dec. 3 - pray

by Rev. Tracy Hunter, Broadway and Reeves UMCs Orlando, FL

First, read Colossians 4:2

Prayer is conversation with God. Sometimes it’s easy and we have lots of words, but sometimes it’s hard and we can’t find or don’t have the words we want. In those moments, God listens and the Holy Spirit ‘speaks’ on our behalf. Even if we don’t know what to say, God’s Spirit knows.

I learned some prayers when I was a child. Before a meal, I’d pray, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food. By his hands, we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  Amen.”

Before going to sleep at night, I’d pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”

What?! I had no idea what I was praying in that prayer when I was a child. I’m grateful to know there’s a different version that seems a little more child-friendly: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. May angels watch me through the night, and wake me with the morning light.” 

Whew! That prayer feels a lot less scary and a lot more comforting. This prayer reminds us that God is always with us and is watching over us even when our eyes are closed and we are sleeping.                  

Anne Lamott wrote a book entitled Help, Thanks, Wow!  Three Essential Prayers. In it, she says, "Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we’re invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.” 

God wants to spend time with us, and that’s what a relationship is -- caring about someone, wanting to know more about someone, spending time with someone, and talking with and listening to someone. Maybe your kids or kids you know have play dates with someone from school or church so that they can play together and become better friends.

As followers of Jesus, we practice praying in order to grow in our relationship with God. We talk with and spend time with (have "play dates" with) folks we care about and people we want to know better. Prayer is kind of like a play date with God!

Let us play -- I mean, pray:

God, help us to keep alert and watch for Jesus.
God, thanks for making us and loving us and wanting to spend time with us.
Wow, God, for making this great big world
and for coming as a baby to show us your love.  Amen.

Today’s scripture reminds us to be “watchful” and “thankful” in our lives and in our prayers. After dinner, get in your PJ’s and take a drive through your neighborhood to see how many homes with Christmas lights you can find. Guess which streets in your neighborhood will have the most homes with lights. See who can spot the first light-up nativity scene.

While some of us know our neighbors pretty well, others of us have lived on our block for years and only know one or two people by name. While you’re out, pray for your neighbors- the ones you know and the ones you don’t know. Be “watchful” and “mindful” for neighbors who might be in need of your prayers. Perhaps there is a new family on your street or someone who lives alone. Give thanks for the neighbors you know well. Perhaps there is a neighbor who always says hello or someone who takes in your mail when you are out of town.

Use this activity as a reminder to think and pray not just for our own needs, but also for the needs and cares of others. How else might you pray for others?