“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” – 1 John 5:14-15
Question for the day: “How do you best experience the presence of God?”
Do you believe that God is everywhere, all-knowing, omnipotent? Then what do you do to realize God’s presence with you? These are the “means of” (the way to get to, the directions, the opportunities for) grace. They can be anything that draws us closer to the realization that God and all of his grace is right there with us.
This week we will be studying the heart of the Methodist beliefs: those “methods” or practices that bring us closer to God. There are several teachings from Wesley on this subject, however, we will begin with the 3 primary means of grace that he adhered to: Prayer, Searching Scripture, and Holy Communion.
We all connect with God in different ways. But there is little doubt in my mind that in order to have any relationship with God, one must have a consistent prayer life. How else can we hear what He has to say? Or, how else can we feel His presence, if not setting aside a time to be with Him?
Prayer is a hard thing for most of us. I admit, for the most part, the church has not done a good job of teaching us how to pray. They tell us we should pray, but they never quite tell us how. For me, this was an especially hard practice to learn because I never saw it in my home. And if the only example we ever see is the pastor praying from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, then I feel like I have failed before I even begin. I could never be that … eloquent.
But these are a few tips I have learned, and I hope it encourages everyone to give prayer a try.
1. Write it down. If you don’t feel comfortable “talking with God,” then write Him a note. This is how I started. I had a little notepad, and I would write Him a quick note: ” Dear God, I need help today with…” “Dear God, thank you for…” etc. This is a perfectly acceptable way to get started. I have a friend that walks around with an index card in his wallet with his prayers written on it. And an added benefit, when you see God respond – go back and write it down underneath the prayer. That is an awesome way to begin the realization that He is actually listening.
2. Maybe you don’t know what to say. Here is a great exercise. It is called the “Daily Examen,” a prayer method created by St. Ignatius, the leader of the Jesuit order. In this exercise, you do it at night, and review everything that happened during the day. You take the time to review and think about your activities, your encounters, your emotions – and you look for God in the midst of them. For me, my day goes by in such a blur, that I can get alot out of “reviewing” at the end of the day. Many times, I find that I missed God in the moment. This is a great way to reflect on our gratitude for the things He has done and the blessings He has given.
If you want to learn more about the “how” of the Daily Examen, click on the link below. It gives you step-by-step instructions:
3. You don’t have to say anything. Most of us think praying is talking. Actually, most of us talk too much when we pray. The key to satisfying prayer, for me, is learning to listen. But it is really hard to sit and just listen isn’t it? These are some of the things that I do to keep myself from dominating what should be a two-way conversation with God:
a. Take a walk – Get outside your normal environment and breathe. Feel His presence.
b. Sit outside, enjoying nature – Close your eyes and listen to what is going on around you. Listen for God in the stillness.
c. Draw a picture – Many times, if I just start drawing with nothing in mind, He gives me a picture that speaks volumes.
d. Listen to music – Pick out your favorite hymn or praise song. Focus on the words. Make them the prayer of your heart and let God speak to you through them.
There are all kinds of ways to pray. God created us all differently and therefore, we can expect to communicate with Him differently from others. If you are having a challenging time in getting started, please come see me. It would be my joy to help anyone figure out their own, personal means of talking with God. That is a very great blessing to me.
You are a most gracious God. For You listen when I speak. Who am I, that You, great God of the universe, are mindful of me? I am Your beloved child, made in Your image. I believe that You desire a relationship with me, and I want that as well. Help me to learn to communicate with You better. Help me to hear Your voice and feel Your presence. Help me to grow in my understanding of Your ways.
In Jesus’ name I pray,