Over Lent, St. Paul’s is centering our worship and study on Richard Foster’s classic book The Celebration of Discipline. Our first week we are thinking about prayer. It is a perfect way to begin practicing Lent as a church.
Prayer has not come easy to me. I have written about my own practices for prayer around the blog before (here and here). This Sunday our scripture is taken from the beautiful passage in the sermon on the mount when Jesus shares a prayer method with his disciples. It is a great beginning to practicing prayer.
When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:5-15 (NLT)
Many of us grew up in church praying a version of this prayer every week. It might flow over our lips without us every really thinking about it. The Lords Prayer is an easy prayer because we don’t have to figure out what to do. I think the greatest tension for many of us when we think about prayer is figuring out what to do…or how to move away from the basic actions of just checking off prayer requests.
The beauty of the Lord’s prayer is a structure clearly not about the person praying. Instead, this prayer is focused on God, His world, what he is doing and how He helps the believers living in a world waiting for the kingdom.
Prayer builds the walls in God’s house of our heart.
Many of our own personal troubles stem from having a small vision of who God is. It is impossible to have a big view of God without constantly being with him. So what happens is we come into circumstances where we really need him…without us really knowing him. We then default into manipulating God instead of understanding what faithfulness looks like. We try to control God. If we want God to have control over the big things, we need to spend the time in prayer to develop a big vision of who he is.
I’m excited to start this series on Spiritual Disciplines. This will be a great kick off week.
Have you ever felt like you bumble through prayer or are dissatisfied with your prayer life? One of the keys to the Christian life is understanding how prayer builds a big vision of who God is.
This week we look at the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 and find out how it helps us build a great prayer life.
What is a sermon preview? Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.
Today The Threshing Floor released episode 11 and we shared about Lent and our practices (we are gathering everyone’s practices together using the hashtag #lenting). I am always a fan of looking in other peoples toolboxes, so I figured I would share what I am doing for Lent this year.
I absolutely love Lent being a season of introducing things into life for a season and hopefully learning something from them.
Corporate Practices: This Lent St. Paul’s (the church I serve) is going through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I am excited to be preaching and teaching from the conversation it brings. This has always been a favorite book for me, so I can’t wait to see what this season looks likes for the friends I am privileged to minister with.
Personal Practices: As I shared on The Threshing Floor, I am reading two books during Lent. Both of these books are focused on 2nd and 3rd century desert monasticism. I have read them before for Lent and absolutely love it.
I am reading the Major and Minor Old Testament prophets as well. I have also decided to write a poem every day during Lent. I have never done this before, so I don’t know how it will turn out.
As far as giving something up, I work from the perspective of whatever is given up needs to be creating the space for Jesus to move in. My decision was to give up late night Netflix. I usually spend around an hour and a half in the evening watching television and I have decided to instead take that time for reflection and prayer.
This weekend I finished what has become a regular practice in my life. I read the Bible in 90 days. Actually, this time it took a little longer, but I kept up the practice of a long read of scripture in a rhythmic fashion. I believe all Christians benefit from frequent 90 day bible reads.
I usually keep to it 4 times a year, so it would get done every quarter. I love reading the Bible this way. A good friend challenged me to try it out and I have never stopped. I also have a different reading strategy at night (I read one book a month and pray through it). For the last several years I sit down every morning and spend some time reading scripture. I do around 12-15 chapters a morning. I use the plan on youversion or a print out this PDF.
It isn’t for everyone. One of my best friends and I argue about it. For me, it works great.
I know some of you are thinking “Of course..shouldn’t preachers be reading the Bible that much?”
I would be doing it no matter what. I love how it consistently orients and prioritizes my time towards God.
I want to share with you a few reasons why I love reading the bible this frequency and speed.
1. I like a longer, frequent read.
I like the connect the dots of the biblical narrative. This is easier to do when you read through the entire Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) in around 2 weeks. Many of the New Testament letters can be read in one sitting. After I did this several times I found myself realizing the large scope of the biblical narrative in ways I had never seen it before.
2. It draws me to Biblical Theology.
I believe the Bible matters. It is the word of God and the story of redemption drawn over thousands of years. I also think the Bibles construction with purposeful. It is hard to see this when we are always reading small and often unrelated pieces. My 90 day read builds Biblical familiarity. I can’t think about worship in Chronicles without thinking of the Exodus or visions of St. John in Revelation.
3. It’s a great way to start the day.
I love making my coffee and sitting down to read familiar words. I have done this enough to where I can anticipate what will happen next. It’s like having a conversation with a friend. If I miss my reading early in the morning I am thinking about finding the time for it all day.
4. It’s handy as I build sermons and studies.
This last read I kept a small notebook as a placeholder. Every day if anything struck me I would write it down. I know there are several sermons in a formation stage in the notebook. The repetition and frequency of my read also help me see the large chunk of scripture and how sections interpret other sections. If I am preparing a message and I see something helpful, I can make a quick note in Evernote where I collect sermon notes.
No matter what you do for a living, I would encourage you to try the 90 day read. It will be one of the most spiritually beneficial practices you have experienced.
Chad Brooks is a United Methodist Pastor serving in Louisiana. Married to Meredith, he is currently starting a new church in northeast Louisiana. Host of the Productive Pastor Podcast and lover of motorcycles, Chad would love to find Bigfoot one day.