Tag Archives: Mark D. Roberts

A Round up of Prayer Posts

A Round up of Prayer Posts

While I am on a one month blogging holiday I thought I would leave you with a round-up of most read posts from Under the Cover of Prayer in the past year. I am taking off the comments but anytime you need to reach me please email Under the Cover of Prayer. I hope you enjoy these:

Peace by Janis Cox

peace

At our church we have a song we sing at the end of most services called “Go Now in Peace”. That is so important – to remain at peace – even in the middle of a storm. Read More.

How Do I Pray When Words Fail? by Mark D. Roberts

Prayer

“O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

 What is prayer?

The most basic answer says that prayer is talking to God. Sometimes we talk to God through singing. Sometimes we talk silently with words that are not actually expressed. But, for most of us, most of the time, prayer is talking to GodRead more

How Can We Learn from the First Prayer in the Bible? Ron Hughes

Bible If you accept the idea that prayer is a conversation with God, the first prayer recorded in the Bible is found in Genesis. The context suggests that human/divine interaction “in the cool of the day” was a regular feature of life in Eden. Read more.

 Tweetables:

A round up  #UTCOP prayer posts. @markdroberts @ronhugheswrites @authorjaniscox (tweet this)

How do I pray when words fail? @markdroberts (tweet this)

What can we learn from the first prayer in the Bible? @ronhugheswrites (tweet this)

What is prayer? @markdroberts  (tweet this)

@markdroberts

 

@markdroberts

NOT TO US, NOT TO US!

Not to Us, Not to Us!

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

Teach Me, O Lord

Teach Me, O Lord (Photo credit: sleepymyf)

Read: Psalm 115:1-18

Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
but to your name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
[Psalm 115:1, NLT]

Psalm 115 opens with a striking bit of poetry: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness” (115:1). Though God may richly bless his people, so that they appear to be glorious (115:12-15), the glory belongs to God and God alone.

Psalm 115:1 reminds me of an experience I had almost exactly twenty years ago. For several months, I had been talking with the search committee of Irvine Presbyterian Church about becoming their Senior Pastor. When the committee finally voted to choose me, I was thrilled. But I knew that their selection was not the end of the process.

In a Presbyterian church, only the congregation can extend a call to a new pastor. So I had to be voted on by the membership of Irvine Presbyterian Church. This vote would happen at a congregational meeting on a Sunday, following worship services in which I was the preacher.

As you can imagine, I was very nervous as I got ready to preach my “try out” sermon. I wanted the people to like me, at least enough to vote for me. I wasn’t really afraid of not being elected by the congregation, but I was scared that I might receive a large number of negative votes, which would have been a blow to my confidence and self-image.

On the Saturday night before my big Sunday, I went to the church campus to pray. Nobody was there, so I could pray openly. As I walked around the church buildings, I began to ask God to help me, to bless my preaching, to open the people’s hearts, and to secure a positive vote.

But the more I walked and prayed, the more I found my priorities shifting.

Please read the rest of this post at The High Calling: Daily Reflection by Mark D. Roberts to find out how his priorities shifted and how this will help you in your prayers.

Here is the prayer that Mark ended up praying.

PRAYER:
Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
but to your name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
May you be glorified, Lord, in my work.
May you be glorified in my family.
May you be glorified in all of my relationships.
May you be glorified in my earning and my spending.
May you be glorified in my public life and my private life.
May you be glorified in my church.
May you be glorified in every bit of my life.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
but to your name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness. Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

WHAT IS THE TENSION OF FAITHFUL PRAYER?

What is the Tension of Faithful Prayer?

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

Hands in Prayer

Faithful Prayer

Psalm 22:1-31

“Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief…
For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help” (Psalm 22:2, 24, NIV).

Today I want to base my reflection on two verses from Psalm 22. In the first verse (22:2), the psalmist laments God’s lack of response to his desperate prayers. Even though he has called out to God day and night, God has not answered. The second verse (22:24) seems almost to contradict the first, affirming God’s attention to those who cry for help in their suffering.

How is it possible for both of these verses to appear in the same psalm? How can the psalmist accuse the Lord of ignoring his prayers, yet, moments later, celebrate God’s faithfulness in response to the cries of the needy?

Such superficially contradictory statements make sense when we realize that our faith in the living God is not some neat, tidy relationship that we can carefully manage. Every person who has walked with God for a while has experienced seasons of despair and seasons of exaltation. Sometimes these seasons overlap, even in a single prayer. In agony, we cry out for God’s help. Then we remember his goodness. Then our desperation returns as we wonder why God seems so distant. Then we are encouraged by the promise of his presence.

And so it goes when we live in the tension of faithful prayer. Tweet this.

Psalm 22 invites us into a tumultuous, passionate, growing, intimate relationship with God. It gives us permission to cry out in anguish without holding back and to rejoice in the memory of God’s faithfulness—and, sometimes, to do both more or less at once.

Read the rest of Mark’s post over at the High Calling.

This post reminded me of this wonderful song  – I will not be Shaken written by Sonic Flood. Here it is played by Vineyard.

Related articles

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

DO WE HAVE TO LIFT OUR HANDS WHEN WE PRAY?

Do We Have to Lift Our Hands When We Pray?

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

hands-in-praise

Psalm 134:1-3

Lift up holy hands in prayer,
and praise the LORD.

Although I usually use the Psalms as the basis for my reflections only on the weekends, I thought it might be helpful to say a bit more about yesterday’s text from Psalm 134:2. As you may recall, it reads: “Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.”

Though I don’t want to draw undue attention to the issue of raising hands in prayer and praise, I think it’s something that some Christians wonder or even worry about. Perhaps I can offer a bit of wisdom and encouragement concerning this subject.

In my last reflection, I shared some of my own experiences growing up in a Christian tradition that did not raise hands in prayer and worship. Though this gesture was once controversial in my segment of the Christian family, it has become quite common among a wide range of Christians. In many churches today, worshipers feel free either to raise their hands in worship or not to do so, as they feel comfortable. The gesture is simply one way for people to lift up their hearts to the Lord. This, it seems to me, is a good thing.

But, you might wonder, what about the imperative of Psalm 134:2?

Doesn’t Scripture tell us to lift up our hands in prayer and praise?

How can we ignore this command?

Moreover, many passages throughout the Bible associate prayer with the lifting of hands. Shouldn’t we follow the biblical example? Even more striking, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he writes:

“In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy” (1 Tim. 2:8).

How can we ignore this biblical request?

I would never suggest that we ignore any part of Scripture. All of Scripture is God-breathed and authoritative for our lives. Yet, as you know, the books of the Bible were not written directly for us and our culture. They were written for specific communities of people who lived two thousand years ago or more, in cultures vastly different from our own. Faithful understanding and obedience to Scripture requires, therefore, that we wrestle with the wide cultural gaps between biblical times and our own. Often we have to translate, not just the words, but the significance and application of the words.

Take the issue of lifting hands in prayer, for example. This was a normal (if not the normal) practice among people in the ancient Mediterranean world. It was as common among Jews and Christians as folding hands, bowing heads, and closing eyes was common in my early church experience. So, for example, when 1 Kings 8:54 describes Solomon’s prayers during the dedication of the temple, it mentions that “he had been kneeling with his hands raised toward heaven.” The lifting of hands was not associated only with praise and worship, much less with ecstasy. In Psalm 143, for example, we read: “I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain” (v. 6).

Therefore, when Psalm 134:2 says, “Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord” (literally, “Lift up your holy hands and bless the Lord”), it’s not laying down a law that says, “All people in all times must lift their hands when they pray.” Rather, this psalm is calling for prayer in the mode that would have been most common for the people of that time. It would be like saying in the church of my youth, “Bow your heads and bless the Lord.” Or it would be like saying in certain liturgical churches, “Kneel and bless the Lord.” Or, one might also say in many churches today, “Raise your hands and bless the Lord.”

The exact posture of the worshiper is not the main thing. Rather, the main thing is focusing our attention on God and worshiping him with all that we are, including our bodies.

In tomorrow’s reflection, I want to say something more about how we might use our bodies in worship. Today, however, I want to underscore the fact that the cultural translation I have explained in the reflection is not for the purpose of twisting biblical truth or avoiding biblical commandments. On the contrary, we wrestle with Scripture in its cultural context and how this fits within our culture in order that we might rightly understand and apply God’s truth. Our purpose is right understanding and faithful obedience.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think God revealed himself in Scripture that we embedded in particular cultures? Does this make it harder or easier to understand and obey God’s Word?

PRAYER:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits Thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults which Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
may I know Thee more clearly,
love Thee more dearly,
follow Thee more nearly, day by day.

Amen.

Prayer attributed to Richard of Chichester, 13th century, England.

Related articles

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

 

ARE YOU STRIVING IN PRAYER?

Are You Striving in Prayer

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

Are you striving in prayer?

Are you striving in prayer?

Read: Romans 15:20-33

“Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:30 NLT)

Earlier this month I watched on television as the University of North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA Basketball championship. The Tar Heels dominated their opponents on their way to victory in this year’s “March Madness” (which finished in April, by the way).

During the interviews after the final game, the players talked about how hard they had worked during the last year. They were focused on one goal: winning the championship. This focus translated into countless hours of exhausting practice as they honed their skills and learned to play as a unified team. The result for UNC was a happy one: their fifth national championship in basketball.

If the Tar Heel athletes were speaking ancient Greek, they might have used a verb to describe their efforts that Paul uses in Romans 15:30 to talk about how the Romans can share in his ministry. He urges them to “join in my struggle by praying to God for me.” The Greek verb translated as “join in my struggle” came from the realm of athletics. It described the activity of an athletic team as it gave its all for victory. Most of the Roman Christians would never actually go with Paul on his missionary trips, but they could become his partners in striving through their prayers.

You and I have been called into the ministry of Christ wherever we are.

Part of this ministry includes the privilege of teaming up with God’s people who are on the front lines of his mission throughout the world.

We may never travel to South Africa or China or India or Moscow or Tijuana, but we can strive in prayer for those who serve in these hot spots of the kingdom. When we remember our goal—that the world might know Christ and be transformed by him—we find the strength to “join in the struggle” of prayer.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

Do you ever experience prayer as something like an athletic effort? When? Are you regularly interceding for your partners in Christ’s mission.

PRAYER:

Dear Lord, I thank you for calling me into your mission. I am privileged to serve you each day right where I am. But you have also challenged me to pray for my mission partners who serve both nearby and far away.

And so I do pray today. First, I pray for those who serve in my church…

[Note: I’d encourage you to pray for the leaders of your church and for your partners in mission. What follows is my example.]

I pray for the elders in this time of pastoral transition, for Ryan and Christi in their work with the youth, for Phil and Derek as they lead worship, and for all who serve you in the work of St. Mark Presbyterian Church.

I think also of my partners in your mission throughout the world. Today I remember especially those who serve in southern Africa. I pray for the Siakis as they minister in South Africa, for Thembe and Buhle Bhembe and their work among the poor in Soweto, and for Pastor Solomon and the New Life International School in Swaziland. Give these folks strength, safety, wisdom, and power.

Help me, Lord, to be more faithful in striving alongside others in prayer. Amen.

 

Mark D. Roberts

 

 

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

 

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

HOW DO I PRAY WHEN WORDS FAIL?

Praying When Words Fail

by Mark D. Roberts

How Do I Pray When Words Fail?

“O LORD, hear me as I pray;
pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

 What is prayer?

The most basic answer says that prayer is talking to God. Sometimes we talk to God through singing. Sometimes we talk silently with words that are not actually expressed. But, for most of us, most of the time, prayer is talking to God.

Yet, there are times when our words fail us. These may be times of ecstasy when we cannot find words to communicate our joy (for example 1 Peter 1:8). More commonly, we run out of words in times of turmoil and struggle, times when we feel discouraged and hopeless. Can we pray in times like these, without words?

Yes, says David in Psalm 5. This psalm begins:

“O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.”

The noun translated here as “groaning” appears one other time in Scripture. In Psalm 39:3 it is rendered, “The more I thought about it.” The dictionary defines this word as “murmuring, whisper, musing.” Given the dire situation of David in Psalm 5, groaning just may be the best option. Yet, all of the possible uses of the word suggest a non-verbal sort of communication, whether in pain (groaning) or quiet reflection (musing).

So, prayer is more than saying words to God. It is opening our inner life to God. It is pouring out our heart to God because he is our refuge (Psalm 62:8).

In times of agony, our prayers may sound like groaning.

In times of exultation, they might sound like cheers in a football game.

Yet, no matter the sounds we make, or even when we make no sounds at all, God not only “listens” to our prayers, but also helps us to pray “with groaning that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26).

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:

Can you think of times in your life when you prayed deeply and truly, but without words? Have there been times when your prayers were like groaning? How have you experienced the help of the Holy Spirit as you pray?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of language, for the opportunity to speak to people and even to you. How amazing to think that I can talk to you and you actually listen to me!

Yet, I also thank you for listening when I cannot find the words to say, when my grief is unutterable or when my joy is unspeakable. Thank you for hearing my groanings, and even for helping me to groan when I cannot find words to offer to you. Amen.

Related articles

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

WHY SHOULD GOD ANSWER MY PRAYER?

Why Should God Answer My Prayer?

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

Why Should God Answer My Prayer?

Psalm 143:1-12

“Hear my prayer, O LORD;
listen to my plea!
Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.”

In Psalm 143, David cries out to the Lord for help. He is being harassed by his enemies and is growing more and more discouraged. God alone will be able to deliver him and to direct his steps in the right direction. But why should the Lord respond to David’s pleas? What case can David make for God to listen to him and to help?

In situations like that of David, we are sometimes tempted to barter with God. “Bail me out this time, Lord,” we pray, “and I promise that I’ll serve you in the future.”

We might even try pointing to our good intentions or behavior: “You should help me, Father, because I have been faithful to you and have been living rightly.”

But in Psalm 143, David acknowledges that he has nothing in himself to persuade God to answer his prayers. The Lord alone provides the secure basis for answered prayer.

Thus David prays, “Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.” Not “Answer me because I am faithful and righteous,” but “Because you are faithful and righteous.”

To be sure, our faith matters to God. Jesus himself connects faith with answered prayer (for example, Mark 11:24). But beneath our faith, undergirding it and strengthening it, is the rock-solid faithfulness of God.

Thus, even when our confidence in the Lord falters, even when our behavior is anything but faithful, we still cry out to God. Our prayers depend, not upon ourselves, but upon our God who is faithful and righteous, gracious and merciful.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:

When you pray, how do you envision the God who hears your prayers? What in God’s character helps you to pray?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for the privilege of praying to you. I can so easily take this for granted. Yet, when I step back and think, I’m amazed that you allow me to speak with you, that you care about my thoughts and feelings, even that you invite my prayers.Yet I also thank you that I come before you in prayer, not because of my worthiness, but because of your unique worth. You, Lord, are indeed faithful and righteous. You are trustworthy and true. When I fail you, you never fail me.All praise be to you, O God, because you do indeed hear my plea! Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Rev.Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

 

Why Should God Answer My Prayer?

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WHAT IF YOUR SOUL IS HARD AS ROCK?

What If Your Soul Is Hard as a Rock?

by Mark D. Roberts

Moses strikes the rock

Water flows as Moses strikes the rock.

“He turned the rock into a pool of water;
yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock” (Psalm 114:8 NLT).

Do you ever feel bone-dry spiritually? Does your soul ever seem to be hard as a rock? Do you ever worry about whether you will once again be tender and open toward the Lord?

Perhaps you’ve never gone through a period of severe spiritual dryness? If that’s true for you, praise God! But most Christians do experience times in which our souls are so dry that they seem hard as a rock. We know we should spend devotional time with God, but the fact is we don’t want to. We know we should want to gather with other believers to worship the Lord.

But, when the time comes for Sunday services, we look desperately for excuses to stay away. We know we should work joyfully as though serving God and not people. But, too often, work feels completely disconnected from our faith. We still believe all the things we used to believe about God. But our desire for him has vanished, and we’re left with stony souls.

If you can relate to what I’m saying, then Psalm 114 has good news for you. God is in the business of getting water from rocks. Verse 8 looks back to the miraculous way God supplied water to the Israelites after he delivered them from Egypt:

“He turned the rock into a pool of water; yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock.” .

This verse celebrates how God produced literal water from a literal rock. ( Exodus 17:5-6)

The Hebrew word translated here as “solid rock” is more literally rendered as “flint,” which is a particularly hard rock. God can get water, not just from soft, porous rocks, but from those that are absolutely rigid and unyielding.

If God can turn a rock into a pool of water, if God can make water flow from flint, then he can transform our hearts even when they seem to be impervious to his grace. This is good news, indeed. So, if you find yourself in a spiritually rocky place today at work or at home, turn to the Lord. Ask him to make living water flow from your stony heart.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:

Have you ever been in a very dry place spiritually? Are you still there? In the past, how has God softened your heart toward him?

PRAYER:

Dear Lord, how I thank you for being a powerful, merciful God who gets water even from flint. How I thank you for your patience and grace with me. When I resist you, when my heart is stony, you nevertheless reach out to me in your grace.

Lord, you know the state of my heart today. I pray that however I am closed to you, you will help me to be open. And, in whatever way my heart is rock solid, may your living water flow out from me.

All praise be to you, mighty, merciful God! Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

GOD, ANSWER ME QUICKLY!

God, Answer Me Quickly!

by Mark. D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

“Don’t turn away from me
in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen,
and answer me quickly when I call to you.” Psalm 102:1-28

When we ask a question or share a concern with someone, we expect a quick response. Gone are the days when we would write a letter and wait patiently for days or even weeks for a return letter. Technology has fed our hunger for instantaneous communication. In fact, we call one popular form of this “IM” or “Instant Messaging.”

But, even those of us who settle for the older forms of digital interaction, such as email, nevertheless want quick feedback. It’s not uncommon these days for someone to send an email and then a text to make sure the recipient got the email. If there isn’t a quick response to either of these, a cell phone call is not far behind. We want answers and we want them now, thank you very much.

We can also be like this in our communication with God. But our desire for God to respond quickly to our prayers isn’t simply a product of a technological age. In Psalm 102, for example, we read the prayer of an individual who badly needs God’s help. Verse 2 reads, “Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you” (102:2). Desperate circumstances beget desperate prayers, both in our day as well as centuries ago.

The psalmist’s cry for God to answer and be quick about it impresses me in two ways. First, I’m struck by the boldness of this prayer. The writer doesn’t limit his language in ways I’d be inclined to do: “Who am I to tell God to act quickly? God’s ways are not my ways. God’s timing is not my timing. I have no right to demand an instant response from God.” As we see throughout the Psalms, there is no restraint here, no meticulous polishing of the words. The psalmist tells God exactly what he wants: Answer me…now!

Yet, my second impression is that God had not been acting according to the psalm writer’s timetable. It is true that God’s ways are not my ways and God’s timing is not my timing. Though it can be terribly hard to wait on God, and though we should feel free to tell God to hurry up, nevertheless, often God moves in ways that seem to us to be very slow—painfully slow.

A friend of mine is looking for work. He knows what he feels called to do professionally, yet the opportunities for him to do this are few. He can easily become discouraged, wondering why God is taking so long. Psalm 102 encourages my friend to be honest with God, asking for a speedy response. And, at the same time, this psalm implicitly reminds my friend–and all of us–that God’s timing is not our own. Thus, we live in the tension between telling God to act quickly and asking for the patience to trust that God’s ways and times are always the best.

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.

SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE ON PRAYER I HAVE EVER HEARD

Some of the Best Advice on Prayer I Have Ever Heard

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”

When Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he expected his disciples to pray as well. He walked a short distance from them and fell upon his knees, where he wrestled with his Father in prayer. Finally, he got up and returned to his disciples, only to find that they were sleeping, “exhausted from grief” (22:45). “Why are you sleeping?” he asked. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation” (22:46).

Jesus intended “Get up and pray” for his disciples, so that they would not give in to temptation and fall asleep when they should have been praying. Yet, I believe this is some of the best advice for us if we seek to be faithful in prayer. The Greek verb translated here as “Get up” means “rise up, stand up.” In context, Jesus is telling his disciples not to sit or lie down as they pray, but to stand up on their feet. In this way, they would be able to stay awake. It’s pretty hard, after all, to fall asleep while standing up.

For most of my life, I have prayed in a sitting position. And, for most of my life, I have struggled to pray for any long period of time. I have tried kneeling, which is an excellent posture for prayer. But my knees aren’t very cooperative, so I can’t kneel for very long.

I remember once, when I was an associate pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, I was seated on the chancel of the sanctuary to help lead a worship service. One of our other associate pastors offered a lengthy pastoral prayer. With the lights dimmed and the organ music playing softly, before long, I was fully asleep, yes, right there in front of a thousand worshipers. But, even in times when I wasn’t literally falling asleep, I have found it hard to pray with length and depth while sitting. I know I’m not alone in this.

About twenty years ago, I stumbled into a practice of standing up to pray. Sometimes I would stand in my office at church. Often, if I could, I would go to a place where I could walk and pray. My physical posture helped me to focus, to keep my mind clear as I entered into deep and even long conversations with the Lord. Praying while standing or walking has made a major difference in my life.

If you struggle to keep alert in prayer, if you find yourself giving in to the temptation to sleep, maybe you should try standing or walking. For me, “Get up and pray” has been some of the best advice for prayer that I’ve ever heard.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What posture or postures do you usually use for prayer? Are these helpful to you? Do you ever kneel when you pray? Do you stand? Do you walk?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I know you weren’t giving general instructions on how to pray when you told your disciples to stand up and pray. Yet, as I read this text, I find that I am filled with gratitude for having learned that I can pray more effectively when I’m standing or walking. Thank you for teaching me this through your Spirit.

I expect that many who read this reflection today do just fine if they pray while sitting. Others prefer to kneel. But I want to pray for those who may get some help by praying while upright. The point isn’t the posture, of course. The point is being attentive and alert, so that we might share our hearts with you and so that we might be open to what you want to say to us through your Spirit.

So, help us to be alert when we pray, Lord! Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas and the parent organization of Laity Lodge. He has written several books, including his most recent: Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2007)

He blogs at  http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts, and writes a daily devotional for http://www.thehighcalling.org.