Prayer

Mom: Prayer, Pure Sweetness and No Nudity Involved

Cupcake image by Pinkcandy / Shutterstock.

Cupcake image by Pinkcandy / Shutterstock.

Growing up, I didn’t think my mother liked me; I know she loved me, but she didn’t know how to handle me. Mom was quiet and melancholy; I was brash and angry. Melancholy and anger were the mechanisms we each used to cope with the family’s dysfunction. But we had little in common. Well, except for the dysfunction.

But I did know my mother loved me. She said she worried about me, she wanted me to be happy; she wanted me to know Jesus. And she prayed for me every day. Every morning as I got ready for school, I passed the den and caught a glimpse of her reading her Bible and praying.

Maybe she wasn’t close to me, but I saw with whom she was close: God. Over time I saw what that friendship did to her. It made her good and kind, even in the face of disappointment and sorrow.

As an adult I tried to get closer to Mom by sharing the things that mattered to me. The first attempt didn’t go so well. I gave her a copy of my MFA thesis screenplay, which was a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. She never read it.

“I just don’t get it,” she flustered.  I think she didn’t understand screenplay formatting.

Praying for God to Hurt Someone is Not Illegal, Judge Rules

Man Praying, Kevin Carden/Shutterstock.com

Man Praying, Kevin Carden/Shutterstock.com

 

Is it okay to ask God to do harm to another person? The theology of such “imprecatory prayer” may be a matter of debate, but a Dallas judge has ruled it is legal, at least as long as no one is actually threatened or harmed.

District Court Judge Martin Hoffman on Monday (April 2) dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mikey Weinstein against a former Navy chaplain who he said used “curse” prayers like those in Psalm 109 to incite others to harm the Jewish agnostic and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and his family.

Hoffman said there was no evidence that the prayers by Gordon Klingenschmitt, who had been endorsed for the Navy chaplaincy by the Dallas-based Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, were connected to threats made against Weinstein and his family or damage done to his property.

Faith is Certain and Endless

Sunrise over New York City. Image via Wiki Commons (http://bit.ly/HRlswn).

Sunrise over New York City. Image via Wiki Commons (http://bit.ly/HRlswn).

I know that the sun will rise tomorrow.

With all of the scientific facts and astronomical data we are blessed with today, I can expect to wake up tomorrow and see rays of light shining through my window.

There is also no debating time. Our clocks, both digital and internal, continue to tick onward no matter the circumstances. These are inexorable certainties in life. However, these proven facts of our existence are limited. They are not the whole story.

There are things in life we neither can physically see nor explain, and yet we choose to believe anyway.

When our little siblings place their fallen teeth underneath their pillows, hoping to see a winged fairy deliver gifts in return, they are relying entirely on an unproven belief. When students choose universities to attend, they do not know what the outcomes of their decisions will be, nor can they predetermine their futures after school. But they continue to grow and experiment with life anyway.

Even the wisest of theologians and clergy have very few answers to the questions pertaining to God’s existence that enter our minds on a daily basis. All of these situations represent something many of us hold onto so dearly: Faith.

Food Pantry’s Prayers Violate Federal Rules

Giving food photo, James Steidl/Shutterstock.com

Giving food photo, James Steidl/Shutterstock.com

Food pantry volunteer Shirley Sears patiently walked a young woman through a series of questions on an application for emergency assistance. After they complete the form, Sears told the woman she has one more question.

"Is there anything," Sears asked, "that you would like us to pray with you about?"

Yes, the woman replied without hesitation. Reaching across the small desk that separates them, Sears grasped the woman's hands and began to pray.

That scene has been repeated thousands of times over the past 15 years inside this small, southern Indiana food pantry operated by non-profit Community Provisions of Jackson County.

This month, the practice was found to be against federal policy, leaving the pantry's founder with a Solomon-like choice: Stop the prayers or give up truckloads of free food provided through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.

“Pray For Us”: How Can We Pray Effectively for the People of Syria?

Photo by Kevin Carden / Shutterstock.com.

Photo by Kevin Carden / Shutterstock.com.

A headline from Reuters stopped me in my tracks earlier this week.

It read, ‘"Pray for us" say Syria rebels as army closes in’." I was struck by how moving I found this statement, this plea.

I do my best to remember places of conflict and strife in my prayers, but very rarely have I been petitioned to pray from a conflict situation by those in the middle of the conflict. It may be a strange reaction on my part to conflate a headline from a news report to be a direct request for my prayers, but that is how I responded when I read it.

“Pray for me” is not an abstract or passive statement. When we are asked to pray for someone, or a group of people, we are charged to bring their need or suffering to God.

Call to "Tone Down Religious Rhetoric"

In an op-ed published today in the Charlotte Observer, Mike Daisley calls for Christians to "tone down the religious rhetoric."

Of course, the influence of religious belief on political discourse is nothing new. In the Bill of Rights, the very first phrase of the First Amendment contemplates the delicate balance of church and state. It has been challenging us ever since.

The issue of school prayer is but one example. Never mind that the Supreme Court on numerous occasions has ruled that only government-coerced prayer or state-sponsored prayer is unconstitutional. This fact has failed to dissuade numerous conservative groups from raising millions by suggesting that little Johnny could be taken away in handcuffs if the godless secularists who "outlawed prayer in schools" aren't stopped.

Foreclosure Resistance: A Prayer

The question is, are we listening? For God, who hears the prayers of God's people, is calling us to listen as well. God's justice is a collective project.

But when we listen, we hear stories of oppression, corruption, and injustice, in the face of honesty and hard work. But listening is not enough. When we listen, God calls us from the quiet of prayer to be a healing presence in the world.

"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." - Proverbs 31:27

TRANSCRIPT: Barack Obama and The God Factor Interview

Obama at an April 4, 2004 Palm Sunday mass in Chicago. Via Getty Images.

Obama pictured at Palm Sunday mass in Chicago where Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke, April 4, 2004. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio.

We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the
Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled.

Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on
God’s Politics.

~ Cathleen Falsani


Conversation on Prayer with President Obama

Prayer image via Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?

Prayer image via Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=46427416)

In fact, President Obama, himself, had a puzzled look as he said, “Hello Eugene.” So, I had to introduce myself to him and explained to him that I was a pastor here in Seattle and involved with some other work. We chit-chatted briefly about stuff but there is something I very specifically remember and I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this portion of our conversation.

I shared with President Obama that I occasionally but regularly prayed for him and this is how he responded:

“Thank you, Eugene. I really appreciate that. Can you also please pray for my wife and children? Pray for their protection.”

His demeanor changed. Perhaps, this is just me. Perhaps, I’m reading and analyzing too much into all the non-verbal cues but then again, I’m a pastor and after 21 years of doing ministry, you develop a “pastoral sense” and I genuinely sensed his gratitude for prayer and his request for prayer for his family.

Lent (or Why I Need a Break from the 'Like' Button)

Photo via Getty Images.

Photo via Getty Images.

Consciously or not, when we recognize the need to step away from social media, it is because we are questioning who is in control.

If our default is to ask life’s big questions on Twitter before we offer them in prayer, then someone other than God is in control. If we "Like" what someone is doing of Facebook before we recognize everything God is doing in our lives, maybe we need a social media time-out.

Lent is the right time to realign ourselves with the fact that God should be in control in our lives.

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