Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Advent of my life

Well, four and a half years of youth ministry is behind me now. Youth ministry was an incredible learning experience for me and I’ll miss it and the wonderful people I built relationships with. However, like Christians looking forward to what’s to come during this Advent season, I’m looking forward to what’s to come as I transition into the direction I believe God has been nudging me. I have officially transitioned into a new area of ministry at my church, discipleship and sr. adult ministries. It probably sounds funny to some of my youth pastor friends that I’m moving from one end of the age spectrum to the other (I jokingly tell people I have a fountain of youth group now!), but it’s exactly what I have been wanting to do for a little while now.

One of the things I’ve begun to do in discipleship ministries is teaching on conversational prayer. This isn’t something new in that this concept of praying was developed fifty years ago by a woman named Rosalind Rinker, but it is new in that I’ve never heard of it or practiced it until I read her book this past summer. Her book, Prayer: Conversing with God, is an excellent guidebook if you want to pursue conversational prayer. It was even named by Christianity Today as the #1 book that has shaped evangelicals. She bases conversational prayer on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”

Here is a summary of the three stories that led to Rosalind’s discovery of conversational prayer.

Story #1 – 15 years old and has a choice to go to a party or a cottage prayer meeting on a cold snowy night. Chooses the latter and is amazed by everyone praying. She feels she should pray out loud during prayer meeting but is scared to death to do it. She finally does it and feels Jesus’ presence in a special way. This teaches her that when you pray out loud with a group you can feel God’s presence in a special way. She understands Matt 18:20 better now.

Story #2 – Now not afraid to pray in public. Goes to a prayer meeting in China and realizes everyone is making little speeches to God, feels like she has to start her prayers in a special way, use lofty language, to top the person that just prayed. She talks about how easy it was for her to get distracted while someone else was praying. She gets a desire to pray in way that is different and more inclusive.

Story #3 – She is praying with a close friend and realizes while her friend is praying that her prayer has already been answered (praying for peace between a lady and her sister-in-law). So, she interrupts her friend’s prayer and says, “We thank you God for already answering that prayer. This lady has already forgiven her sister-in-law”. They both stop after this and a moment of revelation comes. What if they prayed one or two sentences and then stopped to let the other person add something to the prayer? What if they went back and forth for several minutes talking/praying over the same person and/or situation?

All of this leads her to discover conversational prayer. In a nutshell, here are the basics:

The basics to conversational prayer

1. Bring up one person and/or situation at a time.

2. Each person prays two or three sentences only about the particular person and/or situation. Everybody in the group will go back and forth praying only 2-3 sentences.

3. Only move on to next person and/or situation when you feel at rest, or peace, about the person and/or situation. It helps if you have person in the group act as the leader and when there is several seconds of silence the leader thanks God for hearing their prayers and closes in a final word of prayer. When the leader finishes, another individual in the group brings up another person and/or situation to pray for.

It really was a neat thing to be a part of a group that prayed conversationally. You are all involved and in-tune with one another and God’s Spirit. When you finish praying you feel as if you have really prayed thoroughly for the person. It’s an awesome experience! I think this would work for any age group and is also a great teacher of how to pray. If someone struggles praying aloud or in front of people (which most people do), this helps them overcome that fear and learn to pray. It’s easier to say 2-3 sentences of prayer than to pray for 3-5 minutes. I encourage you to buy the book and practice it!

You will be rewarded.


Heidi said...

I'm one of those people who do not feel comfortable praying out loud, in front of people. But I did enjoy the service last Wednesday night. I do think the conversational prayer makes it easier and less intimidating.

Tim Sheets said...

Hey! Yeah, that's just one of the good things to praying conversationally, it helps people who might not normally pray aloud to feel comfortable to do it. Believe it or not, I'm the same way, so this was a help to me too!

T <><