want?” Tell him in the quiet of your heart what you desire. What do you want him to do for you?

Wait for His response. You might feel like he has something to say to you too, or that he simply wants you to know that he cares for you and that you are safe with him.

4. Finally, lift your hands to your heart and thank God for being with you and loving you.

Resources:
Seeking the Kingdom, Devotions for the Daily Journey of Faith by Richard Foster
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Persevering in Prayer (Luke 18)

john-bunyon-prayer-quote

Persevering in Prayer
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/10/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What can you do with a rubber band?
Rubber bands are elastic. So are Jesus’ parables- stories with a deeper spiritual meaning. They both stretch in many directions.

You can read a parable one day and hear from God. You can read them a month later or even years later and receive another important truth from God.

It reminds us the scriptures are living and active. God meets us exactly where we are in the Word of God.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
From the point of view of followers of Jesus as the widow
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus sets up a contrast between God and the unjust judge.

The judge is powerful, probably the most powerful person in his community. He’s worldly, corrupt, slow to respond, indifferent, disrespectful, unbelieving.

God is more powerful, attentive to injustice, quick to respond, faith-full, compassionate.

Even the ungodly relent in the face of persevering. How much more will God answer you when you pray!

Followers of Jesus are to be like the widow, the person with the least amount of power in the community. Folks would have laughed at the powerless widow getting the judge to do what she wanted him to do.

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

The widow had faith that her persevering would bring a result. Faith looks like praying always and not losing heart. Does God find you resilient and full of faith? Actively trusting in God and persevering in prayer?

How’s your prayer life?

  • Using prayer as a rubber stamp as you make plans to fix whatever needs fixing in your own strength?
  • Using prayer as a last resort when everything else you tried didn’t work?
  • Have you just given up on prayer? You’ve been praying about the same situation for a long time with no change. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose heart.

Luke 11:9-13
Luke 11:9 Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

A Translation Closer to the Original Intention- Present Progressive Tense
Jesus said, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you, Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened unto you.  For everyone who continues to ask, receives, and the one who continues to seek, finds, and for the one who continues to knock, it will be opened.  What father among you, if your son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Example of Persevering Prayers Being Answered

Name your persevering prayer. Keep praying, do not lose heart.

  • Reconciliation of relationship
  • The salvation of a loved one
  • An answer to a question
  • Deliverance from an addiction
  • The end of corruption, evil, injustice, oppression
  • Peace and plenty for all

Trust God is good. Trust God is near and attentive to your needs. Trust God will make the wrongs right. It may not be in this life, it may be in heaven. But it may be now.

Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Stretch the parable in a different direction, from the point of view of God as the widow and we as the judge.
2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 

Pleading Widow by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Our gender and power stereotypes told us to assume
the judge is God, which would make us the poor widow.
But wait. Who judges? Who cares neither for God or people?
That would be us. And who continually demands
that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?

Sorry, we don’t get the high ground here, denying our privilege,
pretending we’re faithfully imploring God
with our persistent quest for justice.
We’re the ones deaf to the cries of the poor.

God comes in the voice of the vulnerable, the easily ignored
while we in our arrogance easily ignore.

How disconcerting that in this story
the ball is in our court, not God’s!
The demand has been made, over and over.

Jesus warns us: God can outlast us.
But when God comes, will God find us listening?

Prayer and Action
Prayer is coupled with action. If we are praying for that relationship to be reconciled, what are we doing for that relationship to be reconciled? If we are praying for our loved ones to come to faith, what are we doing to create an environment where they could hear the Gospel? If we’re praying for an end to evil, injustice, and oppression, what are we doing to end evil, injustice, and oppression?

The dual truths of persevering in prayer and prayer in action stretch me. I need to pray before I act so I don’t use it as a weapon. I need to persevere in prayer because God is the one who makes things new. I need both.

And I need the Holy Spirit filling me so I don’t lose heart when it seems like nothing’s changing. Persevere in prayer. Prayer and action.

Prayer-
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you hear us. That you want to have a relationship with us. You want to bless us, empower us, encourage us, forgive us.

Help us to talk to you. To talk to you honestly, openly, and often. Help us to persevere in prayer. Help us to not lose heart. Help us to trust you.

Help to know the path we’re on with you is the path of goodness and glory. Help us to know it’s the path of truth and humility, the path of light and life. We need that assurance so we can persevere.

In our praying, help us to hear if there’s an action we are to take. Grant us the courage, grace, and wisdom to act.

You are making us new. You are making this world new. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Amen.

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Persevering in Prayer © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Learning to Pray- God, please help

God please help October

God, please help… for many of us, it’s our first prayer, our first time reaching out to God. It comes in the midst of tears or as a whisper in the night or a cry of anguish when we are in way over our heads.

Help, I lost my job
Help, I’m losing my mind
Help my kid to love me again
I’m so lonely, help me
I don’t know what to do, help
Help, I have cancer
Help, she’s going to leave me
This pain is unbearable, help me
Help, I can’t do this
help, I can’t stop doing this
Help, I hate my life

We don’t have to be taught how to ask for help. We’re born knowing how. We know how to cry out for a diaper change, or a bottle, or to be burped. Help! It’s as natural as breathing.

But somewhere along the way we grow up and start taking care of ourselves. We start buying into the myth we can become educated enough, rich enough, powerful enough not to need help.

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help.

Even Jesus asked for help. He often went off alone to pray so we don’t know what he said then. But we do know what he prayed on the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane the night before his death. (Matthew 26) He was vulnerable and honest in asking God for help and asking for help from his companions.

In her wonderful book Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers, Ann Lamott said, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making. Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.”

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help. When we know this and accept it, asking for help can again become as natural as breathing. In the asking, we realize God is already there, close as breath.

So let’s learn to pray by re-learning to pray.
It’s not important how you say it.
Just say it – real, raw, honest.
It’s as easy as finishing a sentence-
God, please help…

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Learning to Pray- God, please help © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.