From Pastor Patti Axel, Nativity Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Georgia

I have been pondering for quite a while now about the gift of prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool of communication with God. In prayer we open to God the depths of our hearts and ask God to bless us or our friends, family, co-workers, enemies or anyone we lift to "God's ear." For prayer to be effective it needs to be a two-way communication - we need to listen as much as we talk. While God wants to hear from us and delights in our requests, God has a lot to say to us in return and wants us to pay attention. We need to be open to God's blessings and wisdom as we live our lives. The more we go to God in prayer, the better we are at hearing God respond and feeling God's presence in the stillness. The best way to get good at something is to start doing it. The best way to become a good prayer is to start praying. You don't need to use flowery speech or use a certain formula to "pray right."

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is

"thank you"

it will be enough!

Meister Eckhart - Domincan mystic (1260 - 1327)

I couldn't agree more and there are times when all I say is "Lord" and God takes over from there. I know that God knows what is on my heart and I need say nothing for God to hear me.

Advent is a wonderful season to practice the art of praying as it lends itself to quiet contemplation and expectant waiting - listening for God is all about expectant waiting. The trick to praying in Advent is shutting out all the garish and irritating secular "noise" and allowing the hush of God's holy presence to wash over you.

The gift of prayer is the most precious you can give to another person. The self-giving act of praying for another is a gift from your heart and one to be cherished more than any material item on earth. During this season of frantic buying and searching for the

perfect gift consider the powerful gift of prayer for that "person who has everything." You will have offered the gift of yourself and that is most to be treasured!

My gift to each of you this holy season, is the gift of my prayer for you. I have received some requests and still need more. While I can pray generically for you, I do wish to be more specific as your personal needs dictate. I do, however, know that God knows exactly what you need and will fill in the blanks in my prayers.

Shalom!

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