This 3W series is my attempt to respond to Chris Taylor’s (Forgiven Wife) suggestion that I give refused husbands guidance on what to do in the Interim™ period (by my definition, from the time of ‘awaking & smelling the coffee’ to D-Day). Either before or after The Shot Across The Bow™, I have suggested that these refused hubs spend time with the Bible (to clear away false beliefs) and prayer (to reconnect with the God of Truth). That last (Pray!), while good advice, is akin to giving a novice a dinghy and saying, “There’s the ocean, see you in Hawaii.”
As I said last time, I try to give more than generic advice, and maybe give some specifics. That’s what I want to do in this post. Keep in mind that none of this is Gospel. In fact, there’s very little “how-to” in the Gospels, so read what I say with a multitude of grains of salt, weigh my ideas in your mind, consult other teachers/writers who have given advice and make up your own mind about how you approach praying. But be sure to pray.
I find that there are two templates for prayer, in the Bible. The first one is, of course, The Lord’s Prayer, in Matt. 6:9-13. I’m not going to give the text, because most Christians already know it by heart. And I am sure that it is a simple task to find any number of writings on the internet (Bing/Google) on how to use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for prayer.
There is one template that I know of that, while often used to encourage people of the effectiveness of prayer, isn’t really seen as a model of prayer; however, I believe that James 5:13-16 presents us with a simple template for prayer.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
The template I see gives three things to pray about: Sufferings, Joys, and Confessions. And while that is the order in which James presents them, I’m not thinking that this is in any prescribed order, that James was laying down the law, saying, “You are bound to pray in this order, ‘cause I’m the apostle and you’re not.”
Using these three broad headings as a guide, your prayings might be organized like this:
• Sufferings – your concerns, your fears, your hurts. Under this, I would put friends and family. Anything and/or anyone that concerns you; if something is big enough for you to worry about it, it’s big enough to bring to the Father.
• Joys – all your praise and adoration, of course. Gratefulness for the things that He has given you that give you joy, or at a minimum, lessen your burden.
• Confession – Of course your sins, but also your prayers and concerns about growing as a Christian. This last will be a time of introspection and analysis, asking God to show you, from His Word and from the advice of others, where He wants you to grow.
Devotionals, Aids, …
“CSL, are devotionals okay to use?” I know that that is a question that some have and I would have to say that I’m kind of ambivalent about them, at least for meeting the deep needs of recovering Refusees. Yes, the little pericope, accompanied by a thought for the day and 2-3 paragraphs of encouragement, is a nice little scriptural snack but certainly not deeply soul-satisfying spiritual nourishment. Something like an Our Daily Bread or a reading from Streams in the Desert can be used as a lead-in, an intro to your reading and prayer time, but they cannot, by themselves, satisfy, in the long run, as full spiritual nourishment.
A devotional is a good tool for thinking about God when you have a small amount of time that you can set aside. Sitting down with the day’s reading from Our Daily Bread at morning coffee break, as an example, is good, but just as you would not try to live on Coke and Cheetos, you shouldn’t try to get well on a diet of five-minute devotionals. Instead, use them as a guide to inform your prayers. Is the daily reading about faith? Talk to God about your faith and ask His help to increase yours. Is the pericope about fear? Tell God your fears, and ask Him to calm them as He did the Sea of Galilee. Use them, but don’t rely on them alone for your spiritual nourishment.
There is a book that I would highly recommend that you have next to your Bible in your times with God, and that is a hymnal. Did you notice that in the prayer template in James, above, that one of them included singing? And do you think that it is just chance that one whole book of the Bible is a collections of songs? Not by a long chalk, folkes; not by a long chalk. Music and prayer go hand in hand, and it would be good for you to have helps in creating the environment you need for prayer.
There is no way I am going to try to tell you what music you should be using when you’re setting aside this time to pray and read. I will say that you need to have music that is personally conducive to fostering the environment in which you can seek God, but I can’t say what you will personally find helpful. I will say that if the music that you use gets your mind on the music and not God, it’s not helpful.
If you find it necessary to supplement a hymnal, I would suggest an iPod with playlists of the music that you like. Putting the earbuds in, starting a playlist set on low, and picking up my Bible is my idea of slipping into Heaven for a short visit. If my iPod is charging, or I am alone while Wife and the girls are swimming at the Y, I will fire up my Blu-Ray player that also streams the internet, dial in Pandora and select one of the channels I’ve created, and spend some time in prayer and reading.
Music is personal, as is prayer. Use the music that will help you pray.
… And Other Accoutrements
“Accoutrements”? Well, that sounds better than tchotchkes. 🙂
They are the things, the earthly things, that remind you to pay attention for the Voice and to trust that it will speak to you. They are the things of this world that remind you of the world beyond.
—ROBERT BENSON Living Prayer
By accoutrements, by “earthly things”, I am referring to physical objects that can help us with prayer. As a card-carrying iconoclast, I am more than charry about taking objects and sacralizing them, but I am not so Calvin-istic that I am willing to run into a Christian bookstore and destroy those little “Cross In My Pocket”s or grind all those “Jesus Loves Me” pencils to nubbins.
Instead, I understand that there are objects that we can use to help us in our spiritual life. This is is the corner of a tallit, showing the tzitzit. Tzitzit? Tallit? Tallit is the Hebrew name for the jewish prayer shawl, shown here.
Hebrews were commanded by God to wear tzitzit at the four corners of their garments, in Numbers 15:37-41. Now, why would God do that?
so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God.
A tassel, a fringe, is to help you be holy? That’s a lot to ask from a little bit of string, isn’t it? Not really. If we remember that the tassel is merely a visual reminder, we understand that the tzitzit has no redemptive power, but is a merely a tool to help keep God’s law in their minds and hearts, we can see that God used something physical, touchable, as a help.
In the same way, we create our own ‘sacred objects’ to help us as we follow Christ. Whether it be the “Cross In My Pocket”, a WWJD bracelet or a cross necklace, we have religious objects that help us. For me, that is a set of prayer beads. Sometimes called an Anglican Rosary, I find that this set of prayer beads is a help to me in keeping my mind focused as I pray.
With that in mind, I am going to say that if you find that having an object helps you as you pray, helps you keep your focus (not making out grocery lists when reciting The Lord’s Prayer), then good on ya.
Pray. Discover what help you to create your prayer space and discover the different tools that help you find your way into your prayer space. Whatever works, do it. As Nike says, Just pray.