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Archive for July, 2010

Too Easy to Pray…?

Thinking today about some elements of our spiritual formation classes and during my thinking about prayer I had to ask myself this question:

Do we make prayer too hard or too easy when we teach people about it?

Maybe you’ve heard of the ACTS model (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) – all of which is based on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) but seems somewhat cheesy and easy to remember.

Is that a bad thing?

Should we just teach the Lord’s Prayer as it is and hope that people get it?

Let’s say that I have 15 minutes to pray in the morning before work. What will I remember when I sit down? The various aspects of the Lord’s Prayer? Or ACTS? What will keep me from frustration?

Is that too easy?

It’s the challenge of teaching, especially when because of our size and ministry model most people think we’re soft anyway and that’s how we’ve grown (another discussion for another time). It’s the challenge of asking yourself:

Do I give people something that is difficult, that they may not remember or be able to work with, because it’s straight Scripture or do I give people something that they may ACTUALLY be able to use to develop a consistent, daily practice of prayer?

Not to mention that we aren’t all at the same place – some people need a simpler form of prayer but there are others who are perfectly capable of having prayer be a conversation with God. There are some of the “advanced” folks who would criticize ACTS, even though it might have helped them get to the “advanced” state where they currently are.

As the saying goes, you dance with the one who “brung” you.

Two years ago or so I may have said: “It’s the Bible. Suck it up and do it. It’s Jesus for crying out loud!” Again we’re not taking the Lord’s Prayer off the table, just putting it into a memorable format. Honestly I think that if we did a survey of whether or not people had a daily prayer time we’d find that a tool that helps get something going would be incredibly helpful.

Your thoughts: do we need to make prayer easier to develop and replicate? Is the ACTS model helpful to you or is there another way?

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A recent trip to my dear friend Dr. Bill the optometrist revealed an interesting thing about my eyes.

I don’t produce enough tears.

My tears should last for about 10 seconds longer per eye than they do – apparently I’m all dried up.

Perhaps I should see more tear-jerker movies?

In either case, this disorder seems to be the same as what I see in people in general – we live in a culture that expects us to dry up, suck it up, and move on when we experience loss or pain. Mostly because we are so insecure in our own ability to keep it together that we don’t want to see someone else lose it because we might do the same. Some people even “religiocize” it and say, “If you really trusted God, you wouldn’t have trouble dealing with this anymore.”

To be clear, that’s ridiculous – trusting God doesn’t make everything better, it simply says that everything is His (which ultimately brings healing).

However, there was a practice in the Bible that I think we need to recapture – lament.

Before I get too far, let me mention that I think people who follow Jesus aren’t nearly as joyful as they should be for folks who know they’ll never die. But I also think that the “pull-ourselves-up-by our-bootstraps” approach that we’ve been taught our whole lives has cut us off from what it means to truly…

Weep.

Mourn.

Be contrite.

Lament.

Lament the evil that happens every day. Mourn the loss of goodness and beauty on a daily basis. Weep over people who are a part of completely dysfunctional cycles of life and being.

Why?

Because when we lament, when we truly mourn, we have an opportunity to be reminded about the solution. The solution is that Jesus came, taught, and died to show the way through the valley of the shadow of death so that we don’t have to fear pain, evil, injustice, oppression and violence.

We lament to remember why lament will not last forever.

That day by day, as we are acting on the example of Jesus, we bring heaven to earth.

That one day, God’s Kingdom will come in completion and evil will get taken out behind the woodshed – forever.

Can you see what we lose if we don’t lament? If we don’t think about what is lost?

We forget what is gained.

The best way to lament is to spend time thinking on what has been lost in your life, and then move to what God can, will, or has already done to bring hope and life to you in the midst of it.

Try this exercise today – write down what you lament and where God is working. I believe you’ll see something amazing.

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Hey, here’s something coming up that you might be interested in.

We talk a great deal at Parkview about a “relationship” with God. But what is that really? What does it mean to have a relationship with someone I can’t see or “talk” to in the same way that I talk with other people? We’re going to work on these issues and more in our class “How to Move from Religion to Relationship.”

Registration is still open and space is available. I’ll be teaching along with Haydn Shaw, and I know it will be stuff that you can put into practice immediately. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.

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Haven’t blogged in a while due to vacation and other assorted events, but that’s good because it gives me time to think which can do one of three things:

  1. Generate a really great thought.
  2. Generate so many thoughts that I can’t pick one and so I have to write something with a numbered list in it (how awful!)
  3. Generate no momentum or energy and so I end up writing something short and somewhat meaningless.

Let’s hope #1 has happened. Then again, you aren’t paying to read this so if it’s bad then you can always read Brian’s blog.

Truth be told I’ve been thinking about a lot of things, but the one thing that is stirring in me today is something I read this morning from Sam Rima’s Leading From the Inside Out:

“The true quality and nature of our leadership will ultimately be determined by the condition of our inner life, which, in turn, is the product of the degree to which we do or do not engage in effective personal soul care.” (130)

Please don’t get lost in the “leadership” language – I’ve seen this be an issue for all kinds of folks whether they are in leadership or not. The reality is that all of us are in trouble if we don’t know the places where our inner life needs work.

I’m a strong believer in the fact that if you don’t know where you’re vulnerable, you won’t know where you can be defeated. I ask couples who come to me for pre-marital counseling “What would have to happen to cause you to leave this relationship?”

FYI – to a person they all say infidelity, but the stats on why marriages end speak differently and most say that the #1 reason marriages end is because of communication but perhaps that’s another post…

So, here’s a thought: if we know our spiritual weakness, we need to address it. We need to do some personal “soul care.”

If your spouse came to you and said “Our communication has to get better or we’re going to have to get divorced” my hope would be that you’d get every book on communication in marriage possible. You now know your vulnerability, time to sure it up.

If we know that one of our soul’s greatest weaknesses is pride, we need to do something about that.

If we know that our soul is prone to ignore hard conversations, we need to do something about that.

If we know our soul has trouble trusting God in real, daily situations then we need to do something about that.

God’s grace will give us the strength to do this – it isn’t all on us to do the heavy lifting – but we need to acknowledge that there are some places needing work. Soul care is simply bringing habits into our life to give God the leverage and space to strengthen weak spiritual muscles we may have.

Today, what if you took some time and sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down the places where you feel you’re vulnerable and are in need of soul care?

I did it this morning.

It was really good and now I’m thinking through a plan to deal with those areas.

Want some strength in your soul?

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