Lenten Invitation for Week III – Prayer

Dear People of God . . . I invite you . . . in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent,
by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.
(BCP p.264)

Week III – Prayer

According to the Catechism of The Episcopal Church, Christian prayer is response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. (BCP p 856).

This means that prayer is our side of a constant conversation with God our Creator, a conversation initiated by God at the beginning of time, born of God’s desire to be in relationship with us. This exchange was renewed and reinforced by Jesus Christ; he told us and showed us — how to engage in it and how to maintain it alive and thriving. When he ascended, Jesus provided a companion and advocate for us in the Holy Spirit. He confirmed that we can talk to God at any time and in a variety of ways, that the channel of communication is always open, and that God is always listening. Jesus also told us that anything we ask in His name will be granted. And although at times it may not be exactly what we want, it will always be what we need, what is best for us, and at the most appropriate time. Jesus gave us the example of prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father”, but this is not the only way to pray.

The principal kinds of prayer developed by the people of God through the centuries are adoration, praise, thanksgiving,      penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.

  • Adoration, or worship, is one of the most natural things that we do as humans. Sometimes we choose to adore questionable idols, such as football teams, rock stars and so on; however, when we take a moment to adore God, to lift our minds and hearts to God, a transformation happens.  We are no longer held captive by the concerns of this life. Our hearts are lifted to that timeless place where God is. There we can enjoy God’s presence, gaze at the beauty of God’s majesty, and our spirit is renewed.
  • Praise is the outpouring of our hearts that happens not because we want something, but simply because God is our God and we are God’s people. In giving ourselves to praise we declare our total alignment with God’s purposes. According to the psalms, praise is both a duty and a delight (Psalm 63:3-8).
  • Thanksgiving is offered to God for our creation and for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption through Jesus, and for whatever draws us closer to God. Being grateful dispels fear and anxiety. If we allow our minds to think about and celebrate all the good things we have (and things that we may well take for granted), then there is less room for negative thoughts in our lives. In the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast “Grateful living is a way of life which asks us to notice all that is already present and abundant – from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings – and in so doing, to take nothing for granted”.
  • In our prayers of Penitence, we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives. Prayers for penitence begin with self awareness, with taking the time to honestly examine our thoughts, words, and actions (or lack thereof) and taking responsibility for our choices and their consequences. It then moves to action — since sin breaks our communion with God and with our neighbor, penitence requires a firm desire to atone, to make reparation, and to mend the relationships we have damaged or broken.
  • Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God. Christian oblation is based in Christ’s one offering of himself for our salvation. We give ourselves and our lives to God, as imperfect as we are, trusting that God will put us to good use.
  • Inter-cedere in Latin means literally “to go between”. In our prayers of Intercession we bring before God the needs of others; we put ourselves between God and the other and ask on their behalf.
  • Finally, in Petition we present our own needs, our hopes and our desires and trust that God’s will may be done. We believe that God knows what is best for us and that we will always receive “more than we can ever ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

On Sunday mornings, in our corporate worship, we pray together in adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition. Pay attention to the service and see if you can figure out when and how.

Of course prayer is not only talking to God but also listening. The Bible has a lot to say about the necessity to listen to God. Over and over God interacts with people in a variety of ways. God spoke to Daniel through visions, Balaam through a donkey, Peter through a rooster, and of all things, God spoke to Moses out of a shrub. Ours is a God who says, “Listen for my voice.” So it is  important that in our prayer life we find moments of silence and focus. It helps to build a discipline of prayer for ourselves, to have a constant time and/or an inviting space. Many Christians use tools to focus their attention on God: candles, beads, icons, journals, etc.

Whatever you decide to do, Lent offers a splendid opportunity to go deeper in your prayer practice. If you build a discipline of prayer in these forty days, it will easily become a habit that will enrich your life way beyond Easter Sunday!