Lord teach us to pray.
The disciples implore Jesus to teach them how to pray. We might remember that this was from a group of people who had been praying since they could speak. As devout members of their faith community, they would have begun each day, and continued in prayer. Perhaps what we are seeing, as they did, is a desire to pray as Jesus did. They saw in him something they had not yet experienced, and a whole other dimension to prayer. They saw an intimacy bordering on scandalous (he teaches them to pray “Abba” – Father), an opening of self to be a way for Gods ways to break through (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done) and a deep searching of self to seek forgiveness, and to give forgiveness to others (forgive us…as we forgive).
As part of a faith community, and someone who tries to pray, we too might need to ask Jesus to renew us, refresh us and “teach us to pray.”
CONNECTING WITH GOD’S WORD Mark 6. 45-51
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.
Jesus has been with the crowd and his disciples, and his affection for them is seen in taking care of what they do next, and the farewell. It also lets us glimpse how Jesus transitioned from company to solitude, from activity and teaching to silence and prayer. He went up on the mountain to pray. Perhaps he knew that should he stay where he was, prayer might not happen?
Have you ever wanted to pray but realized it rarely ever happens? Can you identify transit points in your day where you can be alone for a few minutes. You might not go up a mountain, though once in a while it is a wonderful experience to go up the Vee or the Comeraghs to reflect and pray. You might go down the garden, or sit in a spare room…
Prayer for Jesus was not an escape from this world. In this passage as he prays, he can see from his vantage point in the hills above the lake, that the disciples are “straining at the oars”. Seamlessly, he comes to them where they are, eases their fear and journeys on with them. Prayer brings us closer to those we pray for. Who is “straining at the oars” that you know? Worn out and fearful, running to stand still? Pray for them today.
How does this passage speak to you?
Read it aloud.
Read it slowly.
Read it silently and let a verse, a phrase, a word, a thought, pop up like a cork in water.
Think about that.
Let your thoughts become a prayer.
Then let your prayer pass over into silence.
CONNECTING WITH THE SAINTS
One rabbi used to say that prayer for him was seeing everything in the world, his relationships and troubles, as leaving a mark on his heart. In prayer he would just say “Lord, here is my heart, read what is written there”.
The function of prayer is to change my own mind,
to put on the mind of Christ, to enable grace to break into me.
Sister Joan D. Chittister, OSB
“The earthly-minded person thinks and imagines that when he prays, the important thing – the thing he must concentrate upon – is that God should hear what he is praying for. And yet in the true, eternal sense it is just the reverse: the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears – who hears what God is asking for.” Søren Kierkegaard
CONNECTING WITH OURSELVES
The following piece comes from a Mothers Union anthology and was read at our MU Eucharist some years ago. It brilliantly describes the many colours of prayer. Read it slowly and see which type of prayer you are feeling stirred by, or to. Keep the piece in a journal, and read it from time to time. It may well be that different types of prayer emerge at different times.
Prayer (Joy Cowley)
I think it’s kind of funny that we have only one word for prayer,
when we come to God in so many ways.
there is the barn-storming prayer, the hammering on the door,
the cry of pain or anger from a desperate grief demanding answers.
Then there is the prayer for others,
a leaning of the heart towards those in trouble,
a plea that God will draw them out of their distress.
There is the prayer of doubt, the expression of disbelief
throwing off outgrown ideas so that we can see who we really are
and the closeness of God’s love.
There is the prayer of ashes,
the cry of forgiveness, accompanied by the relief of truth
and the freedom to put burdens down at the side of the road.
There is the prayer of celebration,
a festive prayer adorned with all kinds of Hallelujahs,
gratitude waved like a banner from a thank you heart.
There is the prayer for guidance,
for sign-posts along the way to help us understand our giftedness
and the steps we need to take on our journey to God.
There is the prayer of community,
words of a loved tradition falling on us in familiar notes,
and drawing us into the sacrament of a faith given and shared.
There is the prayer of awe,
when we stand in the presence of the intelligence of the universe,
God powerful in distant galaxies and in every cell of our being.
There is the prayer of conversation,
the every day talk to God our friend who helps to wash the dishes
and change the punctured tyre, who is never too big for the detail of lives.
There is the prayer of quiet,
in that deep well of inner silence when nothing happens
and everything happens and we are wholly renewed.
Then there is the nameless prayer,
the prayer of God that comes in stealth
to overwhelm the heart with sweetness
and leave us with the knowledge of the love that holds us
and goes on holding us,
however we pray
or forget to pray.
Next week we look at Fasting and Self-Denial.
We continue with these verses and prayers to memorise,
or use for gentle repetition as a prayer word.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be now and always pleasing in your sight O Lord our Rock and Redeemer.
Lord Jesus help us love as you have loved us, forgive as you forgive us,
and be blessed in the doing of your teaching.
Help us be still and know that you are God.
Help us listen to others with kindness.
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