Lent Begins March 1

Occasionally people will come to me and ask how they can learn to follow Christ more closely and fully. Such a simple question and one you would assume every Christian wants to know. Yet, disciples spend their entire life being shaped by that question. When we join the church we affirm our vows to continue our growth in Christ through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Each of these duties help us to follow Christ more closely and fully. “How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer,” published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., quotes John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, as saying “In using all means, seek God alone. In and through every outward thing, look only to the power of His Spirit, and the merits of His Son. Beware you do not get stuck in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labor. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, fix on Him in all, through all, and above all…Remember also to use all means as means-as ordained, not for their own sake…” The first way we promise in our vows to stay fixed on God is through prayer. In planning for Lent this year, I want to focus on prayer and invite you to do the same.

Each Sunday, I will look at a different theological aspect of prayer. I will continue to ground each sermon in scripture while following the lectionary. Sunday School classes and small groups who follow the lectionary will not have to change their readings. I will be drawing heavily from Tom Harpur’s book, “Prayer: The Hidden Fire”. I will also be using Richard Foster’s book, “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home” and Bishop Robert Schnase’s book, “Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences.” Rev. Jim Carr will be leading a prayer and study group using Richard Foster’s, “Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer.”

The First Sunday in Lent I want to explore how we can follow Christ and be faithful when prayer takes us places we don’t want to go or when we pray and don’t get the answers we had hoped for. We will look at Matthew 4:1-11 when God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (NRSV). The next Sunday we will go to John 3:1-17 where we find what may be the best known scripture of all time: John 3:16. What do we do when we don’t feel loved? Can we be honest with God in our prayers and how do our emotions enhance or hinder our prayers? The third Sunday brings us John’s recollection of Jesus and the woman at the well. Is there a right way to pray? Is there a way of praying or place to pray that God likes better? Is prayer about changing God or about God changing us? We will stay in John and look at chapter 9:1-41 for the fourth Sunday in Lent. I will explore with you why some prayers never seem to get answered or there is no indication they were even heard. This is a long story with many fascinating details centering around a beggar, blind from birth, and his relationship to God and the faith community. The last Sunday in our series draws from the story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus delays two days after receiving a prayer request from two of his close friends and Lazarus dies. Can we earn prayer points? Do the faithful get prayer privileges?

I hope this has raised some questions of your own and I encourage your small group to develop their own study of prayer. Let us know and we will help get the word out. If you don’t have a small group, maybe it is time to form one or see if you can find one that is meaningful to you. There are several pastors in the church who would be happy to meet with you individually. Tuesday soup lunch with the United Methodist Women might be the perfect place for you to start your search or at any of the many Super Adult activities. There are several small groups of young people at differing stages in life meeting as well as our regular Sunday classes.

See you Sunday,