Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What is prayer?--Or Another Thing I Learned at the Start of Another Year of Religious Education

On Sunday morning, after we discussed personality types, the next item was the definition of prayer.  Among the six tables of people entrusted to teach mostly children and some adults about our faith, we could come up with things like "talking to God" or "talking with God" or "a conversation with God" or "listening to/for God".  While all those were interesting, the director of child and youth ministry at our church wanted something a bit bigger.  Below is something close to what she said.  I could not tell whether this was three separate ideas or a single quotation she took from someone else.  But this is what I came away with
The practice of the presence of God...to change my own mind to put on the mind of Christ...enabling grace to break into us.  
There are three distinct ideas here.  The first is something quite important.  It is not just "practicing" but "a practice" (or in this case, "the practice").  The key here is that we are focused on remembering that I am in the presence of God.  Recognizing that I am in the presence of God.  Acting like I am in the presence of God.  Using the presence of God as a motivator.

The second idea mentions the mind of Christ.  There is a mention of the mind of Christ in 1 Cor 2:16.    It certainly seems to me that it would be much easier to "put on the mind of Christ" or "have the mind of Christ" or "know what the mind of Christ is thinking" (e.g., "What would Jesus do?") if I am in the practice of being in the presence of God.  Or, better yet, to be the presence of God for someone else, i.e., God's hands and feet, eyes and ears here on earth.

The third idea is that it should involve grace.

The key with these ideas is that almost anything can become a prayer.  Prayer can be loud or silent.  Prayer can be speaking, reading, or listening.  Prayer can involve meditation or activity.  Almost anything that involves God's grace, remembering that I am in God's presence, and thinking about acting as Jesus would can be a prayer.

So a life of prayer or a life lived in prayer, does not mean being in a church praying all day.  Instead, it can mean doing all the things I would do otherwise but always with an eye on God's grace.  There are some things I imagine that definitely don't show God's grace.  The goal then, for me, can be to live a life always showing God's grace and living out the implications the words I pray aloud and listen to in church.  

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