Christianity 201

May 4, 2018

Prayer: Keep it Private, Keep it Concise

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

NASB Matthew 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. … 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

A year ago we were first introduced to a devotional blog called Comfort and Challenge. I really like the format and writing here, so in addition to clicking the title below, take a moment to see what God might speak to you through some of the other devotions.

Keep it in the Closet

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 145, Leviticus 16:1-19, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18


Other than during a tornado watch, when is the last time any of us prayed in a closet? Most of us would probably answer: “Never.” Yet that is exactly what Christ advised his disciples to do: “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Most translations use the word “room” but the Greek is closer to “inner room” – or closet. Of course Christ’s point was not the architecture, but the privacy. Even in Christ’s time, public prayer was often more a bid for the admiration of people, rather than communion with God.

We’ve all heard prayers that sound like the person praying was being paid by the word. Christ tells to pray privately, and not heap on words as if desperately trying to tip some divine scale. Ideally prayer is not a monologue, so it needs a lot of silent time to leave room for God.

When Christ says those who pray or give alms in a public manner have already received their reward, he is commenting on motive. People who make a show of piety in order to win admiration have their reward when someone notices, but not beyond.

On the other hand, going too far the other way and making a show of hiding our deeds is still missing the point. People seeking a relationship with God pray or fast only as an expression of their love for God, and attention (or its lack) doesn’t matter. God isn’t a trophy wife, so Christ teaches us to behave in ways that don’t sully the relationship by making it about other people’s opinions.

From the time we are assigned our first 200-word essay, we are taught the number of words we use is important. One of the toughest lessons for any professional writer is to cut, and cut again, until only meaningful words remain. Perhaps this is why writer Anne LaMott’s two favorite prayers are: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Comfort: God knows what we need before we speak.

Challenge: Find an isolated place to pray.

Prayer: Compassionate God: help me. Thank you.

Discussion: What do you feel is the role of public prayer?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people.

May 5, 2017

Gardening With God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we’re paying a return visit to the ministry of Mustard Seed Associates and the website Godspace, but this time a different writer. Click the title below to enjoy this at source.

Life as a Gardener

by Andy Wade

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed… The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:8,15

God was the first gardener. Creating and establishing the first trees, shrubs, and other forms of vegetation, then placing humankind into the garden, God establishes what a healthy relationship between humankind and the rest of creation is to look like. The most literal translations have God charging us not to exploit, but to care for and tend the creation God called “very good”.

Jump forward to Resurrection Day. Mary mistakes the risen Jesus for a gardener and that, he was! All those references he made to seed and death and life are now embodied in his resurrection.

Of course, none of this is new, but it did get me thinking. As I plan for this year’s garden, start seeds in our little sunroom, and prepare the garden beds for planting, I can’t help but reflect on how these simple acts relate to God’s profound acts of love and grace as God walks with creation throughout history.

Take a moment to reflect on Genesis chapter 2:

  • Do you see your relationship with creation as one of a caretaker?
  • Are there ways you might change how you live to better reflect God’s command to nurture and care for creation?
    • List three practices to begin this week to move closer to God’s design for us as caretakers.

Now imagine all of your life experiences and actions as those of a gardener:

  • What are your favorite things to “plant”?
  • What things do you spend most of your time “tending and nurturing”?
  • When looking at your life-garden, what do you “water”?
    • What things could benefit from more water?
  • Are there things that need “pruning”?
    • What are they, and how might you begin this week to approach them?
  • Are there “plants” that are invasive, taking over, and need to be eliminated?

Finally, imagine your garden as a place of hospitality and sharing:

  • How do you share your “harvest”?
    • Are there things you just make available for others to glean?
  • Are there “garden beds” you help prepare for others to plant in?
    • What are they, and how do you nurture the best soil possible for others?

Using the language of gardening is a thought-provoking way to look at our lives and the choices we make. For me, the metaphor gives me a creative way to evaluate my choices and actions and frees me to see new ways of approaching areas where I’ve previously been stuck. It also helps to expose attitudes and actions I hadn’t even considered, blind spots that really don’t line up with the faith I profess.

[At this point Andy invites comments; this is a recent article; click the title above to add yours]