Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sailing Into A New Year

Sailing into the New Year Prayer Loft 
I have been creating prayer lofts for the past 3-4 years at my church. We change the theme about every two to three months.

When the idea first came to me it was vision of a river. I sketched out rough sketches and pitched the idea to my pastor thinking he'd likely think I was nuts, but he loved the idea and found me some funds for the project. It has become a special unique aspect of our particular congregation and our style of worship and connecting with God through the arts.

I had noticed that learning to pray can be intimidating when one is a new believer. It can be overwhelming even for folks who have been busy serving in the church for many years - after all how does one approach the God of the Universe?

For many years I had been writing songs in my quiet prayer time before the Lord, but what if there were other tangible creative ways to connect with the Lord in a meaningful way. How could art be incorporated into a prayer experience that left people feeling encouraged rather than frustrated. Like the disciples they couldn't pray for an hour with out falling asleep or being board to tears. We live in a fast paced media driven world - the art of quiet reflection can easily be lost in the busyness of our daily lives.

As I thought about things that would help people. I realized the when I approach the Lord often it is because I am seeking direction or encouragement. Quite often I don't know how to pray for a situation and I am ever thankful for the gift of speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit does know and the word says it builds up your spirit.  

Romans 8:26, 27
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

I personally don't think that speaking in tongues is a badge of spirituality. This post really isn't about speaking in tongues. When I pray for people I always ask them if its is ok with them that I pray for them in my prayer language. Often I sing over them in my prayer language. Sometimes God gives me a sense of what it was about, or what some call an interpretation.  It has always been very well received by people even in my non charismatic, evangelical church. I bring it up because it has been a wonderful gift that has helped me to pray and connect deeply with God.

The bottom line is that God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. I realized that God was willing to meet me however I chose to express my thoughts and feelings and concerns to him.
I have for many years spent my quiet time journaling. I write for a while then I listen and write what I feel the Lord is saying. Often He will lead me to a verse in the bible that is precisely what I needed but would not have been able to find on my own. In writing what I think God is saying to me I may not get it right all the time but at least I am trying to listen. Sometimes I feel like the Lord is saying go to page #___ in the bible or some other book and generally what ever I find there pertains to what I had been praying about.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Much of what has found its way to our prayer lofts have been things that I have enjoyed doing or found helpful in my own journey to learn to pray. 

I think half the battle is deciding that prayer really does work and your are not just waisting your time talking to yourself. I think too often prayer is a last resort that people try when nothing else has worked. I want to encourage people to make it the first resort. Start with prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you in discovering the solution. 

Some of the things you might find in our prayer lofts are scrolls. Some are passages that I have taken from various devotional posts that I have written some are from a wonderful book called Blessing Your Spirit by Sylvia Gunter and Arthur Burk   The idea is that the Lord would lead you to pick the one that will encourage and speak to you. 

Another thing you will often find are colored glass stones that have a Bible promise verse references on the back side. Again a way to allow the Lord to speak to you.
Glass Stones Promise Verses
The prayer loft often has candles for people to light. They are like a reminder of our prayers rising up to the Lord like a fragrant incense.
Many people pray and then light a candle as a way of lifting their prayer to the Lord.

Art Reflection Cast Your Nets by Greg Olsen
There is generally some art work of a beautiful inspiring scene or of the life of Christ.
It is a way of meditating or thinking about what the artist has captured. This picture makes me wonder what it be like to have breakfast prepared for you by Jesus on the beach after a long night of fishing? Really that amazing intimacy is available for every one of us. The disciples were for the most part fishermen and so Jesus met them where they were at and transformed them in to fishers of men. He wants to meet you right where you are at doing the things you enjoy doing.

More recently I have started creating cards, book marks and other things that people can color as they pray. In this picture there are little 3x5 size cards with nautical line drawings and a bible verse. I think I did 16 different designs this time. At Christmas I did 8 different greeting cards.  Our church is a coffee house during the week and church on Sunday. We have found that people like sitting at the cafe tables. Often you will see people taking these coloring projects back to their seat and working on them during the service. They make a nice thing to give to a friend or loved one to let them know you were praying for them.

The prayer loft generally has a theme. This one is Sailing into the New Year and has a variety of stations that help one to find encouragement for the journey ahead.
The down side of meeting in a cafe is that it has to be set up and taken down every week. In our previous location we were able to set it up and leave it installed. So this takes a bit more work and I have to make it so that it does not take too long to set up or clean up.

The prayer loft is a ministry under my direction and leadership but I am glad for the creativity and help of a number of other people. God has provided others who have been inspired and excited at times when I was not and I have had the opportunity to encourage others to create hands on ways for people to connect with God.

Our service has a very open worship time and people are up moving around the room. Some singing along with the worship team others praying for prayer requests that are written on poster boards frames that hang on the wall. You see people writing their own prayers or praying for the prayers that someone else has written. I often hear from people say, I wrote something on the prayer wall and to their surprise and delight God answered their prayer. There are a couple of other things in this prayer loft that didn't get photographed. There are small globes to hold in your hands as you pray for various places in the world. There is a pitcher filled with water and a glass bowl, the idea with that one is to pray your prayer and then pour a little water in the bowl. As others pray our prayers mingle together before the Lord much as the water mixes together.

 The important thing is that we want people to come and connect with God.
Should you happen to be in the Spokane area and want to experience the current prayer loft it is up on Sunday's and located at The Gathering House, A Covenant Church and Coffee House in the Garland District.  

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