DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Prayer for People Like Me

Written by: on January 23, 2015

I have three confessions to make:

1) I am a book addict. I love books. I believe that books are meant to be appreciated in their entirety. For this reason, this doctoral program has been a great challenge, as I have such a hard time leaving a book unread. I struggle to finish our assigned books prior to writing my weekly blog post, given the size of the books we have to read. (I know that Jason says we don’t have to read the books in the entirety… which leads to my second confession.)
2. I am sure that there is some vital insight at the end of every book that I will miss by not reading the entire book, that will be glaringly apparent in my blog post that will cause ridicule and scoffing by my cohort. For this reason, talking about a book I have not completed gives me chills and keeps me up at night.
3. And now for the biggest confession: I have not finished MaryKate Mores’ A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-four Ways to Walk with God….AND I am sleeping just fine! The reason for this is that this simple: This book is really a devotional book. My leisurely reading of this text over the last ten days (covering only 12 chapters) has been so beneficial and insightful that it seems wasteful to rush through the remaining chapters to merely say I’ve finished it. What I have discovered is a rich warehouse of wisdom and spiritual insights, practices and direction that requires time to practice and penetrate. To rush through this book would be like gulping a bottle of expensive wine. This book is meant to be sipped and savored, slowly, quietly, prayerfully.

Prayer is not something that comes easily for me. In fact, as one person in book admitted: “It turned out that the prayer felt a lot like work.”1 For me, prayer has always been a hard work. My problem is the tyranny of the urgent, where my most productive time is bright and early in the morning and my list of “to-dos” is always the longest. To pause, to sit quietly, to experience intimate moments with God is nothing less than demanding on me. That is why I am extremely thankful for this book, as it has already begun to change my prayer life. The reasons for this book being so helpful are numerous:

First, Dr. Morse provides us with an actual guidebook. I love travel guides, because they excite me about future adventures in some exotic location. They are filled with helpful information, like what to do and what to avoid. But they also are filled with possibilities or suggestions. You don’t have to do everything the guide tells you, but you can pick and chose those things that most interest you. This is what A Guidebook to Prayer has to offer, a vast smorgasbour of possible ways to pray, creating a joyful expectation of moving into new ways of approaching and communing with God. Some practices fit well and others are just not me. I’ve read many books on prayer and contemplation that more often are one-size-fits-all. Here, the possibilities are limitless.

Second, the book highlights real people who are learning and struggling with prayer. Much of my reading on prayer and contemplation are by the saints, the superstars who had amazing prayer lives and mind-blowing encounters with God (like the Dessert Fathers…these were the real prayer warriors!). However, these people are very different from me (no kidding!). I so appreciate the personal insights of real people provided by throughout the book, people who are like me, who are learners in prayer rather than those who have it all figured out. And they help illustrate that prayer not only changes the lives of the one praying, but it can change our relationships, our churches, our societies, our environments and our world. This is a guide for those who falter and need words of hope and encouragement.

Third, this book is a deep mine filled with jewels of wisdom. The wisdom comes first in the form of spiritual insights. Every chapter has those sentences that make me pause, ponder, and then pray. For instance:

• “In rest, we all stop and before God we are all equal. God blesses and consecrates the rest, not the work.”
• “A Christ-follower needs to both go and abide. Jesus was active and stayed connected to his Father.”
• “Solitude creates the space to detach from the power of things.”
• “Jesus service did not involve him giving up who he was but his need for gain and recognition.”
• “Forgiveness is not just a right. It is a responsibility.”
• “When you pray, you never are alone.”2

Wisdom also comes in very practical methods of prayer that are even doable for those of us with long to-do lists and other distractions. This is not a workbook on how to be a “super saint,” but about having “a more meaningful prayer experience and to know more authentically God, yourself and others with whom you pray.”3 This humble and helpful approach has already begun to make a difference in my prayer practices. One personal story (by Rick Adams) spoke to me. He suggested reading Psalms 145-150 everyday before praying, “just to get into the right attitude.”4 I thought, “This I can do. I need to do this!” For the last couple weeks, it has become an important start of my day. Praying a few short psalms that focus entirely on praising and worshiping God, is the reminder I need of who God is, who I belong to, and what I am all about. It puts me into a posture of prayer starts my day on the right note. This is my first baby-steps in what I hope will be many adventures as I apply the abundant lessons and practices available in this guide to drawing closer to my Lord.
_________________
1MaryKate Morse, A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-four Ways to Walk with God (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter Varsity Press, 2014), Kindle 1717.
2Ibid., 1826, 1459, 1973, 1786, 1649, 455.
3Ibid., 145.
4Ibid., 470.

About the Author

mm

John Woodward

Associate Director of For God's Children International. Member of George Fox Evangelical Seminary's LGP4.

9 responses to “Prayer for People Like Me”

  1. John,

    I could not agree with you more regarding books. I too have struggled with the challenge of this program that inevitably leaving so many books incomplete. Though I do not struggle staying up at night for that reason! HA

    I appreciate your comment of MaryKate’s book as being one to sip and savor, slowly, quietly, and prayerfully. I believe I will be savoring this book over the remaining weeks even as I rush through other books.

    I was surprise about your comment that prayer is something that does not come easy for you. I would have thought your personality would have been one that would find prayer and contemplation easy. But I do understand the non-ending to do list. Truly this guidebook to prayer is a smorgasbour that will provide many months of guiding me in prayer.

    I like the use of Ps. 148-150. Many years ago I learned the simple practice of ACTS for praying. I have taught this to my kids. Often they, and other new believers, have the tendency to only ask for things in prayer, give me this, give me that, give us this, etc. With ACTS we learn to organize our prayer in this way.

    A – Adoration like ps. 148ff
    C – Confession – confess our sins
    T – Thanksgiving – being grateful
    S – Supplications – last of all we ask for things.

    Alright John, Excited for you as you continue to press forward using this book. Blessings to you.

    • mm John Woodward says:

      Hey Mitch, thanks for your kind words…you are always so encouraging! After reading a number of this weeks posts, I think that maybe much of “prayer problem” might come from a lack of any good examples growing up. I am envious of so many who had parents who prayed and encouraged prayer. I think the real reason for my research and focus on spiritual formation is due to my hunger to have that deeper connection with God that I know I can have…but have somehow not figure it all out. So, I am seeking, learning and would appreciate prayers as I truly desire to experience the very real and powerful presence of God and His love.

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Hopefully those confessions have been life-giving for you John and that you find rest at night as your reward. I will admit that I’m sorry that I didn’t pick up this book earlier, as it would have been good to do just what you’ve suggested, using it as a devotional, going through it slowly and practically using some of the ideas presented. Perhaps that will come in time because this book can certainly be an on-going valuable resource.
    I particularly appreciated your desire to be in a “posture of prayer” as you go into your day…is there another one of the 24 guides that you have found beneficial?

  3. mm Liz Linssen says:

    Hello John
    You always write such great blog posts John, and this is yet another 🙂 I love your analogy: “To rush through this book would be like gulping a bottle of expensive wine. This book is meant to be sipped and savored, slowly, quietly, prayerfully.” I totally agree. Like you, I feel we miss so much just whizzing through each book, not having the chance to savour everything each author puts into their work. But as you say, with Morse’s book, we can enjoy a cup of wine each day 🙂
    I think starting with the psalms each morning is a great idea! Thank you for mentioning that. Each day is so full of to do lists, that it takes time to harness our minds and hearts and bring them into an awareness of God.
    Thank you for your blog John. I think many of us feel the same way.

    • mm John Woodward says:

      Liz, I just told Gwen how wonderful it is to have a published author (and, in my book, FAMOUS author!) tell that I am a good writer. Thank you sooooo much! You are always such an encouragement. I do find it a great help to pause, turn to God and get “my ducks in order” (i.e. putting God first) at the very beginning of my day….to make sense of my always full days! I image you have a schedule that would blow me away! We all need to learn to find our strength and rest in Him. Keep up the great work you are doing, and never lose that solid foundation!

  4. mm Ashley Goad says:

    John, confession is good for the soul, and I could not agree with you more. It is so hard not to read the whole book each week, and it’s even harder to try to sound like I know what I am talking about in my blog post or even in class! Like you, I am thankful that this book is written in such a manner to continue inviting us back to learn, grow, and pray. Ahhh, so nice.

    You highlighted one of my favorite quotes from the book: “Solitude creates the space to detach from the power of things.” I crave solitude… I crave disconnection from things – iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and all of the other gadgets. I think that’s why I enjoy traveling so much – I put down the things and be with the people and God. I come back renewed, and now I am trying more and more to replicate that HERE! Oyyy, when will I learn that letting go of things allows pace for HIM!

  5. Michael Badriaki says:

    John, I appreciate your reflection on MaryKate’s book. I identify with you on the rushed nature of reading through the class material. I have decided to read as much as I can, enough to learn the subject matter and that also be in a position to contribute to the discussion. The other issue I have run into is, how much should one write in the blog about the reading? This question was left a little more when I was starting out in the program but now I have a system in place. I am sure many of us in the program can identify with your thought about the challenge of “… leaving a book unread.”

    I think your approach to MaryKate’s book is innovative, particularly the statement “to rush through this book would be like gulping a bottle of expensive wine. This book is meant to be sipped and savored, slowly, quietly, prayerfully.” I agree!!

    Thank you,

    Michael

  6. Miriam Mendez says:

    John, Beautiful post! I love the way you describe what you have the discovered in the book — “a rich warehouse of wisdom and spiritual insights, practices and direction that requires time to practice and penetrate. To rush through this book would be like gulping a bottle of expensive wine. This book is meant to be sipped and savored, slowly, quietly, prayerfully.” I have read the book once and reading it for the second time — this time more slowly and savoring it again and again. Thanks John loved your post and your confessions!

  7. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    John,
    So good.
    I love how you end in offering the recognition of the need to begin by adoration of God — for you, through the reading of some psalms.
    I’ve always appreciated this beginning rhythm from the Lords Prayer. “Our Father…” — noting God is God. And then, “Hallowed be Thy name.” God is amazing. Yep. Getting even a glimpse — if not a grasp — on this a fabulous beginning to wanting to engage more with the one who has called us “friends.” 🙂

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