A new year is upon us. Twelve months of possibilities lie before us. What would you like to see happen between now and New Year’s Eve 2018? I’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t like the way I disappoint myself when I fail to keep them. Instead I set goals – small steps I plan to take to reach big destinations I dream of reaching. When I combine goal setting with praying, the results often unfold in the most remarkable ways.
For example, one of my main retirement goals has been to write more and publish what I write. As I’ve prayed about what direction that might go, people I didn’t know or didn’t know very well, have shown up to become part of the writing team. Thank you Rochelle Melander, Karin Graddy, Tim Anderson, Sandy Lawrence, Aimee Ravichandran, Roger Leslie, and Nancy Camden for being part of my writing world tour group. These, along with many others provide the inspiration and help to keep writing, publishing and promoting what I write. It takes a village to participate in the modern world of publishing. Thank you all.
How to Pray After You’ve Kicked the Dog
My dear crazy Italian husband Tom Brandino teaches at his Methodist church from time to time. Currently he’s considering doing a series based on How to Pray After You’ve Kicked the Dog by Terry Terkl. The author is a former pastor and current conference speaker whose focus is talking about how to pray.
Prayer is a very big topic. It’s easy to feel lost like a ship in the ocean without a compass. We are admonished, encouraged, invited, and instructed to participate in the prayer process throughout scripture. All religions promote some form of prayer. Countless spiritual and religious leaders throughout history have prayed themselves and attempted to encourage others to do the same.
I find it helps to have a system – an outline – some form of structure for prayer. At a time in my life when I did indeed feel lost at sea without a compass, I came up with what has evolved into the Seven C’s of prayer outline. I revert to it whenever I feel stuck and unsure about where to focus my time and finite energies. I pray it may serve as a prayer compass that helps you find your focus for the new year ahead.
Praying the Seven C’s
Clarity: Ask for clarity about where to focus the next period of time – the next hour, week, month, or year.
Charity: Ask to be sensitive to the needs of others around you and know how to best respond to them. Sometimes all we can do is pray for the unknown stranger, but that is doing something.
Community: Give thanks for whatever communities are part of your life and pray for the people in those communities.
Connections: We need people, but we cannot sustain meaningful connections with all of the people we meet. Ask for guidance to know where to best invest our people connecting efforts. As a friend wrote in his annual Christmas letter, “Not every piece of baggage coming down the conveyer belt has my name on it.”
Companionship: We need family and friends – people who take us the way we come – people who allow for bad days and moods. Pray for the people in your life who provide this level of intimacy. If there are no such people, pray to meet such a person. Most of the world’s problems would be cut in half if everyone had at least one person like this who was on their side.
Causes: There are so many pressing needs all around us and all around our world. We can easily wear out responding until we no longer respond to any of them. Pray to know which causes to take up and which to leave for others to address.
Contributions: No one of us is wealthy enough to solve every world problem. Each of us has something we can contribute for the good of society. Ask to know what you can contribute and how best to do that.
Start Small and Grow
If regular prayer is new to you, start small. A few minutes a day is plenty for beginners. Think about how toddlers learn to talk. At first the baby may say a single recognizable word. “Da or Ma.” Think how excited the adults around that little one are as words are added day by day. Now imagine your heavenly parent who is just as excited when we learn to pray one word at a time. “Help!” is a great starter prayer. “Thank you” is a great two-word prayer. Remember to also listen. Prayer is communication with the divine. Communication is a two-way conversation.
I suggest you keep a journal of what you’ve prayed about and where you’ve seen a response to that prayer. You likely have hundreds of conversations every week that you cannot remember. I also suspect there are a few conversations permanently lodged in your memory bank that you will never forget. Conversations like, “You’re hired.” Or conversely, “We have to let you go.” Or, “It’s a girl. “It’s a boy.” “Will you marry me?” “I’m leaving you.” “I’m sorry, there was nothing more we could do.” “The surgery was a success. He’ll be fine.” Responses to our prayers go pretty much the same way.
In communication with both mortals and a Sovereign Deity, it’s the accumulative effect that matters. Word by word, day-by-day, year-by-year. That is how relationships grow.
Give it a try. You might be surprised by how much it helps. Send me your ideas for how to pray more often and effectively. Let’s wrap 2018 in prayer and see where it leads us.