An Advent Story

When I was in 4th Grade, my Sunday school teacher said, “If you pray, then God will answer your prayers.” And so, that week, I prayed. I prayed every day that the very next Sunday, my Grandpa would come to church.

My family had attended that church for years, since the time when the neighborhood pastor came knocking at my Grandma’s front door, and she thought to herself that it might just be a good idea to send her girls to Sunday School. Church policy didn’t allow parents to drop their kids off and pick them up later, so my grandma stayed. Forty years later she still calls that church her home.

But my Grandpa – he wasn’t about to step foot in any church. He was a gruff and stubborn kind of guy. But if my teacher was right, then when I prayed, God would answer, and I would sit next to him in church on Sunday.

Sunday came, and as I walked through the doors I remember eagerly looking around to see if he was there. He wasn’t – yet. I sat down. The service began. And eagerly I waited. I turned around to sneak peaks at the back doors once, twice, three times… and when the sermon started I finally resigned myself to this truth: my Grandpa wasn’t coming. I had prayed, but God hadn’t answered.

My Grandma, however, didn’t give up her praying. While she didn’t talk about it much with us, it became clear to me that she talked with God all the time – and saw reason to hope. When my Grandpa made a new friend who just “happened” to be a Christian; when his brother Bill occasionally talked about Jesus; even that time when the Jeopardy! category was “Old Testament Stories” and we grandkids knew all the answers – these things gave her hope as she waited, watched in expectant longing, and prayed for my grandpa’s salvation.

This story of waiting, praying, hoping, longing is an Advent story. My 4th grade self didn’t have the capacity or understanding to wait on God in longing and expectation. My grandma, however, did. Eugene Peterson writes that God trains us in this kind of waiting, longing, watching, and praying because this is what enlarges our capacity to trust. “We are enlarged in the waiting” he writes, “We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” (Romans 8:22, The Message).

My grandma’s heart was enlarged in the waiting. For over 30 years she longed, prayed, waited… and just before he died, when his brother Bill came to visit him in the hospital, my Grandpa accepted Jesus. He never made it through the doors of my church, but the Lord welcomed him home anyway.

In Advent we practice waiting. In the waiting we groan over the sufferings of this present world, and we long for complete healing and restoration for ourselves and our loved ones (Romans 8:18-24). And alongside the waiting and the longing, we engage in expectant celebration. Jesus was born. Salvation is here. As we wait for Jesus to come again, we are “enlarged in the waiting”, growing in our capacity for greater trust as we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

Romans 8:18-24

– Lisa Igram

Lord, teach us to pray -part ii

Lord, Teach Us To Pray… Part 2

Below The Lord’s Prayer is presented in bite sized phrases followed by a few questions that may engage your prayerful reflections and language in prayer with God. (Matt. 6:9-13)

Take a few moments today to breathe, slow down, and utilize the words of Jesus to enter more deeply into God’s heart. Spend moments talking with God honestly about whatever emerges from your heart. Linger on the petitions most relevant to you today.

Our Father …

  • How do you experience the parental love and care of God in your life?
  • Have you experienced other believers as fathers or mothers giving parent care to you?
  • How do these people image God as Father to you?

in heaven…

  • Does God feel near as the air you breathe or as distant as the eternal heavens?

hallowed be your name…(or let your name be respected)i

  • How do you understand God’s name as holy?
  • How might you practice respecting God’s name in your life?
  • How might you concretely reflect God’s holy name on earth?

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • How have you experienced God’s rule and reign in your life?
  • In what ways might you be a collaborative partner in God’s kingdom on earth?
  • Are there places you’d like to see God’s kingdom break in with regard to you own heart, your family, your neighborhood, your world?

Give us today our daily bread.

  • What needs has God met in your life?
  • Where have you experienced your needs not being met?
  • Do you have needs today you’d like to ask God to meet? Take a moment to simply ASK.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

  • Are there people and debts (sins, injuries, places of animosity) that need your forgiveness?
  • What do you need forgiveness for?

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

  • What areas are you most susceptible to temptation?
  • Where are you feeling most oppressed, challenged, overly burdened or struggling in trials of faith? Take a moment to seek God’s strength and mercy in your weakness.

Conclude your prayer with moments of praise:
For Thine is the kingdom, and power,
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

– Elizabeth Khorey

– [read Part I]


Willard, Dallas, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, Harper Publishing, San Francisco, CA. 1997, 258.

Lord, teach us to pray

Lord, Teach Us To Pray… Part 1 (Luke 11:1)

The Lord’s Prayer, which we say together in church each Sunday, was the form of prayer Jesus gave to his first friends when they asked him how to pray. From my earliest recollection as a young child The Lord’s Prayer has been my primer. I cut my teeth on it as I kneeled with my mom and sister at our bedsides to say our night-time prayers. Candidly, I first experienced the concept of child-like faith and holy reverence through these ancient words, not through theological training.  As I grow spiritually and fill out the skeletal structure of the prayer through study and meditation, my heart and imagination widens from the experience of God’s parental care described in it. I return often to the desire of incarnational kingdom living as I work and live in the hustle bustle of Orange and L.A. counties. I wrestle with my own self-sufficiency under the canopy of simply asking for provisional needs to be met by Another.  My faith develops as I daily taste God’s goodness to answer those requests. Even the most difficult relational and spiritual challenges in my life are transformed by the uncanny force of forgiveness and perseverance as I lean more resolutely into God during troubled moments.

 

Dallas Willard called The Lord’s Prayer the greatest prayer of all, wherein we learn how and what to pray from the One who, while on earth, prayed to his Father in heaven.[i] It is considered to be a holistic way of praying, as Richard Foster says, a total prayer.[ii] In it, Foster asserts that we pray large things and small things, spiritual things and material things, inward things and outward things – nothing is beyond the purview of this prayer.[iii]

 

Take a few moments today to engage with God through the words Jesus taught his disciples to pray. (Matt. 6:9-13)

This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

 

Watch for part 2 of Lord, Teach Us to Pray…in it I’ll offer some helpful ways to fruitfully engage with this prayer in order to widen your heart’s experience with God.

– Elizabeth Khorey



[i] Willard, Dallas, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, Harper Publishing, San Francisco, CA. 1997, 253-255.

[ii] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s Home, Harper One Publishing, 1992, 184.

[iii] Ibid.

Jesus and the Mundane Life

So, let’s be honest. No matter how idyllic the sequestered life of retreat might seem as a context for relationship with Jesus, it is a far cry from the insanity of real life. Am I right? In real life, the alarm goes off at 6 am (if you’re lucky enough to sleep in) and barely controlled chaos ensues for the next 14-16 hrs. Chores have to be done. Children need to be chauffeured. Parents have to get to work. Errands need to be run. I’m sure you can fill in whatever the unique contours of your own life are, but you get my point: mundane, everyday kind of life sort of takes up a lot of time.

If you’re anything like me, sometimes this reality can be a bit frustrating. You want to know Jesus deeper each day, but some days you can’t stop long enough to know even yourself. Forget about remembering to tether your finite, little life to the infinite, divine life – you can’t even remember where you put your darn keys!

Well, I’d like to suggest to you an extremely simple but provocative alternative. What if Jesus wanted to be present to you in the midst of your crazy schedule? What if the mayhem that is your life could actually be the context for his life-giving presence? What if we could learn to open ourselves to his presence while we’re running the kids to their sports programs or while we’re doing our grocery shopping? What if we practiced remembering his presence? How could that change your life? How could that reshape your vision of the “Christian life”?

Along these lines, if you’re up for it, I would encourage you to try the ancient practice of breath prayer. This spiritual discipline literally requires you just to breath. With each breath you take you say a simple, silent prayer such as, “Jesus, here I am.” This practice opens you to the presence of Jesus and can transform your mundane, everyday living into meaningful experiences with your Savior.

Grace and Peace,

Dave Strobolakos