Praying with hands open
One of the ways you might spend your time in home isolation is in prayer and reflection on scripture, not as a last resort or distraction but as a first refuge and essential conversation. Prayer and study are not only a safe harbor where our fears and concerns can find an understanding ear but is a vital part of hearing God’s comfort and direction. Without our regular times of worship, we have been robbed of our weekly communal opportunities to be in prayer and reflection upon scripture. While I have tried to place resources on the website to help with this absence, the analytics from the website and some personal response from congregational members, indicate that many have difficulty streaming materials and other tools might be more effective. While still providing occasional video material to the site, I am going to try to increase correspondence via written text so it can be easily posted and downloaded from various platforms.
My chief hope in these messages is to provide tools whereby you can increase in breadth and depth your personal prayer and study life. While I anticipate these messages will become more devotional in nature, I would like to begin by being slightly more instructional, that you might have greater tools whereby you can pursue your own “devotional” time of prayer and study. Let’s begin by saying there is no one correct way to pray or reflect on scripture. Our prayers and reflections are rightly different for each of us. Just as we differ in the style and means through which we communicate with friends and family, so our conversations with God are different. Just as we differ in the ways we both learn and share ourselves with the world, so God is big enough to reach us in ways we can absorb and hear us in ways that are true to our self expression. In other words, some parts of what I will be sharing might be helpful and some might not, but try it, play with it, adjust it, hold on to those suggestions that bless and let go of those that don’t.
The first two suggestions deal with two tools that have already been mentioned in previous correspondence:
1) Bagged devotional booklets are available in a box on the front porch of the office. Some of those devotionals found their way to your homes by my glove wearing sanitized daughters but many outside of the Boalsburg area did not receive hand delivery. If you are not comfortable picking one up, email or call me and one will be delivered to your doorstep in a sealed bag with antiseptic precautions!
2) Another hopefully helpful tool for your reflections is the African Bible Study already sent by email and still located on our Webpage. It is the tool my family has been using as a devotional guide. It may seem awkward at first, but give it a couple tries, adjusting the study as you seem fit. After missing a couple of weeks of worship due to the virus, one of my siblings called looking for resources that could be used to gather his family in prayer and reflection. I directed him to this simple model. I am anxious to hear from him and you about your experience with this tool.
Finally I would like to share a simple method of prayer that you might try called “Hands down, Hands up.” I was first introduced to this simple method of prayer/meditation in a book by Richard Foster, “Celebration of Discipline”. In this prayer our bodies (hands) are utilized to help us enter the two movements of the prayer. The first movement is to sit with your hands facing down “as symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God.” List and let all the worries, troubles, brokenness, regrets, angers, and sins that burden you be released to God. Release them, letting them flow out of you to be crucified and buried with Christ. Following this time of cleansing, we enter the second movement of the prayer/meditation. “After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” Invite the Lord to fill you with His new life. In times of both petition and silent waiting, invite the Spirit to fill you with every good thing: a peace that passes all understanding, a grace that washes away all trespasses, a love from which nothing can separate us, a hope that is eternally secure, a presence which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Stay for a time, emptied of the old of the world and filled with the fruits of the Spirit.
May you be blessed in our Lord as he comes to you in prayer and reflection.