". . ., but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26

I invite you to explore and reflect on the ways that we become more aware of how we can interact with God. I will discuss ways that we can become more sensitive and aware of God's presence in our daily life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Are you like Jonah?

Last week I led a short Bible study for a women's group using the book of Jonah for a discussion on prayer. Quite a few people, the sailors and the people of Ninevh, end up praying to God and commit to changing their behavior in response to God's mercy and love.

The only person who does not do this is Jonah. He prays and talks to God, but he is too stubborn to really see and accept God's grace for himself.

At the end of the story (4:2) we find out that Jonah fled from the task God gave him because he was afraid that Nineveh would repent and that God would forgive them and spare them. He fails to see that God continued to pursue him because God also wanted to forgive Jonah.

The story could have ended in the first chapter when Jonah was thrown overboard. The disobedient prophet should have drowned. End of story. The sailors now prayed and made vows to Jonah's God, so even his disobedience brought a few people to faith.

But, God was not finished with Jonah. A fish swallowed Jonah, which saved his life. After 3 days and 3 nights in the fish, Jonah prayed to God. He was so stubborn that he avoided talking to God for 3 entire days, while in the belly of a fish! He did not talk to God before then because he did not want to hear what God had to say.

In response to Jonah's prayer, God had the fish spit him out on the beach. Jonah went to Nineveh. He told them about God's judgment. The people repented. God forgave them. Jonah got mad.

He did not want God to forgive them. He sat on a hill to watch the city, hoping that they would do something to make God destroy them. God did not leave him to sulk. God continued to reach out to Jonah.

The story does not really end. The Stubborn Prophet continues to wait and talk to God. God continues to talk to Jonah. God does not give up on Jonah. God is on the hill with him as the story ends.

Have you ever been this stubborn? Without God's mercy and love for Jonah--it would have been a very short book. Jonah argued; Jonah disobeyed; Jonah begrudgingly did what God asked him to do; Jonah got mad when God forgave.

Yet, when the story ends, God still cares for Jonah. God is still reaching out to him with love.

Even when we may not want to pray because we do not want to hear what God has to say to us--God will continue to reach out to us. Remember Jonah. Remember God's love for you. Pray and talk to God today.

I welcome comments at WordsandSigh@blogspot.com

Pastor Michael

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How important is prayer in your life?

We live in a world with many demands upon our time. There never seems to be enough time for many of us to do the important things that we need to do. What happens to our personal time for prayer? Does our time in prayer with God shrink as demands on our time grows?

One way to deal with time demands is to make prayer and time for prayer important. As you fill out your daily, weekly, and monthly schedules and appointments list the times each day that you want to spend in prayer. Fill them in with ink if you still use a paper calendar. Enter the times in your electronic helpers.

This can be an important reminder of how important prayer is to your daily life. You are more likely to follow through if you list time for prayer in your daily schedule.

Martin Luther made a very interesting statement about prayer that may help each one of us keep it in perspective: "When I start each day, therefore, I make it a point to spend an hour in prayer with God. But if I have a particularly busy day, and am more rushed than usual, I make it a point to spend two hours with God before I start the day."

Luther understood the importance of prayer. This statement shows how seriously he took his time in prayer with God. When life became more hectic and busy he realized that he needed to spend more time in prayer, not less.

I have discovered that I am not like Luther. I would not be successful if I tried to begin each day with an hour of prayer, much less two hours. I have been successful when I schedule prayer times throughout the day in ten minute segments.

Each time of prayer has a specific focus: family, congregation members, prayer list from church, specific ministries, etc. I have also found many opportunities for time in prayer when I looked for them. If I am visiting people or attending meetings, I take time to pray after I park the car. While waiting for a dental appointment, I prayed instead of looking at old magazines. Even waiting at the post office to purchase stamps or mail a package can be a time to spend in prayer.

A key step to being successful, is to claim the importance of prayer in your life and then act. Schedule it! Look for opportunities to pray!

Talk to God as often as you can.

I welcome comments at WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Pastor Michael

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Answers to Prayer

Once in a great while someone will approach me and ask me: "Why did God not answer my prayers?".

My first answer is that God did answer your prayers. Perhaps God said, "No!" or "Not Now!". We do not like to think about the times that God may say "No.". But what if God is saying, "Not yet." or "Wait a little longer."? How can we tell the difference?

I found one answer to this difficulty when I read an article in a Lutheran Women's magazine about five years ago that addressed this problem. A woman of mature faith was struggling because she felt that God did not always answer her prayers. She decided to keep a notebook where she would write down her prayer requests and then she would write down the date when her prayer was answered.

After a short time of doing this, she realized that God was constantly answering her prayers. She realized that most of the time she was not looking for God's response to her prayers, so she did not see them. Once she started intentionally looking for God's answers to her prayers--she became surprised at God's creativity and faithfulness in answering her.

This observation has transformed her prayer life. Instead of complaining about a lack of answers, she celebrates all the prayers that God has responded to. She still keeps her notebook of prayer requests and answers. It is now primarily a list of all of the prayers that God has answered!

She was also embarrassed to notice that God even answered prayers that she had forgotten about. God was more faithful to her prayer life than she was.

Try this exercise for two weeks. Keep a list of your prayer requests and write down when those prayers are answered. You will be surprised at how many answers you see once you start to look for them.

Pray and then look to see how God answers you.

I welcome comments at WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Pastor Michael

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Paying Attention

I have a great deal of difficulty paying attention to what God might be trying to tell me or to show me. I tend to forget who is supposed to be in charge of my life. I think that I am the one who makes all of the decisions and I do not leave any place where God can get my attention. I also become irritated when traffic and other things interfere with my time frame of getting things done.

The first time that I began to learn this lesson was on an Ash Wednesday. I serve two congregations. I had a morning chapel service for the children in the day care at one church and a late morning Ash Wednesday service at the other church. I had 15 minutes to make the 5 minute drive between churches.

Just before I left the first church, I received a call that Robert, a member, was dieing. I called the second church to let them know that I would be a little late and drove as quickly as I could to the hospital.

I was in an extreme hurry. But, I seemed to hit every light just as it was turning red. Each light seemed to take forever to turn green. I was getting very upset and became angry with the lights. By the fourth light, it suddenly occured to me that I was not being a very good pastor. What was I going to be like for Robert's family when I finally arrived at the hospital? They did not need an angry pastor who was upset about traffic lights.

I still kept getting stopped by every red light but I decided to use my time in a better way. I began to use each red light as a time to pray for Robert and his family. I did not hit a single green light on my way to the hospital. I was given ample time to pray.

As I walked through the parking lot it occured to me that God was trying to teach me something about the passage of time and how there is always time for prayer. When I finally entered Robert's hospital room, his daughter-in-law exclaimed, "Pastor Michael! How did you get here so fast?" (I realized that God wanted to make certain that I got the message.)

I now look at red traffic lights and congested roads as a way that God may use to give me opportunities for prayer. I think about people I will interact with and pray for them. I also use this time to remind myself that I do not work alone, God is with me.

I have no doubt that my blood pressure is quite a bit lower now whenever I am stuck in traffic and I spend time in prayer. It is not an interruption or delay---it is an opportunity for me to spend time in prayer.

What is God trying to tell you?

I welcome comments WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Talk to God today.
Pastor Michael

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Important Things

What are the important things that you pray about or pray for? Most of us probably have a rather short list of topics that we regularly pray about.

I want to suggest that our list is too short. There are many important events and issues in our life that would be enhanced by prayer.

First, it is important to remember that God is an active part of our lives and can help us in any situation. When we pray about something, we are remembering that we do not face life all alone. God is present to help us. We can receive the strength and will to face challenges with God's help.

Second, when we take time to pray about something, we are reminding ourselves what we consider to be important in our own life. Prayer is always a conversation with God. When we pray, however, we are also talking to ourselves about what is important. This kind of reminder can also help us keep our focus.

In our new Youth Group at my two churches we have decided to make prayer a part of every activity. When we put together health kits for Lutheran World Relief, we prayed for the people who would receive them and we gave thanks that we were so blessed that we could share with others. When we have a social, fun activity, we pray and thank God for our friends and the joy of fellowship. Before a nature hike, we thank God for creation and ask God to help us be better caretakers of the earth.

In each of these ways we reminds ourselves and teach our young people how God is a part of all aspects of our lives. We remember to not just be aware of God's presence when we are in church, but in every aspect of our lives.

Adults who model this kind of behavior and spiritual practice with children are teaching them how to handle the daily challenges of life. Adults who model this kind of prayer life are also reminding themselves that they do not face parenting on their own but have God to help them.

What are the daily events in your life that you could be praying for?

I welcome comments at wordsandsighs@gmail.com

Talk to God today.
Pastor Michael

Monday, April 26, 2010

Praying the Psalms

One of the greatest resources that we have in our life of prayer is the book of Psalms. The Psalms are the hymns and the prayers of the early community of faith. They were used in corporate worship and by individuals during personal time of prayer.

A good prayer exercise is to incorporate the Psalms into your individual prayer life. To successfully do this, you must first get to know the Psalms. Take the next 6 to 8 weeks and use one of your prayer times to read several of the Psalms. Read them out loud.

Take a few minutes to write down the ones that you like or that speak to you or for you. Write down any that you may want to remember as a resource. This could be a Psalm for giving thanks or it might be a Psalm of lament, that might help you one day.

Pay attention to the brief titles or descriptions that some of the Psalms have. Some of these mention instructions to the choir director or a melody that the Psalm was sung to. Unfortunately, none of the music has survived.

Others reveal that a Psalm was written at a particularly difficult time in someone's life. Psalm 51 was written by David after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sins in seducing Bathsheba and killing her husband. (You might want to read 2 Samuel 11:1 to 12:14 and then re-read Psalm 51)

You may discover the riches of the Psalms and how they may enhance your life of prayer. The Psalms are one of the best resources to imspire us and help us to grow in prayer.

I welcome comments WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Read a Psalm today.

Pastor Michael

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Prayer is a conversation with God. Unfortunately, we usually do all of the talking and do not give God a chance to respond. (It cannot be a conversation unless both parties talk and listen.) God does respond and answer us, but we are usually too busy talking to pay any attention to God's response.

I suggest that you plan a time to intentionally listen to God. Write it down like your other prayer times. Begin your time by relaxing with the Jesus Prayer. (See Post for April 10.) Then sit quietly, close your eyes, and listen. Some people unclasp their hands and lay them palm up on their lap or on the table to signify their openness to God.

Breathe slowly and evenly. Remind yourself that you are open to hearing from God. Feel God's love and presence with you.

This will take some practice. Do not give up!

After a few minutes thank God for being with you. Take a moment to write down any feelings that you have. Practice this every day for at least two weeks.

You may even want to talk to God during one of your other times and ask God to help you to be a better listener. Have patience with yourself. Pay attention to the feelings that you have during your time of listening.

During the week you may want to read the story of Elijah in I Kings 19:9-13. He was waiting to hear from God and heard God in "a still small voice." You may want to meditate on a verse such as Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

Make time to listen to God today.

I welcome comments WordsandSighs@gmail.com

Pastor Michael