Prayer and Peace

Last weekend, I went on a retreat with a group of men from my church. We gathered to hear a teaching on Philippians, fellowship, learn more about one another, pray, and refresh ourselves in a little mountain camp. I would like a share a bit about what I learned this weekend. I will do a few more postings on it and I am sure my future postings will be indirectly influenced by this weekend as all of my postings grow out of my life.

This is my third year participating in the yearly men’s retreat; I think this year has been the most impactful.

It was good to get away to join with good men and discover more about God’s word join in prayer and other activities. As a kid, I never went to camp. This year much like the last two I have been able to for a single weekend camp, learn more about God, prayer, and what it means to live and love in community.

Here I would like to share comments and impressions from the Sunday morning worship service.

Sunday morning, I helped lead the worship service. After my pastor sung a hymn, I lead the call to worship.

O God, you summon the day to dawn. For you the valleys sing for joy, the trees of the field clap their hands. For you… the earth shall bow, the poor and persecuted shall shout for joy. Your love and mercy shall last forever… Great is Your love. 

My pastor offered a prayer.

Another song, and then I lead the responsive reading from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

Rejoice always, pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Leading the call to worship and the responsive reading is a meaningful and impactful experience for me. I have done it a few times at our regular Sunday services and the Sunday worship service at the retreat was no different, maybe even more so. I find that doing this has helped me to break out of my shell a bit and to show others a bit of my joy for the word of God. It is very powerful to speak God’s word in community. Somehow, someway it makes it more powerful more vibrant than just reading it or speaking it on my own. I think that is partly why bible study group has been so transformative for me.

Then, my pastor spoke about how awesome the weekend had been. How powerful and mysterious prayer is and it should be practiced more often. He gave the scripture reading Philippians 4:6, 7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Instead of giving a sermon my pastor gave us copies of four different prayers and sent us out to contemplate the words of these prayers. The point was to take one, but a few of us took a copy of each one. I will reflect on them in more detail in future posts. I walked in the woods and read the words of these prayers. I spent most of the time with the Lord’s Prayer. It wasn’t the traditional version. The author of this version took each of the familiar lines and expounded in prayer on each of the lines. As a read each line and spent time to meditate on them I felt the spirit of the Lord surround me. I knew that I needed to pray it more and make it my own.

IN solitude as I contemplated these words feeling the presence of God I realized how true the words of Rabbi Yehuda Berg are.

There is no one correct way to pray. You have to do the work, put your heart into it and trust that the Light is in the process. This is true not just of praying but of most things in life. This is also the main difference between religion and spirituality. Doing things “by the book” is never as powerful as putting our all into something. Performing an action because we have to, because we are told to or because we’re afraid not to—won’t reveal nearly as much Light as it would if we put our heart and our excitement into whatever action we’re doing at any given moment.

I went back and joined the group to talk about our experiences with the prayers. I wanted to speak about how powerful I experienced God through the prayers.  I couldn’t speak. I was too overwhelmed to put to words how I was feeling. When the discussion ended, I stood and spoke the closing blessing.

Let us go in love and serve the Lord. Let us go in confidence, in the knowledge of God’s strength. Let us be filled with joy, in the knowledge of God’s love.

Amen

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