given on Sunday, February 22, 2015
Stepping into a new role can often cause us to rethink what we are doing in our lives and even whether or not we can possibly fill that role. When my para asked if I would mentor her son in his effort to earn the God and Me Badge for Scouts, I eagerly accepted. What I did not anticipate is that I could learn more from the process than I was able to give. In Psalms 25, the psalmist says:
The Lord is good and does what is right;
He shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
Teaching them his way. (v.8-9, NLT)
The psalmist tells us that God shows us the proper path, and the acronym P.A.T.H. comes from that experience with the Scout badge. The guidebook offered the idea that PATH was a way to learn how to pray. I found myself using that structure to check my own prayers and to evaluate the prayers I have been writing. (Interestingly, the mentor’s manual shared that PATH was a simplified version of ACHE, representing a much more adult choice of words that I can’t even remember, so I am sticking with PATH.) Therefore, during Lent I am going to focus on PATH as we fill the Christian Lent season with prayers.
Let’s look at this acronym again:
P — Praise: Tell God how awesome he is for always loving us.
A– Apologize: Tell God you are sorry for your mistakes.
T– Thank: Thank God for helping you and all he gives you.
H– Help: Ask God for help making the right decisions
or for answering your worries or problems.
The scripture from Matthew gives us the words Jesus taught his disciples in what we commonly refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. The choice of denomination or the choice of a Bible’s translation can change words subtly, but the structure and the meaning really do not change. The translation used today is the New Living Translation and includes the word ‘sin’ rather than the more traditional ‘trespasses’ or what other denominations might chose such as ‘debts/debtors’.
Using the Lord’s Prayer can become a mindless routine if we allow it to lose its meaning. In the study notes from the Life Application Bible, this concern is addressed:
Repeating the same words over and over like a magic incantation is no way to ensure that God will hear your prayer. It’s not wrong to come to God many times with the same requests—Jesus encourages persistent prayer. But he condemns the shallow repetition of words that are not offered with a sincere heart. We can never pray too much if our prayers are honest and sincere. Before you start to pray, make sure you mean what you say. (study notes for Mt. 6:7-8)
I admit that I have wondered how much value there is in repeating the same prayer over and over, but I had the thought this past week that when all else fails, the Lord’s Prayer bubbles up and fills in when my mind can’t.
Living in a world that is filled with evil, prayer is a tool all Christians can implement in any situation whether in joy, in fear, in praise, in pain, or for absolutely any reason. We need to make sure we understand that God hears all the thoughts that run through our mind. Sometimes what we are thinking is so un-Christian it is the last thing that we want to share with God; and in Jesus’ instructions, he includes an apology.
Use prayer with intention. In those private moments when our minds begin going over the concerns we have and we begin asking God for help, be intentional. Practice prayer. Realize how many times thoughts go through your mind and you discover there is only one listening and that is God. During Lent, we are going to practice prayer in very intentional manners. Let’s add specific prayers. Keep a prayer journal, even date it and write down a list of people, topics, places, or anything you want God to focus on.
Share the prayers so others may add them to their list. The prayer of one is like a single ray of light, but when more rays of light are added together it becomes a strong beam even more visible. And if the beam of light is shined through a magnifier, the intensity of the light can become a force that lights a fire. Our prayers can be that beam through the magnifier, and God will light the fire to eliminate the problem.
Intentional prayer can also be strong by shining the positives through a prism creating a rainbow of beauty. The intentional prayers for the good in the world catch God’s attention also, and he can spread the good in like the glory of the rainbow.
Today, let us intentionally pray for the world! The news brings to our attention problems that are so horrific that as Christians we are torn as to what we can possibly do. The worst of the worst is news of the Coptic Christians who were beheaded. What can we do? We pray.
We pray for the peace of those who died because of their faith. We pray for the pain of their families. We pray for the world that knows the evil is spreading. We pray for the communities facing these horrors within their own city limits, their country’s borders, and even the region.
We pray. We pray intentionally. We pray together. We pray for understanding and for peace. We pray for the world leaders who have to make tough decisions. We pray for the men and women who are going to have to face the violence in any effort to stop evil.
During the week ahead, intentionally add prayers for the world in your own prayers. Prayers for the world may be to stop the evil we are witnessing in the Mid-East, but the prayers for our world need to go beyond that one issue. The list covers so much:
- World leaders and global peace
- Environmental issues—loss of natural resources above and below ground
- Climate changes, esp. due to factory emissions, cars left to drizzle
- Careless use of genetic engineering
- Unsafe water, esp. in extremely poor, third world countries
- Other . . .
How can we be more intentional with our prayers? Our lives are so full as it is, adding in more prayer time may seem impossible. Being intentional about what we pray means being intentional with the practice of prayer. While we are filling Lent with intentional prayer, we can learn how to add in ways to improve our prayer life. Today, how do we find more time to pray?
In an article on the United Methodist Church website, an article by Joe Lovino from December 22, 2014, creates a list of suggestions to find more prayer time:
- Make prayer a priority
- Make an appointment with God
- Find a sacred place (to pray)
- Turn off the television
- Pray with a group
- Pray as a family
- Keep your Bible and prayer journal
- Keep the conversation going all day (remember prayer is conversation with God)
- Pray your calendar
- Use resource such as the Upper Room or other devotionals such as those on line
- Experiment with different methods
- Enjoy it
- Keep going
As in all lists of suggestions, some may not work for you; but the important thing is to use just ways that do work for you. Study the list, write out the concerns for the world that you can include in your prayers, and then do it—pray intentionally.
Closing prayer for the world:
Dear Heavenly Father,
(Praise) You have provided us a world
that meets our every need.
You gave us the opportunity to live
freely in our own way.
(Apology) Yet we ignore our responsibility
as caretakers of nature’s wealth.
We fail to live as responsible neighbors
not loving them as we want to be loved.
(Thanks) Thank you for loving us despite
our repeated failures.
Thank you for continuing to listen
to our selfish prayers.
(Help) Please patiently hear our prayers
as we continue to grow in faith.
Talk with us as we struggle to hear you
and to recognize your answers.