Prayer – A Banquet

In Luke 14:1, 7-14, Jesus teaches how to hold a banquet and where to sit when invited to one. We know that these directions are not a cotillion style education about which utensil is used when. Jesus’ teaching cuts to the core of how we treat one another. He says in verses 13 and 14, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” With those words in mind, please pray with me for all those who are hungry. -Pastor Kelli

Holy God,

You are table-setter and banquet-preparer.
In Jesus we see that you set a table that grows longer with every need known.
In Jesus we hear that you require of us to stand so that others may sit.
In Jesus we know that you demand we do something for all who hunger with needs unmet.

Give us vision to create tables that always have a chair ready for welcome.
A chair for the immigrant who came to our country for the treatment of a fatal disease and received word of their pending deportation.
A chair for the person who refuses to listen to our deep sadness or fears and even dismisses our trauma because they haven’t life the way we have.
A chair for the one in recovery who wonders what difference some big judicial verdict will make for the friends whose lives are controlled by opioids.

Each one is hungry, God.
Hungry for health.
Hungry for understanding.
Hungry for stability.

Allow our rumbling stomachs to send us back to you in prayer.
That we learn to set tables and prepare banquets like your heavenly one: open to all, embracing all, loving all – just as we are.

Amen.

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A Prayer – Going Back to School

Hi Bethany family,

This week students in Tulsa and across the country headed to school. Whether PreK or Senior year, and all in between, each child in our country deserves an excellent education in a safe, loving environment. Too often, though, gun violence continues to enter schools, workplaces, and public places. Join me in prayer for every student, parent, caretaker, teach and administrator, that they will be able to focus on what matters – learning.
-Pastor Kelli
Great Teacher and Loving Creator,
We see the flashing lights again, alerting us to school zones and asking us to slow down our cars.
May they also remind us to slow down our hearts and offer them to you in prayer.
We pray for each child, those who are eager to learn and those who have lost the joy of it.
We pray for each parent and caretaker, those who are sad for the summer’s end and those who are happy for the new school year.
We pray for each teacher, those who feel equipped and ready and those whose classrooms do not have the necessary supplies.
We pray for each administrator, those who see the potential of every child and those who are struggling to get it all done.
We pray for each support staff person, those who are familiar faces to returning students and those who are still learning which teacher goes with which grade.
We pray for each crossing guard, each bus driver, and each school resource police officer and security professional.
All in our schools should have safety and nourishment of body and mind.
Make us vigilant in pressuring politicians to ensure both safety and nourishment, enacting legislation that protects and fully funds our most vital public good – public education.
We pray this with assurance in you, in your ways of loving accountability and your grace-filled call to co-create a world that reflects your reign.
Amen.

how I don’t know how to pray

Often, I sit down at my desk and wonder what I am supposed to be doing. I stare at the computer screen, the stacks of stuff on my desk (it’s always out of control), and feel helpless to consider what from my post-it notes of reminders gets my attention first. Usually that ends up in me organizing the stacks or creating stacks out of the mess of my desk. While it is helpful in the short-term, it does little for me in the no-beginning and no-ending work called ministry. I know that what grounds me in this work is prayer.

I’m a task-oriented pray-er. It has to do with my task-oriented brain. Even in that orientation is the constant tempter that functions like a pinball wherein I become easily distracted and bounce from one project to another without even knowing it. If you’ve ever engaged me in conversation, you’ve experienced this as well. I get diverted with a separate thought, blurt it out and then return to whatever we were talking about as quickly as I can. It’s desperately rude and I try really hard not to do it, but like the way I pray and the way I work…it happens over and over again.

Back to prayer. Above the screen on my laptop is a note that says, “Did you start with prayer?” I look at it, and usually proclaim, “o yeah, let’s do that.” I say a quick prayer and then move into the tasks at hand. Or, I make a list, pray for said items and feel in one way that I have done what I needed to do. But a list of prayer requests just doesn’t always bring about the peace of God. I’ll pull out another post-it note and write down the things creeping up into my prayer that are really to-dos. Sure, I know how to pray with other people, in the midst of worship, by a person’s hospital bed, but all by my lonesome, in my closet, like Jesus said? It is chall-en-ging.

I try mighty hard to focus those moments into quiet, reflective prayer. For many years a recurrent theme has taunted my distractible heart: prayer as being rather than prayer as a doing. What ends up happening is that I feel frustration and shame that I can’t just spend hours resting in God’s presence with prayer, silently reflecting and emptying myself to be filled up with God. It’s kind of impossible for me. I could give you example after example of my attempts, but I really don’t want to go down that road.

For me, prayer is doing and I’m learning to be ok with that. Prayer is singing the hymns for next week’s service, hoping people experience the string that weaves them together whether they see it or not. Prayer is walking the rows of chairs in the sanctuary so long that I forget how many times I’ve passed through them asking that God make a place for all people who walk in the doors. Prayer is watching as people come up to Nick after worship as he holds our daughter and giving thanks for each person who looks her in the eyes and smiles. Yes, prayer is being. Being in the presence of God and knowing it so much that everything else fades away. For many this comes in meditative prayer. For me, I can’t know it without some sort of embodiment, without the reclaiming of action as the method that speaks for me.

So, excuse me; I have something to do. I need to pray.