Someone will tell you, “You have to be able to forgive yourself.” But that isn’t possible. What is possible is to open your hands without fear so the other can blow your sins away. For perhaps it isn’t clammy coins, but just a light dust which a soft breeze will whirl away, leaving only a grin or a chuckle behind. Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you. Praying becomes effortless, inspired, and lively or peaceful and quiet. Then you recognize the festive and the modest as moments of prayer. You begin to suspect that to pray is to live.
-Henri Nouwen, ‘With Open Hands’
I read this laying in the hammock this afternoon, and it made me think that laying in a hammock on a gorgeous afternoon is probably a great time to pray.
It also made me think of something Bob Goff wrote in his book Love Does. Bob is a lawyer by trade, and he writes that his first instruction to clients going into a deposition or the courtroom is to sit with their palms up, hands open. The reason is that he finds it next to impossible for people to get defensive when they’re in that posture.
Try it sometime. Sit with your palms up, hands open, and see if you can get yourself worked up about something. I’ve tried it. As soon as I got upset or angry, I noticed that my hands had flipped over and we’re gripping my knees pretty tightly.
Try this when you pray, too. When you’re confessing and asking forgiveness, assume this posture of surrender and release. It might make a huge difference.
The link here will actually take you to the first ever post on Don Miller’s blog. It is a series of email correspondances between him and then-senator Obama in the days and weeks leading up to the Democrat National Convention in 2008. Enjoy the reading.
File this one under “Oh, come on! Are you serious?!” Apparently IHOP (The International House of Pancakes) is suing IHOP (The International House of Prayer), claiming that the prayer ministry’s use of the acronym ‘IHOP’ causes “great and irreparable injury and confuses the public”.
“And now let’s have a word of prayer.”
I must have heard this phrase a million times in my life. I’ve probably used it myself 100,000 times. But the questions we have to ask ourselves are, 1) what the heck does this actually mean?, and 2) would someone who hasn’t spent a ton of time in church have any idea what we’re talking about?
My early money is on “I don’t know” as an answer to both…
The operative words in this phrase are “word” and “prayer”. So…
word (n.) – meaningful unit of language sounds; brief utterance; information; rumor; promise; command; password
prayer (n.) – a spoken or unspoken address to God in the form of praise, thanksgiving, confession, or a request for something
I’ll be totally honest here, the definitions for “word” surprised me. I think we can toss the last 5 out – “information of prayer”, “rumor of prayer”, “promise of prayer”, “command of prayer”, and “password of prayer” all seem to be a bit… weird. And the first definition is too textbookish for me.
So combining what’s left, that leaves us with, “word of prayer” – a brief utterance of a spoken (if it’s an utterance, it can’t be unspoken) address to God in the form of praise, thanksgiving, confession, or a request for something”.
Ultimately, I think “word of prayer” comes in at a solid B+. As with “humbly declare“, a search on BibleGateway reveals that the phrase doesn’t exist in scripture, which is a point against. “Word of prayer” gets a slightly higher grade than “humbly declare”, however, because it seems like less of an oxymoron. It’s still pretty churchy, though… And I can’t really remember a time when a “word of prayer” moment was actually brief (see above definitions). More often than not, if you hear someone call for a “word of prayer”, you’re dealing with a Prayer Pro, and if that’s the case I hope you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere.
For more information on Prayer Pros, grunts of affirmation, types of pray-ers, and more, I’m going to recommend that you check out Jon Acuff’s blog, Stuff Christians Like. While you’re there, check out his book on Amazon. He’s way funnier than I am, I promise.
I am absolutely overcome this morning… We just found out from our missionary friends in Haiti that the orphanage we visited and worked at and fell in love with last April collapsed this morning. There were people inside. There were children inside. At this point, we don’t know exactly who was there and who was elsewhere. Many people are unaccounted for, including Val, the 80-something year old man who has run the orphanage for almost 45 years. I have not been able to stop looking through our pictures from that trip, looking at faces, wondering who I will never have the opportunity to see again. Wondering if Michelle and I will ever be able to see Toto, our sponsor child, again.
If you pray, please take some time to pray for the nation of Haiti. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and probably the least able to deal with a natural disaster like this. Pray for the people of Haiti. Pray for the missionaries and humanitarian workers who will be trying to pick up the pieces for years to come. Pray for the community that surrounds Val’s Orphanage near the Christianville Mission. Pray for the doctors and nurses at Christianville, who are already having to treat people outside because they’re out of space. Pray that, throughout the rebuilding process, God would be glorified, and that this might become an opportunity to break the hold that voodoo has on Haitian culture. Pray for those of us here who are anxious to hear news of people we care about deeply.
In case it’s difficult for you to pray for abstract things that you’ve never seen before, here are some of the faces I’m praying for.