(In The Life Of The Church)
Praying With Form and Heart
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1
I’ve been trying to make sense of all the phases of my spiritual development. As far as I can tell there are three major ones: the eighteen years I spent in WI before I went to college, the four years I spent in Minnesota at college, and the twelve years I’ve spent down here in Waco since then. I’ve had three pastors my whole life, one in each state, and now I am one.
Of course each of these three stints comes with subsets and unique times of development. I’d summarize my three experiences this way. First I learned to use my heart. Then I went to college and learned how to use my head. Then when I attended seminary those two things went to war with each other, and I’ve spent the rest of my formative years trying to figure out what it means to put them back together again.
Let me give you a concrete example. I grew up in a charismatic church. Charismatic churches produce believers who pray with vigor, passion, and spontaneity. I remember being as moved by tone, earnesty, and fervor listening to those prayers as I was by the words that comprised them.
From that vantage point I judged liturgical worship settings. Yes, every church has liturgy, but you know what I mean, high church liturgical. The prayers seemed dry, lacking in passion, and canned. They came out of a book for cripes sake. The people didn’t even take time to write their own.
Eventually I began reading theologians, deepening my theology, and noticing how much precise wording mattered. Every once in awhile I’d follow a friend to an Episcopal Church or attend Catholic Mass with my wife’s family. Slowly, subtly, I began to appreciate those other prayers. They did lack emotion, but that assured me they weren’t performances. Their prayers were also free from, “ums” and “justs” and probably for pretension reasons, that mattered to me. You see what happened? I began to judge the other prayers. One had form and one had heart. Neither seemed to have both.
This issue i’ve just laid out for you in the example of prayer happened in a lot of my formational experiences. Then in the spring of 2014, I read Richard Rohr’s Naked Now. I don’t want to overplay the importance of this book because you might read it and think nothing of it, but this book set me free. In Naked Now, Rohr talks about the Western tendency to see the world through dichotomies. That is, as black and white, with clear right and wrong. His thesis states that mystics see the world differently--meaning you might have two rights and no wrongs or a bunch of wrongs.
It got me thinking. What if both prayers were bad … or good? Or what if they were both the best attempts at prayer in different phases of my life? It was Thomas Merton who prayed, “It is my desire to please you that pleases you.” I’ve always liked that.
I was listening to Rob Bell’s podcast a few weeks ago when he interviewed a friend. This friend, a Jewish Rabbi, has a child the same age as one of Rob’s kids and so they’ve gotten to know each other. The entire hour long podcast was about six words. Rob asked Rabbi Joel to pick six of his favorite Hebrew words and tell everyone why he loved them. Kavannah. I’d not heard of it. Rabbi Joel explains it comes from Keva and Kavanah. Keva means something like structure. You have to know what you are praying for, and you have to know how to pray for it. Language offers us tools that make our pleas, petitions, praises, and thanksgiving more precise and beautiful. But as Rabbi Joel explains, he prays over 100 blessings a day and so one must also have Kavanah, which is intention. Structure must not be a crutch to take your emotional self out of prayer. Prayer must also involve heart. Form and heart is what I call it. This is how Jesus teaches us to pray.
If you were at the July town hall meeting you already saw these numbers, but here they are again. We closed out the 2015/16 fiscal year ahead of budget. UBC budget about 310K and brought in about 355K. We had surprisingly large giving numbers in May and June (2 of our 4 biggest), which historically have been two of our lowest giving months. We began the new fiscal year on July 1st. As you can see below we have about 100K in checking and 90K in savings.
Harry Potter Party
As you may or may not know, JK Rowling is spoiling the world yet again with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Sunday July, 31st at Midnight. UBC will be anticipating the moment together on Saturday July 30th, with a little shindig at the church. Festivities will begin at 6:00 PM. Participants can expect a costume party, trivia game and other fun activities with fellow Potter nerds. We are still looking for volunteers to help pull off the event, so if you'd like to help please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Emmy
Mug Cleaners: Leigh & the Cooleys
Money Counter: Hannah Kuhl
- Sunday Sermon Text: Gen 18/Luke 11: "Using Words to Pray"
- MD Chains Location: Buffalo Wild Wings
- Next Leadership Team Meeting: August 7th
- Youth Group Meeting: We are having a meeting after church on August 7th for UBCs youth group. Our initial effort will focus on our group of middle school students. If you have a child that this age and have not been contacted please email email@example.com
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