Ways to Pray: Prayer Tree

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8

Trees are a useful metaphor. Jeremiah is using this idea here to describe one who “trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him”.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I find it really useful to use something creative in prayer. It generally helps me to focus, and having something physical to keep means I’m more likely to keep coming back to it and keep praying.

This is fairly similar to the paper chain, in that it can be easily added to and is a pretty visual way of doing things. It does require a little more effort but it’s also super easy to add to.

I used a simple tree outline (stretched horizontally to fit A4), copied it a few times and then put the three parts together to make a self-standing tree (with instructions here, of all places, about slotting them together). And then used a printout of a simple leaf to pin on.

Reasons I like using this:

  • It’s easy to look back on everything I’ve prayed for/given thanks for
  • It’s easy to update – just adding a new leaf
  • It’s quite compact but also nice to look at
  • I actually really like the visual metaphor – being rooted in God and seeing more of His goodness every day.

This last point reminds me of John 15 – Jesus being the true vine, how we only bear fruit when rooted in Him, but we must also be continually “pruned” in order to produce more and better fruit. It’s a wonderful bit of scripture. I could go on about it for a while…

Trust, or, When Things Seem to Go Wrong

It was my housemate’s birthday on Friday. So on Saturday we decided to do Go Ape. (Go Ape is so much fun, in particular the zip lines at the end of each section. I would definitely recommend doing it, or similar).

Whilst there are about a thousand metaphors to take from having to trust simply ropes and carabiners to prevent a drop from up to 35m (at its highest point), this was actually not what I intended to write about.

In fact, in finishing the course, the need to trust got (unintentionally) much greater. There were only two buses that we could get back home, and the first was in about 20 minutes. There was no way we could possibly get that. The last bus was approximately two hours later. Plenty of time, right?

Not when you miss the path you were supposed to take, walk quite a way further down the road, convince yourselves you were a lot more on course than you actually were, and then find yourself lost in the middle of the countryside with very little in the way of internet connection or mobile signal.

To cut a long story short, we walked a lot further than we should have done (including over a barbed wire fence because we couldn’t face going back through the field to get back on track), got soaked through to the skin as it had been raining earlier, and missed the last bus home by quite a way.

Whilst we were walking we decided to stop and pray for a bit. This served multiple purposes. To collect our thoughts. To make sure we stayed joyful. To make sure we trusted God rather than a pathetic internet connection.

When we got phone signal we called people from Church and somebody came to pick us up. But it was quite difficult. None of us like to be needy. Especially not to the level of “there are 6 of us in the countryside about an hour away…”. And by that time we were all tired and soaking wet. We may or may not have been laughing hysterically at our predicament.

But through the whole evening there was an implicit trust that we could get home – be it that day or the next, be it by bus or by getting a lift.

I think my point here is: even in the little things, keep trusting. God is faithful. And whether things are going right, or you end up lost in the middle of nowhere, keep praying. Keep rejoicing. God is good.

Ways to Pray: Prayer Paper Chain

I always like to do something creative to pray. Whilst simply speaking is great, I often end up just… waffling on. So something creative can also help me to focus.

I came across this idea just before Christmas. And when I did it, I made a few mistakes. I made the strips of paper too thick, and I didn’t do them brightly-coloured enough. But it was still effective.

The idea is simple; write a prayer on each strip of paper, and join them together. You could have separate chains for separate themes (we’ve got one in our house with the theme of ‘thankfulness’), or separate colours for separate themes, or simply write down prayers and not worry about colour-matching themes. I like things being colour-matched but I also hate being too legalistic about things that don’t really matter.

Some of the reasons I like this:

  • It’s nice to have something to brighten up a uni room.
  • It’s good to see how God’s working, and everything He’s done.
  • It’s really easy to add to.
  • It’s easy to take a section and give thanks for answered prayers, or continue to pray for something.
  • It’s good for both group prayer and personal prayer

I will admit, the idea did come from a list of prayer activities for children, but then again I could quite reasonably describe myself as 20-going-on-5 so I don’t feel too bad about recommending it…

So. Much. Paperwork.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34

#thesarcasmisstrongwiththisone

Paperwork is great. I love paperwork. Everything seems to make so much sense and I really enjoy filling in form after form with very similar information, when I have exams on. It doesn’t stress me out at all that I have 2 exams next week, plus coursework due in, plus the application for next year to sort out. And I didn’t freak out at all because I had a speaking exam earlier this week.

Apologies. Most of my inner emotions work their way out through the medium of sarcasm. It’s probably not the best way of communicating though…

There have been times in the past week I’ve really struggled. Depending on the day you ask, I’ve either been fine, or panicking. Would I finish in time? Would the application go fine? Would I manage to avoid ending up a sobbing mess on the floor?

There was a prayer meeting on Friday evening, where there was also a time of worship. I realised that I probably wouldn’t go. Then the worship team asked the PA team if anyone could do PA. Being on the PA team, and realising that I probably should go, I volunteered. So it forced me to go.

The need to step away from what I was doing. The need to spend time with God. It was so good to spend that time with others. And to pray for them, and for them to pray for me. And God is so faithful.

One of my friends recently shared this, which I think perfectly sums up my feelings right now. It’s a good reminder of God’s faithfulness.

May every cry, “I can’t,”
When yet, in fact, “I must,”
Become by grace, “He can,”
And then, in Him, “I trust.” – John Piper

The context for the quote at the top is wonderful. It’s a great reminder that God knows our needs, and so we don’t need to worry about them. We should instead “seek his kingdom and his righteousness” – this changes our priorities. In fact it completely turns them on their head. It’s such a reassuring and yet massively challenging upheaval.

Ways to Pray

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

I’ve talked a lot about prayer before. It’s perhaps one of the biggest recurring themes, probably because it’s so important, but so special, to talk with God and to cast everything onto Him.

8 months ago I was at Forum, a CU training camp where CU leaders from across the country met to worship God and be equipped for mission on campus. And one of the things I took from that was that it doesn’t matter how you pray, it just matters that you pray!

To save this from being a really long post that I need to update whenever I find a new, creative way to pray, I’ve decided to make this a category of its own. Mostly so that when I’m stuck for ideas, I can look back through the category to find something 🙂

In other words: Prayer is important, I hope this is useful 🙂

 

I’m Not Alone…

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.” – Psalm 40:1-2

Loneliness is hard.

Fortunately, we have a God who loves. A God who cares. A God who comforts.

It was great to be reminded of this on Monday. After the weekly CU prayer meeting, I had a 2-hour gap before my first lecture. So I decided to head to the Costa opposite, and someone else from CU came and sat with me. We had a cup of tea and chatted. And I admitted that this time of year I find particularly difficult.

And then she said exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to be reassured. To be comforted. And to be challenged.

Challenged to trust. But not only that. Challenged to escape the vicious cycle of worry, lack of trust, and feelings of worthlessness. We are weak, but God is strong.

One of the things I love about CU is that, at your lowest point, someone will be around to pick you up. But more than that. Everyone recognises that they are not strong enough to pick you up. But instead they point to God – the one whose grace, mercy and love is strong enough.

I listened to a series of talks recently, and one of the things that struck me was when the speaker described us being designed for relationships. And how a relationship with God is the only one that truly satisfies. But how good that it’s offered!

Hymn: Cantique de Jean Racine

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

OK, so this isn’t strictly a hymn. More a piece of choral music. But it ranks high amongst my favourites.

The Cantique de Jean Racine is a setting by Fauré of an earlier text by (you guessed it) Jean Racine. The music is wonderful – I love the constant triplets in the accompaniment, and the rich harmonies.

The words speak of God’s grace, presence, glory and peace. One of my favourite lines translates roughly as “That hell may flee at the sound of [His] voice!” – this really helps remind me of just how glorious God is. And yet, after this climax, it dies down gradually to the end of the third verse, where the text talks of God’s faithful people going in peace.

This is an important reminder to me at the moment. I’ve got a fair number of assessments to work on and a busy day with the Brass Band on Saturday. I find it all too easy to get stressed out and worked up about things like this – having a calming piece of music that speaks of God’s peace, grace and glory is a great reminder to stay grounded!