Interview | Pastor Steve & Mary Whyte (long time member at Trinity)
Call to Spiritual Renewal – Pray
Let us pray with the words Jesus taught us … did you just pray the whole prayer just now. You know the prayer I mean … The Lord’s Prayer. On a Sunday morning we say those words in unison just before we come to the table. We know them well. I was sharing a conversation with Mary Whyte in preparation for this article on prayer and we talked about that particular prayer. I shared the time, at my previous call, when I was recovering at the parsonage following surgery, and Pastor Dale came over after worship to bring me communion. I was fine until we got the Lord’s Prayer and then the tears started. I was surprised by this even though I had witnessed many people react the same way when I brought them communion and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. Prayer is powerful stuff.
Prayer not only connects us with God – it connects us with each other. When we say the Lord’s prayer, whether alone or in group, we are using words that have been handed down and prayed and shared for about 2,000 years. But there are not just ‘set’ prayers like the Lord’s Prayer – there are the free and spontaneous ones maybe said in silence or maybe spoken aloud. Mary told me about driving her 3 year old granddaughter to Sunday School. Mary said “she was gibbering away and I’m not paying any attention, and all of a sudden her voice rises ‘I can’t hear him’. I said ‘who were you expecting to hear’, and she said ’God’, and I said ‘And why would you expect to hear God’, and she said ‘Well I’m talking to him’.” Mary told her granddaughter that she would hear God in her heart and not out loud. We have to be open to hearing God’s reply. I have heard answers to my prayers. Occasionally it is a clear response even if that response is ‘not yet’. The other way prayers can get answered is by an action or event that is not in our control … something might happen shortly after our prayer that you know (in your heart) that it was an answer. The answer might be an opportunity that suddenly presents itself or maybe even a new insight in to the issue you were praying about.
At some small groups (meetings etc.) I have sometimes encouraged people to pray out loud. This is not always easy for people. It might be a lack of confidence or maybe it is not having experience of praying aloud that holds people back. It is not easy – it takes practice – it takes trust in those around you – and it takes trust that God will give you the words. But like Moses … “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” (Exodus 4:10) the smoothness of our words and speech is NOT the point. The point is we communicate with God and with others. As you hear prayers spoken by some else, you are adding that as your prayer as well. Mary told me about the times when she used to give pastoral care to the people of Trinity. In particular Mary recounted one visit with a person that was sometimes difficult and angry. After a rough and bumpy visit, Mary said she was leaving which provoke the response, “You can’t leave – you forgot my prayer and my hug.” Prayer superseded the angry emotions.
We don’t need formal words to pray, but we do need to direct our words, thoughts and feeling towards God. And there are many ways to pray. Here are some ideas of mine and also from the ELCIC website about prayer in the Call to Spiritual Renewal:
- Set aside a bit of time each day and devote that time to prayer. It may seem hard to do at first but after a while you will look forward to this time to focus on your prayer life.
- If you don’t already pray at meals, consider starting this as a tradition.
- Pray together with your family. One person could offer a prayer each time you are together or you could have everyone offer a petition or prayer so that all feel included.
- Pray and … walk, or colour a mandala, or finger trace/walk a labyrinth, etc.
- Pray silently when you’re riding on the bus or waiting for an appointment.
- Bring home the prayers from the Sunday bulletin and make them a part of your daily life.
- Pray when you receive an email, voice mail, or similar message that you think needs prayer. Sister Jean sends me an email each week after her visits. I pray for the people she has just visited.
- Pray for the ministries and leaders of our Church at Trinity.
- Join the new ministry that Pastor Steve is starting – writing and praying the Sunday morning intercessions (prayers of the people). Ask me about this.
- Check out Trinity’s library for books on prayer – section 248 ‘Christian experience, practice, life’
Yours in Christ
More resources and links:
- Interview with Mary Whyte about PRAYER
- Call to Spiritual Renewal
– Ideas for Individuals, Congregations and Communities.
– Ideas for Individuals.
May 2016: This article by Pastor Steve is the first in a series following Bishop Susan Johnson’s invitation Call to Spiritual Renewal. These are based on 7 verbs: Pray, Read, Worship, Study, Serve, Give and Tell.