It was May 1990 and I was afraid. No, I wasn't about to have surgery. No, I wasn't facing a threat. No, I wasn't even about to have a tooth pulled, or send a child off to college,or change jobs, or jump out of a plane for the first time. It was nothing so threatening or life changing as all of that. What brougtht on this sudden attack of fear? Prayer. Let me explain.
In 1989, before I had entered the ministry, and after only being back in church for two years, I was invited to take part in a "Disciples Bible Study" in my church. It was a wonderful study. I learned much about the Bible; I was able to explain my new-found faith; I was able to form deep relationships as we talked together about our faith. I think it was because I had such a wonderful experience and because I was a teacher by training that I agreed (after much private prayer) to co-lead a new "Disciple Bible Study" group that fall. I remember reasoning , " If God could use Jonah, who ran away from God, perhaps God could use me too" So with that inspiration, I said "yes" to co-leading that study with my friend, Linda. When you haven't done something like that before and you are as new to your faith as I was,that is scary enough. However that was not why I had that sudden attack of fear.
After I answered God's call to co-lead the study, after I was committed, all of a sudden it dawned on me - you are going to have to pray out- loud! The idea petrified me. I wanted to back out of teaching the class. I told Linda, my co-leader,and she assured me that she would do most of the praying. Even so, I knew I would have to pray out-loud at somen point, and I was very afraid.
I share this with you for two reasons: 1) to remind myself that for people who are not in the habit of praying, especially out-loud, prayer can be intimidating, and 2) to encourage those who are not in the habit of praying that it's OK to be uncomfortable or even afraid,but to pray anyway because it gets easier with practice.It took me awhile. All of my public prayers were wriitten in the beginning; writing them helped me bridge the gap from praying alone to praying with others. Gradually over time, prayer got easier and became natural.. It will for you too. Pray through your fear, if you feel fear or even discomfort.
Lent begins this year on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and continues to Easter, April 24, As a part of this Season of Prayer, We are offering four studies that encourage, teach and stretch our prayers These are open to the public,,and you can join by calling the church, and the topics have been listed in the paper previously, but here they are again in case you missed them:: Adventurous Prayer, Traveling the Prayer Paths of Jesus, The Life of Prayer;Body, Mind, and Soul, and the fourth offering has been changed to How Do You Pray after You've Kicked the Dog? by Terry Teykl. A practical, readable, enjoyable, and insightful approach to personal prayer.
Learning about prayer, talking about it with others and praying in new ways is a great way to strengthen our prayer lives.
Pastor Diann O'Bryant is the minister of Gilman United Methodist Church, 312 Gilman St., Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Christy Hudson at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.