Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prayer as a Means of Grace

     John Wesley, father of Methodism, teaches that prayer is a “means of grace.” A means of grace. By that, Wesley is saying that through prayer we can connect to God’s Prevenient grace. Prayer connects us to the fullness of God’s love, that’s what Grace is, the fullness of God’s love for us. The reality of God. The reality of God seeking relationship with us. God’s grace is always there, available, but we need a tool, a means of grace as Wesley called it, to tap into this Grace that is here with us, around us and in us.

     That’s another concept that’s hard for me to wrap my head around too. God’s grace is all around us all the time no matter where we are or who we are . No matter if we want a relationship with God or not. God’s grace is free and available to all, at all times and in all places?
     A few weeks ago, I was watching a TV preacher, I tuned in late so I never learned this young man’s name. And he was young, in his 30’s. He was preaching grace, which you don’t hear, a lot of from TV preachers. But this man was preaching grace and preaching it in a powerful way. He had this wonderful metaphor for grace and how it is that God’s grace surrounds us and is available to us even if we are un-aware.

It was something like this.
     Say I’m driving my car and there’s a radio in my car, but the radio is not turned on. I want to hear some music, so I turn on the radio which is tuned to 103.5 soul classics and instantly Marvin Gaye is in my car sing “Heard it Through the Grapevine”.
     Well Marvin didn’t get there because someone at 103.5 was notified I turned my radio on wanting to listen to some R&B. No, the entire time I was driving in my car I was surrounded by radio waves from 103.5 and many other radio stations. These radio waves aren’t just around me and available to my radio but everyone around me and everyone for miles around is surrounded by these radio waves. The waves move in and out of our homes and cars. Probably even in and out of us. But, we can’t receive the music, we can’t hear Marvin singing heard it through the grapevine until we turn on our radio. Marvin and 103.5 are the music and the radio is our means of getting to the music.
     Same with grace. The fullness of God’s love is surrounding us, always, no matter where we are or who we are. But God doesn’t push himself on us. God waits till we turn to him. That’s why we practice prayer to open ourselves up to the fullness of God’s love. I can tell you from experience, and I’m sure you know this as well, once we open that bridge to God, he pours out his grace with a fire hose.
     Not only did Wesley identify prayer a means of grace, he says prayer is the chief means of grace. Prayer is the only means of grace that requires nothing but an open willing heart. We can pray alone, and no one can ever stop us from praying.
     But what do we pray? I know for me, as I came back onto the Way, to following Christ, I had a hard time knowing what to pray.
     Ann Lamott, great writer who shares her life fully with her readers. Ann suffered addictions and substance abuse. But she lays it all out there for everybody to see. For everybody to see what Christ has done with her life. Ann says if we don’t know what else to pray, the two most effective prayers are “help me help me” and “thank you thank you.”

"Help me help me help me."
"Thank you thank you thank you."
Simple yes, but those 2 prayers cover a lot of stuff.
     We’re not alone in asking how we should pray. The Lord ’s Prayer appears in the Gospel of Matthew and Jesus also teaches this prayer in Luke. In fact, in Luke we are told the disciples specifically asked Jesus to teach them to pray and the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer He taught them. This too is a simple prayer that covers a lot of ground.
     Sometimes we are in such pain no words can express how we feel, even to God. Paul, in his letter to the churches in Rome talks about this. In chapter 8 of Romans Paul is encouraging people of the way, on the way in the first century and people of the. Paul tells us that when words cannot express what we need to share with God, the Spirit, the Holy spirit, the paraclete, the comforter translates the needs in our hearts into spiritual groans and takes them before God on our behalf. That’s why I said earlier, no one and nothing can ever stop us from praying.
     When we pray we need to include times of silence. Gaps and spaces where we listen for God and listen to God. I confess silence is very hard for me. My goofy A.D.D mind goes 10 different directions 24/7. I’ve really had to practice silence.
     My best friend, my former pastor, helped me greatly with practicing silence, practicing being still. She taught me to use a breath prayer, no she didn’t invent breath prayer, Christians and people of other faith traditions have been using them for centuries.
     What Martha taught me to do is to close my eyes and set everything aside. Breathe in deeply praying “Breathe on me breath of God”. Hold that for a bit. Then exhale slowly praying “fill me with peace”. When I take time each day to pray, i always, start with this breath prayer.

So give God your best and set aside 10, 15, or 20 minutes to be still, enter into the fullness of God, express yourself to God, and listen for His voice, confident in knowing God hears our prayers.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1 Samuel 17 Haiku

David & Goliath
by Larry Chitwood

Simple shepherd's sling.
Iron weapons held back by fear.
God does more with less.
©2011 L.M.Chitwood