Tag Archives: Rhythm

The Rhythm of Prayer

King Saul is a fascinating figure. He reigned as king over Israel for 42 years even though A) he was horrible at it, B) was corrupt, C) was full of pride, and D) was more than a little paranoid. He never asked to be king, or even considered the possibility. One day he went out looking for his father’s lost donkeys, and when he came back he’d been anointed king of Israel. (Seriously, read 1 Samuel 9). His only credentials seem to be that he was a head taller than everybody and, apparently, easy on the eyes. But from the start it was clear his reign would not go well:

▪When he was inaugurated before the people, he hid from everyone “among the supplies.” (Seriously, read 1 Samuel 10:20-22).

▪He repeatedly disobeyed direct commands from God and the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 11-15).

▪After David killed Goliath, Saul did everything he could to kill David, a threat to his throne. (1 Samuel 18-31)

▪After driving out all the witches and fortune tellers from Israel, Saul went to a fortune teller at night so nobody would see him. (1 Samuel 28)

Eventually, when Saul’s sons were dead and all his men abandoned him in battle, he fell on his own sword and died so as not to be taken captive by an enemy army.

A shameful end to a shameful reign.

RED FLAGS

We see red flags from the beginning of the story of Saul. He was never going to be a successful king because his eyes, his heart, his mind, his spirit had no capacity for the spiritual realm. Saul lived in the physical world and governed like a person with no expectation that God might break through and do something miraculous. He trusted himself and what he could see, rather than God and the realm that is unseen.

You and I aren’t that different, are we? We lose sight of the unseen. We forget that we have limits while God is limitless.

Perhaps our biggest red flag that we’ve lost sight of God is the absence of prayer.

RHYTHM OF PRAYER

I’ve heard it said that the church’s dirty little secret is that we don’t pray. We do lots of good things, but we are mostly capable of doing them whether God is present or not. So our lives develop a rhythm of self-sufficiency. Church happens with or without God. Work happens with or without God. Families are raised with or without God. All this by we who call ourselves followers of Jesus. Eventually, without reminding ourselves of God’s ability and desire to break into the present realm, our world begins to look a certain way.

Prayer is an invitation into the realm where God lives and moves and has his being. Even the simplest prayer before a meal is an act of humility, acknowledging that God has, in fact, seen you, cared for you, and loved you. A lot of us give up praying because it feels like one more command us normal folks cannot keep. So most of us feel guilty for not praying and, in some cases, even fear God’s punishment.

But prayer is an invitation into “the ineffable,” the indescribable place where God’s supernatural power is the norm. Praying because we’re “commanded” to is fine, but eventually it becomes one more thing we’re capable of doing with or without God.

We also give up on prayer because we don’t always get what we ask for. But getting our requests is not the function of prayer. If it were, Jesus would have avoided the cross, Paul would have had his thorn taken from him, and psalmist after psalmist would have avoided the phrase, “How long, Lord!” Seriously, from what we read in scripture, you’re far more likely to not get what you want than you are to actually get it.

But that’s not what prayer is for.

Prayer is a rhythm. It’s a rhythm that keeps our minds, hearts, spirits, and souls centered in the unseen realm. Prayer reminds us that what we see is not all there is. When we create a rhythm of prayer for ourselves, we begin to see that ineffable realm more clearly. We’re not surprised when God shows up and does what God does. When we create a rhythm of prayer, the line between the natural and the supernatural fades. Prayer is the key to God’s world.

A SMALL RHYTHM

If you’ve lost (or never created) your rhythm for prayer, will you start this week? Make it simple; you don’t need to carve out five hours a day or get up at 3:00 in the morning or buy a prayer shawl or even keep a journal. Start small. Make a decision now to speak briefly to God once each day – at a meal, in the car, tucking in the kids. It’s like the bass line of a good song: subtle, simple, the foundation to something beautiful. As you feel your connection with the Other Realm intensify, expand your rhythm a little at a time, all the while opening your eyes to the realm of God.

Don’t do it because the Bible says to; do it because God invites you to see the world as he sees it. Don’t do it because you feel guilty; do it because you want to feel the presence of God. Don’t do it because you want to be a better Christian; do it because you want to experience a life that can only happen because God made it so.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2015

“I’m going to get up early and take a picture of the sunrise,” I said to my wife on New Year’s Eve. I checked Dark Sky and sun-up would be 7:17 am so, to be safe, I set my alarm for 6:00. I would walk our dog, Gertie, down the street to the place where a new subdivision is being built and I have a clear view of the river through the trees to the east. As the sun peeked over the river, I’d snap a picture, spend a moment quietly pondering the year ahead. Say a prayer asking God’s blessing over what’s in store for us in 2015. Then head back and make breakfast for Christina and the boys.

When my alarm rang at 6:00, I turned it off, fell asleep, and didn’t get up till 8:00.

I really wanted that picture. Something about welcoming in the New Year at sunrise felt important, like it was something I needed to do. Because a new year brings new hope, new dreams, new possibilities for who we might become. Sunrise on New Year’s Day is when all that begins and I wanted to be there to see it. It’s when life seems free for the taking. On New Year’s Day we assume the best parts of us will emerge, and we’ll finally be that person we always wanted to be and do that thing we always wanted to do. “This is the year!” we tell ourselves.

But I didn’t take the picture. Before I ever woke up, I already failed the New Year. So what does that mean?

CAPABLE AND WILLING

Resolutions are interesting because they point to something we believe we’re already capable of achieving but, for whatever reason, never did . We can be skinny. We can be runners. We can be writers. We can be debt-free. We can be holy. We can get up to snap a picture of the New Year’s sun. We believe we’re capable. But being capable only matters when we’re also willing.

New Year’s Day brings a collective jumpstart for a willing humanity. This week gyms and workout centers across America will be flooded with people. Blogs will be updated for the first time since last summer (like the one you’re reading now). Churches will see new faces. Savings accounts will open. Joggers in brand new dri-fit clothes and colorful shoes will slam into one another while figuring out their Nike+ app. This will be the new normal for about a month, but by February all the hype will settle and we’ll return to our regularly-scheduled lives.

We’re a capable people, but our willingness needs work.

A NEW RHYTHM

It’s hard to start an entirely new routine. I’m a person who recoils at routine as though it were roadkill served up for dinner. The thought of doing the same thing at the same time in the same place every single day makes me claustrophobic. I have a routine of sorts because my job as a preacher requires it (I must have a sermon ready every Sunday). As a whole, though, routine is a four-letter word.

But it’s often a routine that breeds the necessary willingness to stick with what we set out to do on New Year’s Day. In routine we find rhythm, and rhythm is a very holy thing.

All life is set to rhythm. Time moves in rhythm around our clocks. There are rotating seasons and ebbing tides on a planet making its way across the same path in space year after year. There’s something about being caught up in a rhythm that sets us right with God, with creation, and with each other. Creation requires rhythm, and so do we. Without it our lives are chaotic.

Some people are really good at routines; I am not. Rhythm works for me where routine fails. Sure, it’s a bit of a semantics thing, but routine is about discipline while rhythm is about life. Perhaps our New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be about our weight, fitness, or achievements. Perhaps they should be about our ability to persevere, to find rhythm, to re-make ourselves from the inside. If you’re interested in a “New You,” it’s going to require more than cosmetic touch ups and a few less pounds. A New You requires a new take on life, a new heart, a new rhythm. If the same Old You is trying to reach a goal, you’ll never make it. The Old You never did.

Instead of making New Years resolutions, what about creating an entirely new rhythm? What if you offer parts of each day to God in prayer and meditation; parts to friends and family in shared, selfless community; parts to your work so that you’re productive and contributing something to humanity as a whole; parts to creation so you’re living in a responsible way with what you wear, what you eat, what you consume, and how you enjoy all that God has made; and parts to yourself so that you’re healthy in mind, body, and spirit? Until we change our rhythm, our resolutions will never see February.

May God bless us as we enter into this new year with all its hope, anticipation, and joy. May we align ourselves more and more with the rhythm of God and creation. May our world find peace, and may 2015 be the year that life on earth becomes as it is heaven.