Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday Night Lesson on Prayer

Wednesday night at our student ministry meetings, we talked about prayer! We asked the students if there a right or wrong way to pray and to list ways of praying?
They then moved on to talking about how much they pray. We invited the students to rank the top ten things that they spend time on in a given week. Asked, where their faith ranks? And if there would be a way to rearrange their priorities to make more room for prayer or if there were more creative ways they could pray.

I think prayer is kind of like a box of chocolates! We all have a different style and approach! There’s no one RIGHT or WRONG way. There are some ways better than others. Here’s some not so good ways … not wrong … just not very productive:

1. The “Let’s Make a Deal” Prayer: This prayer starts with “God if you do this for me I will do this for you…” God if you just help me pass this test, I’ll never not study again!

2. The “Gimme Gimme Gimme” Prayer, also known as the “Christmas List” prayer: It goes God, I need ____(Fill in the blank)___ and peace on earth, Good night!”

3. The most common prayer is probably the “911 Prayer.”
This prayer starts with “GOD! HELP!”

So, what are the more meaningful or productive ways to pray? I have a couple of

1.Jesus tells us how in His sermon on the mount! Just read it!

2. Another good tip I heard once was to establish a pattern. For example,
I do it every morning while brushing her teeth, putting on makeup, and drying my hair. Now, every time I pick up my toothbrush it is second nature to talk to God! It's kind of funny how that pattern has worked in my life.

3. Be creative! Use the Internet. There are lots of prayer sites, interactive prayers, prayer rooms, online labyrinths, etc.

4. Look at prayer as a conversation where you talk to God and God actually talks back to you? Remember Elijah (1 Kings) and the earthquake, fire, wind story? He didn’t find God in any of those things, but in the silence. So, sit and the somewhere in the silence, there is a still, small voice talking to you! Most of the time, our lives are too loud to recognize the small voice. This takes some work. The key is to not give up because you don’t understand what God is telling you or the voice is muffled. Keep seeking, find silence until the voice becomes more clear. This is work people! But is so worth it!

A specific way some people remember how to pray and not do the not so productive these let’s make a deal, gimmie/gimmie, and 911 prayers is called the ACTS or SPOON prayer.
A = Adoration (tell God that God is wonderful and how!)
C = Confession (say your sorry for your sins and what they are!)
T = Thanksgiving (thank God for all wonderful things you/we have!)
S = Supplication (Sometimes it’s called “intercession” - praying
for people that you know that need God and why)

Or even more simply:
S - saying sorry
P - praise
O - others
O - ourselves
N - needs

So, considering all of this and what works for you, do you think God answers prayer?

I am convinced God ALWAYS answers ALL prayers. Follow me here - Here is what I think God’s five responses are. There may be more than 5, these are just the 5 ways I have seen God at work in answering prayer in my life and the lives of my friends and family:
1) Yes (Way good to hear!)
2) No (Not so good to hear!)
3) Maybe. Let’s see what happens (free will)!
4) Yes, but be patient. Or yes, but not now.
5) It is answered but you forgot to notice or it wasn’t what you expected, so you didn’t notice!

The bottom line, I think, is that it is difficult to pray, to trust, to confide in God … who can’t be physically seen, heard, touched, or necessarily physically sensed. But in finding way(s) that work best for you to pray, you will more fully be able to sense God's work in answering your prayers.
We also offered the students a chance to pray interactively. We transformed the cathedral room at Zion into a room with 8 prayer stations based on the Lord's prayer. The students were given 30 minutes to go to the various stations and complete activities. See the next blog entry for all the details on this experience!

Lord's Prayer Lenten Stations

In coordination with our lesson on prayer (see next blog post) Wednesday night, we set up stations for our students to interactively partcipate in prayer. The stations were based on The Lord's Prayer (since that is how Jesus taught we should pray). Instructions for each station were placed at each station for the students to read. I took many of the ideas from the "Rethinking Youth Ministry" website / blog ( but then expanded on the ideas some, relevant to our needs. Below are explanations and pictures from each of the 8 stations. Students were instructed to move through the stations in any order and to spend as much or as little time at each as they were comfortable. If they didn't make it to all stations that was okay.
Enjoy! Feel free to use / tweak for your use!

"Our Creator in Heaven..."

At this station, think about those you know (or yourself) who are struggling in the journey of life right now --

Perhaps they are struggling with:

*relationships with parents
*relationships with friends
*health issues
*self esteem
*other concerns

Light a candle as a prayer for those people.

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

"Hallowed be your name …”

At this station, simply sit or lie on the floor and spend some time listening to the music.

As you listen, meditate about how beauty in music can remind us of God's goodness.

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

"Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done …”

At this station, think about your prayer friend (the adult who is praying for you throughout the 40 days of Lent). You don’t know who they are! What is that like? Are you nervous to meet them at the lunch on Palm Sunday? Have they sent you a note or reminder that they are thinking of you?

Do you think they are really praying for you every day? They are! They are praying for God’s will to be done in your life. How does that make you feel?

Using the art supplies, created an image or symbol of how you are feeling about this prayer friends experience or your prayer friend or offer up a drawn prayer for them. Here you can express your prayer of thanksgiving and intercession for that adult.

Leave your drawing on the table, it will be displayed in the narthex this Sunday …

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

“On earth as it is in Heaven …”

At this station, look at the images on the cards.

As you look through them, which ones stick out to you?

What issues come up for you as you look at the images? About yourselves, about your friends, about your families?

Reflect and think about them. That is your prayer!

Will these things matter in Heaven? Will these things lead you to Heaven?

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

“Give us today our daily bread …”

At this station, focus on eating! Yes! Physical eating and spiritual eating!

The bread and juice is an example of God providing for our basic needs. Offered thanks for all that God provides for you!

Pray for those who do not have enough.

Tear off a piece of bread and eat. Pour and drink the grape juice!

Take the Bible in your hands. Just as God provides for our physical needs, God also provides for us on our faith journey. Just as we must eat physically, we must also “eat” spiritually. If we don’t eat physically we become malnourished and eventually die. The same is true spiritually.

This is an easy “trick” you can do at home to pray. Randomly open the Bible and let the pages fall where they may. Look at where it opened. Wherever your eye falls, begin reading.

What is God speaking to you? Just sit an reflect!

Don’t sense anything or understand what you are reading? Try again!

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

“Forgive us our sins …”

What is sin?

Sin is anything that separates you from God and God’s love.

Is any sin greater than another?

At this station, focus on the sins you are “carrying” around.


Write a word or words on the stone that represent your sins on a stone.

Then when you are ready, drop the stone into the bowl of water.

This symbolizes that you asking God to help you “carry” the burden.


Take it with you. Each time you look at it, remember that God is present even when life's burdens weigh heavy on us.

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

At this station, you will reflect on Jesus' temptation in the desert!

Push play to watch the youtube video “40.” It is a rendition of Jesus’ time in the wilderness.

What tempts you most?

Which aspects of the Christian do you find it most difficult to follow?

How do you overcome temptations?

Where does that strength come from?

Do you learn anything about yourself when you are in the desert?

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

“The kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”

At this station, you will do a “breath prayer.” Sit with you hands in your lap, palms up. Say the first line and take a deep breath then turn palms down. Breathe out as you say the second line. Repeat until you read all lines.

Breathe in the breath of God
Breathe out your cares and concerns
Breathe in the love of God
Breathe out your doubts and despairs
Breathe in the life of God
Breathe out your fears and frustrations

Breathe in the breath of God
Breathe out your tensions and turmoil
Breathe in the love of God
Breathe out your haste and hurry
Breathe in the life of God
Breathe out your work and worry

Quietly move to the next station when / if you are ready.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Busy Desert

At senior high Bible study on Tuesday morning, I decided to let the word be written / read instead of spoken / heard. Here is what the students read:

Look at these pictures (from

So, I’m wondering what the first thing is that you see when you look at either one of these pictures. There’s no right or wrong answer! I think where you are in your life, depends on what you see. Who we are, what happened to us last night, what stresses we have in our lives will all impact how we see these pictures! That’s good …

Here’s what I see. I see busy-ness. Especially in very colorful picture. Right? I see the at least 7 versions of me that I will be today. I am sure you can see at least 7 versions of you too! Think about it! But, I see the “me” working in my office, the “me” in a meeting at 4pm, the me kicking everyone’s rear-end in volleyball tonight in the gym at 7pm (just kidding), the “me” who will hopefully get some sleep tonight (still recouping from ski trip), the “me” eating lunch with a friend, the “me” on the phone, the “me” racing to get everything done today, the “me” driving in my car to pick up a package that arrived for me.

But you know what I just realized I didn’t see at first glance in this picture? The “me” who will stop and listen for God; the “me” who will do personal Bible study; or the “me” who will pray. That’s embarrassing! How’d you do? You see, I got so overwhelmed in thinking of all the “me’s” in the picture and all of the things I have to and want to accomplish today that I didn’t even recognize or acknowledge the “me” who is called to recognize and acknowledge the call that God places upon “me.” That call is to be connected to God each day, in all ways. It’s not an easy call and I get so busy being “me” that I sometimes just forget about God altogether. How about you?

Martin Luther said it like this … your relationship with Jesus, it’s more than just “believing!” It is “possessing” Jesus. In other words, it’s more than me just getting in my car and driving to pick up my package; when the crazy driver pulls out in front of me – I don’t flip him off, my reaction is different because I “possess” Jesus. Or, it’s more than me racing around to get everything done; it’s taking time to stop and reflect and pray. So if that means I don’t get to bed and recoup as early as I’d like, then so be it. Or maybe that means that I start my 4pm meeting with a prayer instead of just dashing right into the business (maybe like you taking a test at school or before starting homework?). Or maybe it means having a different kind of conversation with my friend at lunch instead of gossiping about all the things that happened with our friends while I was away skiing this week-end.

We’re all busy, that’s just the society we live in. Jesus was busy too! It was a different kind of busy, but it was busy, nonetheless! Do you know what God did to Jesus, when he got too busy?

It’s the story from Mark 1. Here’s the background: John the Baptist is running around telling everyone to turn to God and their sins will be forgiven. And he’s baptizing them in the Jordan river and they are all gathered around. I mean there are crowds of people; crazy busy all around! Can’t you picture it? And all of a sudden, in comes Jesus! We assume he’s been on a journey because the Bible says he’s come UP from Nazareth to see John. So, he’s been going and busy too! And then, John baptized him. As soon as he comes out the water, do you remember what happened?

The sky opened up and down came a dove and the voice that says “You’re my son and I am pleased with you.” The Bible then says that RIGHT AWAY the Holy Spirit makes Jesus go into the desert. For 40 days, no less! Can you imagine 40 days with no friends or family. Just animals, rocks, yourself, and, oh yeah, temptation. 40 days of being still and listening for God? I can’t imagine 40 minutes, much less 40 days! However, in that dry, hot, miserable, lonely desert, I think Jesus learned a lot about himself and his human strength. He overcame many temptations! He came out prepared for what was ahead of Him.

So here’s your challenge for this day or this week (and always). Take time to go to the “desert.” It requires you to be still. But, you will learn a lot about yourself and just how exactly you “possess” Jesus more than you just “believe” in Jesus and what difference that can make in your life. Be busy! But don’t forget to be still too! Make the desert your priority!

P/S – That’s why you had to be “still” and read this in “silence.” 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lenten Prayer Friend Project

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Lenten Prayer Friend Project

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This weekend I’ve been attending Extravaganza 2010 in Charlotte, NC. Though I am in my 8th year of ministry to and with youth and I’ve been to several major youth conferences, this is my first year (few months actually) as a Lutheran and my first time at this particular conference.

That’s not the point, that’s the context. The point is, I’m a loser. I’ll admit it. And what’s more, I think I sort of like it that way. And, I’ll admit this: I skipped the free lunch that the network had for us today. Hey – they told us in orientation to the conference to go to what we wanted to and skip what we didn’t. So, instead I took my mom and four year old son (who are here with me) to Wild Wing CafĂ© for lunch. Then I walked them over to Discovery Place before heading back for the afternoon workshop.

I was weirdly (for me because I hate exercise) looking forward to the walk back the hotel … about three quarters of a mile. About 5 minutes into my walk, I hit up a Starbucks for a mocha … it was really cold outside and I thought that would make my saunter back to the hotel even more perfect and relaxing.

That’s when it happened. I had the most surreal experience as I finished the walk. I became broken. I wept. I drank my warm, chocolaty coffee in guilt. The saunter
became what felt like a get you out breath sprint.

You see, about 30 seconds after I left Starbucks, I walked by a bench on the side of the street that had a container of Chinese food on it and a note written that said “Food for You.”

This struck me, so much that I had to turn around, go back to it, and take a picture. It just struck me. Perhaps this was because on the walk to Discovery Place with my mom and son, I noticed the large amounts of homeless people near the library (which is next to Discovery Place). Perhaps it was because it was just an odd sight. Perhaps it was because I allowed my mind to wander – how long has it been there … has someone poisoned it … is it a joke?

I continued on my way with not much more thought. A few moments later, I came upon a covered seating / waiting area for Charlotte’s transit system (the bus). These covered areas are very frequently found throughout the city. In this one sat an older, disheveled, overweight, bundled up to protect himself from the cold, man. As I came closer, I realized he was homeless (or so I assume). His bags were by his feet and he was making coffee. Not hot coffee; not fresh coffee, not coffee as you and I would make. He had what appeared to be a used filter with coffee inside of it and an old scratched and warn blue with black handled coffee mug. He had the filter over the cup and was pouring some bottled water over it. My thoughts immediately wandered to wondering how many times he had used it, what trash can he dug it from, how weak the coffee must taste. I then looked back to the path in front of me, sipped my coffee, and continued toward The Westin.

Just after I passed him, my heart sank and tears began to flow from my eyes. I felt for this man. But, I didn’t do anything about it. Then I looked up and saw this statue. It was made of silver pieces and a great red heart was in the center. It was bright and shiny.

I realized as I stood there that my heart was hurting for this man; I literally ached for him. I felt broken because I didn’t think there was anything I could do.

When I returned to the hotel, I was convicted about the cup of coffee, still in my hand, half-drunken. That was the point it was still in my hand. But, why? I realized that Martin Luther was right: we have to do more than believe in Jesus, we have to possess Jesus. I should have given that cup of warm coffee to the homeless man.

I wish I had a great story to share with you of going back to the man, offering him my coffee and loving on him. I wish I could tell you that I told him of Jesus’ love. But I didn’t. I wandered back into my hotel room and then headed to a workshop on post-modernity.

Why oh why didn’t I offer my warm, sustaining coffee to this man. Why aren’t others offering theirs?

A workshop that I went to this morning, we talked about being losers in youth ministry. We heard of losers in the Bible like Peter and Job and Zechariah. We talked about how we grow in our broken-ness. We are all created in the image of God. The Bible doesn’t say only the baptized are the image of God. The question becomes: At the center of our relationship with Christ is there love, acceptance, and grace or is there sin or judgment? For me, today, it was the difference in keeping my coffee for myself. Or rather that in future days, I want to offer my coffee; I want it to be second nature that I offer my coffee. And further, I want to teach my students the same!