PASTOR BLAINE'S WEEKLY COLUMN

by Rev. Blaine R. WengeR

02-29-2024
"Prayer"


Is there anything more obvious – that one might do – to “observe a Holy Lent” – than pray? I’m not sure what it would be. So far, we have considered practices of self-examination and repentance. One cannot underestimate the importance of these two practices. And let us see that there is a connection with prayer. Self-examination almost certainly includes an element of prayer for discernment. And it is hard to imagine getting to the place of repentance without some prayer work. What is prayer?

When I was in college, my first two years were at Penn State, Main College. It was maybe three hours away from home. Three hours away from my parents, extended family, and especially Bonnie. That was in the days before cell phones. And I didn’t have a car. In the Spring and the Summer, I saw my parents every day, and Bonnie almost as much, sometimes more. Once Fall came, my lifeline was the phone; namely collect calls or direct calls at high rates. Needless to say, I did not call as long or as often as I wanted. But those conversations, when they happened, were highlights of my day.

There are many ways to think of, and describe prayer, but here I offer this picture; the lifeline, the connection between you, and one you hold most dear; where conversation and connection makes your day, even feels like life itself. Prayer connects us to God; not like you are checking in with the boss, or your accountant, or the person who handles your insurance, or your doctor.  Rather, prayer connects us with the one who is most important to us; who we desire to be close to, to share with; and who can do all kinds of things. Prayer connects us with the one we want to share with when things are going great; we want to tell all! And prayer connects us with the one we most want to talk to when things are not right; the one who can comfort, guide, and might also specially provide for us.

How do we do that? There are even more ways to pray than there are ways to talk about what prayer is. That is in part because there are many reasons we might pray. Here in the season of Lent, I would stress a few things. If you have not had a regular practice of prayer time, this is reason and opportunity to start. Make it a priority to pray every day. If you do already pray regularly, how might you make it more regular? How could you have a fuller practice of prayer? If you already pray once a day, consider the perspective of scripture that calls us to prayer multiple times a day; morning, noon and night. You don’t have to pray for hours at a time (though you can – if you have the time) instead make it a habit to check in with God regularly throughout your day.

What should you pray for? Again, there are many things that we might pray for. If a regular practice of prayer is really new for you, I would suggest writing down a simple “formula” to pray through each day and follow that. For instance, when you take time to pray, (#1) start out by praising God, thanking God for who God is, and what God does for you. Then, (#2) spend time in confession. This, I think, is vital for anyone, anytime. The lack of this is why I believe more people don’t change and grow toward Christ more over time. It is especially appropriate for Lent. Be honest with God about how yesterday went. Where did you fail – or sin – in action, thought, or feeling? Give it to God. Say “I’m sorry.”  “Please forgive me.”  (#3) Give thanks to God for the ways you have seen God at work. (#4) Pray for self, family, friends, neighbors, community, etc. (I find it helps to keep a list.)  (#5) Spend some time in silence. Listening. If prayer is a conversation, it wouldn’t be right to do all the talking would it? Close your prayer in Jesus’ name.

This is one suggestion. There are many ways that you can go about this. The important thing is to actually pray. Take your time. Be honest with God. The more that you do it, the easier it gets. The more that you pray, the more you may find yourself going deeper. Hopefully, the more that you do pray, the closer you will find yourself getting to God. And you might find yourself more open to God in other ways. All good. All working together to observe a Holy Lent.  Don’t worry about a grand plan for the span of Lent. Work on this today. Then tomorrow, come back to it again…

Grace, Mercy, and Peace,
Pastor Blaine