Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Give Thanks and Pray: Pastor's article for The Shelby Star

By: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18) It seems like St. Paul is asking the impossible. How can we do this in the real world?

First, we can remember that prayer is more than we sometimes allow. As our response to God's call to us to be in relationship, prayer is a discipline, a strength we build through practice.

There are many kinds of prayer: adoration is prayer without a goal, just going into the presence of God and resting there, as in centering prayer. Praise is glorifying God simply because the love and grace of God causes gratitude to overflow from us. In prayers of thanksgiving we acknowledge our awareness of God's many blessings and in penitential prayer we confess our sin, those things that put a barrier between us and God and promise to amend our lives. In prayers of oblation we offer ourselves, our lives, and all we do, to God, in union with Christ, for the working out of God's purpose in the world. Intercessory prayer brings before God the needs of others, and petitions bring our own needs to God. There are prayers of healing, often accompanied by anointing with oil.

We pray by reading Holy Scripture as in the discipline of lectio divina, using Rosary or prayer beads, walking a labyrinth, or contemplating an icon. When we watching a sunset paint the sky and it fills us with joyful awareness of God's majesty, creativity, and tender love for creation we are praying. When we sing hymns to God or listening to music that inspires us to love and serve. we are praying.

We pray by joyfully tending to mundane tasks, grateful for the gift of life and for health which enables us to do them. We pray when we hear and respond to the cry of a neighbor in need, respect the dignity of a homeless person, or protect the innocence of a child.

When we pray we are submitting ourselves and our world into the care of God, seeking only God's will. That’s different from seeking to bend God's will to ours by rattling off our lists of things or people we'd like God to change.

Jesus told his disciples about “their need to pray always and not to lose heart” in the parable of the unjust judge (Lk 1:1-8) Jesus teaches us that unlike the unjust judge, God will act quickly to grant justice. God cares deeply about the powerless, unimportant widow and God desires a close relationship, granting respect and dignity even to the least, unlike the unjust judge.

What God ultimately desires from us is relationship which is why prayer matters. It's how we go from knowing about God to really knowing God. When we enter into that kind of relationship, we realize that God's really does live within us and we begin to see the world with God's eyes, to hear with God's ears, and to love with the heart of God. Then we begin to see how very possible it is to give thanks in every circumstance, to rejoice and pray without ceasing.

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