“I don’t know how to pray!”

James 5:13-18     9.26.21

            How many times have I been in a group of people or talking with an individual and heard the lament, “I just don’t know how to pray!”?  Many times.  For a variety of reasons, some of us feel like we are ill equipped to speak to God—maybe we feel unworthy, maybe we are not sure what words to use, maybe we are not accustomed to praying on our own.  We can pray in church when someone else is leading the prayer, but at home, in the quiet of our kitchen, bedroom, living room or back porch—we are just not too sure of ourselves.

            When we get stuck like this, could it be that we have too narrow of a definition of prayer in our minds?  Could it be that we assume prayer must always include words, and even some particular order of words, to be “right”? I want to encourage you to see that prayer is neither right nor wrong.  It is the interface between us and God who is Three in One, One in Three.  It can happen in different ways, through different postures, through different media, in different environments, with or without the “right” words.

One of my favorite movies is Sister Act, which gives an example of how a declining old Catholic church can be converted into a thriving congregation which serves its community.  God’s transformation of this congregation is greatly helped by the very unorthodox ways of “Sister Mary Clarence”, who is played by Whoopi Goldberg.  She is being housed in the Roman Catholic convent connected to the church as a part of a witness protection program.  At a meal with the other sisters, she offers what might be her first public prayer.  She prays: “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts … and, yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of no food, I shall fear no hunger. We want you to give us this day our daily bread … and to the republic for which it stands … by the power vested in me, I now pronounce us, ready to eat. Amen.”

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Welcoming the Youth

September 19, 2021 Mark 9:  33-37; James 3:13-18

                I want to start out this morning by reminding you, Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, that you are blessed to have 11 teenagers in your midst. They are bright and active, leaders in their schools, athletes and actors, musicians and dancers, computer whizzes and mostly joined at the hip to their phones!  And we have 8 elementary aged children participating in our KIDS TIME.  For a congregation of just over one hundred on our rolls, and an average pandemic worship attendance in the 40’s, it seems to me that more than 20% of our church family are between 5-17 years old.  You may not see them regularly, but they are participating in church activities. I have opportunities to meet with pastors of other churches in the Presbytery who simply shake their heads when they are asked about the youth in their church.  Leaders are asking themselves, “Where are the children and the youth? How is it that the Presbyterian Church across the country has become so gray?”  Clearly, Presbyterians are not alone in that phenomenon.  There are all kinds of studies and reports about the aging of the mainstream Protestant church, and even of evangelical churches, in some part due to the aging of baby boomers like me!  But right here you have an opportunity.  You have an opportunity to intentionally include the young people in our midst, to learn from them and with them, to share your faith and your faith practices with them, to work alongside them in service to our community. 

You remember the story about Jesus blessing the children even when the adults around him thought the kids were interrupting something important.  Jesus clearly saw the children as important and valued them as a part of the community.  This morning we heard about another experience with a child and Jesus.  The child’s presence provides a teachable moment for the disciples, and I hope the presence of children and youth can teach the adults of our church family as well.

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