Prayer

SUSTAINING A PRAYER LIFE AMONG CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONAL LEADERS

Author
Philomena Ofori-Nipaah D.Min.
Abstract
This research examines how a Reformed understanding of prayer can be enriched by the use of the Prayer of Nehemiah and the Lord’s Prayer. The project demonstrates that a better-informed theology of prayer results in a deepening of the spiritual practices of clergy and church leaders, allowing them to slow down and be involved in a faithful and sustained discipline. This helps them develop a deeper relationship with God. The results are established by a comparison of participants’ surveys taken before, during, and after they have practiced different prayer rules and through the interviews I conducted with the participants.

A Didactic Approach to Spiritual Formation:
Integrating Spiritual Practices to the Seminary Curriculum of the Diaspora of Chinese Students in Panama, Central America

Author
Jacqueline Siu Yin Lam D.Min.
Abstract
An awareness of God’s presence and a capacity to hear Him are two important elements to cultivate an intimate relationship with God for spiritual growth. This research portfolio seeks to answer the question: Will prayer encounters with God through the practice of praying with the Scriptures facilitate the participants’ capacities to hear God and increase awareness of His presence? The context for the research portfolio is seminary students and a small group of participants from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama from the Chinese diaspora in Panama, Central America.
This portfolio offers my spiritual autobiography (Chapter II), which traces the influences of three different Christian spiritual traditions (Foster 1998) and my professional training in various fields that have helped me hear God and experience God’s presence in my daily life. A four-year academic model and curriculum (Chapter III) is created from the experience of my spiritual formation and implemented for the Alliance Bible School of Central and South America. Finally, a field research project (Chapter IV) is offered to examine the effectiveness of Lectio Divina to facilitate prayer encounters in a small group of students from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama. The results show positive responses by the participants in their ability to hear God and experience his presence. However, practicing quietness remains a challenge for some Chinese Christians for their spiritual growth in the Panamian context.

Acts II to two acts : one pastor's journey home from church growth frustration to prayer and proclamation faith

Author
Jonathan C Brownson
Abstract
This project is a personal and pastoral invitation to church leaders to devote themselves to prayer and a ministry of the word as the central task of their vocation.

Chapter one begins with "hard feelings." This chapter does not market a plan for a perfect church and pastor. Instead, it describes.

Chapter two supplements autobiographical method with group process and family systems analysis. It documents the first two years of one new pastorate where the pastor intentionally focuses on prayer and proclamation.

Chapter three suggests it wouldn't be right for pastors and parishioners to turn away from focusing on a ministry of the Word.

Chapter four joins word ministry with a waiting ministry inviting pastors, parents and parishioners to pray. Ethnographic interviews "field test" the claims of this chapter.

Finally, chapter five concludes with not the least, priests. It invites church leaders to become not successes, but successors of those who have gone before them. Christologically, biblically, historically and autobiographically this chapter suggests that church leaders have already had their work cut out for them. They must, the chapter contends, preach and pray because it is what Jesus does, what the bible mandates, what his followers continue and what many ordained pastors have promised

Prayer as an eschatological activity : restoring the Imago Dei through the practice of prayer

Author
Kevin J VanderVeen
Abstract
As a lover of theology and theological reflection, I am deeply convicted that theology not only articulates the foundation of our world and live view but is both spiritually formative and life-giving. Herman Bavinck shares this deep conviction as he writes, “Good theology puts this knowledge of God on public display. It resists allowing theology to degenerate into rhetoric, a theology merely of words; it seeks the heart of the matter, knowing God in order to worship him, love him, and serve him.” He continues by writing, “Such theology is never a dry and academic exercise; it is eminently practical and superlatively fruitful for life.” As he eloquently suggests, good theology is always both practical and fruitful. That means that good theology is always given expression in practices that foster a deep love for God and a meaningful experience of his love and grace. One practice that is both deeply theological and spiritually formative is prayer. The practice of prayer is one of the primary expressions of the spiritual life, and prayer is also an integral component of our spiritual formation and our transformation. When reflecting on prayer, David Benner writes, “Prayer would not be worthy of being called a spiritual practice if it did not play a central role in this deep inner work of transformation.” As he makes clear, prayer is an integral component of our spiritual transformation. This leads me to the conclusion that a vibrant spirit life includes the practice of prayer in its many forms.

Mindfulness for healthcare staff with direct patient care

Author
Sarah Samson
Abstract
As a chaplain, I work in the context of healthcare with staff who provides direct patient care in the midst of burnout and compassion fatigue. I experience firsthand their stress and anxiousness which results in high staff turnover and highly emotional reactions. Reaching a place of engaged separation allows one to be involved compassionately and fully in the care and concern of another without being lost in the storyline of the other’s personal history. In an increasingly more anxious and violent society, we need healthcare staff practicing mindfulness to embody well-being and personal health. When the staff is stressed and anxious, so are those under their care -- an observation applicable to the home, church, and other areas of life outside the hospital walls.
In my particular context of Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, I examined the factors that lead to burnout and compassion fatigue as well as the history of contemplation as it translates into our current practices of mindfulness. I researched and articulated five mindful practices that seem to be the most effective for the least amount of effort. Ten of the CVICU staff at Memorial Hospital were asked to participate in mindfulness engagements to attempt to measure the effectiveness of mindfulness in mitigating the stress and burnout. The study results were sparse; however, they point to mindfulness requiring both time and energy to truly become a helpful practice for managing stress.

Unplugging to connect : reimagining Christian identity formation in the digital age

Author
David N Parrish
Abstract
Screens are here to stay. With their myriad uses, screens have found a permanent place in our lives. We reap many benefits from our screens, but thoughtful observers cannot help but wonder, “Are screens delivering on their promised purpose in our lives?” There is good reason to consider thoughtfully how we use them. Overstimulation and constant connection are taking a toll on our souls. We have seen a significant decline in mental health since the invention of the smartphone. Overuse of screens, especially social media, leads to lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety. We do well to be intentional about how we use screens and to implement practices that will mitigate their negative effects. This paper explores the shadow side of screen use. It also looks into relevant Christian practices that help develop one’s identity as a beloved child of God. My project invited families into a six-week experience with imaginative prayer. While my focus is on kids and screens, I believe this project offers something for everyone who wants to be released from screen’s grip into glorious freedom as beloved children of God.

God’s deepening life in me : the evangelical experience of interior freedom in the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola

Author
Scott Christopher Newman D.Min.
Abstract
Ignatius was a perennial outsider, even in his own day. The exercises were formulated prior to his formal theological education in Paris and prior to his being ordained to the priesthood. The exercises do not require someone learned in the Bible or Theology, they simply require someone to come with their Bible and a hunger for more. Indeed, so simple and egalitarian was Ignatius’ vision that he was hauled before the inquisition on multiple occasions on the accusation of being an alumbrado which was a term often used synonymously in Spain for Lutherans. While Ignatius was not a reformer in the same sense that Luther, Calvin and others were reformers, he was a reformer within the Catholic Church. He was a reformer to the extent that it was only through forming some powerful friendships in the church hierarchy and through the famous pledge of absolute obedience to the Pope in the constitutions of the Society of Jesus that the Jesuits were able to survive beyond Ignatius’ lifetime. It took nearly 500 years but the spirituality of Ignatius has brought significant reform to the Catholic Church both through The Second Vatican Council and now through Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope.

Prayer as an eschatological activity : restoring the Imago Dei through the practice of prayer

Author
Kevin J VanderVeen
Abstract
As a lover of theology and theological reflection, I am deeply convicted that theology not only articulates the foundation of our world and live view but is both spiritually formative and life-giving. Herman Bavinck shares this deep conviction as he writes, “Good theology puts this knowledge of God on public display. It resists allowing theology to degenerate into rhetoric, a theology merely of words; it seeks the heart of the matter, knowing God in order to worship him, love him, and serve him.” He continues by writing, “Such theology is never a dry and academic exercise; it is eminently practical and superlatively fruitful for life.” As he eloquently suggests, good theology is always both practical and fruitful. That means that good theology is always given expression in practices that foster a deep love for God and a meaningful experience of his love and grace. One practice that is both deeply theological and spiritually formative is prayer. The practice of prayer is one of the primary expressions of the spiritual life, and prayer is also an integral component of our spiritual formation and our transformation. When reflecting on prayer, David Benner writes, “Prayer would not be worthy of being called a spiritual practice if it did not play a central role in this deep inner work of transformation.” As he makes clear, prayer is an integral component of our spiritual transformation. This leads me to the conclusion that a vibrant spirit life includes the practice of prayer in its many forms.

SHOULD WE CURSE IN CHURCH? APPROACHES FOR, BENEFITS OF, AND CAUTIONS AGAINST PREACHING IMPRECATORY PSALMS IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

Author
Scott Kenworthy D.Min.
Abstract
Scripture teaches that the whole Bible is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Yet one genre of biblical literature remains largely unpreached in the local church—the imprecatory psalms. Some notable church leaders have discouraged Christians from praying these psalms in private let alone utilizing them in corporate worship. But if all Scripture is the inspired Word of God, then the imprecatory psalms hold value for both the Christian life and the ministry of local congregations despite the difficulties they present. This project seeks to supplement the available theological literature by preaching the curse psalms in a local church and discerning their homiletical impact. The effect of the Word preached was measured quantitatively through a pair of congregational surveys as well as qualitatively through both weekly focus groups and self-reflection essays. The gathered data indicates a positive correlation between hearing sermons from the imprecatory psalms and 1) a Christian’s intimacy with God in prayer, 2) their appreciation for the power and effect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and 3) the local church’s commitment to confronting injustice. The data also raises concerns about potential negative outcomes when preaching the imprecatory psalms. Drawing upon both positive and negative feedback, the researcher offers guidance concerning homiletical approaches, spiritual benefits, and pastoral cautions when delivering sermons from these oft-ignored texts. The paper ends by applying the project’s findings to Miroslav Volf’s memoir Exclusion and Embrace, a theological reflection on having enemies, in hopes of tracing the initial contours of a pastoral theology of imprecation for the church.

Wayfinders : engaging the hero's journey in contemplative prayer to enhance the spiritual depth and practice of missional spiritual directors

Author
Wendi A. Bernau
Abstract
"This project utilized an adaptation of Joseph Campbell's hero's journey as a tool for spiritual development. As persons participate in the process of finding the self, they are embarking on the mystical spiritual journey of awakening, dark night of the soul, and union with the divine. The elements of the project included experimental teaching on the story of Judith and hero's journey as well as time spent in contemplative reflection by each participant. The project took place during retreats of Anam Cara (Soul Friend), the two-year missional spiritual direction training program of the Missional Wisdom Foundation. Participant responses show that indeed the hero's journey framework can provide powerful structure to this self-reflection process and be efficacious in spiritual direction." -- Leaf [2].
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