matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, August 7, 2014
Prayer of the Heart
I have been visiting, thinking about, and praying for several members of my congregation. I can just hear some say “Good, good. Wonderful thing for a pastor to be doing.” I’ve also been preparing for another Sunday sermon. I am in the midst of preaching a sermon series on prayer. (Wow, just say that five times fast: “Summer sermon series.” Ready, go!)
As a reference for the next few weeks, I’m going to be using an excellent book called “A Praying Congregation” by Jane Vennard, UCC minister, spiritual director and adjunct professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Superb stuff on prayer and on relationship, in her book! This information will help prepare everyone for the kickoff for our intercessory prayer ministry in September, the Prayer Project.
Funny thing, I happened to be doing some study for this sermon on Matthew 6:5-6—where Jesus is teaching on prayer. I found a longer article of Vennard’s on one of my favorite sermon study websites, The Text this Week (www.textweek.com). Very similar material (and some overlap). But I was especially intrigued by what she said about the Prayer of the Heart in the article.
I connected this Prayer of the Heart with several members of my congregation. Even more so, as I continued to reflect, I felt this Prayer of the Heart being particularly meaningful for me.
Some call these prayers “Breath Prayers,” as well. Short, meaningful prayers said in one breath. One phrase breathing in, the other breathing out. “In You, Lord” (inhale) “I put my trust.” (exhale) Or, “Dear God, hold me close.” The most famous prayer of this sort is called the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ,” (inhale) “have mercy on me, a sinner.” (exhale) This method of prayer is centuries old, and can be practiced several times, for several minutes, or even repetitively over time until it becomes a part of your being.
This Prayer of the Heart is a wonderful idea, one that I do not ordinarily think of! (Especially for those who are going through brief or continuing difficulty, pain, or distress.) Thank God that there are a myriad of ways to pray, to come before God.
Let’s pray. Dear Lord, Gracious God, thank You for prayer. Thank You that we can pray anywhere, any time. No matter what is happening in our lives, You always hear and come alongside of each one of us. Thank You for your loving, caring presence, now and always.
(also published at www.matterofprayer.net