School of Prayer – Session I – Back to the Basics
WHO WE PRAY TO: We believe that the heart of reality is personal. The experience of Jews and of Christians is that Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier are personal (the Trinity is apparent in the Book of Proverbs).
GOD THE FATHER: In Diane Tennis' " God as the Reliable Father, " she shows that OT references to God as Father are all non-patriarch, non-paternalistic, loving and enfolding. We should keep the reality of God the Father, she says, in part because so few of us have had reliable fathers. It is also Scriptural and part of our Anglican tradition to pray to God our Mother.
Generally speaking there are several ways we pray: Impromptu, Set, Ritualized and Reflective Prayers - each is important in our living and growing spiritually.
IMPROMPTU: Initiating – arrow prayers ("God help me get out of this traffic jam.")
SET PRAYERS – BCP, Lord's Prayer, St. Francis, Serenity prayer*, collections of prayers
Daily Offices (rich array of choices, next week)
Structured Prayer Life – mixture of set and impromptu
The Eucharist – a comprehensive prayer and dance with several movements.
Various Forms of Meditation (e.g., "Jesus before the eyes, heart and hands")
The use of Scripture, guides, lists of qualities.
OUR LIVES ARE A PRAYER: both an important truth and a cop out.
The Full Serenity Prayer
"God grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it:
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen
No matter how good you are at something, it is always a good thing to go back to the basics.
Pianists. .. even when playing Rachmaninoff, Chopin still go back to their Hanon scales.
Jugglers go back to the motions of one club, one ball . . . back and forth.
Saints, who seem so close to God – most got there because of the basics.
Today: a structure for a complete life of prayer you can use effectively with 30 seconds a day.
Ron Popiel: "You can find prayer disciplines out there requiring 2 hours a day, 1 ½ hours a day, one hour a day. . .what we are offering you is not 2, 1 ½ or even 1 hour a day, but 30 seconds a day."
FIVE FINGER METHOD OF PRAYER (hold up your hand – each phrase attaches to a finger)
I Love You
For most, the hardest: it is easier being thankful, sorry, needy or generous. For me, the best place to start: say the words and be quiet or use a favorite Psalm. There are a lot of ways we love God with our lives: working for justice. . . caring for one another . . .doing the dailies, but that is another dimension of prayer. Here we take time just to offer our love or our desire to love God.
A good place to start: just say the words or make or review a list, e.g., "Dear God, I thank you for x, y, z, . . ." The ore for which I am intentionally thankful, the more personal universe becomes. A priest in the Diocese of Dallas, Homer Rogers, looked nightly at his children when they were asleep as a way of remembering that his life with them was rooted in gratitude. Often when I preach a wedding sermon, I remind the couple that they are, quite literally, God's gift to one another – so in waking up, from time to time look at that scraggly, dragon-breathed person next to you and say to yourself, "This is my gift from God." The heart of many funeral sermons – what is it that God has been giving us in this life. . . .?
Thanksgiving is the Basis for our Life: Stewardship has to do with what we do, in thanksgiving, with what we have been given:
not just our pledges,
how we create our lives
how we create and nurture our communities,
what we give in our work, our friendships, volunteering.
I learned the basics of Stewardship at Esalen Institute: The only important question is "How am I going to spend my time?"
Episcopal Church is a full-service church: we confess sins of Commission and Omission; Commission is what we have done to hurt others, or hurt ourselves and . Omission is what we have neglected to do.
When I was younger, I used to have a check list of sins from the pamphlet "A Litany of Penitence." Good place to go for help in being comprehensive is Ash Wednesday litany or ask your spouse or best friend for help! (that is mostly a joke).
Hamartia: the word used for sin in Christian Scriptures is hamartia, a term used in archery for "missing the mark." It is missing "all that we can be" or "all that God wants us to be/ created us to be." We confess our sins and our sin (our missing the mark in our vocation in the world.)
God uses our prayers, much the same way God uses our actions. To get something changed in the community, God uses us in different means - letters, speeches, raising money, telephone calls, demonstrating. It may be that God uses our prayers in the same way. (Maxie Dunham)
Today Show – Rabbi Kemelman and Joe Garogiola. Joe asked the rabbi to open the interview with prayer. He then said, "Dear God, assist everyone watching this show to turn off their TVs, take out paper and pen and write their Congress people to pass the Voting Rights Act." We pray with words and action.
Parishioners know and feel your prayers. I have felt the power of others' prayers for me. Intercessory Prayers – like karma, there is something almost palpable about them (The Holy as the Fourth Dimension explained briefly.
Some find it helpful to keep a list – it is OK to cross names off.
This is both the easiest and the hardest of the Five Fingers - easiest because we ask for little things (arrow prayers) and hardest because in asking, we entrust ourselves to God's care and to God's Will. Most of us want a relationship with God in which he serves us as consultant. Truth in that: Act as consultant in knowing God's will for us and the world and Act as consultant as we figure out what we want.
Frederick Buechner on Vocation: it is the intersection of what most needs to be done and what I most need to do. (The example of Rabbi Zuzya.)
Ask for what you want and what you need. Sometimes in asking, discover you don't want or need it. We are beloved children of God – so we ask within that relationship.
PHYSICAL PRAYER – ways of centering our lives in God:
When you get out of bed in the morning and your feet hit the ground, feel that connectedness to the heart and center of the universe – let that represent your rootedness in God.
When you have no attention span or are in intense pain, let your bed represent the hands of Jesus Christ, holding and enfolding you. "Into your hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit."
HOW AND WHEN FOR THE FIVE FINGER METHOD OF PRAYER: Choose a time for your five finger method of prayer and stick to it. Begin with something really short, like 30 seconds and then increase the time as you wish.