Category Archives: Contemporary Traditions

Contemporary Traditions #2: More on Word-Based Prayer

In addition to using prompts meant to guide and deepen your word-based prayers, there are some ways to enhance the experience.  Consider the following:

  1. Bring an empty chair into your prayer space.  After centering yourself, envision that God is sitting there, across from you.  Speak the words that come into your heart to that empty chair. Speak them out loud if you can.
  2. There are good reasons for saying grace: a prayer before a meal.  There are many things connected to food: the systems which bring the food to you, the job which earns the money, the healthy body systems working to digest and excrete the food.  Grace is a time to thank God for these, and for the people who worked together to create and enjoy the food. So say grace before a meal today. Say it in your head, or better yet, out loud with people you love.
  3. Just as their are good reasons for the tradition of praying before a meal, there are also good reasons for praying before bed.  PErhaps you will go super old school and kneel by your bed if health permits. Look back over the day. Share the best and the worst of it, and everything in between.  Thank God for the people you enjoyed and for the people who you didn’t. Ask God for what you need. Look foreward to tomorrow in your prayers. Ask for sound sleep for you and yours.
  4. Early Christians followed their Jewish predeccors in comitting to a schedule of multiple prayers each day.   Praying the Hours is making a comittment to pray through out the day,  One modern pattern is to pray at dawn, 9 AM, noon, mid-afternoon, sundown, and bed time,  In our time, we have the advantafe of setting alarms on devices to help us keep track of this comittment.  As you decide how much to commit to this discipline, a related question is what will you pray? Perhaps you will merely check in with God.  Maybe you will make your way through the psalms. Perhaps you will say the same prayer each time.
  5. There is a tradition that adresses God in a formal way.  Sometimes we use archaic language, sometimes we dress in our very best for church,  Connecting with God in this way has both value and limitations. Some of us who might not observe these traditions might be hung up by God’s eternal wisdom and power.  It can be difficult to talk to God. Today, do your best to put thoughts of formality and eternity out of your mind, Talk to God as if you were speaking to a friend. Have a chat with him!  
  6. In the bible, Paul tells us to pray constantly.  Let that be your goal today. Don’t set aside a few minutes to talk with God seperately.  Rather, do your best to mantain an all-day dialogue with God. As you get ready, consider some ways that you can help yourself be focused on this.  It might mean asking for somebody to check in with you, setting up alarms, etc.
  7. We all have scripts; negative self talk that gets in our way.  Words, perhaps internalized from people around us in our childhood that can be destructive.  It can be a life’s work, to detect the scripts which constantly play within our own minds. However, a regular spiritual practice of contemplation can start to untangle this.  Making a conscious effort can help even more. Today, begin by centering and calming yourself. Then spend some time listening for the constant, negative statements that weigh you down.  Write down the words which you think you hear at the end of the contemplation time. We will use them over the next couple days. Try and be open all day to destructive thought patterns. Be ready to add to your list if need be.
  8. Get the list of negative statements you created yesterday.  After spending some time calming yourself, read them, one at a time.  Speak to God about these destructive statements. Talk to him about where they came from.  Hear God’s words about the impact they have. Ask God to take them up from you. But hold onto the list.  We are going to work with these one more day.
  9. Today is your last day with that terrible list of scripts we play in our head.  Your job today is to create a positive affirmation that negates each of these on a seperate sheet of paper.  For example, if you wrote down “I am not enough.” The negation is “I am enough.” If you wrote down “No one loves me.”  The negation is “I am loved” or “God loves me.” After you have written these down, stay with them. Give yourself at least a single breath of saying these words.  Maybe there are some that you should choose to affirm for the next several days or weeks. When you are done, you might wish to think about ritualistically releasing the list with the negatives; bury it or burn it or throw it away.  You might wish to take your affirmations and place them somewhere visible as a reminder.
  10. And let today be your day of confession.  None of us are perfect. All of us fall short.  To admit these short comings is a powerful thing.  Fully own your mistakes and the troubles that they have caused.  Ask God for forgiveness and assistance in not walking down that road again.
  11. The Jewish scriptures have a precedent for collective sin as well as individual ones.  Today, confess the sins of the groups that you belong to. Perhaps they are the result of privilige.  Consider your family, ethnic background, personal life, and work groups. Think about the groups you belong to today, and the groups you have belonged to in the past.  Ask God for guidance in how to be a more responsible member of this community.

Contemporary Traditions #1: Prompts for Prayer and Journaling

We can communicate with God through our  thoughts, by speaking out loud, or by journaling.

There is something to be said for a casual conversation.  Sometimes, conversation can be difficult.  Other times, have a more systematic exploration of deep and important things is a powerful thing to do.

In this light, I hope that the following prompts are helpful ones for you:

  1. Today, simply ask God for something.  Believe that he can and change the world.  It might be something for you. It might be something for someone else.
  2. Have a happy prayer of thanksgiving.  One way to approach this is to begin with the specific and concrete.  Gradually move to those things which are more abstract. Consider that God works through others as well as directly, so thank God for the people in your life, and for their kindness.  End your time filling yourself up with a feeling of grattitude.
  3. Your job today is to pray for someone else.  You might begin by thanking God for them. List all of the the things you appreciate about them.  Ask for what you wish the person would have. Perhaps you can connect with the person that you prayed for; perhaps you can tell them how it went.
  4. The lord’s prayer goes like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.   It has been observed that this is a powerful framework for us to pray. One way to see this framework is as having the following steps: Begin with recognizing God’s greatness; (our father in heaven) state your desire for God’s agenda to be achieved; (your will be done)  Trust God with your life (on Earth as it is in heaven) ask for your needs to be met (give us our daily bread) Ask for forgiveness of your errors, and for help forgiving others ; ask for protection. Perhaps you will say the words of the lords prayer as written. Maybe you will create your own version of the lords prayer in this format.
  5. Pray for yourself today.  Pray for your needs and your wants, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.  It can be hard to focus on ourselves sometimes. Let these words be your permission, Reflect on how you can not care for others if you do not care for yourself.
  6. In the Bible, God gets a variety of names and titles.  Pray to each or all of the following:Lord will provide

    Lord is my banner

    God who sees

    Lord who heals

    The lord is there

    Lord is my shephard

    Lord our rightousness

    The Lord is peace

    Lord of Hosts/ Almighty

     

    Mighty leader

    One God

    Lord, Master, Owner

    God with us

    Dearest father

  7. Pray for yourself today.  Pray for your needs and your wants, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.  It can be hard to focus on ourselves sometimes. Let these words be your permission, Reflect on how you can not care for others if you do not care for yourself.
  8. It can feel shallow, praying for stuff.  Perhaps this is connected to the ways we are told to be modest and humble.  And yet, there are examples where it seems like we are told to pray for things (like our daily bread).  And so today, pray for things. Pray for the things that are easy to take for granted. Pray for the things that feel like they are far beyond your ability to create.  Pray for things for yourself. And pray for things for others.
  9. Today, pray for physical healing.  Begin by being thankful for the physical health you are experiencing.  And then, pray for more! Consider your own health, and the health of those you love.  Consider temporary hurts and chronic conditions. Think about deadly diseases and temporary annoyances.  Pray for God’s wisdom that you would make wise and healthy decisions, and pray for doctors and others who help guide you into physical health.
  10. And let todays prayer be for emotional healing.  This might mean help in recovery from trauma. Or help in fogrgiveness.  Or help with unhelpful emotions. Prayer for your emotional healing, and the healing of those you love… and those whom you have hurt.
  11. Today, pray for your spiritual life.  Talk to God about where it was, and where it is, and where you hope it will be.  Thank God for who “he” is, and thank God for all the mentors and spirutal figures that have crossed your path.  Ask God for continued wisdom in your journey, and pray for the spiritual lives of the people you love.
  12. Think about the things you are praying and wishing for, for yourself.  The prayer just begins here, so don’t let it eat up all your time. But as you talk to God, summarize all the things you are wishing for.  Now, consider the person who you might consider an enemy. The person you like least. All the things you were just praying for yourself? Pray that this person gets what you are wishing for.  This is praying for your enemies. It is hard work.
  13. There must be something you wish would come to pass.  Something big. Perhaps it is for you. Maybe it is for someone else.  There is power in praying for the same thing for a while. Today, choose something,  And choose a period of time to pray for it, Perhaps it will be each day for a week. Maybe you will use an alarm on a phone and remind yourself to pray for it each hour today.  I believe that sometimes God works on the outside world, as we pray for things; but also, he works on us. So listen and pay attention to the work God is doing in you, as you pray for this.
  14. Today, pray for some one that you struggle with.  It might be someone active in your life now. Maybe you have never met them.  They might have impacted you. Or maybe they have impacted someone you love. Do you have the spiritual maturity to truly pray for then?  Will you leave out your agenda, and truly ask God for the best for them? That is where the rubber hits the road.
  15. And let today be your day of confession.  None of us are perfect. All of us fall short.  To admit these short comings is a powerful thing.  Fully own your mistakes and the troubles that they have caused.  Ask God for forgiveness and assistance in not walking down that road again.
  16. The Jewish scriptures have a precedent for collective sin as well as individual ones.  Today, confess the sins of the groups that you belong to. Perhaps they are the result of privilige.  Consider your family, ethnic background, personal life, and work groups. Think about the groups you belong to today, and the groups you have belonged to in the past.  Ask God for guidance in how to be a more responsible member of this community.

 

 

 

Consideration #2: Personal, Impersonal, Transpersonal

Perhaps some of the broad strokes of my journey will sound a bit like yours.

The first faith comittment I made was awfully focused on the personal nature of God.  The creator of the universe has a human-ness, even a gender.

There were very good things about looking at it this way.

During the time I drifted away from Evangelical Christianity, it was easy to see the very bad things about looking at things this way.  Like many people, I call this stage my deconstruction.

This was the time I fell in love with contemplative practices.  This is the time I rediscovered meditation. Many of these practices helped me get in touch with God’s transcendence.  I suspect they were suppressed by modern Evangelical Christianity precisely for that reason: they did not fit well with this picture of God as fellow human.

This fueled my resentment.  It motivated me to develop a robust spiritual practice.  The most obvious intuitions this practice fed were intuitions about God’s otherness, God’s distance, God’s hugeness.

But it put, I hope, on a path forward truth.  I began to get reminders: God is both here and there, human an other, transcendent and immanent.

The point at which I began to trust these ideas again, that I orvercame my prejudice against these ideas, is the point at which I went from deconstruction to the early stages of reconstruction.  (I think. Maybe in time I will see this differently.)

My time embracing contemplative practices has prepared me for this sort of non-dualistic, both/and thinking.   A simple way to think about is perhaps this: in Evangelical Christianity I proclaimed my belief in a personal God.  During my deconstruction I interacted with I God I saw as impersonal. Now, I think I would say that God is transpersonal.

And so, this corner of the Faith-ing Project is devoted to practices that some of us might do well to refresh ourselves in.  This area includes prompts for word-based prayers and journaling, lenses to read scripture through, and other traditions to consider.  To explore these traditions, click here.