This week, I will be spending three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) on a Prayer Retreat with my Spiritual Director. I share this information with you for a couple of reasons. First, I want you to know the practical details of my being away - I won't be available in the office or on the phone or email. If you have an emergency, are in the hospital, or need to speak to a pastor - rest assured, I have arranged for coverage. Just call St. James pastoral care line - 952-890-4410 - and someone will be able to assist. This line is answered in person 24/7. While I am gone, Seminarian Sherri Lawrence has graciously agreed to be 'on-call' for me. If the matter can wait - leave a message for me or send me an email and I will get back to you when I return.
Second, I want you to know that your pastor prays. Time away for spiritual reflection and prayer plays an important part in grounding my pastoral ministry. I seek to have my connection with God strengthened as I live out my call as an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament. A few years ago, my sabbatical taught me the importance of tending to my spiritual needs. Although every Christian life needs prayer, it is an essential component for those who preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I find myself too busy to pray, I become distracted and frantic. Praying helps to center and focus efforts, energies, and priorities. Prayer informs my pastoral leadership by reminding me to open my heart, mind, and spirit as I seek to discern where God's Spirit is calling us.
When I pray, I have found it helpful for me to clear my mind of thoughts, words, agendas, concerns, fears, and distractions. I close my eyes and breath deeply. Most often, though not always, I kneel using a prayer bench (pictured above). Since I'm usually concerned about time, I set the timer on my phone for an amount of time and then I don't worry about it. Clearing mind, breathing deeply, I open myself and listen for God.
It is hard to describe how this meditative practice works except I have found that it does. At times, silent prayer offers me a glimpse of God's shalom. At other times, it slows me down so I catch a needed breath. At other times, it offers clarity. It is always different and I'm never sure of what outcome, if any, will transpire.
As I head off to the woods of Wisconsin for this retreat, I ask that you would keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in my prayers.
I will be back in time for worship on Sunday. As always, I look forward to seeing you then.