I've been meeting with the Trinity Grace worship team on Tuesday mornings for well over a year now. We spend the bulk of the time in prayer and worship, but it is also a time for us to learn and grow together in these disciplines. To this end the worship pastor, Alf, often teaches us what he has been learning himself.

For many months now we've been talking about ordering our prayer lives: what, why, how. The basic idea is that God has given each of us a little bit to steward. He longs to give us more but first we must show that S/he can trust us with a little. We should be praying and interceding on behalf of the people, places, and promises that God has entrusted to us already. 

Alf recommended that we make a list and encouraged us to send it to him. I made my list a few months ago but still struggled to be disciplined about prayer. I don't think I was alone.

We were amused when Alf responded to this common struggle, showing us a tool he had recently implemented in his prayer life - a string of prayer beads that he had selected himself at a nearby bead store. I wasn't so much amused at the idea as much as his self-consciousness about it. It seemed like a great idea to me, something that would be very helpful in my own prayer life. He wrote three words on the board, emphasizing the importance of ordering our prayer lives, of doing whatever it takes to make that happen:

Finally I made it down to the bead store on 37th and 6th, spending over $40 on about 60 beads (bad freegan!) - each representing a person, place, promise, idea, or Bible verse that is important to me or my story. I've been using it to guide my prayer for about a week now and I'm finding it to be very helpful! 

I wish to share with others what the beads represent, in hopes that it might help them order their own prayer lives and even get their own beads, should they find this tool to be as helpful as I do! Stay tuned for future posts, as I explain each bead or set of beads - the many great gifts that God has entrusted to me!

My abuela Angela passed on Good Friday, almost a week ago. I'd anticipated her passing for about two years, since I first recognized that she was slipping. Immediately following that occasion I wrote:

When she finally succumbs to the death inside her
and shakes his selfish hand,
the world will lose among its most precious gems.
The total beauty of this world will diminish,
perhaps perceptibly.

And as my sister recently commented on facebook, many of us will have to take to our knees more often to make up for the loss of a faithful prayer warrior. On that same day, my grandmother charged me with a new name, a new mission: nuestro músico especial.

I will certainly continue to write and play the music that God has put on my heart and conscience. But I am also compelled to take up the baton of prayer, to dedicate my life to both prayer and worship just as my grandmother had done.

Though her body may die,
her voice never will.
I will carry it forever, until in my last days,
I can hold hands with Life and christen
a new singer to carry on this legacy - 
a legacy of beauty and love that has been carried 
since the beginning of time,
to be carried forever and ever.
In the mean time, I'm assembling a choir to sing her song -
an ode to joy,
but also to peace, love, life...
and life abundant.

Click here for the complete poem.
It's 7am and I've already been up for an hour. Deep in prayer, drawing into the heart of my Dad. I am reeling! Let's just discuss.

Reclaiming the morning is such a beautiful thing. I got to thinking about how important it was for Jesus to commune with the Father early in the morning. Then I thought about how Odysseus always got his day started "as soon as Dawn arrived, fresh and rosy-fingered." Odysseus did some pretty awesome things. And, you know, there's Jesus. They found it significant to be up at the break of dawn...

I'm making this a new pattern in my life, to be awake and in prayer as Dawn arrives. To be up at 6am.

Do you have any idea how difficult this is? I've always chalked it up to not being "a morning person." But I see now that it was always just an excuse. It wasn't character that I lacked, but discipline - to drag myself out of bed in the morning, to seek after God and abide in God's love, to order my prayer life, to pray, to manage my time efficiently, to be a good steward of my physical body (particularly in the ways I feed it and allow it to rest), to practice self-control throughout the day, to get to bed in the evening (on time!), and finally to pray for prophetic dreams (lol, but seriously).

This is so much harder than any "work" I've ever done or probably will ever do. Look at the paragraph above! Can you imagine a job that would require someone to exercise that kind of discipline? No, it would be untenable. But that's precisely what Jesus calls us into when he says, "come, follow me." This is just a part of what discipleship looks like.

To reclaim the morning will mean for me and God to completely break the foundation of my life. For me to surrender and abdicate to God: my schedule, diet, the times that I sleep and wake, my dreams in the day and night; and then to allow him to work me into a new being altogether, that I might be a better vessel for the Kingdom.

The cost for me will ultimately be my freedom. After all, what meaning does "free time" have when one's schedule is under the domain and command of almighty God?

To be continued =D
I never thought that I could manage to pray meaningfully and powerfully for an entire hour... and certainly not EVERY DAY; but one practice that has helped a great deal is ordering my prayer life.

The basic idea is that God grants each of His people a certain level of authority over those nouns (people, places, things) which they mutually affect - one's body, family, home, relationships, workplace, etc. One is then empowered to powerfully intercede on behalf of those nouns; but if said someone doesn't fully acknowledge their spheres of influence and authority and then properly order them, it can be very difficult to remember and keep track of them.

So this has helped a lot. Also, some of the gems that Jon has dropped on us in the past couple sermons at TGC:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
Karl Barth

Now. This is all great and good, don't get me wrong - but it's not the sum total that I am after. If it was, then a 24/7 house of prayer and worship in NYC or Chicago would be sufficient. My heart and mind would be guarded by the peace of God and I might be on my way to uprising against the disorder of the world. My only problem with this (typical) understanding of prayer is that it falls just short of dispatching us. We are guarded, ready for the uprising... but just when does this uprising begin?!

I don't pretend to know the answers, though I have some ideas. Here's a satirical (though honest) poem I wrote today which might help to point us in the right direction:

I pray for peace in my life;
   I'm always busy, hurried, anxious.
I pray for peace in my family;
   I rarely call my mother.
I pray for peace in my relationships;
   I hope to avoid confrontation.
I pray for peace in my home;
   I hardly make the time to keep it.
I pray for peace in my building;
   I've yet to meet my neighbors.
I pray for peace in my neighborhood;
   I don't support local businesses.
I pray for peace in my city;
   I refuse to confront the injustice in it.
I pray for peace in my country;
   I prefer the cheap goods produced in others.
I pray for peace in my world;
   I won't be the change I pray for.

Goddammit, He never answers my prayers.
As mentioned in the previous post, the first part of my threefold vision is a 24/7 house of prayer and worship. I learned a bit about what these are when living in Orlando. My D12 discipleship group caught wind of a powerful little book called Red Moon Rising, by Greig and Roberts, which spoke of a world-wide 24/7 prayer movement. Some members of the group read the book (I was admittedly not one of them) and were instantly inspired.

So we got involved with some churches in our city that were experimenting with the idea, including Church in the Son and a venue called The Porch. We learned a bit about what round-the-clock prayer and worship could look like: singing, playing musical instruments, flag-waving, eating or sleeping alongside the homeless, painting, dancing... and any number of other uncomfortably pentecostal expressions of worship. Some of us also visited the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Atlanta.

That was five years ago. I have not participated much in that sort of thing since. But I believe that God has laid exactly "that sort of thing" on my heart - to be implemented in Chicago and, to a certain extent, manifested during my time in NYC.

I'm not sure what that will mean ultimately; but there have been a lot of developments as of late, giving me some idea what it means for the time being.

Jon Tyson, the head pastor of Trinity Grace Church has spoken the past two weeks about prayer, particularly the Lord's Prayer as outlined by Jesus in Matt 6:9-13. He encouraged us to pray through it for one hour each day. He also called us to pray together on Wednesdays at noon for an hour.

Seeing how this call reflected my vision for a prayer movement, I offered to make a map for the congregation to offer or find prayer locations around the city. I am hosting a prayer meeting myself at my home in Hamilton Heights.

I had also resolved to pray during my lunch hour each day, but at my discipleship group meeting on Monday we all agreed to wake up together at 6am to pray. So I've had to shuffle my schedule around, but I'm really making this happen! An hour of prayer each day at 6am. And Wednesdays at noon to boot!

I've also gotten involved with the TGC worship team and poetry group. I know that these group will teach me much more about prayer and worship. I will be leading with the band on tamborine and/or bass at the Upper West Side services, Sundays at 11am. I will also be leading the poetry group and my missional community in worship periodically.

It's already beginning to sound like 24/7, isn't it? Lol. Bring it on!

To hear those sermons by Jon Tyson, click HERE! The sermons about prayer were Feb 20, 27.