“Take me to your leader.”
That infamous first line by the aliens that seems so ubiquitous in cheap science fiction falls far from the beliefs of Christians with a rich prayer life. Genuine, devout prayer opens a line of communication directly with our Leader that offers solace and guidance as needed. Prayer, for the believer, proves to be a cornerstone of the faith and an opportunity for that direct fellowship both humans and God desire. As we grow in our prayers, our relationship with God, hopefully will become like that of the patriarchs of the Hebrew faith: a one-on-one discussion about our lives and future as He would have it be for us.
For the last five weeks, the adult Bible study classes at University Baptist Church have been studying prayer in the way that only UBC Austin can - with an eclectic mix of song, discussion, and reflection on the topic. As the organizer of the study, I must confess that five weeks offers such a superficial overview of prayer, that I am embarrassed to offer it as a “study,” for the topic of prayer runs so deep in the Christian faith that such a limited time can do little more than kindle an interest in the topic.
After hatching the idea, I began reading books, scouring the Bible, and identifying Internet resources to support the study. The volumes of information available paralyzed me in composing the lesson guides for the various teachers. Finally, though, I settled on a five-week plan after deciding on discussion topics that moved us toward the goal of writing a prayer book for the Liturgical season of Lent. With that goal as the focus, the discussion topics make sense and guide the discussion to the topic of public prayer - a type which suits a prayer guide.
The five discussion topics that led us to the opportunity to write a prayer are:
- Our History with Prayer - A discussion concerning how we learned to pray, who taught us, and we learned from church and the community around us.
- Biblical Foundations of Prayer - A discussion based on what we learned in the Bible about prayer through those that were recorded and directions that were given to us.
- Types of Prayer - A discussion based on different types of free-form and highly structured prayers.
- Purposes of Prayer - A discussion which categorized reasons people pray, and the more I studied this session, I saw the language around this topic morph toward the functions of prayer rather than the purposes of prayer.
- Public Prayer- The discussion that concluded the study centered around University Baptist Church’s “Guide for Public Prayers” and how we suppose those came to be in written form.
Despite my frustration a five-week study imposed, the in class discussions, the random conversations with other church and community members have been some of the richest theological discussions I’ve had in my lifetime. Topic-by-topic I hope to expand my thinking on the topic and and inspire others to develop a meaningful public prayer life on top of a healthy private prayer time.
The fictional, “take me to your leader” moment will likely never happen in our lives, but as people of faith, we have the opportunity to approach our Leader directly, and ideally, that is the approach we will have to prayer.