Tag Archives: small groups

Spiritual Challenge: A prayer walk.

hiking

Flickr photo from this source.

I’m curious to know if you’ve ever been on a prayer walk? Would you please tell me in the comment section/link below?

The weather (in North America) is changing to mild temperatures, and the beauty of Spring is here.

I’d like to inspire you to carve out 20-45 minutes, (or more, if possible) within the next few days from the time you read this, to absorb the beauty of creation, and the God of it.

This beautiful picture gave me the kick to write this post. Let’s both do it. Go to your calendar now, check for a spot, and mark it down. Morning time, evening, weekend, whatever. You truly have 20 minutes, I know it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. We both know-once you mark it down-it’s quite likely to happen.

With this time, you can allow yourself the experience of a guided prayer walk, using some, or all of the guidelines I’ll lay out below. It will help create a place in your heart to experience the presence of God within and around you. It’s really the perfect Rx for the spring season.

Some suggestions for your walk time:

Items to bring along-

– Comfortable, durable, Shoes

-(if needed) Sunscreen/basic first aid kit

-Water

-Snack

-Notepad and pen

-Camera

(Some of you may want to bring a Bible. If you feel this is important, I am suggesting that you read Scripture before you go on this walk, and if you’d like, bring along a passage, or verse that is on your heart.)

First, allow yourself to acclimate to your environment. Notice your surroundings. Walk deliberately, and also wait, sit or rest, once in a while, and take in your surroundings. Put hurrying aside.

Second, as issues, or chatter run through your mind, push them gently aside, or if they are quite intrusive, jot them down, and give yourself permission to think of them, at another time. (You may may find it helpful to briefly lift those things to God in prayer, and purposefully “hand them over,” before you continue your walk.)

Third, continue until you feel like you’d like to find a comfortable place to sit, or rest, for a little while. The jot down something about your surroundings, and associations that may come to mind about God, and God’s character. Note your response to God, or his creation. Or, record other thoughts you feel are meaningful, or maybe things you would like to explore further, at some point.

Fourth, enter into a time of prayer. It can be any length of time. This is a time of conversation, and also worship. Worship involves  adoration of God. Speak, but also listen.

Fifth, be where you are.

Sixth, Continue your journey until you are ready for it’s conclusion. During this time, you may want to spend more time in prayer, engage in vigorous exercise (walk at a rapid pace, for instance), gaze appreciatively at nature, or sit in quiet, or a bit of each. It’s a free-play, or freeform period of the hike/walk, where you can have all the freedom to enjoy it in the way which makes the most sense for where you are right now in your life. Sense God’s love for you, and his delight in you. If you cannot, ask him for the grace to do so. Forgive others, and forgive yourself.

Seventh, when done, offer a brief prayer of thanksgiving, and accept God’s grace. Receive from God. After a few minutes, write down noteworthy thoughts, experiences, ideas, sensations, or insights that happened along the way, or during your prayers.

Eighth, Later, share some, or all, of your notes with at least one other person.

You may want to walk with another friend, a spouse, or in a small group etc.

How rewarding this is!

For this, I suggest that a period of prayerful silence be observed during the whole time,

and conversations between people be postponed until after the walk is through.

Group discussion after the walk may prove very fruitful.

If you give this a try, I’d love to hear how this goes.

Will you please share your experience here?

(Photos you’ve taken can be sent to ovationeneterprises (at) verizon (dot) net)

May God be with you.

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My Top 5 Reasons/signs you may be burned out on church

1. You find yourself thinking up illnesses that would suffice for excuses for staying home. Sometimes you even invent names like Snufflititus or Schnozatigo: The serious redness and inflammation of the area beneath the nose from too much tissue rubbing. Rx Coffee, remote control, rest, snacks, and tissues with lotion built-in.

2. You suddenly realize how cool, smart, and savvy the early Sunday morning tv shows are, and feel like you might be getting a raw deal but missing them.

3. You feel deeply offended that your church doesn’t care too much that the coffee offered tastes something like armpit, and you start to identify this characteristic with an inherent spiritual problem of your congregation. (perhaps the misusing of the gift of hospitality) 

4. You start to pick apart the pastor’s sermon with a graph, and two columns of hatch marks on your church bulletin, adding up the times he is substituting a self-aggrandizing story instead of using a true parable to teach a point.

5. You find getting tapped for nursery duty a welcomed relief, because you won’t really have to talk to anybody, watch a worship performance you won’t enjoy, or try to not yawn an ungodly amount of times as you try to get through a sermon the pastor must have downloaded from somewhere late Saturday night.

Okay, this was a purposefully whacky list. If you can relate to any of these internal excuses, signs, or avoidance qualities, in some sort of way, then maybe the experience of attending church has grown stale.

It’s normal to have spiritual slumps. It can’t be wise to think of walking with God as a continual emotional high, and when it’s not experienced as such, something is horribly wrong. Like any journey, there will be hills and valleys. Faithfulness demonstrated as a choice done continually, (rather than a feeling-based action) can really see us through times like this. God is always with us, whether we “feel” him or not.

However, I’ll make a different point. There is also a tendency to fall into a consumer mindset, and feel like church-going is like shopping, and picking out something you like. We probably all do it, to an extent. Have you ever walked out of the service on Sunday thinking, “That wasn’t really what I was hoping for,”? Yep. Unmet expectations are common. But, it doesn’t have to wreck the whole bit of it.

Church doesn’t have to delight us every time, and soothe us. Most times it won’t feed us, not in the deep ways we crave. Those times are often found in community that can plumb to greater depths, and do the harder work, but build the stronger bonds that make genuine growth possible. (Think small groups, or spiritual directors, spiritual mentors, and discipleship situations.)

Church isn’t just some way to get recharged for your week, and be poured into. But, have you noticed how easy it is to slip into that bare minimum, and consumerist outlook of it? I have. I’ve been guilty of it way too much.

It’s not about just an experience, nor is it just meant for worshiping God with others. We worship God all the time, whether we do it poorly and unawares, or we tune in and give him our whole selves. We are his creation, our lives lived are a form of worship, like it or not.

Church-going, and the whole of the spiritual walk, are about applying the gospel to our lives in every circumstance and situation, the whole way through. God’s grace and love came down. He draws us to him. He restores. It seems we co-opt and yield to his mighty, gracious work to changing us radically, to be more like him.

Sometimes it just comes down to sucking it up. Sometimes it means you have to change, not your local church.

Have you ever been burned out on church, like I have, at one time or another? What helped you?

Leave any kinds of comments you’d like.

Coming Soon…

My August project will be to summarize some helpful spiritual disciplines, and design some easy-to-understand materials. Tell me what disciplines or spiritual formation topics you’d like to know about, for yourself, your small group, church, family, or other uses. Different forms of prayer? Lectio Divina? Meditation? Fasting? Sabbath? Examen? Spiritual Direction? It’s time to put all these graduate school studies to good use!