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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

October 2007

Learning to Pray by Rev. Laurie

In the past few weeks I have been in a number of different situations where the topic of prayer has come up.  It is no wonder that prayer is on my mind as I have been thinking about it in the following places: at the session retreat in August which focused on the book, Becoming a Blessed Church by N. Graham Standish; at the Session meetings that have followed; at Koinonia as we explore the book Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster; and in my own study of Jane E Vennard’s book a praying congregation.  It is as if God has been hitting me with a two by four and saying talk about this!  So, I am.

     Perhaps I needed to be hit in the head a few times to spur me on to talk about prayer as it is one of the most emotion laden and intimate things that we do as people of faith.  It is hard to talk about prayer because at one time or another we have probably all struggled with a challenging prayer life.  For me, prayer has been something that I have constantly had to struggle with.  I remember in seminary going to the head of the Spirituality department to ask if I could be part of the Spirituality Concentration with much fear and trembling.  I remember confessing in tears how difficult I found it to pray and how much of a failure I felt like as a second year student with an abysmal prayer life.  So began a difficult but richer journey into prayer for me.  However, the struggle has not ending.  Prayer for me is like a roller coaster ride and I have been so blessed by the discussions that have been taking place about prayer and spiritual development in recent days. 

     One of the best gifts I have gained over these last few weeks came from Jane E. Vennard’s book, a praying congregation.  As she talks about prayer, she encourages the reader to get in touch with how they learned to prayer.    She writes, “Those early lessons, whether in childhood or later, are the foundation on which your present prayer life rests.” (p.23)    As we reflect on these lessons or memories, we can gain amazing insights into what we believe about prayer (sometimes without realizing it).  Perhaps we were taught that God is anxious to hear all our prayers or that only certain prayers are ok.  Perhaps we were taught that there is a certain way we have to pray or we were given the gift of freedom to pray as we felt led.  Perhaps we observed someone praying with joy or pain or fear or anger and that example informs our prayer life.  As I was considering my own experiences and memories of being taught to pray, I realized that somewhere I picked up the fear of boring God or frustrating God with my simple and selfish prayers.  The thought just tumbled out without my realizing it.  Did I really think that?  I realized that yes, I usually do filter my prayers, without even realizing it.  My prayers were often held back because I reasoned that there are so many big things that God has to worry about, why should I bother God with my fears or concerns.  You can’t imagine how freeing it was to let down the filter with the reminder that God wants to hear all our prayers.  God loves us so much that God wants to know about all that we care and worry about, all that we celebrate and fear.  As a parent, I don’t just want my kids to talk to me about what is “important” I want to know everything.  Hopes, fears, dreams, desires, needs, everything!  So, maybe you already know that God wants to hear it all…but I challenge us all in the days ahead to think of a few prayer experiences and wonder about what lessons you might have picked up along your spiritual journey.  I hope that your discovery might be as enlightening as mine and that your prayer life may be enhanced by your reflections.