Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
There is a big difference between being uncomfortable about doing something and being terrified about doing something! Up until a couple years ago, spontaneously praying out loud put me in the terrified zone! What if I said something wrong? What if my words didn’t make sense? What if a more eloquent prayer was in my midst and they thought my word choice was silly? What if I can’t think of anything to say at all and I get struck by lightning because I’m a lousy out-loud prayer? Oh boy did I have a list of reasons and reservations that prohibited me from leading spontaneous prayer every time I was asked. At first I was ok with the fact that I seemed justified in never being the prayer leader but then something started gnawing at me. I had to think and pray about it for a long time before I could build up the courage to give it a try and once I took that first step, I learned so much; so today seems like the perfect day to share what I learned!
As I was wrestling with this, I heard a speaker say something that made a light come on in my head. (Actually it was more like a gigantic powerful search light!) She said, “People today are sleeping with each other before they are praying with each other because the act of praying with another person is a deeply personal and intimate act.” Holy cow! If you needed a prayer warrior I was your girl…but I was gonna do my prayin in my morning prayer chair with just me and Jesus! The out loud spontaneous stuff was better left to the professionals but I realized through that speakers powerful words, the Holy Spirit was calling me to hand him my terrified. The real lessons came when I started with just simple opening or closing prayer for a meeting here and there. I was getting through them feeling a little less like throwing up each time until the night I was asked to do the opening prayer and the guy across the table from me did the closing and his prayer was so beautiful and simple and powerful and I felt like a prayer flop. I asked him after the meeting how he was able to craft such perfect words and he said, “I don’t! Step one is ask the Holy Spirit to send the words he wants you to speak, step two, know in your heart he will and step three, get out of the way and don’t give a second thought to how you sound because it isn’t about you at all!” That was some powerful advice!
This fall the seed has grown and I’ve been amazed at the situations and lessons I’ve gotten about praying out loud. Last week I was doing a staff retreat for a lovely parish staff and at the end of the day one of the participants was upset after receiving a phone call and I bumped into her as she was headed into the church to pray. We spoke briefly and I headed off to my car but I just couldn’t ignore the voice that was telling me to go back and ask her if she wanted me to pray with her. It was as if my feet weighed a hundred pounds and I just couldn’t move them down the sidewalk so I turned around and headed back into church and ask her if she wanted to pray together. I was glad I went back but I’m not gonna lie, I was a tiny bit relieved when she said she thought she would be ok. I was doubting instead of trusting. I found out later that simply offering to pray with her was a blessing to her heart. On Sunday I was asked to MC a fabulous night of praise and worship at our parish. I prayed about it for days before I said yes and even though part of me wanted to say no, every confirmation in prayer told me to say yes. As the night drew nearer I got more rattled. It would be out loud praying at several intervals during the 90 minute event. That was way out of my comfort zone especially since there was going to be a big crowd. I prepared and printed and planned and felt ok about it. When the evening started, they turned the lights way down and the flashlight I grabbed didn’t work so I couldn’t read a single word I had printed and written. It was an instant lesson in trusting the power of the Holy Spirit!
God wasn’t finished with the subject yet! On Tuesday’s the middle lovelies enjoy “Testimony Tuesday” and the speaker was talking about the importance of praying for each other and with each other. On the fly, we decided to take all the kids to the school chapel and practice praying out loud. She led us in beautiful prayer and demonstrated how to let the Holy Spirit send the words. After she had prayed about a few of the kids intentions she asked if someone was willing to give it a try and pray for her. She shared that she was newly pregnant and wanted someone to pray for that intention. One faith filled courageous middle lovely volunteered to give it a try. She did a fabulous job! She prayed for a healthy baby and a good delivery; all the things you would expect someone to pray about but then she shocked me when she said, “And God, if this baby should happen to die, please help her know you will still be there to love her and take care of her.” I was in tears and so was this beautiful woman. The amazing thing about this prayer is that none of us had any idea that on that specific day, she had been troubled with the thought of losing that baby. It was just heavy on her heart and none of us could possibly have known, but the Holy Spirit did and he put those words of blessing into the prayer of a child. It was amazing! As we sat there in the chapel I remembered the words of that speaker and I was determined to make it a false statement. The next thing that came to mind was that I couldn’t expect the students to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.
As with anything new and challenging, practice is the key. Our mission is to get ourselves out of the way and just open our mouth and let the words of comfort, peace, love and blessing that can come only from God just come flowing out. Awkwardness is a given at first but it goes away with experience. Our willingness to waddle through something unfamiliar and frightening for the Glory of God is pleasing to the Lord and I’m all about pleasing the Lord how about you?
A Seed To Plant: You have 7 days to complete this task! Pick one person to pray out loud with. If someone at work or school is going through a difficult or joyful time offer to pray together. It can be as simple as Lord; I thank you for this person. I ask your blessing upon them at this time, please wrap them in your loving protection and strengthen them. Go ahead…give it a try…our eternity depends on it!
Blessings on your day!
…his mercies are not spent; they are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23
I am grateful for lots and lots of things and one of them is my ability to fall asleep as fast and hard as a brick being dropped from a high building! On the nights I’m not asleep in the first 3 seconds after crawling between the sheets I try to do a replay of my day and offer thanksgiving for the blessings and pray for forgiveness for my sinfulness. When I get to that part, sometimes I get pretty sad, even embarrassed about things I have done or said during the day. It’s funny that on the nights I don’t fall right to sleep it’s usually because something has happened during that day that I need to pray on, ask forgiveness for or ask God to help me fix the next day. I’m not gonna lie, some nights when I start thinking about silly things that slipped out of my mouth that shouldn’t have, or situations where I didn’t slow down enough to really listen or be compassionately present for someone I’d rather just roll over and go to sleep. Sometimes it’s like someone holding up a mirror and I don’t like what I see.
I was having one of those nights not long ago and I couldn’t go to sleep. I ended up moving to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb Dave because no matter how hard I tried to drift off, something just kept nagging at me so I gave up, opened scripture and asked God to show me what he was putting on my heart. It was a beautiful experience of his mercy that eventually led me to this verse in Lamentations. How great is our God! Even as he was pointing out something I didn’t want to see, he did it with such love. I realized that he was showing me how I could follow him more closely and after a while longer, I fell sound asleep and didn’t even roll over the rest of the night. When I woke up the next morning I felt so peaceful and content because I realized that no matter how much we mess things up, he is there for us and his mercies are new each morning.
Don’t we serve an amazing God! It’s like a “do-over” every day. The morning brings new light, new opportunity and God’s new mercies. If you’re reading this today and your heart is heavy about something you’re lugging around, put it to rest in the forgiving arms of the Father and sleep tonight knowing his mercies will be new in the morning. Admit your faults and failings, ask his forgiveness, offer apology and make peace where you need to and know things will be as fresh and hopeful as a bright new morning.
A Seed To Plant: Ask God to show you where you need to seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness and then rest in the promise of his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
Get out there and bring your joy! Pope Francis
How simple is that! When Pope Francis spoke these words he was talking about our work as disciples of Jesus. He went on to say, “If we are full of Christian joy then we should let our faces know it.” I love that image. So many times I muddle my way through the day trying to be a good disciple and I get tangled up in the “work” of it all and miss the “joy” of it all!
Nobody will ever be inspired by a grump! Who would ever want to be a disciple if all they ever hear is how much work it is, how many committees you have to serve on and how much time it’s going to take. If that’s all I knew of Jesus and discipleship I would probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Our job as disciples is to bring people to Christ not scare them away or point out how hard we work to be one. People want to be drawn to Christ not dragged so I suppose it is a good idea every now and again to see if our attitude is one that is drawing, dragging or scaring away. I guess the even bigger question to ask myself is; would I want to follow me and get involved?
Pope Francis is an inspiration to all Christians because he is a living, breathing demonstration of joy, love, kindness and humility found only in the heart of a servant of the Lord. He makes us want to follow! I was reminded of a story I heard about a little girl who got in line and followed the kids who were leaving school to go to Religious Ed. A few weeks later the teacher realized the little girl wasn’t Catholic and asked her why she was going along each week. Her response was awesome. She smiled at the teacher and said, “I just wanted to go where they were going and learn what they were learning because when they come back to school they are so happy!” Out of the mouths of babes! It made me stop and ask myself, when was the last time I came out of church and others could see the joy and the happiness bubblin out of me? Jesus hasn’t changed…he is and was and always will be so that led me to the conclusion that it was me who wasn’t always bringing my joy; not him!
It doesn’t matter what the sermon is like or the music is like or the way the sanctuary is decorated. The joy of Jesus and discipleship lies in the love he has for us, the mercy he shows us and the grace he freely gives us. I just need to act like it! So…pew potatoes unite…let’s get out there and spread the word and bring our joy!
A Seed To Plant: Before you go to church this Sunday, ask God to reveal three things to you that will bring you joy and then take it out the door when you leave and share it.
Blessings on your day!
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