When Brian and I were engaged, we went on a pre-marital retreat, and before each meal, the leaders asked for a volunteer to pray. Those of us who were comfortable praying in public took care of the first few meals, but by the second day...well, you could hear the crickets. At one meal in particular, no one volunteered, and finally, someone said, "Good bread, good meat, good God, let's eat!" 

Public prayer, even prayer with just one other person, can be daunting. If you are a person who is comfortable with it, then good for you - keep doing it! But if you are one of the many who is hesitant to pray out loud, know that you are not alone.

This week, I had a wonderful time talking with our Stephen Ministers about The Practice of Prayer. When you find yourself needing or wanting to pray with someone out loud, here are my tips of the trade:

1. Start with a deep breath. A deep breath helps us to clear distractions, center, and, if we are nervous, it lowers our blood pressure. It helps us to be fully present in the moment. And because breath comes freely, it is a reminder of God's grace. In our fast-paced and noisy world, a "pregnant pause" can be a gift to the one praying and the one prayed for.

2. Be authentic. You don't need to sound like the Bible, the hymnal, or the pastor. God knows you already and loves you as you are!

3. Often, less is more. A prayer doesn't have to be long to be powerful. Say what you mean, and then you're done.

4. Name feelings. God already knows what we feel and understands what we are going through. And yet, naming our experience and holding it in God's presence can be powerfully healing for our spirits. Careful listening to the person you are praying for is essential here.

5. Acknowledge what God is already doing. We are all familiar with the idea of asking God for what we want and need. There is also great comfort in naming what God is already doing. God has promised to love us, to forgive us, to be present with us, to grant us peace that surpasses understand, and to give us new life. We can trust that those things are already available to us because God keeps promises.

God knows what we need already. God is already at work. God knows our prayers even if we can't quite articulate them. And yet, there is power, for us, in naming these things. Adding language to these mysteries helps us humans feel closer to what is already as close as our breath, steady, and sure.

Let me know, fellow pray-ers, what are your tips of the trade? How do you get started when diving in to this mysterious practice of faith?

Peace be with you,
Pr. Marsha

Sunday's Readings
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

Honoring our Muslim Neighbors Cross-Generational SME - Sunday at 9:30 am, Fellowship Hall 4th - 12th grade students and adults are invited to come together and learn about the Islamic faith, what we have in common, and how we can love our Muslim neighbors.

Comfort for a Child - Blanket Prep - Sunday, 2:00-4:00 pm, Fellowship Hall  Join us as we prep blankets to donate to Families Together. We will provide instructions and all supplies.  

Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Action  This Lent, we are joining the ELCA campaign to reduce, and address the root causes of, hunger. Fast: This week, skip Starbucks or fast food and donate funds saved to the ELCA's special hunger appeal. Pray for our neighbors who are unable to afford dental care, which limits their diet and nutrition. Action: Our Blessing Bags ministry needs single-serve pop-top cans of protein foods (ex. pasta with meatballs); boxes of BelVita-type soft baked protein bars or cookies (no nuts or crunchy foods); small bottles of water and sports drinks. Donations may be dropped off in the Blessing Bags box in the Narthex.  For more information about this service experience, contact Monica Lavery.

Lenten Soup Suppers & Holden Evening Prayer Worship - Wednesdays through March 21 -  Let's share a simple meal together at 5:30 pm before worship at 7:00 pm.

Mail for Mnene Collection We will be collecting letters for our orphans in Mnene in the Narthex. Everyone is invited to send letters of love and support.
The deadline for dropping letters off is March 11. Contact Cathie Strawbridge with questions or concerns, 919-870-9439.

The Endowment Committee is accepting grant applications through Sunday, March 11. Information regarding the Fund, including authorized uses and application form for grant funds, is available online

Candy Donations for Easter Egg Hunt Needed - Wrapped candy with no nuts are greatly appreciated. Place in the bin in the Narthex through March 18.

Can you spare some time to help families in transition March 18-25?  This Lent, prayerfully consider inviting family or friends to join us in serving families in our community through Family Promise that are experiencing homelessness. Learn more and sign up to serve

The March Food Barrel in the Narthex is collecting supplies for Family Promise. See a list of needed items.

Summerfest Auditions - Monday, March 19, 5:30-7:00 pm - More information and registration is online

More information about upcoming events is available in this week's bulletin announcements.

Health and Healing for Rachel Cooper, mother of Tom Cooper

Thanksgiving for Interim Music Director, David Harrison; and for this Sunday's baptism of Mary Scott Blackmon, daughter of Ryan and Leigh Anne Blackmon.

Sympathy  to family and friends at the death of Charlotte Sheldon; Terry Deignan and family at the death of her brother, Mike Allen; and family and friends at the death of Hannah Vaill.

For the Orphans of Mnene Parish , including Maryjoice Sibanda and Martha Hove.

Maryjoice is 20 and always has a smile on her face. This month, she began her first year at Midlands State University! She visited with our 2017 mission team, and she was chosen by her peers to be their representative on the Mnene Orphan Committee.  Her Mail For Mnene partners are the Rivera and Hoyle families.
 
Martha will be 20 in a few months. She left school to get married but returned to Mnene to visit with our 2017 mission team. She has a 2 year old son and lives with her husband. We continue to hold her in our prayers! Her Mail For Mnene partners are Becky and Dick Martin and the Greengrove/Pfefferle families.

Visit the Wittenberg Information Center in the Narthex for photos of this week's orphans and  more information on the Mnene Ministry.

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