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Learning to talk to God 

We all know that prayer is an essential practice of the Christian life. We also know that it doesn't necessarily come naturally. Learning to pray takes time and effort and discipline, and for many Christians it becomes a source of shame that they have not been more concerted and regular in the practice of prayer.

Take heart: even when you and I fail to pray, our Lord Jesus is alive and continues to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7.25). The Holy Spirit "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8.26). So great is the gift of prayer, we receive its blessings even when we don't open it.

Fortunately, God has made provision for us in his Holy Scriptures to teach us how to pray.

The Psalms.

The Prayerbook of the Bible

Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out what a surprising thing it is that this prayerbook—which is what the Psalms is—should be included in the Bible. "The Holy Scripture is the Word of God to us," he writes in his little book  on the Psalms. "But prayers are the words of men. How do prayers then get into the Bible?"

Think about how children learn to talk. It is through others, principally their parents, speaking to them. Then, children learn the speech of their mothers and fathers; by being spoken to they learn how to speak for themselves.

This is like what we have in the Psalms: our Heavenly Father speaks to us, modeling for us how we are to speak to Him. Bonhoeffer writes, "Repeating God's own words after him, we begin to pray to him."

You may have already sensed this about the Psalms intuitively. I want to encourage you to practice this intentionally.

The Psalm-Praying Challenge

I challenge you to devote the month of June to a deep reading of the Psalms.  Here is a Psalm calendar for reading the whole book across 30 days (I've taken it from the excellent Treasury of Daily Prayer from CPH).

Let me offer a few more practical tips:

    •    Consider splitting the Psalms up between evening and morning (the calendar easily lends them to this kind of organization). This is a great bracket to your day.

    •    Don't rush your reading; even a leisurely pace for the day's allotted portion won't take more than 15 minutes or so. Think of it as sucking on a lozenge, not gulping a soda.

    •    Begin with a brief prayer for illumination. A verse from the Psalms is of course appropriate; I recommend Psalm 119.18: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!"

    •    Don't stress out if you miss a day or two—it happens. Just pick up at the current day ("make up work" isn't necessary) and continue on. 

    •    Conclude your reading with a few moments of "reflective" prayer, reflecting back to God what you have heard and prayed in his Word.

There are no silver bullets or short cuts in these matters.

The paradox of prayer is that it's undeniably simple—as simple as resting in the arms of Abba—but it's also unutterably profound—a discipline that calls for a life's work of learning.

If you devote the next 30 days to a regular and reflective reading of the Psalms, though, I can assure you that you will be well on your way to learning to pray, or to pray with greater richness. You will find your mind and imagination animated with the language and images of the Scriptures. You will start to sound more like your Heavenly Father.

Sunday's sermon

The word of Jesus on prayer in Sunday's Gospel couldn’t have been much simpler: “Ask, and you will receive” (John 16.24). But if God already knows all that we need, why do we need to ask?

Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • Today's the day for our Ascension Day Picnic & Kite-Fly! Looks like the weather will be good, so we'll plan to be on the playground at the Pleasant Valley Community Center at 5:30. Bring a dish to pass if you can—but more importantly, bring a friend! 
  • This coming Sunday we'll have the pleasure of hosting the Camp Arcadia summer staff in worship. These young people are a living refutation to the claim that young people nowadays don't care about serving; they're devoting their summer to serve others with God's love. We'll give them God's blessing as part of our worship. 
  • Speaking of serving, I am so thankful for the service of John Steben. John has graciously filled in as church musician several times over the last few months, and will do so again this coming Sunday. Like so many in our church, John is ready and willing to help out at a moment's notice. 

From the Church Year

Today the Church Year commemorates the Ascension of our Lord. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"In His resurrection, the Lord Jesus presented Himself alive to the apostles, 'appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God' (Acts 1:3). Then He ascended to the right hand of the Father, not orphaning His Church, but filling all things in heaven and on earth, and giving gifts to His disciples. So today, He continues to preach 'repentance and forgiveness of sins' (Luke 24:47) through 'the apostles whom he had chosen' (Acts 1:2), even 'to the end of the earth' (Acts 1:8). Jesus comes among us today by His Word and Spirit, whom He pours out upon 'the church, which is his body' (Eph. 1:22-23). In His Church, He blesses us with forgiveness, lifts us up in His hands and seats us with Himself 'in the heavenly places' (Eph. 1:20)."

"Jesus went away not only to prepare a place for us, so that it will be ready for us as one by one we go home, but to prepare us for the place, to fit us for heavenly enjoyments and heavenly service."

- Francis Nathan Peloubet

Looking ahead to Sunday

The 7th Sunday of Easter
  • Readings
    • First lesson—Acts 1.12-26
    • Epistle lesson—Revelation 22.1-6, 12-20
    • Gospel—John 17.20-26

+ Blessed Easter +

Pastor Tinetti

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