When I go out to eat with friends, the blessing is open eyed and simple. I look around the table at the ones that God has put in my life that day and say, "For the blessings of food and fellowship, we are thankful!" It is a simple prayer that can be shared in public. It is an act of gratitude and affirmation of fellowship. Some folks who are not accustomed to my practice will actually miss the prayer! I have even had some who felt that it was not enough and needed to really pray.
My dad is a very simple man when it comes to religion. If you arrived at his house and it was time to pray, he would ask you, "Are you current on your prayer life?" What he was asking was, "if I ask you to pray are you gonna pray all day long and be catching up on my time!" Sometimes after hearing some rather long winded prayers, he would murmur under his breath, "That person was obviously not current on his prayer life and felt the need to catch up on my time!" After a long sermon, Dad would make the observation that the preacher had missed several good endings to that sermon.
So what about you? Are you current?
We would never think of being behind in certain areas of our live. For example, how many of us are behind on our consumption of food? We make sure we eat pretty regularly. If you are behind on a note, you pay the penalties or can even lose your possessions. If you are behind in your relationships, they suffer. But what about your prayer life? Do you stay current?
May I offer some helpful words for those who might be lagging behind?
Set a definite time to pray--several times during the day. The "on the move" prayers should be the lagniappe of your prayer life. Recently our bishop has invited us to pray at one p.m. for the children of the world who are refugees. Set your alarm at one and join us! I start my day with a more intensive time of prayer. Then through the day, I have a couple of other times that are more intensive. Then there are some minutes (like one p.m.) joined with "on the move" prayers (like when I see an ambulance or a person who is in distress or homeless.)
Have a place to pray. There should be some holy places in your life. That when you go there, you seek to be in the presence of God. It may be a rocking chair on the porch. It may be under a tree at work. The place will beckon you after a while. Jesus obviously had some places in his life that he would go to in solitude away from the crowds.
Have some resources. There are so many great prayers that are recorded in the life of the faith. Harry Emerson Fosdick has a wonderful book, The Meaning of Prayer, which contains so many prayers. A Diary of Private Prayer has been a part of my life since seminary. I say a word of "thanks" for David Switzer sharing it with me as a seminary student.
Keep a list or journal. I consider it a holy privilege when people ask me to pray for them. Once people know that you take prayer seriously, you will receive more requests than you can remember. You will also be amazed at how a name will "jump" out to you at particular times. The Holy Spirit does more work than we imagine if we do our part!
When I was starting out in ministry, I was youth director for a youth group that was nicknamed, "The Wild Bunch!" They were appropriately named! Life was an adventure with them. We went to a basketball tournament at the Ruston Children's home. One of the wild guys volunteered to say the prayer before the game. I knew this prayer was going to be special. With his bandanna on his head dressed as a Redneck as you can imagine, he offered these words: "Lord let us not play this basketball game like a bunch of heathens! Amen!"
In his own way, he was current! What about you?
Pray for me as I pray for you.
In the Master's Name,
Dr. M. Jack O'Dell