Taste and See: The Lord’s Prayer

13 09 2010

As the third lesson in our series on prayer, we focused on one of the most liturgically familiar prayers from Scripture: the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  This particular prayer has been a part of Christian liturgy and tradition from the very beginning of Christendom; one of the earliest extant Christian documents, the Didache, instructs believers to pray three times a day.  It includes the text of the Lord’s prayer as an example.

Most of my students grew up attending traditional worship services, where this prayer is said every week.  As such, most of them learned the words out of repetition.  In the lesson, I hoped to capitalize on the familiarity of this prayer while also bringing them to a new understanding of the words.

Beforehand, I created giant signs out of construction paper (tied with yarn) that included short phrases from the Lord’s Prayer.  On the back of the signs, I included Scripture references (for use later in the lesson):

Our Father in heaven: Luke 11:11-13, Psalm 103:13

Hallowed be your name: Nehemiah 9:4-6, Isaiah 6:1-4

Your kingdom come: Mark 1:14-15, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 13:18-21

Your will be done: Psalm 139:15-16, Psalm 40:8, Isaiah 55:9-11

On earth as it is in heaven: Philippians 2:5-11, Revelation 5:13-14

Give us today our daily bread: Matthew 6:25, 31-34; Exodus 16:1-4

Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors: Colossians 2:13-15; Matthew 6:14-15, Leviticus 25:39-41

Lead us not into temptation: James 1:12-15; Matthew 4:1-2

Deliver us from the evil one: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Acts 2:18-21

I hung one signs on each student’s back (so they could not read what they had); then, in total silence, they had to get themselves in order.  Only after they finished did they get to see what sign they had, and read the prayer together.  Then we talked about their own personal experience with this prayer (Is this familiar to you? How did you learn it? What does it mean to you? Do you have any particular memories of this prayer? etc.)

We looked up the original text of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and then I invited the youth to split off by themselves and silently read and reflect on the Scripture references on the back of their signs (if we had had  a really big group, I would have had them do this in small groups).  Then we came back together, and I had each student share their portion of the Lord’s Prayer, with a paraphrase or explanation based on the Scripture passages that they had just read.  (The main question here was, “Why is this  particular phrase important to the prayer as a whole?”)

Then, we took a step back and read Matthew 6:5-13, focusing in especially on verses 6-8. How does Jesus’ sample prayer actually fulfill the instructions about prayer that he gives during the Sermon on the Mount?

Appropriately enough, we closed our session with the Lord’s Prayer!

Taste and See: Prayer 1 & 2

12 09 2010

High school Sunday School continues to go better than expected.  We began a study on prayer three weeks ago, and we chose to open the series with a lesson adapted from Rethinking Youth Ministry.  I found that when we went around the circle several times, instead of just once, the students really got excited about coming up with new words to describe prayer.  At the end of the lesson, we had created several posters based on the theme of “Prayer Is…” (the first was based on our descriptions; the second, on the Pharisee’s prayer from Luke 9:9-12; the third, on the tax collector’s prayer from Luke 9:13; and the fourth, on the description of Jesus’ prayer life from Luke 5:15-16).

The next week, we focused on the idea of “praying without ceasing.” I set up the altar with a burning candle as the focal point of our attention, and opened our lesson by showing a video advertisement for 24/7 Prayer from New Hope Church (watch it below…it’s super cool):

Then we read from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23…as we noted the repetition of the words “always,” “continuously,” etc, we talked about whether it was possible to be joyful always, to pray continuously, and to give thanks always.

Our spiritual practice of the day was “breath prayers.”  I remember when I was in high school, our youth ministry intern spent one night teaching us about breath prayers, and the idea obviously stuck, since I remember it to this day.  We talked about how to “do” breath prayers, then split up and actually tried out the practice.  It was a pretty low-key lesson, but some of my youth told me that they said their breath prayer all week long!

And that candle burning on the altar?  We closed Leviticus 6:13: “The fire must be kept burning continuously on the altar.  It must not go out.”  Just as the light burned to signify the presence of God, so should we never allow our prayer life to be extinguished by the busyness and distractions of life: instead, in the simplest of habits, in our very breathing, we can find ways to commune with God!

(You can find one resource on breath prayers here)

FCA Breakfast

10 09 2010

As much as I like to pretend that I am “front-yard material” when it comes to playing sports, my youth will be the first to tell you that I’m one of the clumsiest, least athletic people on the planet. So when I found out that our church was hosting breakfast for the local FCA club—and what’s more, that I would be the guest speaker — I was more than a little terrified. When I called the club sponsor for guidance, she cheerily told me that last week’s guest speaker was a bodybuilder who tore telephone books in two.  How’s that for an act to follow?

Last night I agonized over what to say, knowing that I could not pull off a football reference to save my life.  But we just finished breakfast, and I survived. Below is the original devotion.

When I was in high school, I went on a mission trip with my church to build cinder-block houses in Juarez, Mexico. I did not speak any Spanish, I had no experience mixing cement or laying bricks…I just went. On the first morning we were there, our pastor told us that we were being watched. Not in a creepy stalker way … what he meant was that the neighborhoods where we were working were close-knit communities. Everybody knew their neighbors and looked out for each other…and as Americans, we clearly did not fit in. We looked different, we talked differently, and we did things very differently. So all week long, people were watching everything we did, whether we knew it or not, trying to figure out what we were about. They watched how we treated each other, how we spoke to each other, how we worked together. It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak Spanish: our witness was in the way that we lived.

I know that there are people who are watching you, too, whether you know it or not. Whether you’re at school, or at home, or just going about your business somewhere else, there’s someone who’s watching what you do to see what you’re about. They see that you’re a member of FCA, and they see that “C,” that big Christian “C,” and they wonder what that means So they look at your lifestyle, and the things that you do and the things you say, and the way you treat people, and they say, “Okay, I get it. That’s what a Christian is. That’s what a Christian does.”

I think about the famous quote by Teresa of Avila:

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours”

That’s an incredible responsibility, an incredible commission, and an incredible opportunity for us all. Whether we know it or not, we are called to be representatives for Christ in every single thing that we do. I know that God has placed people in your life who need to know that they are loved by God. And he has placed you in their life because your life and your witness may be the only access to Christ that they will ever have. And maybe that sounds a little bit scary to some of you – I know it does to me sometimes– because we’re still figuring this whole thing out. But the great news is that we don’t have to be perfect…and we’re not alone. We just have to be willing to let God work through us, to shine His light on us that we can reflect it back into the world.

So my challenge to you today is from the book of Colossians. In chapter 3, verse 17, Paul says this, and I ask that you hear these words as they have been written directly to you: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”