The Weekly Epistle 5/1/24

Greetings, Living Hope! 
A few weeks ago, I delved into the transformative power of daily devotions. I shared my journey of transitioning from skepticism about devotions to acknowledging their profound impact on my spiritual growth. While I understood the importance of studying the Bible, I discovered that daily devotions fostered a unique connection with God’s Word that enriched my spiritual vitality.   

This week, I’m eager to explore another cornerstone of faith: prayer. 

Do you struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life? I understand how you’re feeling. I wrestled with prayer for years. Like you, I put in a lot of effort. I would make a list of prayer requests and include a few points of confession and adoration for good measure, yet every word I prayed just seemed to bounce off the clouds and come crashing back down from Heaven. Can you relate? 

The good thing is, we serve a gracious God who is committed to our spiritual formation. He’s not sitting up in Heaven critiquing our prayers; He’s a loving father who delights in listening to his children. When my children were babies, they would coo, babble, and laugh, and I would take great pleasure in them. When they cried, I would comfort them. As they grew older, their speech became more sophisticated. They would ask questions like, “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” and I would answer them. They would ask questions like, “Daddy, why did my goldfish die?” and I would comfort them. Nowadays, our conversations are very adult-like. We talk about theology, politics, friendship, and the future. Now they’re asking questions like, “Dad, should I go into the military, or should I go to college?” 

Can you see what I’m getting at here? God understands where you are in your current spiritual formation, and He delights in who you are now, and he delights in hearing from you. 

Here are three practices you can start today that will help you grow as a praying child of your loving Heavenly Father: 
 

                 PRAY WITHOUT CEASING 

                In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” The misapplication of this verse has forced countless monks and mystics into silent isolation, living lives cut off from the rest of the world for the sake of “prayerful devotion.” For the rest of us, the misapplication of this verse just makes us feel guilty because we’re not living out a life of monkish devotion. 

              However, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 isn’t meant to be a guilt trip; it’s an invitation. This verse is a continual invitation into the presence of our  Heavenly Father. It’s an invitation to pray in the spaces in between—to pray in the shower while you wash your hair, in the car while you travel to and from work, and to talk your scattered thoughts out with the Lord,  just as you would with any person who accompanies you throughout  your day. 

             PRAY OUTLOUD

            Admittedly, I am a verbal processor, so this one comes naturally to me.  That being said, I think there is something to praying out loud. I find that praying out loud makes prayer more conversational. When I speak to the  Lord, as I would speak with anyone, it cements my prayers in reality, making them more natural and sincere. Praying out loud has been a  powerful and meaningful practice that’s enriched my spiritual journey  and relationship with my Heavenly Father. 

            PRAY THROUGH WRITING 

            If you struggle to see the Lord’s answers to your prayers, I encourage you to start journaling your prayers. I began this practice years ago, and it transformed my prayer life. Prayer journaling made me slow down, be more thoughtful and meditative in my prayers, and it provided me with a wonderful record of God’s sovereignty and loving kindness towards me.  As I prayerfully reviewed past entries, I realized that while the Lord didn’t always answer my prayers in the way I desired, He always answered  them, without fail, every time. Furthermore, I could see how He lovingly orchestrated the events of my life to address my prayer requests in ways that I could have never imagined. 

          We often get frustrated because we feel God never answers our prayers. However, I don’t think the problem is unanswered prayer, as much as we didn’t take the time to listen for His response.               
 

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. I encourage you to put them into practice, and remember, your Heavenly Father delights in hearing from you. 

Let me leave you with this wonderful encouragement from the poet               Mary Oliver. 

          PRAYING 
          It doesn’t have to be
          the blue iris, it could be  
          weeds in a vacant lot, or a few  
          small stones; just
          pay attention, then patch 

          a few words together    
          and don’t try
          to make them elaborate, this isn’t               
          a contest but the doorway 

         into thanks, and a silence in which         
         another voice may speak. 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dan