the River


As in years past, we are setting aside the month of October to reset and reengage our devotion to God with a specific and intensive communal spiritual practice. We call this our Fall Challenge, and this year we are aiming for this to be a Prayer Challenge. 

Why a Prayer Challenge?
Prayer is the space and the language of ongoing conversation with God. It is where our personal experience of relationship and partnership with God is forged and deepened. It has the potential to be the centerpoint of our whole lives as we grow in our desire and ability to live in continual conversation with God. Yet, despite that high and hopeful picture, prayer is often hard for us to sustain for a whole bunch of reasons. It often doesn’t feel as dynamic as we’d hope. There’s so much to possibly pray for and so many aspects to prayer…How do we reasonably focus and still cover all the bases? Knowing where to set our expectations in terms of faith and openness to alternative outcomes can be a challenge too.

Together we are asking God to build or to renew in us a fundamental practice of daily prayer (and the deeper connection with God that prayer affords) as we corporately engage in a month of deeper intention toward God. And we are praying that the patterns of prayer we practice in this month of Challenge would be ones we could continue in throughout the year ahead.

What is our Prayer Challenge?
The Lord’s Prayer sits at the center of the Sermon of the Mount and is the template Jesus offered his disciples for prayer. It guides us in both breadth and depth of conversation with God. For the month of October, we will use the Lord’s Prayer as a centerpoint to a daily prayer practice. We will pray it in various ways each week, learning to expand prayer on its themes, to take it with us as we move through our days, and to listen through it to the invitation of Jesus to act.

An additional mentor and guide for our Challenge will be Pete Greig, leader of the 24-7 international prayer movement, through his book How to Pray: a simple guide for normal people. The chapters of his book and their suggested resources will allow us to expand our knowledge, practice and inspiration for prayer. We will offer suggested reading week-by-week. (There is also an audiobook for those who prefer to listen as well as a video course that corresponds to the book that we can cross-reference.)

The Prayer Challenge is from October 1-31. We will provide guidance each week (below). 
Sign up to receive a daily text. Text the word PRAYER to (408) 789-8755

Week 5

Thank you for participating. Here are some reflection questions as you think about prayer beyond the Prayer Challenge...
  • What do you enjoy most about prayer?
  • What is hardest for you about prayer?
  • What do you hope for yourself in prayer?
  • What intention or plan could you set for yourself in prayer from now until the end of the year?
  • What help would you need to make that plan a reality?

Week 4: Prayer, Listening, and Action

This week as we pray, we pray with a focus on listening for the Spirit’s “voice” to us. The voice of the Spirit often sounds a lot like our thoughts. Ask God to speak with you, tell God you’re listening, and note anything you sense in the space you leave for listening. Discernment is always part of our listening for God’s voice. 2 guiding principles: (1) What we hear should align with both the content and tone of the God revealed in scripture. (2) We need the community of faith at all times and especially to confirm our hearing on larger, more impactful matters.

When we make space to listen to God in prayer, we open ourselves to whatever God might say. In our work with the Lord’s Prayer specifically during this Challenge, ask God and listen for whether there’s an invitation to act in some way in concert with your prayer. Sometimes we are prompted to be part of the answer to our own prayers. For example, as you pray for the needs of your neighbor, maybe God would invite you to be part of meeting that need.

It is very helpful to use a prayer journal when you engage in Listening Prayer. If you haven’t been using one throughout the Challenge, consider using one this week. Record anything you sense the Spirit saying to you, even if you’re not totally sure (which might be most of the time!) Doing so is an act of faith. It helps you to remember what you’ve heard, and it can prompt you to consider more deeply how you might act on it. Recording good things, whether they came from your own awareness of what is good or directly from God’s Spirit for this moment, will never lead you to bad places, and you’ll be expressing your desire to be on the path of one learning to discern the voice of God. 

Reading and Further Practice

Pete Grieg’s book How to Pray: a simple guide for normal people  chapter 9 (and 7 & 12 because they’re good too and will complete the reading of the book!)

Relevant Tools from the Prayer Course’s “Prayer Toolshed”: How to Journal

Week 3: Praying with Our Bodies

This week we focus on partnering with our bodies in prayer and leaning toward the somewhat unfathomable hope of praying at all times.

As a faith community we are reminded regularly that we were made as whole beings and yet, in the West at least, our history is of overemphasizing the role of our minds in the spiritual life. The scriptures (the Psalms most continually) describe the people of God employing their bodies to help them engage holistically with themselves and God. So, experiment this week with using your body as you pray the Lord’s Prayer daily. 

Acknowledging that this will be a stretch for many of us who live primarily in our heads – Some have likely already said an internal “No thanks!” ☺ – consider a reasonable “stretch goal” for yourself. Most accessible might be just to walk while you pray. Another suggestion would be to spend the week considering what body posture you might take with each section of the Lord’s Prayer. For example:

Worship: Standing with arms raised

Ask: Kneeling

Confess: Lying prostrate

Protect: Arms crossed over your chest

Rest: Relaxed sitting

Commit to praying with body postures at least once. Or commit to trying one posture a day (posture images taken from this site).

For Journaling & Conversation: How does using your body in prayer change your experience of prayer?

Additionally, consider praying the Lord’s Prayer throughout your day. Every hour or a few set times a day (one suggestion: morning, noon, dinner, bedtime). Notice here too how praying multiple times a day affects your experience of prayer and of God in prayer.

Reading and Further Practice

Pete Grieg’s book How to Pray: a simple guide for normal people is a key source for our instruction and inspiration in prayer during our Challenge. This week’s recommended reading and practices are complementary to the above encouragements inasmuch as they encourage and instruct prayer in ways that don’t rely on words.

Read Chapter 8. 

Relevant Tools from the Prayer Course’s “Prayer Toolshed” : 

  1. How to Pray Creatively
  2. How to Practice the Presence of God

Week 2: Expanding Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is both a discrete prayer and a template for expanded prayer. The lines and themes of the Lord’s Prayer can be used as doorways to many kinds of prayer, most typically: worship, petition/intercession (“asking” for ourselves and others), confession, and protection/warfare. Work with the Lord’s Prayer in this way each day this week. A suggested and common flow follows. You could expand your prayer in one section each day or work with all sections everyday. 

Note: The Supplementary Reading this week offers instruction about each of the 5 arenas of prayer below.

A Template for Prayer

Our Father in heaven
Holy is your name

Express your praise and worship for God. Use your own words when you have them. You can also use the words of others by reading a Psalm or playing worship music.

Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread

Ask God for the needs of the world that burden you. And ask God for your own needs and the needs of those you care about as well.

And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us

The work of awareness of our sin and responding with confession and the work of recognizing how we’ve been sinned against and working toward forgiveness can be straightforward. It’s often more complex, sometimes quite complex. As you pray, attend to what you can attend to in this section. Taking some space for reflection, is there any sin you’re ready to confess or forgiveness you want to offer another in prayer? Where the matters are complex (entrenched patterns of sin and/or deep wounds that need to be addressed along with movement toward forgiveness), ask God for help toward a next step, knowing you may need the help of others as you go forward.

Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil

Knowing God never desires suffering, ask boldly for God’s protection in your life, your community, our world.

For yours is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory forever.

End as you began, praising God and letting yourself rest a moment in God’s good authority over all things.

Reading and Further Practice
Pete Grieg’s book How to Pray: a simple guide for normal people is a key source for our instruction and inspiration in prayer during our Challenge. The bulk of the book is relevant to this week’s invitation to pray The Lord’s Prayer as a template! Read the chapters that you’re most drawn to now, and let the others spill into future weeks.

Read Chapters 4-6, 10 & 11. 

Relevant Tools from the Prayer Course’s “Prayer Toolshed” : 

  1. How to Pray the Psalms
  2. Palms Up, Palms Down
  3. How to Maintain a Prayer List
  4. How to Intercede for a Large-Scale Crisis
  5. How to Confess Sin
  6. Warfare Prayer

Week 1: Getting Started

Establish a Daily Rhythm
Praying through the Lord’s Prayer daily, while certainly a worthy endeavor, may not be much of a Challenge for many of us, given that it could be done in 60 seconds! The heart of our Challenge is the deepening of our connection and conversation with God through prayer, which requires clearing of space: physically, mentally, emotionally. What space will you create to engage with God this month?

Often our Fall Challenges have been in combination with a media fast, setting aside the ever-present distraction of media for an hour or 2 a day to create quiet and focus with God. We’d encourage you to consider that kind of clear creation of space. What timeframe will you set apart each day? Where will you pray (and read)? Who will you talk with about what you’re experiencing? For example: I will get up 30 minutes earlier every day and sit with God (with my coffee!), praying, reading, and journaling. Or, our household will declare a “quiet hour” each night from 8-9pm where we’ll each pray separately for 45 minutes and then gather to share our reflections for 15 minutes. So many variations are possible…choose one and stick with it!

Pray the Lord’s Prayer daily, slowly, multiple times. Pray it in different translations of the Bible and in paraphrases that trusted people have made of it.
Write your own. Let the Lord’s Prayer begin to live in you and enliven your experience of prayer.

Many people find it helpful to write their prayers. Consider keeping a daily prayer journal during the Fall Challenge. Use it to slow down and focus your prayer. Use it also to reflect on your experience of prayer. For example, this week, use it to record how the various translations and paraphrases of the prayer impact you. Record also any sense you have of God speaking to and leading you through your prayer.

Read/Further Practice
Pete Grieg’s book How to Pray: a simple guide for normal people is a key source for our instruction and inspiration in prayer during our Challenge. The reading for this week helps us with preparing to pray. As you will find in the book, Greig also offers additional online resources for prayer that map to the book’s chapters. We’d recommend any of them, and we have selected particular tools to highlight that map well to what we’re doing week-to-week. Read Chapters 1-3

Relevant Tools from the Prayer Course’s “Prayer Toolshed” (How to Pray the Lord’s Prayer and How to have a Quiet Time)

And don't forget to sign up for these events during our Prayer Challenge:

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