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    Feb 18, 2018

    Seeking God

    Seeking God

    Passage: Psalm 25:1-10

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: A Seeking Heart

    Category: Prayer

    The scripture for today begins:

          I offer my life to you, Lord.  My God, I trust you.

     Trust requires knowing someone.  It requires feeling close to the other.  It requires taking the time to know the other more deeply – to know the other with your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And when we learn to pray deeply, we get to know God, to know God’s voice, to feel God’s presence.  We trust.

     Prayer is a lot of things.  I think that most importantly to me is that prayer is being aware of the presence of God – as Roberta Bondi puts it, “we simply show up.”  In her book, In Ordinary Time:  Healing the Wounds of the Heart.  Dr. Bondi writes about how we often get so bogged down with our high expectations about prayer that we can’t actually pray – or we think that prayer is really only for people that are a lot more hold than we are.  She writes:

     Everyday prayer in ordinary time is just not very inspiring to look at from the outside most of the time, and we will only demoralize ourselves if we think it should be otherwise.  The fact is, we often are going to go for long stretches where we can barely do more than sit in God’s presence with our minds wandering.  Sometimes we fall asleep; sometimes we feel resentful or half dead.  There can be all sorts of good, practical reasons this is so.  In some cases it is because we are so unavoidably busy or tired that we hardly know what we are doing.  In other cases, it is because we are still learning that God is somebody we want to be with.  We may be angry at God and unable event to recognize it yet, or our mistaken notion that God wants us only when we are ‘good’ is getting in our way.  Sometimes, it is because we are human beings, and that is just the way prayer is some of the time for human beings.[1]

     She goes on to say that each person needs to choose what works for them – not what people say we ought to do – and be easy on ourselves.  The important thing is to “simply show up.”

     So, how might you “simply show up?”  Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message Bible shows up by taking walks every Monday, his Sabbath day.  As he walks, he makes notes in his prayer journal, sketching leaves or mossy formations that catch his eye, writing a phrase here and there, or writing a brief piece that may look like a recognizable prayer – or may not.  It may be just a few words that come to him as he walks.  He would say that those walks are prayer time with God where he is listening and looking for signs of God and that prayer is the doorway to intimacy with God.

    Mary Oliver is one of – if not the most – recognized and popular poets in America, and she wrote this about prayer:

    by Mary Oliver

    by Mary Oliver


    It doesn't have to be 
    the blue iris, it could be
    weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
    small stones; just
    pay attention, then patch
    a few words together and don't try
    to make them elaborate, this isn't
    a contest but the doorway
    into thanks, and a silence in which
    another voice may speak.[2]

    Just one more example.  Last Sunday, as we were singing our first hymn God Is Here, I intensely felt the presence of God as I was intensely focused on what we were singing.  Honestly, I often find that kind of powerful presence when I am preparing for worship.  But when I’m leading worship, I am often so focused on the responsibilities of leading that I may miss those moments. 

    God often speaks to me through music, mostly through hymn and praise song texts.  I emphasize texts because I may like the tune or harmony of a piece, but it’s the texts that reach way down and grab my soul.  It is through the text that God speaks a word of encouragement or revelation or comfort or peace or…

    So, let’s spend the next few minutes in prayer together, seeking to come closer today to God – right now.  We will use a few different prayer practices, and my prayer is that one of them will speak directly to you.

    Let’s acknowledge that we are in God’s presence.  Repeat after me:  Good morning, God!

    Let’s get into a good position.  Put both feet flat on the floor.  Pay attention to your body.  Allow yourself to release any tension you are feeling in your muscles. Relax your feet.  Now relax your legs.  Relax your torso – and now your arms.  Roll your shoulders to release tension.  And now do the same for your neck.  Close your eyes – not to be holier but to relax.  Now just sit for a moment with your wonderfully relaxed body.

    With your eyes still closed, lay your hands on your knees with your palms open to receive.  Keep your palms relaxed and open and slowly open your eyes and focus on the screen so we can pray the prayer together.

    Fill the hollow space…
       With the abundance of your presence
       …the relief of your grace
       …the intimacy of your call.
    Open my heart as you beckon me to walk on your paths.  Amen

    Continuing to keep your body relaxed, pray the prayer with me once more.

    Continuing to keep your body relaxed, explore what you know about God.  In your bulletin there is a space for you to jot down some of the attributes that you know to be true of God.  For example, I know that God is faithful.  Faithful is an attribute of God.  You may just jot a few words or scriptural phrases – what you know to be true about God.  Take a few moments – take your time.  The important thing is to recognize that you are describing God – your best friend – in God’s presence.

    Did you notice that we didn’t pass the peace today?  That’s because I saved that for now.  You see, prayer isn’t always just a “me and God” activity.  Sometimes getting closer to God comes through holy conversations, the Spirit speaking through another.  So, I invite you to get up from your pew and speak with 3 other people that you have not talked with yet today and do this:  each person say your name and say “the Peace of Christ be with you.”  Then share with each other just 1 of your treasured attributes of God.  You will have 5 minutes, so you should have time to share a 1-sentence reason for that being the treasured attribute that you chose.  That’s ONE sentence!

    Now please return to your seats, and join in our Prayers of the People.  I will leave spaces for you to pray silently or to speak just a name of someone you wish to lift to God today. 

    [Reader,our choir sang Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying at this point, leading into the prayer below.  A nice arrangement can be found at this link:]

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers of praise and thanksgiving, knowing that you are faithful, that you open your arms wide to us even when we stray from your path, that you are as gracious and merciful as you are strong and mighty.  A brief silence is kept.

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers for healing for these friends and loved ones who are struggling….  A brief silence is kept. 

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers for the community in which we live.  We are grateful for good neighbors who become good friends.  We pray that you will help us to be open to the neighbors that we don’t know very well, giving us the grace to grow into a community of caring and peace.  Show us your face in the faces of our neighbors.  A brief silence is kept.

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers for our country and the world.   Bless all those who hold positions of authority, sounding the warning that they are accountable to you.  Lead them into the ways of peace and guide them to seek the welfare of your people rather than satisfy their own need for power.  A brief silence is kept.

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers for the church – for our church and for the whole church.  We are grateful for the church and the churches that have shaped us into your followers, that have invited us into worship and praise and that have comforted us when life is falling apart.  Teach us how to live your gospel in such a way that our neighbors will come to know you – not just know our good works.  A brief silence is kept.

    Lord, listen to your children praying today.  We lift to you our prayers for ourselves.  Lead us deeper into relationship with you during this holy season.  Draw us deep into prayer and fill us with the awareness of your presence through your Spirit.  A brief silence is kept.

    Lord, listen to your children praying in the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

    [1] Roberta Bondi, In Ordinary Time: Healing the Wounds of the Heart.  Copyright ©1996, Abingdon Press.  Page 48.She

    [2] Mary Oliver, Thirst.  Published 2006 by Beacon Press.  As found at :