Sunday Post 182: Teaching to Pray

Last week my Sunday School class talked about prayer. We were discussing the news story about the woman who owns a restaurant and gives random discounts to customers who pray before dining.

The conversations in the room went from exasperation with those who would criticize the woman for her spiritual price cut to folks who felt praying in public was not what Jesus preached.

After reading the lesson, I was torn. It almost made me feel like praying with my kids at night, in particular my older two, wasn’t a great idea. Perhaps my push to pray at meals and bedtime was teaching my kids that those were required. Maybe we reviewed the same prayer list too often. Am I teaching my kids to have a conversation with God or am I teaching them an obligatory recitation?

That night I went to tell DJ goodnight. As I was walking out of her room I said, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” And then I said, “Or not! I mean, pray if you want to – if it feels right. If not, don’t. You can pray later. Tomorrow. At 3:32 if you want. In the bathroom. Whenever. Goodnight.”

Later that week I ate lunch with a friend of mine. When we sat down at the table, with tons of folks around us, he looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s have an open-eyed prayer.” He then looked across the table at me and thanked God for our friendship and for our food.

He did pray in public. He just did it in an unobtrusive way.

After much debate and discussion, I think our class decided that there were two things we needed to keep in mind when praying:

Pray because you feel led to pray. Don’t pray for recognition or because you want others to see you. That ain’t what it’s all about. There’s no reason not to pray in a restaurant, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t. There isn’t an obligation to pray at any given time.

I don’t think God wants us to stand on a corner and shout at folks about His love or redemption. I think He wants us to quietly show.

I would rather see a sermon than to hear one.

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Sunday Post 73: Precious and Holy

Posted by Danny

Every night, I enjoy putting my kids to bed. I usually do it individually – it’s the time of day that each kid and I have the opportunity to connect with no other distractions.

One thing we do during this time is pray. We thank God for our many blessings. There was a time, right after Lisa died, that the “appreciation” part of the prayer was short. So consumed with what I’d lost, I struggled to see that I still had a lot of good stuff in my life.

As one friend pointed out, “Danny Tanner, I don’t feel sorry for you.  You have a lot to be thankful for.”  Made me sort of get over my lack of ability to find some good, even in the midst of a lot of bad.

Each night I pray that my girls will make good decision in their lives with friendships, boys, and career. I guess my hope is that when they are faced with a tough choice, maybe a lightbulb will go off – MMM, maybe this was one of those decisions dad prayed about 6,000 times when I was growing up.

Having lost our mom to cancer, it seems like folks are quick to make us aware of the numerous families in our area who are battling cancer or who are left to pick up the pieces when a young parent dies. We don’t know many of these families personally, but we keep them on our list.

I’m proud of my girls. They’re developing compassion. When we hear about the mother in Eastern North Carolina with three boys and stage 4 colon cancer, for months they ask me if I’ve received a report on their family. If I forget to pray for them one night, my kids are quick to chime in with a passionate plea for their comfort.

We laugh as we pray – sometimes having to take a break because of the giggles. I think God has a sense of humor, and I don’t want them to think that prayer has to be stodgy.

Maybe this prayer time is less for them and more for me. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that this 15 minutes each night is the most precious and holy time of my week.

Sunday Post 69: On Praying

Posted by Danny

Each night I head upstairs to put the girls to bed.  Michelle is the first at 9 pm.  What should take 5 minutes typically results in a 25 minute process.

We often get in a tickle fight, followed by the back and arm scratch and our nightly prayer.  Throughout the routine, I pepper in questions:

How was school? 

Who did you play with on the playground today?

How are you feeling about summer camp?

Every night I pray, out loud, that my girls will make good decisions in their lives.  Hopefully, when they’re faced with a tough one, they’ll think of me and God and make the right one.

It’s this time of day that I find out who Stephanie has a crush on.  I discover the girls who are not playing nicely on the playground.  I find out about the quiz that they didn’t do very well on.  Or I get a philosophical question about life.

On Lisa’s birthday last week, I got home and found that Michelle had written her a note.  Our plan for the night was to visit their school where a statue was dedicated in Lisa’s memory.  Her plan was to leave her note, along with a balloon, as a memorial.

The envelope was sealed so I’m not sure what she wrote.  But I do know that apparently she disclosed which 3rd grade boy currently has her attention.  Isn’t that interesting?  She just wanted to share some of her day-to-day thoughts with mom.  Sometimes I want to do that too.

Someone recently sent me a devotion by Max Lucado.  It said that perhaps prayer was really about sharing the small things in life with God.  Sort of like the time I spend with my kids when I put them to bed.  His theory was that God wanted time with us each day to unwind and hear what we’re thinking.  He said prayer wasn’t all about huge miracles and bringing world peace.

I don’t know – perhaps that’s true.  Perhaps we need to spend less time worrying about how we pray or what we say.  Maybe we should just laugh and casually chat, sharing our daily victories and stressors. 

He probably enjoys that time with us as much as I enjoy my time with my kids.

Sunday Post 30: Shame on us!

Posted by Danny

Tonight I made bar-b-que chicken in the crock pot with corn on the cob, salad, bread and cowboy beans (they’re really, really good).  I was celebrating the return of the two oldest who have been at Camp Seafarer – one for two weeks, the other for four. 

When dinner was over, I had a huge Tupperware container of the poultry left and threw several cobs in the trash.  The leftover bread will sit in a bag on the counter until I toss it later in the week.

Last Tuesday, Michelle and I ate at El Rodeo Mexican restaurant.  We ate two baskets of chips and salsa before our meal arrived.  I had to lay down when I got home because it was uncomfortable for me to bend.

On our way back from camp today, we stopped at Chic Fil A, my favorite fast food restaurant.  Stephanie and Michelle both ordered six piece nugget kids’ meals.  They each ate three, six were left (don’t worry, I took care of them but I’m still struggling to bend).

I’ve been thinking a lot about food since last Wednesday night when I tuned in to Anderson Cooper.  He was in Somalia and shared about the famine there.  Did you know –

*29,000 kids have died from starvation since this famine began

*Mothers are taking their children and walking to refugee camps in the hopes that they will find food.  Some walk for two weeks to get to the camp which is overrun.  Yes, they walk 14 or 15 days in blistering heat and when they get there, many are turned away.  They simply can’t handle the volume of people who need assistance. 

*One mother arrived at camp and took her baby out of the pouch on her back.  The baby had died and the mother didn’t even realize it.

What I can’t understand is how I can waste food, day in and day out, while people who live on the same planet as I do starve.  They starve to death.

I pray for them daily and I gave $50.00 to CARE – pathetic.  Shame on me!  Shame on us!  We’re the richest, smartest nation on this earth and we can’t figure out how to take the money that we waste on food and get it over to people who have absolutely nothing to eat?  Come on – let’s do more.

Sunday Post 3: Prayer

Posted by Danny

I’m a praying man.  Have been for a very long time.  But every time I think I get prayer figured out, something throws a kink in it.

Before September 2009, I prayed every day.  Often more than once.  I typically followed a prayer pattern that I learned at some point in my past, probably Mrs. Byrd’s sixth grade Sunday School class:  P – praise, R – repent, A – anyone or anything, Y – yourself.  I’d say that my prayer life before last year had become somewhat rote.  I was consistent, but there just wasn’t anything on a regular basis that I was worried enough to really pour over.   That all changed last fall. 

As Lisa’s disease progressed, I became the most passionate and dedicated prayer in the world.  I prayed morning, noon and night.  I prayed from places deep, deep inside of me; places I didn’t even know I had.  I argued, I pleaded, I begged, I cried, I bellowed.  My conversations with God were real.  It was like yelling at my brother, but with more emotion than I’d ever expended before. 

I knelt in prayer.   I prayed while I drove.  I fell down in the shower, naked and on my knees.  I prayed with eyes closed; with eyes open. 

I did not pray for God’s will to be done – I was afraid of what the answer might be.  I prayed for healing – full and complete physical healing for my Lisa.

I told God I was not going to pray for anything but her healing – I told him that was the only acceptable answer.  I don’t think I could have prayed for anything else at that time.

The week before she died, I remember laying across the ottoman in my bedroom – exhausted; emotionally, physically and spiritually drained.  She was in so much pain.  I couldn’t watch any longer.  Quietly I said, “Uncle.  You got me.  I can’t watch her suffer like this.  You win.  If this is how she will live, take her.  But your butt (I didn’t use the word butt) better walk with me when she’s gone.” 

I continued to pray after her death – but not for others.  I selfishly prayed for myself.  And I socked it to Him.  I called God names that would curl your hair – names that an Elder in a Presbyterian church probably shouldn’t even know.  Ask my boss, I’ve never been one to hold back my opinions with people in authority.  Apparently God was no exception.

I couldn’t accept the fact that God had the ability to heal but made the decision not to act on my behalf.  So, I decided that God didn’t heal.  He just didn’t do that.  How could he?  I prayed with more vigor and passion than anyone in the world had ever prayed before.  We had thousands upon thousands praying for Lisa.  We even had at least one atheist throw a shout out up on our behalf.  There is no way that if God responds to prayer for healing that He wouldn’t have heard and moved on our impassioned request.  I didn’t question that He had the power to heal.  I just decided that He chose not to get involved in earthly illnesses. 

I was comfortable with my new outlook on prayer.

And then, a few months ago, I was talking with my buddy Brad.  I told him I now prayed for strength, peace and support for those going through rough times, but not for physical healing.  Iwasn’t going to spend time praying for something that was not going to happen.  I’d pray for stuff that God might actually be interested in doing something about.  I don’t like to waste time.  I let Brad know that I had figured it out and was mighty proud of my new-found knowledge.  Internally, I scoffed at those who were still wasting their time on the healing thing.  It just wasn’t happenin’.  I was glad I had the answer.

My friend Brad, father of three males, smiled and said, “You know Bruce, there are a lot of times that I tell my boys ‘no’.  Often, I don’t even hear their request before I tell them ‘no’.  Sometimes I tell them ‘yes’, but I’ll have to admit, not as often as ‘no’.  And then sometimes, I say ‘no’ and then after I really listen to their arguments and pleas, I change my mind.  The bible DOES refer to God as our Father.”

I swear!  Here we go again.  Another thing to think about.

Art, another very wise man, told me recently that faith was a journey.  It wasn’t about having all of the answers.  It was about asking the questions, finding your way.  I like Art!  According to his theory, I’m the most faithful man alive.

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