Good Gifts

As a high school senior, my favorite teacher taught Child Development, the most fun elective a baby-loving kid could take. Also our Senior Class Advisor, Teacher was wild and crazy in all the ways teens love: funny, with a huge laugh; refreshingly honest, telling us truths about which our parents only blushed; smart and engaging, she made school fun. She had a big heart and made it clear that she cared about her students even more than her subject, though she obviously loved teaching, too.

My desk sat near the front of the room and my view allowed me to often admire Teacher’s bracelet: a chunky ivory bangle with silver clasps and the most enormous topaz I’d ever seen. It came from India and I no longer remember whether she’d bought it on vacation or perhaps it had been a gift? Either way, I thought it was fantastic.

Lucky me, my dad was an airline pilot with Pan American Airlines and regularly traveled to India. India wasn’t his favorite destination and, though he complained of the oppressive heat and impassable crowds, I suspect the extreme poverty broke his heart in ways his pride couldn’t admit.bracelet

When he presented me with my own version of Teacher’s bracelet – Hooray, Hooray! – he told me that he had hired a cab driver for an entire day to shuttle him all over New Delhi as he talked with one vendor after another, examining their wares and explaining exactly what he wanted until he found just the right gift for his oldest daughter about to graduate high school.

At the time, I understood that Dad had worked hard to find the bracelet I desired. Now, however, I recognize that the bracelet came at considerable cost. I have no idea truly what dent the bracelet put in his wallet. Rather, Dad paid a personal cost: his time, effort, discomfort, his breaking heart… As an adult who shies from heat and crowds, who feels easily overwhelmed and gives up quickly on strenuous shopping requirements, I am also overwhelmed by the gift of love my dad invested into the gift of this bracelet. More than any tangible item he gave me, this bracelet represents my dad’s love for me.

We didn’t have an easy relationship. As far as I know, my dad had no easy relationships in his entire life. The only child of a dysfunctional family, he never received the love he needed that might have flowed over into others. He only learned to say, “I love you” during the last year of his life, once he knew life had grown short.

Luke 11 says that, as broken parents give good gifts, our Heavenly Father wants to do so even more. This encourages me:

That my dad loved me, and worked harder than I could know to express it in his way; and
That my Father in heaven loves me more than I’ll ever know, and He also wants to give me good gifts.

Which makes me wonder: Have I told God what I want? I described the bracelet specifically to my dad, and I think God wants us to be specific with Him, too (maybe not about bracelets, but certainly about wisdom, justice, love, peace…).

I can’t remember the last time I wore the bracelet my dad gave me. As a vegetarian-environmentalist-animal lover, wearing ivory now seems wrong. On the other wrist, so to speak, not wearing the bracelet my dad gave me, especially now that I recognize the tremendous gift of love it represents, also seems wrong. So if you see me wearing ivory and that seems incongruous, you might get an earful about my revived prayer life and the gifts of love for which I’m asking my Daddy.

Connect
Who taught you to pray? What are your earliest memories of praying?

Study
Read aloud Luke 11:1-13.
What do you learn from Jesus’ prayer in vv. 2-4 about how we should pray?
What is the main take-away from Jesus’ parable in vv. 5-8?
Verses 9-10 are often taken out of context to promote praying for an easy life. How would you explain Jesus’ meaning to someone inclined to believe in a health and wealth gospel? Does the context of vv. 11-12 shed any light on this? How?
What does Jesus mean in v. 13 – is the Holy Spirit the only good gift we can ask for or…?

Live
How is the content of Jesus’ prayer (vv. 2-4) like or unlike your current prayers? In what ways have you found praying the Lord’s Prayer helpful or unhelpful?
What might change if you asked Jesus to teach you to pray?
What do you think Jesus means by encouraging us to pray with “shameless audacity” (v. 8 NIV)?
For what are you Asking, Seeking, and Knocking in prayer? Let others join you in prayer.
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that Jesus will teach you to pray and fill you with His Holy Spirit.

Shameless Audacity

One year ago our family was caught up in a season of prayer and preparation for Guy’s pastoral sabbatical. For two years we had thought we’d go to Peru to work with Kids Alive International in the Andes. Guy has been several times and his heart has broken for the needs of the people there; the rest of us bided time until Tween was old enough to make the strenuous trip (early morning flights/drastic elevation changes).

God shut that door.

So we pursued the possibility of spending the summer in Costa Rica. Teen had been on a school trip and fallen in love with the beauty of God’s creation in the rain forest. It could be great (and it was) to spend the summer seeking God where we already knew His creation would astound us.

But living on 1.5 church salaries, how could we afford it?

One week I stood up during our women’s group of 100+ gals and asked them to pray with me that God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), would do a miracle and provide a way for us to live the summer in a Spanish-speaking country (we all have some Spanish skills), whether it be Costa Rica or elsewhere.

A week later God showed up as only God can to provide a house-sitting gig for us that was way, way, WAY more than we could ask or imagine. It made possible our summer abroad and became a safe haven for our often travel-weary bones. You can read more about our Costa Rican adventures and what we called our “God Treasure Hunt” here.

This week it has occurred to me that I prayed with shameless audacity for God to provide for Guy’s sabbatical. I believed God had good gifts to give him, and by extension, his family, during that time of well-earned rest. I believed, and so I prayed, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was praying for.

I don’t always pray that way. Why not?

I definitely get in prayer ruts. I don’t set aside enough time to pray, so I pray on the go – in the car, as I walk, in between the here-and-there of my too-busy life. That’s fine, of course, but it’s like infrequent snacking instead of sitting down to a satisfying meal. And it’s not a very good way to listen for God’s quiet whisper.

In church this morning I had a sudden inspiration, a nudge to the ribs from the Spirit: I would pray in color before writing my next blog post.

Praying in Color is a fun, creative, get-me-out-of-my-head (and my rut) form of prayer. It slows you down to meditate on each word and phrase as you color/write/doodle. You can pray for people, countries, events, whatevers, and you can pray the words of Scripture, no artistic ability required. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer from Luke 11, today’s Bible passage.

prayer

Part of the beauty of praying in color is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. This is my example, but yours would look entirely different. The point is to actively pray, to spend time with our loving Father. And at the end, you have a visual reminder of your prayer.

I just noticed that the Praying in Color site contains templates for praying in color during Lent. Although we’re almost half-way through the season, I might download a template and use it as a tool to pray from here to Easter.

However you pray, let’s pray with shameless audacity that the Spirit will show up in surprising and dramatic ways!

Connect
To whom do you turn when you feel like you need to talk? Explain.
Reflect on an example from your life of persistence paying off.

Study
Read aloud Luke 11:1-13.
Put this version of the Lord’s Prayer into your own words (vv. 2-4). What strikes you about the content of this prayer? [For comparison, see Matthew 6:9-13].
What is Jesus’ main point with His example in vv. 5-7?
What do vv. 9-13 say to someone who feels like their prayers aren’t being answered? [See also James 4:3].

Live
Author Anne Lamott suggests that all prayers boil down to three essential words: “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.” Examine the Lord’s Prayer and see if you agree.
How do you balance your CHATs with the Lord: confess, honor, ask and thanks? Do you tend toward one over the others? Explain.
How would your prayers change if you brought shameless audacity to your prayers? If you expected the Holy Spirit?
How do you incorporate prayer into your everyday life?
What obstacles stand in the way of effective prayer time, and how can you level them?
Which Faith Training Exercises have you tried recently? Reflect on joys and struggles.
Which exercises might God call you to this week, and why?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that Jesus will teach you to pray and fill you with His Holy Spirit.