161 Table-ology: Thanksgiving and Transformation, Part 4
A Scripture study from Caring, part four of seven.
Corporate prayer is a common spiritual discipline we share around our tables at Thanksgiving. We offer prayers of gratitude for God’s provision, protection and providence. At some tables, individuals take time to share what they are most thankful for. At other tables, one person offers a prayer of gratitude on behalf of everyone. Prayer is life and life is prayer. It is a discipline that brings us into the presence of God, both corporately and personally. Prayer is what God does in us. As we develop lives consistently rooted in prayer, it touches us and transforms us and it touches and transforms those around us.
Jesus spent a great amount of time creating space for God through prayer. One of the most powerful prayers in Scripture comes just before the crucifixion of Jesus. In the garden, he was lonely, anguishing over and preparing for what was to come. The exhausted disciples had abandoned him for sleep. Jesus had beckoned them to stay, saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me,” (Matt. 26:38) but they couldn’t muster the energy to linger with him. We can find comfort knowing that Jesus needed the encouragement of others and knowing that Jesus, the Son of God, needed the Father. Prayer was life and life was prayer for the Son of God.
In Acts 2, we find the Church at the table devoted to prayer—lingering with God and each other, daily. Praying allowed them to share everything in common. As their roots sank deep into the depths of God’s love and goodness, they sank together and became this massive root system that intertwined and they dwelt and grew in unity. They thrived together as they prayed together. This is a powerful image for God’s Church.
David Brenner, in his book, “Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer,” says, “As our love journey with God develops, so does our prayer. It cannot help but do so because prayer is right at the heart of our relationship with God. Prayer is God’s action in us. Our part is simply to allow divine love to so transform our hearts that love of God will spring forth as a response to love, not as the fruit of our determination.”
This is how the Church of Acts experienced signs and wonders. It is how they grew exponentially. It is how they were able to have everything in common. It is how they enjoyed favor with one another. It is how their hearts were stirred to common praise.
Prayer is a powerful outlet for talking to and hearing from God. It is an outlet of just being still and resting in him. There is power in prayer. God ministers to us and through us through prayer. Prayer deepens our intimacy with God. Without prayer, we remain shallow and lacking in power.
Dutch Catholic priest and theologian Henri Nouwen says, “Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in the darkness and touch there what you would rather leave untouched.”
Without it, we remain unchanged.
In his book, Brenner lists several ways to encounter God through prayer. If prayer is a discipline you struggle with consistently, try practicing any of the methods below, silently or vocally, to help you encounter God at a deeper level—corporately or on your own:
- Read a passage of Scripture and listen for God’s personal word to you
- Allow music to draw your spirit towards God’s Spirit
- Review your day and notice where and how God was and is present in you
- Meditate on Scripture and think about its meaning for your life
- Recall your blessings and respond with gratitude
- Go for a long, rambling walk while repeating the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”)
- Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness
- Take a contemplative walk and allow God to speak to you through creation
- Sit in silence – allowing your heart to be drawn back to God by the periodic gentle repetition of a love name for God
- Read liturgical or other written prayers
- Meditatively speak the Lord’s Prayer
- Attend to your breathing – drawing in God with each inhalation and releasing God to the world with each exhalation
- Practice the discipline of prayer and fasting
- Sing or ponder the words of a favorite hymn or song
- Journal your prayers
Acts 2: 42-47
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you because you are always near, longing to hear from us, to speak to us and to be with us. Forgive us for the times we become distracted and seek life outside of you. We desire to live lives of prayer, being constantly open to you. Would you please move in us and as we seek lives of transformation by creating space that invites your presence into every aspect of our being? We pray this in the name of Jesus, claiming your powerful presence in and through us.
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- Find recommended resources for understanding and practicing the presence of God through spiritual disciplines in the Table-ology Further Reading book list here.