In our culture it is very easy to feel tossed back and forth by the craziness of life. Between homework, practice, a job, friends, church, texting, “drama”, parents fighting, friends fighting, nations fighting, people dying, it can get overwhelming sometimes.
How can we slow down and catch our breath?
The answer is through prayer and fasting. At first glance this seems like a lame topic that is only for the super religious freaks. But, I hope that if you listen, you’ll find that this topic is really at the core of everything that we do.
I want to ask two questions today. The first question is, “why should I pray?” The second question is “how should I pray?”
Why Should I pray?
• Slow Down
In the story of Elijah we learn a really important lesson about God. God speaks in a still small voice. When we are caught up in the whirlwind of life, we won’t hear God. It is only when we take time to slow down that we can even begin to know who God is or what God wants with us.
1 Kings 19:11–13 (NLT)
11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
• Find Your Center
This point is related to the last one about slowing down. In the creation story we see that the universe was like a raging ocean. This was ancient imagery for chaos. Kind of like our lives. Look what God is like. God is like a bird that hovers, or flutters over the water, gently, slowly, calming the storm. And then, God speaks, “let there be…” and gently God separates the waters, and the land, and then fills them with life and order and purpose.
Everyone of us longs for the quiet voice of God to bring order to our chaos. To create a fresh sense of purpose in our lives. That is our core, it is the source of creation itself, and when we give in to the chaos we move farther and farther away from God’s purpose for our lives. We need to slow down and bring it back home.
Genesis 1:2 (NLT)
2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
• Get Clean
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to look someone in the eye if you have been talking trash about them behind their back, or if you are really mad at them? When you mess up somehow, whether on purpose or by mistake, it clutters up your soul. It adds more noise to the chaos, and makes it almost impossible to connect to people or to God.
One of the most important reasons we pray is to clean the junk from our lives. We all have junk. We all mess up. God is not going to zap you for it. God wants to rescue you from the effects of it and give you the freedom to live life without guilt and shame.
1 John 1:8–10 (NLT)
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Psalm 51:10–12 (NLT)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
• Partner With God
I have shocking news for you. You are not the center of the universe. I am not the center of the universe. I know, it is a crazy thought.
God is the author and creator of everything. God is the king, it is God’s kingdom, and every day we are invited to live in that kingdom and spread the ways of God’s love to everyone we meet. Part of the reason we need to pray on a daily basis is to align ourselves with God’s Kingdom and remember that we are part of God’s plan to bring justice and healing to the world.
Matthew 6:10 (NLT)
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
How Should I pray?
• Update your Status
Prayer is nothing more than talking to God. You text and tweet and update your Facebook status all day long. Why not start by checking in with God first.
I read a great book this week. It said that instead of Practicing our Faith, we should be faithing our practices. In other words, don’t add new things to your already busy schedule in order to be more holy. Instead, refocus the things you already do and make them be a connection to God.
When you update your Facebook, remember that God reads it too.
When you ride on the bus, think about how God would treat the people around you.
When you get up in the morning, think about what a gift it is that you can take a breath.
When you sit down to eat, thank God for the way he provides all your needs.
When you take a test, or play a game, or step on stage, ask God for strength.
When you throw out the trash, think about the planet and the waste and pray for wisdom to use less.
When you are tempted to lust after someone, or use someone for your own benefit, or talk trash about someone, pray for that person instead and try to think how God would look at that person.
Everything is prayer, because God is the very air that we breath.
• Morning and Evening
Let’s finish this off with a super simple and super practical reminder. In the Small Catechism , Martin Luther suggested three simple prayers for each day. One when you wake up, one when you eat, and one when you go to bed.
Try it this month. See if framing your day in prayer makes a difference.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. for into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.