We begin our Cabinet sessions with a time of worship using The Upper Room Worship Book.  This time is precious to me.  I feel calmed and centered by singing, focusing on Holy Scripture, and sharing in prayer.  It is here that I can feel the presence of God through the Holy Spirit.  The prayer time involves prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of petition and intercession.  The thanksgiving prayers have at the response – “Loving God, we give you thanks.”  The prayers of petition and intercession contain the response – “Merciful God, hear our prayer.” This morning (Wednesday, February 27, 2013) as we prayed we opened with a string of petitions for pastors, family and friends battling cancer.  It had six or seven in row and felt like more.  There was something in these petitions that brought us before God in a heartfelt, humbling and cleansing way.  Gradually, with no planning or intention, the Cabinet moved to giving thanks in prayer. Such an exercise is hardly unique to us a Cabinet.  It is part of the fabric of Christian belief and practice across the world.  I dare assert that every church in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church practices such prayer in one form or another as a part of its worship life.  We know the image of a “foxhole” prayer; that is a prayer said in a time of deeper anguish, danger, or great need.  What impressed me today was how our prayers of petition and intercession are linked to our praise and thanksgiving.  In doing the two together, I found myself transported to a deeper spiritual awareness and greater calm. The armchair theologian in me thinks this has to do with a sense of submission to God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In such prayer I acknowledge who is Lord, who alone is worthy of my (our) worship.  In such prayer I also acknowledge my greater gratitude and greater hope.  Life is both too glorious and too thrown (battered, beaten?) to live alone.  As an act of worship I choose to place my life under the Lord’s rule together with other Christ followers.  It is here that I learn again what the Christians of Philippi learned.  “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)minding good ground In my reflection I am taken back to a book I am reading – Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal by Jason Vickers.  Vickers argues persuasively that “tarrying together in prayer” is foundationally essential for the church and our common Christian life together.  Presciently he comments, “It is not altogether clear that the church knows the difference between tarrying together in prayer and loitering together at the church bake sale” (p. 44).  He goes on to add, “The church that truly yearns for renewal will commit herself to one thing above all else.  She will invite the Holy Spirit to come, and she will do so continuously until the Spirit shows up” (p. 45). Merciful God, hear our prayer.  Loving God, we give you thanks!