“To Pray is to Change”

My year's reading on the discipline of prayer.

“Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father,” Richard Foster said, it’s “the central avenue God uses to transform us.” My One Word for 2013 was “Pray.” I wanted to learn how to pray the way that God wanted me to pray. So with a small token carved with two memory verses and a short reading list, I spent the year studying prayer.

A number of books have helped me along the way. Becoming an Answer to Our Prayers by Shane Claiborne taught me that God has already provided the avenues to answer prayers in the communities around us. As he said, “Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do.”

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (also by Shane Claiborne) gave me a daily structure, routine, and model for praying. It also highlighted Christians throughout the ages who exemplified God’s love and forgiveness and offered Bible readings and hymns for each day. This book was most helpful in prompting me to act out the discipline of prayer.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster  filled me in on different kinds of prayer such as prayer of guidance and prayer of faith and gave me a wide variety of methods to help me pray. It gave me the tools to  “learn to pray so that my experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than try to make his words conform to my impoverished experience.”

And most recently, With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray gave me a detailed look at what the Bible says about prayer; teaching me not just the attitude of prayer, but the way prayer is interwoven with our obedience to God’s word, Bible Study, and acts of sacrifice such as fasting. “He that would do the works of Jesus must pray in His Name. He that would pray in His Name must work in His Name.”

I have learned and grown a lot in my prayer life this year, but I’m not done learning how to pray. As much knowledge as I’ve gained in my year of study, I still have a long way to go in acting out what I’ve learned. I look forward to the changes God will be forming in me as I continue to meet with Him in a quiet place.

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Last poem for NaPoWriMo

When You give the butterfly its wings,
does it say “thank you?”
What does that sound like?
Is it more beautiful than English?
Is it the sound of their whispering wing beats
As they go from petal to leaf?
 
When You give the fish it’s gills to breathe,
Does it say “thank you?”
Does it sound like silvery bubbles,
Or currents running through the ocean depths?
 
I thought that “thank you”s were said with tongues,
But my tongue can’t wrap words around the thought.
 
I thought I was lacking vocabulary.
I’ve searched for better words–
Scouring the limits of English.
 
But “thank you” isn’t found in any words.
Nothing matches the sound of leaves saying “Thank you” for the sun.
Or the sound of whales saying “Thank you” for the strength in their tales.
 
And written, it isn’t any better.
The letters are stiff and stagnant on a page.
Even when I try to bend them and make the tale curl like a butterfly’s proboscis,
It’s not a pretty “thank you.”
Not like the sky blushing in red and pink when it says “thank you.”
Or the peony’s feathery petals that spell out Your name.
 
“Thank you” falls flat from my lips
And dies on a page.
 
“Thank you” needs movement to live.
The wind calls such a beautiful “thank you” as it runs across the earth–
Brushing leaves that tickle and giggle,
Pushing clouds and forming storms.
It could never say it standing still.
 
So I have to learn to say “thank you” with more than words.
With my work
With my action
With every blink and breath and goose bump.
With every kind thing I do
And every answer to You
I say “thank you.”

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