Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I Learned In Sunday School

A WATCH Prayer GatheringGary SweetenGuard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Ecc 5: 1-5All around the world you can see them. Even more, you can hear them. Kneeling, sitting or standing it is a movement. Many of them dance, some march in military order while others are less orderly and more ardor-ly. The noise can be awesome and when meeting with upraised hands and outstretched voices, the buildings shake with joy.

Martian visitors would react with puzzlement to the strange behavior. They might even "beam a bunch up" for intense investigation by their Martian scientists. The "little green men" would want to know what the strange rituals were all about.Prayer! It is all about prayer. Last week a friend mentioned that she had spent four days with a thousand like-minded men and women. They gathered to practice prayers of "spiritual warfare". Another group is heading out to Colorado for a week to of fasting and prayer to light the sparks for a national revival.

Prayer. It is everywhere. It is taught, preached, urged and even practiced around the earth with increasing regularity. There is a growing desire of the people of God to pray. This is especially evident when we consider the enormous number of "Prayer Movements" that have arisen over the past few years.

Many groups sponsor prayer events. Concerts of Prayer, Taking Our Cities for Christ, National Day of Prayer, The March for Jesus, Bill Bright's Prayer and Fasting, Renewal Ministries-Terry Teykl, Lausanne Movement, AD2000 & Beyond, etc. These initiatives are all based on the assumption that God desires His people to pray and that prayer "changes things." In conversations, teachings, seminars and conferences we are reminded that revival, renewal and reformations will. Unfortunately, it seems that we sometimes sacrifice the quality of prayer gatherings while emphasizing quantity. I am not convinced that "more is better". When it comes to prayer for evangelism, revival, social action and awakenings it seems that quality is critical while keeping the quantity of prayer and the number of pray-errs high. I was reared in a family that had a long tradition of prayer. Unfortunately, some of the things I saw and mimicked were not very qualitative. For example, I pray like this.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Despite the earnest and heartfelt desire of my parents and grandparents to teach my brothers and me good prayer habits, this childhood prayer failed. It brought me fear and anxiety rather than peace and faith. Each night I went to bed thinking that I might not wake up. My primary focus was eternal safety in an uncertain and dangerous world.

My earliest prayer habits were formed in fear not faith and reinforced as being desperate calls to a distant God. I begged Him to receive my unworthy soul in the event that I failed to survive the rigors of sleep. No wonder so many children have nightmares! But I have a partial solution. Here is a prayer we can trust.

A New Prayer for Sleeping

Now I lay me down to sleep
I thank the Lord my soul will keep.

No fear of night,
He will provide
His angels near,
My sleeping side

At morning's dawn,
I will awake,
To live again
For Jesus' sake

He gives me strength,The whole night rest,
Enough each day
To give my best
© Gary Sweeten
Early childhood experiences do not predetermine our life's course. I have been able to go beyond my youth and develop a healthy approach to God. I reframed the fearful prayer written during the Black Plague and wrote one filled with faith, hope and love. But early experiences do influence us and our children. It is a good idea to examine how we pray as adults so we can evaluate our approach to check its biblical basis.
Comments? How did you learn to pray?

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