“Prayer” Exodus 32:7-14
Rev. Sean Weston Luke 11:1-13
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
July 8, 2018
The year was 1738, in England. A preacher named John Wesley was burned out. He was having trouble with his faith. He said to himself, “stop preaching. How can you preach to others if you don’t have faith yourself?” He asked a friend, another preacher named Peter Böhler [BOOh-lar] if that meant he should stop preaching and find a new line of work. After all, how can you preach to others if you’re not sure of your faith yourself?
In response, Böhler said no, absolutely not! Wesley responded, quite reasonably, “but what can I preach?” Böhler answered, “preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” John took his friend’s advice, and the next day he ministered to a man on death row. “My soul started back from the work,” he said, which is a 1738 way of saying “it was really, really hard for me. Something deep inside me resisted.” But he followed his friend’s advice. Preach faith till you have it. Wesley ended up being one of the most influential preachers in church history, co-founding the what is now the United Methodist Church. That’s good advice, I think. But the idea doesn’t just apply to those of us who preach. You might have heard similar advice in the phrase “fake it till you make it.” Maybe someone has reminded you that when you smile you are more likely to feel like smiling. Maybe you’ve discovered that during conflict with a loved one, saying “I love you” out loud softens your heart even when you don’t feel very loving. Preach faith till you have it. Fake it till you make it. Continue reading
There are as many ways to pray as there are people in the world – if not more! This is not a list of the “right” ways to pray. This is a “jumping off point” for your own exploration.
Meditation: Tips to Get Started
Pray for the desire to meditate: Try something like “God, I’m not completely sure that you really want to talk directly to me. And if you could, I’m not sure I’d like what you have to say. Help me want to listen, anyways. Help me try”
Set aside time and space: Especially for beginners, planning even 5 or 10 minutes each day at a consistent time helps a lot. It could be early in the morning, on the train, or on your lunch break.
Find a good place: Look for a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Leave your phone behind. Many people find going outside helpful.
Position your body: There is no right position – you want whatever is most comfortable and least distracting. Many find it helpful to use a straight chair with your feet flat on the floor, and hands on your knees with palms up. You can close your eyes, look at a picture, or look at nature.
Different Ways to Meditate
Meditation on Scripture
Meditating on scripture isn’t analyzing or studying. Take a single event, parable, verses, word, and try to live the experience.
Use all of your senses: smell the sea, hear water on the shore, see the crowd, feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach, touch the hem of his garment. Allow your imagination to take you there.
Some good passages: Exodus 24:15-18, Exodus 33:11, Exodus 20:18-19, Psalm 1:1-3, 1 Kings 19:9-18, Acts 10:9-20, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4
Place your palms down to symbolize turning concerns over to God. Think of things weighing you down and give them to God (Example: “God, I give you my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough Money to pay the bills this month.”). Say “palms down” and release it.
After a few moments, place your hands up to receive from God. Imagine receiving from God (Example: “God, I want to receive your love for John, your peace about the appointment, your patience, your joy.”) Whatever it is, say “palms up.” Then spend the last few moments in silence.
Meditation on Creation
Pay careful attention to the created world. We’ll focus on this in a few weeks.
Meditate on Current Events
Hold the events of our time before God. Tell God what scares us or saddens us. Ask for understanding and insight. Then ask for guidance: is there anything you should be doing to bring light to the world?
A final note: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere at first. It takes practice and consistency! Keep trying.
To Explore More
Much of this material is adapted from the chapter on meditation in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.
The 40th Anniversary Edition is the most updated and is available as an e-book through Amazon. You can also contact Pastor Sean for help ordering a copy.
“Meditation” Exodus 20:18-21
Rev. Sean Weston Psalm 63:1-8
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
July 1, 2018
A few years ago, at the start of the new year I planned a silent retreat for myself. I arranged to stay in an apartment at the United Church of Christ’s camp in Kansas. I would spend Friday to Sunday afternoon alone, with nobody else around. The plan was to hang out with God and make goals for the year. “I’ll finally have the time and space to listen to God,” I thought. I’ll be able to do all the prayer I don’t usually have time for! I’ll cook real meals! I looked forward to it for weeks.
On New Years Day I was so excited as I got in the car and drove to the camp. I got settled in, put the food away, went on a quick walk, and returned to the apartment as darkness fell. Ready and excited to hang out with God, I sat in silence. But the feelings of spiritual joy didn’t come. Instead I began to feel a sense of dread and panic. The silence was so…silent. My aloneness was so….alone. The darkness was so….dark. Suddenly the idea of a weekend spent this way terrified me. It took everything in me not to pack up and leave just then. Continue reading