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Teach Us to Pray

Posted: July 22, 2016 by Rob Voyle

This weeks Gospel (Luke 11:1-13) one of the disciples ask Jesus, "Teach us to
pray, as John taught his disciples."

Apparently John was known for teaching his disciples to pray. What is not clear
from the request is whether the disciple is asking Jesus to teach them to be
motivated to actually pray or to teach them "how" to pray.

Jesus' response seems to cover both bases. He teaches them what to say when they
pray, and then gives a discourse on God as a loving parent who will respond
favorable to people who pray. And the answer to our prayers is the Spirit.

The whole point of prayer is not to get stuff, or change other people, or change
ourselves but to abide in the Spirit.

Perfunctory prayers said before meetings, especially by professional pray-ers,
are of little benefit when the goal is to center oneself and the group in the
Spirit. My pet peeve is that such prayers and many liturgies are said with such
speed that the only purpose of doing them is to get them done before we can go
and do something else that is more important. I also have a gripe about prayers
that begin with the word "may" or are punctuated by the word "just."

Prayer is about communicating with God. We need to spend as much time listening
as we do talking if we are to effectively communicate. I ponder what would
happen with my friends if I talked to them like many people pray...

When I began this journey with Jesus many years ago I read a small book on
conversational payer by Rosalind Rinker. She offered a simple way for
individuals and groups to gather and converse with God. Over the years I have
found that the more I pray the less I say, the more I listen and the more
centered in the Spirit I become.

So many congregations want to grow, they keep telling God they want to grow, but
do they listen. We want to be given more people, make up the numbers pay the
bills and God wants to give us the Spirit.

All revivals, all times of transformation, begin with a fresh understanding of
the nature of God. Whether it be the revivals of Abraham, Ezra and Nehemiah,
Jesus, Paul, the birth of new monastic orders, Martin Luther, the reformation,
John Wesley, all began with a fresh understanding of the nature of God.

Even in our own lives the times of transformation where preceded by a new
understanding of the nature of God. The old God in our understanding could not
take us to the place we needed to go and it was the new God in our understanding
that empowered transformation. Maybe God doesn't change, but clearly our
understanding of God does.

If you really want to create transformation in your congregation the first thing
you will need to do is to teach the people to pray. To create a sacred space
where people can receive the Spirit which is the answer to prayer.

Without a new understanding of God, the old God in understanding will continue
to give you what you already have.

With a few moments of silence...

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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