Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lord, Teach Me to Pray!

Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

For twenty years out of the twenty-six since becoming a devoted Christian, I attended an Episcopal church. Our services were structured and guided by The Book of Common Prayer, a magnificently crafted liturgy followed faithfully to the letter each Sunday. While I took great comfort in the poetic prayers said in unison, in the rich and sacred language of the Holy Eucharist, and, yes, even in the dependable routine of the service, there was one drawback to this which I did not realize until called to lead the congregation in two prayers, the opening and offertory, in all our contemporary praise services. I could not, for the life of me, pray on my feet! Sure, I could pray just fine behind closed doors, away from the crowds and close to God, but without a history of spontaneity in worship, the prospect of leading prayer was overwhelming. How, I thought, was I going to handle this new responsibility without hemming, hawing, and stuttering enough to bring the image of poor speech-impaired Moses to everyone's mind?

In praying about my feelings of inadequacy, God gave me a flash of inspiration: Write the prayers out beforehand; I gave you this gift and I want you to use it! Of course! That was the answer! How simple and straightforward but, in my panic, I couldn't see it without the Lord's prompting. Each week now, I peruse the song selections for the coming Sunday and the sermon topic to create what I hope are meaningful and memorable prayers that go hand-in-hand with the service. My confirmation in this came one day when Pastor Emily commented on how much she liked my prayers and, a week later, when Chris, our music director, asked me to write a special prayer for our upcoming revival. As you might imagine, I was both humble and ecstatic! There's nothing more gratifying than being able to use our gifts in the service of the Lord.

How are you using the special gifts and talents God gave you? If you're not sure, "go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father". He's the one with all the answers.

Readings
Psalms (83) 116, 117 or 85, 86
2 Kings 9:1-16
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

18 comments:

  1. What a fab question:How are you using the special gifts and talents God gave you? One we must ask ourselves every day!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thought provoking.......Nice post again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. How wise Martha! I especially love how when we aren't sure which way to go, The Lord gives clear direction when we ask Him!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, Martha:
    I've written about this topic several times in my own blog. These two entries:
    http://cjpwisdomandlife.com/2010/06/07/finding-your-gift/
    http://cjpwisdomandlife.com/2010/11/10/your-life-is-like-a-river/

    specifically come to mind.

    God gave each of us a gift when we incarnated. It is our responsibility to find that gift and use it. How am I using MY gifts? My blog is my way of sharing the gift of writing HE bestowed on my, The gift of my overflowing faith?
    http://cjpwisdomandlife.com/2010/08/24/an-overflowing-faith/
    I'm using that in writing my blog too. I understand that the gifts we are given are meant to be shared. That's why I LOVE writing again so much because I know that I'm making a difference even if only in a small sampling of people. Helping one person move forward is better then NOT helping anyone.

    I sincerely believe that's why God gave me both of these gifts:
    My faith and my writing. It was to help move people toward their own belief system.
    --
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great achievement Martha - one that I am sure would never have happened without faith! I am going to ask myself your question everyday and make sure I have a great answer for it. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Most sincere thanks for all your wonderful comments! It gladdens my heart to know you have found encouragement in my words today.
    May blessings, and gifts, abound!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post Martha. I have to confess I am much like a stuttering Moses when it comes to praying with others! I try to use writing to express my devotion and serve God, even if it's in just small ways. That, and one on one time with others, praying and ministering to them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent post Martha! I have to confess here. I have no problem to pray either alone or with other people. My prayers are very simple :) The one thing I find extremely difficult is to lift my hands to worship. I grew up in a very strict and structured church environment where we would never raise our hands during worshipping. I feel so self conscious when I have to do it. I actually feel ashamed to say this but I thought I had to.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Martha, great post! I am a 'private' prayer, and the most prayer I do in groups is at our dinner table. I pretty much stay to myself most of the time but if in a group, I CAN pray, just not one for leading the prayer. Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Martha, I’m so blessed to see how God is using you. And I especially love this post because I’m such a private person myself that I literally DO go into my prayer closer and close the door when I pray ;-)
    Since you have such a gift and call for writing, it’s little wonder that writing down the prayers would be the logical solution.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Glad to know I'm not the only Moses in the crowd! :) @Nelieta - there are some that do the hand raising in our Methodist church; this was something I had to get used to, too. I find it comes really naturally when I'm singing at praise worship.
    Thanks, ladies, for all your input and sharing!
    Love and blessings to all!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Praying out loud and in front of folks, but particularly in front of a congregation can be and is still sometimes quite frightening. I have learned, however, to just let God; just let God be God and He will put words in my mouth. There are some weeks when Martha will say, "wow, that was really good," to a closing prayer. Or "where did that come from?" I don't know or maybe I do. I pray off the cuff which can be good or can be confusing, but if I just relax it seems to be better. Still there are times that I am just out of words, so I can really understand and appreciate this blog baby. Very nice.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I can understand why this was so difficult for your Martha. Prayer is a very personal thing, and sharing that part of yourself with others, even your church family, can be difficult. Using your gift of writing to express those feelings was a wonderful solution, and I have no doubt God was smiling listening to you read. :-)

    Have a Blessed Day!

    ReplyDelete
  14. How are you using the special gifts and talents God gave you? What a magnificent question, one that deserves great reflection. I love my time of solitude when i go within myself and allow my 'inner voice' to communicate with me, and i hold up my hands when i say that voice has led me to some of my greatest victories. I love the way your blog makes me think and wonder.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for your wonderful insights and comments, guys!
    @Danny, you get better every Sunday, believe it! Relaxing into God's arms and allowing Him to speak through you is always good.
    @Phil, Yes, it is personal and I do pray that God is smiling when I read. (Looking forward to your next post and hope you are feeling better!)
    @Larry, so gratified to know my blog makes you think and wonder - without these gifts, how could we ever grow, stretch ourselves to meet our goals. Yes, the inner voice, once we hear it, believe it, will lead to many victories.

    Blessings to you all!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Martha... I am someone who contemplates and listens to the inner voice that is within... However unlike most I do not ask the question... I do not wait either...
    I believe that there are reasons why I am at the place or stage I am in... Sometimes the voice is not immediate but it does speak... and it does the show the way.... that voice be it the higher energy... divine voice or the universe within... To me it is one and the same.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This was beautiful the way you described it..I remember the days and times I spent in prayer and worship..I am so disconnected now....it's hard to imagine what was ...As always...XOXOXO

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for stopping by!
    @sparklemezen - you are where you are for God's good reasons; that you recognize the voice and know it's showing you the way is key. Bless you!
    @Bongo - Even though here and now, your life seems disconnected from God, know that He still cares and loves you. He is patient; He will be there when you can turn again toward Him.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete

Happy Birthday, Virginia Rose!

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Seven years ...