a simple guide for normal people
Sep 23 // THIN PLACES
WHAT’S THE POINT?
Even when you really don’t want to pray, a place of prayer can often make it easier.
99% of prayer is often just showing up: making the effort to become consciously present to the God who is constantly present to us.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Acts 2: 1-4
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.”
– It’s the first week back in person (make sure to mention how exciting it is to be back)
– Share some stories of youth highlights throughout COVID online
– Talk about new priorities that maybe COVID has highlighted.
WHY DO I CARE?
The greatest person who ever lived was a man of prayer. Before launching out into his public ministry, he fasted for more than a month in the wilderness. Before choosing his 12 disciples, he prayed all night. When he heard the devastating news that his cousin John had been executed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. After feeding 5000 people, he was understandably tired, but chose to climb a mountain and pray. When the pressures of fame threatened to crush him, Jesus prayed. When he was in the face of his own death in the garden of Gethsemane, bleeding with fearing failed by his friends, he prayed. Even during his gruesome death on the cross, he cried out to the one who apparently forsaken him.
Jesus prayed and he prayed and he prayed.
One of the most famous prayers we read in the Bible is The Lord’s Prayer, which we will be looking at next week. What is really significant though, is that prior to giving The Lord’s Prayer to his disciples, Jesus was praying in a certain place: he preferred to go to certain places to pray. Another time (Matthew 6:6) when talking to his disciples he told them that when they pray “go into your room and close the door.” The location clearly mattered.
In our main scripture today in Acts chapter 2, we see the moment where Jesus followers are waiting for his promise of the Holy Spirit. They are all together in a room, with the door closed, and are honestly probably quite afraid of what life will be like with Jesus gone. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit first “filled the whole house where they were sitting” so that the disciples “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Moments later “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Isn’t that an interesting progression? The Holy Spirit filled the place before he filled the people.
One of the amazing things about Christianity is the depth of history and experience that we can look back on. The ancient Celtic Christians understood very well that the Holy Spirit filled places as well as people, they described such sites as “thin places.” Your thin place may simply be a chair in your house, the walk to school, the end of your bed, the swing in your backyard, or even time in the sanctuary of your bathroom! Spiritual teacher Richard Foster urges us “to find a place of focus – a loft, a garden, a spare room, an attic, even a designated chair – somewhere away from the routine of life, out of the path of distractions.” Just like the Israelites had the Tent of Meeting, where they would meet intimately with God… allow yourself a place that becomes your “tent of meeting.”
(INSERT STORY OF WHERE YOU PRAY, how does this place impact you, how has it helped your prayer life?)
Even when you don’t really want to pray, a place of prayer can often make it easier. Merely by showing up, you make a declaration of intent. You say, in effect, “Lord I don’t want to be here, but I’m here!”
“99% of prayer is often just showing up: making the effort to become consciously present to the God who is constantly present to us.” Pete Greig
WHAT DO I DO?
Where’s your chair?
Where’s your thin place?
Prayer can often be difficult, confusing, and weird…. But really, as followers of Jesus it should become one of the most natural things we do. Let’s begin by finding a certain place. Somewhere private and quiet. A place where you can show up even if you don’t want to. A place which becomes a thin place that you meet with God and enjoy his presence. Next week we will look at how to pray… but let’s begin by following Jesus example by choosing a certain place, and showing up.