Thursday, September 12, 2013

Faith Works 9-14-13

Faith Works 9-14-13

Jeff Gill


Praying through the Bible



If you are a practicing Christian, and are wanting to work on your prayer life, it almost seems too obvious to tell you to look in the Bible.


That turns out, though, to be a relatively underused approach. People buy all kinds of books and go to workshops to learn how to go deeper in prayer, missing some tools that are already (I would hope!) right at your elbow.


I've said before that a good first step for someone wanting to learn about prayer is simply to go to church, and pay attention: the service has a number of prayers in it from which you can learn, some improptu and spontaneous, others from a liturgical resource or prayer book (such as the Roman missal for Catholics, or the Book of Common Prayer for Episcopalians, a tool in the latter case used by many Protestant clergy beyond the Anglican tradition).


But the best known worship prayer is right out of scripture, The Lord's Prayer, Jesus' answer when the disciples say to him "Lord, teach us to pray." And Jesus says "pray like this" as he launches into the familiar words, but note he doesn't say "pray only these words" but presents this prayer as a model, first and foremost. So if we model our prayers on the flow and images of that prayer, we can't go far wrong.


And that's not the only prayer in those sacred pages: Moses prays fervently in Exodus 32; David asks for God's pardon in Psalm 51; Hezekiah offers up a beautiful, extensive prayer that opens up his heart to God, and to us when we read II Kings 19 & 20; Nehemiah prays for his people, and for his efforts on their behalf in the outset of the book named after him; and in Luke 22:39-46 Jesus prays for acceptance of what is to come in the Garden of Gethsemane.


For a seventh example (seems like a good number), you may recall that Bruce Wilkerson got a best-selling book out of I Chronicles 4:9-10, the prayer of Jabez to "enlarge my territories." A short, simple prayer, but with some extensive application to our own prayerful reflections.


On top of those prayers in the Bible would be the entire book of Psalms. These poetic hymns, whether said or sung, are more often than not more of a prayer directly to God than they are statements about God or Israel. Psalm 139 is a prayer for discernment, and there are so many that are ideal for someone trying to pray when it seems all hope is distant: 22, 42, 88, 130.


Then there's the justly famous 23rd Psalm, the one longer piece of scripture that many people know by heart, whether they think they do or not. It is a statement more than a prayer-form, and yet in saying it, you realize that sometimes that's exactly what our prayers need to be: a restatement so we can hear it ourselves of what we believe, why we believe it, and what that faith means.


"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Amen!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him about your examples in prayer at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Notes from my Knapsack – Granville Sentinel 9-12-13

Notes from my Knapsack – Granville Sentinel 9-12-13

Jeff Gill


A story on the way home (pt. 4)


(The fourth installment of an ongoing story)

Looking along the wide expanse below, Nelson liked the view from the restaurant's balcony. Scraps of lawn and green canopy edging into the streetscape below framed the main intersection to his right, and on the left the broad avenue narrowed out of sight into trees and roofs to the east.


"Can I get you anything to drink?" The server looked sharp and professional, cheerful and attentive, and he almost hated to shorten the conversation by asking directly for a glass of red house wine and a plate of guacamole and chips.


When the young man came back, glass in hand, they talked about the town, and the search that had brought Nelson to this village he'd never seen before. His late sister had a connection here, but he just couldn't figure out what it was.


"Did she have any other community activities she got into here? A church or group or event that we could connect you with?" Appreciating the "we" that made him feel already included, Nelson shook his head slowly.


"No, that's part of what puzzles me. She was a nurse, but she didn't work in any Ohio hospitals, I've confirmed that. She and I never lived here as kids, and our mom never came here even after we both left for college. It's just that she listed Granville as her hometown on employment paperwork in Las Vegas, before she died, and a few receipts that tell me she'd been here on and off over the last few years. CVS, Ross Market, the Certified station."


"Where did she stay when she was here? That's where I'd start."


"You'd think that would work, but I've had no luck even with some co-operation from the folks at the Cherry Valley Lodge, the Buxton Inn, and the Granville Inn. She seems to have been here long enough to need lodgings, but so far . . ."


The waiter looked thoughtful. "I guess she might have gone over to Newark or Heath and found a cheaper room. I can give you some likely candidates to check out; it's not that long a list." If she stayed by the Columbus airport, though, you may be out of luck in that department. Give me moment to check my other tables…"


As the waiter dashed back inside the upstairs dining area, Nelson looked again across at the gold-topped, double-pillared church directly across the way. Where did she go to pass her time? What activities would have given her reason to keep coming back other than atmosphere and charm?


As if anticipating his thoughts, the white-aproned server darted back into the sunshine filled balcony from the gloom inside, and leaned over Nelson, pointing down through the railing. "If you want, I can hold your nachos a bit…" As he looked up, puzzled, the explanation continued: "If you follow that fellow crossing the street right below, us, between the church and the bank, he's the editor of the weekly paper here, and he might be able to run a search on your sister's name. Their office is just the other side of that block."


Nodding as the jacketed figure below disappeared between the designated buildings across the way, Nelson jumped to his feet and made his way down the stairs inside and back around to the door back onto Broadway. It was a bit of a gamble, but he'd come here from Las Vegas, hadn't he?



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think happens next at, or @Knapsack on Twitter.