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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

My distractibility and butterfly mind can be a creative strength. What they are not, however, is an aid to focussed prayer.

Reading my bible and devotional material is one thing, but a concentrated session of prayer often seems too much to tackle. It has recently, at least.

Do the Next Thing Prayer

A prayer meeting is fine, getting together with my prayer partner is great, but me, praying on my own, that’s too big. So in this year of Doing the Next Thing, I need to learn to commit to doing prayer as the Next Thing.

And so last week I was prompted to return to the best aid I’ve found for reducing distraction in prayer – the most excellent PrayerMate App (also available for Apple products). I have my PrayerMate sorted out so that I start with reading things – a psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Church of England Collect for the day. Then I pray for family, friends and further afield. I’d forgotten I’d set my prayers up like that, it had been so long. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, nor as difficult to do.

I was gently eased into prayer, and I was reminded of the Puritan injunction to ‘pray until you pray‘, which I first read about in Don Carson’s terrific book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. I’ve found this to be wise advice. Prayer takes work and it takes time to find the focus required. So beginning my prayer time using written prayers I don’t have to think about too much helps me to start praying. And once I start praying, finding my own words to keep praying seems easier.

PrayerMate got a shiny new update just a few days ago, making it even better to use and prettier to look at. One of the lovely teenagers from my dorm at our summer holiday venture bounced up to me on Saturday to tell me that she’d downloaded the app. And she’d even used it a bit too. So if a distracted 13 year old can use it, so can I. And maybe you too? Do the Next Thing – Do It with Prayer.

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Gone has been staying in our chicken shed for a few weeks now. It’s dry and sheltered and he feels safe there. We haven’t seen him much because he can get in there through a side gate, so he’s mostly been coming in to sleep and then leaving without knocking on the kitchen window or the front door. He spends the day on the streets and visiting other helpful Vicarages.

It had been a few days and I mentioned to the Vicar that we’d not seen him for a bit, so the Vicar turned off the light in the shed, which ensures that Gone will come and talk to us to get the light put back on. That was last night, and then this morning we were told by a friend that Gone has gone. He’s gone back to prison. And that’s why we’ve not seen him. He’s not going to be away for long, but at least he’ll be dry and sheltered and fed for a few weeks.

GoneOnce again he will be inside for a short while and then released with money and a room in a hostel allocated to him. He’ll spend the money on Frosty Jack and buying a mobile phone and a radio or video camera, and he’ll come to our doorstep and tell us he’s not going to the hostel because he doesn’t trust people in hostels. And I expect he’ll ask to sleep in our shed again and we’ll go through the cycle of approaching various agencies and wondering what on earth can be done for him.

Sometimes I think this loop will continue for ever. He’s someone who cannot really cope with the system there is. Over the years many kindhearted people have helped him, but he’s never managed any long term stability.

So please pray for him, and for those of us who know him and want something better for him. We have a short break now and it would be good to think through some options for him. Pray that he’d work out what he should do himself, and pray we’d be wise too and have the energy to help again. Pray for Gone.

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After thinking about devotions honestly yesterday, the excellent Adam4d just posted this on what happens when we pray at bedtime..

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If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m  often full of great new ideas and initiatives. But what that actually means is that many old ideas and initiatives have fallen by the wayside. So when I extol the beauty of a new bible reading scheme or system of prayer, it possibly (=usually) indicates that the last system I extolled has somewhat petered out…

Last night Sharonxx asked the following:

I have tried to set myself the simple ‘resolution’ this year to pray at least once a day [either an Office or personal prayer], to read one small devotional a day and to do one bible study each day [using T.Wright…for Everyone]. I work 9-3, I have an 8 year old son and I’m married….pretty normal on the face of it….so why can’t I achieve even these simple goals??

Any tips? How do you do it with your busy life and family commitments? Indeed, DO you always manage to keep up with the bible reading etc.??

Simple goals, and ones I can relate to so well: read my bible, read something else devotional, pray. I’d love to do this every day too. But I often don’t. And I don’t work outside the house either, with all the extra juggling entailed in that.

So why don’t I do it? There are a bunch of reasons: tiredness, craziness of life in the Vicarage, but mainly it’s because other things seem more important than spending time with God. They’re not, of course, but my sinful heart takes control and I sleep a little more, tweet a little more, watch a little more Midsomer Murders. As I was reminded by my reading in Romans 7 this morning ‘What a wretched (wo)man I am!’

But the important thing is not to be discouraged when I fail. I’ve snoozed and missed the timeslot when I would have been reading my Bible. So I can grab a verse for the day on my phone. I’ve missed prayer time in the quite of the early morning. But I can still pray over the ironing board, or in the queue for the sandwich shop. I might not feel that I’ve prayed very well, or read enough of the Word, or wrestled with a theological concept. But if I’m keeping in regular touch with the Lord, I’m able to build my relationship with him. And even if I’m crazy busy or laid low by illness, there are still ways that relationship can grow, as his Spirit works in me. The Spirit reminds me of Scriptures or hymns and spiritual songs that I can cling to when I’m struggling with time or energy. The Spirit shows me the Lord’s providence in seemingly small ways that enable me to praise God when I feel like crying. The Spirit works in me so that I can will and work to the Father’s good pleasure.

Some of the resources I’ve found useful recently include using the audio setting with YouBible on my phone or tablet. This morning I read my allotted chapters from my epic 10 chapters a day reading plan but my head was a bit fuzzy and I didn’t process much. So then I listened to them again as I cleaned the kitchen and a bit more went in. Not everything, but a bit more.

My prayer life is a bit wobbly at the moment, but I’ve been using The Valley of Vision and have also recently downloaded the excellent PrayerMate app which is free at the moment. It has all the bells and whistles if you have an Apple device, but we are Android users in the Vicarage, so I have the newly launched version (which will be updated over the next few months) and am slowly uploading my prayer diary to its pages.

So I guess my answer is that I constantly fail to read my bible, to pray and balance all my family and other commitments. But I also constantly try and reboot them and get them back on track. The temptation is to feel that once we’ve missed a day in our readings, we’ve missed the boat. So we need to remind ourselves that the Father is waiting for our return. He loves us unconditionally, whether we’ve read our Bibles, prayed our prayers or simply slouched on the couch. Find a system which frees you from guilt if you miss a day; 10ofthose have some great undated devotional books. Start again. I read a blogpost in the last week about how we need to have Monday resolutions, not just New Year resolutions. And perhaps I even need to have daily resolutions. I mustn’t put off getting back on track because I’m waiting for a special season. I can reboot my resolutions today.

Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 3:7

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I have a lovely leather bound copy of The Valley of Vision that I use for my devotions. But it was a recent purchase and is working well with my Prof Horner bible readings, for which using a proper paper Bible is recommended. Before that I used to use Banner of Truth‘s online devotional as I was reading the Bible on my tablet. Then they updated their website and the prayers went missing for a while, hence the purchase.

But I’ve just found that the prayers are back online. The prayers are in a random order, but are always helpful, and there is a suggested one for the day. And it’s a great way to check them out if you are thinking about getting the book.

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As I’ve grown older and more distracted in my thinking, I find that written prayers are increasingly important in helping my devotional life. In his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Don Carson cites a Puritan saying:

Pray until you pray.

And written prayers help you to start praying, even when you can’t find the words to pray. Sometimes I think that being an Anglican, with all the written liturgy available to me, is a bit of a bonus really. Having said that, my favourite book of prayers is not an authorised Anglican one, although it was written by a canon of St Alban’s Cathedral. The Valley of Vision is a collection of prayers that were put together from a selection of Puritan writings. They are rich and deep and help me to start my prayers with a good focus on the Lord. On New Year’s Day I was reading the prayer for Wednesday morning, and was struck by some lines which applied very directly to my resolutions and plans for 2014:

…Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus

makes other interests a shadow and a dream.

Keep us from intermittent attention to eternal things;

Save us from the delusion of those

who fail to go far in religion,

who are concerned but not converted,

who have another heart but not a new one,

who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.

Let us judge our Christianity,

not only by our dependence upon Jesus,

but by our love to him,

our conformity to him,

our knowledge of him…

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Good News of Great JoySo it’s actually Advent, and I only got my act together this morning to download this lovely free e-book from John Piper onto my cheap and cheerful table that I use for daily bible reading. Thankfully, the readings began today, so there’s even time for you to download it too and not be too far behind. This morning’s reflection called me to meditate on my need for a Saviour. And events during the day reminded me of that too – tired children and busy parents do not make for a godly Vicarage.

Thankfully, a large nap and answered prayer made our afternoon happier than our morning. A big Sunday lunch with parish friends was followed by a chilly walk with Dreamer and Freddie the dog. Then we decorated our Jesse Tree – only having to cover two days in one go, lit our Advent candle and thought about Jesus our Saviour, opened our chocolate Advent calendar (with extra sweeties for the non-opening children) and gave thanks for a new audio bible in Ethiopia, prompted by a lovely Bible Society calendar that came in the post.

So far so good. But it’s honestly fine if we miss a few days in the chaos. The Saviour came to forgive both messiness and missingness – our sins of commission and  those  of omission.

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