prayer in the new year

why is it that though i believe in prayer, i pray so infrequently?
why is it that though i believe in prayer, i teach and lead others in prayer so infrequently?

i believe prayer changes things.  i believe God cares.  yet i neglect to pray.  why?

i began thinking what i was taught about prayer as a kid.  from a young age i learned that prayer was private, or something an adult did out loud for a meal or in church.  in these cases, the prayer must use lofty words and be sure to say the right things, be a professional pray-er.  every night i would go to bed and say a prayer.  at the beginning of the week i would say my prayer asking God to protect my family from robbers, tornadoes, etc.  then each night after that i would simply say, "God, i pray the same prayer i prayed last night."  i kid you not.  i figured that if i at least said the full prayer once a week God would honor my requests.

in high school and college i learned about "popcorn" prayer where pray-ers say "just" a whole lot and usually repeat some sort of title for God such as "Father God" or "Lord Jesus" a thousand times in the course of a prayer.  does anyone really know the actual definition of the word "just" anymore?  

then there was seminary.  i learned about lectio divina and praying the Psalms.  someone even said it was okay to be contemplative and imaginative in prayer.  people talked about reading the Bible and praying what you read; the idea that God might actually speak to us through Scripture.  i learned that praying in church could be participatory.

why did it take seminary for me to learn these practices?  well, for the same reason my youth group students don't know these things.  people like me don't tell them!  sad.  but true.

i've been reading a book by Mark Yaconelli, Downtime:  Helping Teenagers Pray.  i see that theoblog looked at this book some time ago....i love the suggestion of encouraging teens to be imaginative.  use your imagination.  be present with God.  talk to God.  imagine that God is actually doing something about your prayer.  imagine that God might actually speak to you.  i think i knew and believed all these things, but it sure would have been nice to have someone help me experience and express these types of prayers.  

now the task it to incorporate these ideas into ministry.  that's where the New Year comes in.  i am challenging myself to pray for students and encourage and equip them to make prayer a bigger part of their lives.  otherwise, i guess i just keep praying the same prayer i prayed yesterday...good enough, right?

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