What Is Prayer? Feb04

What Is Prayer?

We had a fantastic discussion about baptism a week or two ago, one from which I am still learning. I’d like in this post to invite another conversation, this time about prayer. In recent years prayer has become more and more important to me. Not just in my own life, but as I think about the...

New Year’s Prayer Dec31

New Year’s Pra...

I’ve admitted before that I often feel that I don’t really understand prayer. I think over the years I’ve accepted that I never will. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn. There is. A lot. And it doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. I will. Prayer is important and, frankly,...

Prayer and the Power of Connection Nov06

Prayer and the Power of Connection

A weekend ago I was in Colorado and during worship we prayed for the folks on the East Coast as they prepared for Hurricane Sandy. This past weekend I was at home in Minnesota and on Sunday we prayed for those same folks, now on the other side of the Hurricane, and for all those who were working to help them cope with the devastation. A little later in the prayers we also offered our hopes and concerns for those members of our congregation who had left the day before for Ethiopia where they would be partnering with local churches to build wells. Tonight and tomorrow I am in Pennsylvania with a group of pastors on retreat, and we will pray...

Praying to Understand Prayer Oct22

Praying to Understand Prayer

I think it’s easy for a lot of folks to get intimidated by prayer. We come to it thinking that there’s a certain way to pray, a right way to pray (and therefore wrong ways to pray as well). Do you know what I mean? Certain phrases and ways of speaking that make a good prayer. If you’re from a more formal religious background, that probably means a certain number of “thees” and “thous,” as in, “Oh Lord, we beseech thee that that thou wouldst grant thy servant…” and so forth. If you’re from a more informal tradition, on the other hand, then the word “just” pops up with some regularity: “We just pray to you, Lord,...

Prayer and Gratitude Sep24

Prayer and Gratitude

Regarding prayer, I’ve said before that while I don’t understand prayer, I still do it. And I think that’s true of various elements of the faith, full understanding isn’t a requirement for participation. Whether it’s prayer, or the Lord’s Supper, or forgiveness, we are called to participate even as we still seek to understand better. I think these two things are connected and rest near the heart of the life of faith, in fact. First, that there is an element of irreducible mystery to our faith that doesn’t require full understanding to be embraced and, second, that we are still beckoned always to understand more fully. Embracing...

St. Francis and The Work of the People Sep14

St. Francis and The Work of the People

On this beautiful late summer Friday (at least where I’m writing from ☺), I want to try to bring together two of my great interests: prayer, which I don’t understand but practice anyway; and video, which I think is an incredibly powerful medium for conveying the faith in an experiential, and not just cognitive, way. To do that – or at least to give a taste of doing that – I’m going to turn to a project exercised by a group of artists I greatly admire called The Work of the People. They’ve created a rather simple video based on the powerful prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. I’ll print the words below; they also...