This month we are beginning a series about what we believe it takes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We believe that followers of Jesus, sometimes called disciples, have experienced some degree of God’s love and power in their lives, and work towards living out that love in the world. We believe that people need to commit to live out their faith through prayer, presence, gifts, service, witness, and learning. We will address one of these elements each month, and this month we start with prayer.
I grew up in a Christian home, but we never prayed much at home. We would sometimes say a grace at meal times, especially if it was a holiday. And I remember during Advent sometimes being sent home from church with a booklet of prayers to go with lighting Advent candles each day at home. But, by and large, praying was either something done by the minister and others in charge in worship, or it was done when I had done something really wrong and it was going to take a miracle to make it right.
I still don’t pray as much as I think I “should.” (We can talk about should statements and self-talk another time.) However, I feel that I have grown in my relationship and communication with God, that things are much better than they were. And I wish I could tell you that it all happened because I went to a specific workshop or attended the right prayer group, but instead it is a practice that has deepened over time and with intention.
Let me share with you some of the ways that I and others in this congregation have deepened their faith through prayer:
Establish a routine for reading the Bible or a devotional. This is time to listen to God instead of trying to make sure God can hear me.
Journal regularly. Journaling can help you make sense and gain clarity in life.
“Bullet prayers.” Throughout the day offer a brief sentence or thought to God, whether it is a prayer for help or of thanks, and then let it go.
Find a partner. Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered, there am I” (Mt. 18:20). There is power and comfort in praying with each other and holding each other accountable.
This list is just some of the ways that people find fruitful for deepening their connection to God. For me, prayer is really just a fancy term for talking with God. Sometimes we need to talk and sometimes we need to listen, but the conversation is important for the relationship to work.
I have a few last words of advice for you if you want to improve your relationship with God. If you are starting out, start small. Whenever you are looking to make a change in your practices, commit to something that you can achieve. Also, it is very difficult to go it alone. Look for someone(s) you trust and want both to help and be helped in your faith journey.
I pray God’s blessings on you as we all “Grow in love through relationship with God, each other, and our neighbors.”
Peace and joy to you in Christ!
Pastor Dan Benson