Monday, February 28, 2011

Photoshoots with Jesus or something like that . . .

Below is the message I shared yesterday with Good Shepherd.  It was an abbreviated message as we spent a large portion of our worship time participating in prayer stations.  You don't get to do those with us, but hopefully there is still something of interest and value to you here.  

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Common English Bible)

16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:5-15 (The Message)

5"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? 
6"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.  7-13"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: 

   Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.  Set the world right; 
   Do what's best— as above, so below.                                                Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. 
   You're in charge!  You can do anything you want! 
   You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
14-15"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part.

Yesterday our family had the rare opportunity to participate in a photo shoot for a friend of Traci’s from High school – The Boys, Traci & I all had to dress in a certain way – this was a ‘no sock’ photo shoot!
Furniture & decorations were rearranged or put away.  Legs, arms, bodies and faces had to be posed and positioned in certain ways.  We even had specific actions to do – or pretend to do – at one time or another – they boys ‘surprised’ us, we were ‘reading’, at so on.
Julia – Traci’s friend – was very good with the boys and is a gifted photographer.  But the simplest and most accurate word to describe what we were doing yesterday is – Fake. 
A slightly less harsh way to describe the action yesterday morning is ‘staged’. 
All of the actions that were captured might have happened naturally, all of the situations and movements were prearranged, choreographed and coordinated. 
What does this have to do with prayer or anything related to faith, you might be wondering? 
I think it is a great metaphor or comparison to how we often view or approach prayer.
When it comes time to pray we think we have to talk a certain way – how many of us pray with words and in a style that is different than every other time we communicate, flowery language, overly formal, etc?  Be in a certain position – on our knees?  Standing up?  Eyes closed?
But hopefully in over the last month we have started to think about prayer in a slightly different way. 
Just like the actions in the photo shoot yesterday, there is nothing wrong with on our knees, eyes closed formal language prayer. 
But it is just the tip of the iceburg, just the beginning of the life of prayer that we are called to. 
What the photo shoot was missing – and what many of our prayers are missing is authenticity and a connection to what is really going on in our daily lives.
God doesn’t want a staged photo opportunity or a rehearsed speech.  What God wants is snapshot after candid snapshot of who we really are, where we really are and what we are thinking and feeling.  Right now.  
We are called to walk through our everyday lives open to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. 
We are called to ‘pray without ceasing’ which really means to constantly be in a state of openness to God’s leading and to always be actively seeking God’s leading, direction and guidance. 
What this means is that every moment, every situation, every action is an opportunity – and a direct invitation from God – to be engaged in conversation with God, to be open to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and to offer up our circumstances and ourselves to be used by God. 
The fact that every situation is an appropriate one for  prayer, that means that there are many different kinds of prayer:
You can read or say verses of Scripture as a prayer
There are ‘breath prayers’, where you offer up a moment of prayer to God in the time it takes to take a breath or say a single word – like amen, or a short phrase – like may your will be done, God.
We all know of the more formalized kind of prayer
There are many different forms for this type of prayer
The ACTS prayer is a good one: ACTS standing for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication
And, of course, we have spent some time over this last month looking at probably our best example of dedicated or formalized prayer, the prayer Jesus taught his first disciples and then us – The Lord’s prayer
At this point we spent about 10 minutes ‘doing’ prayer stations based on each of the petitions in the Lord’s prayer.  The last ‘station’ was an opportunity to rework the Lord’s prayer and sort of make it our own
Since you can’t participate in the prayer stations with us, I invite you to take a moment to look at the Lord’s Prayer – each of the petitions individually and see how you might be able to ‘rewrite’ it and make it your own. 
Petition One – Hallowed be your name:
Petition Two – May your kingdom come:
Petition Three – May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven:
Petition Four – Give us this day our daily bread:
Petition Five – Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors:
Petition Six – Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil


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