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Prayer Tasting

Home made blueberry pie
Last night we invited author, David Brazzeal, to lead 15 of us in what he calls a Prayer Tasting. The idea is that we eat a 3-course meal together and between courses, he talks about prayer and guides us through numerous prayer exercises. David likes to draw an analogy between enjoying a delicious meal and conversing with God: neither should be boring or rushed or just a rehash of the same old flavours day in and day out. He suggests that there are a cornucopia of ways to pray and together, we explored a few of them.

Appetizer: Strawberry spinach salad with almonds, Emmental cheese, and homemade dressing.
After the salad disappeared into our bellies, we were treated to the reading of a psalm to some instrumental music. The combination of dramatic inflections together with haunting, beautiful, dynamic music meant that the words snuck past my left brain (the thinking and analysing side) and let the heart and emotion of the psalmist touch me at a deep level. I felt like I was outside someones bedroom listening to them cry out to God. The words came alive in the speaking. But that was just the opener. The first exercise we participated in fell under the category of Praise. We were instructed to call out phrases that began with "God, you are..." (or "Jesus you are..." or "Spirit you are..." or "Lord you are..." You get the idea.), filling in the blank with adjectives or nouns. A simple exercise, really, but a great way to praise God together without the (sometimes) crutch of music and familiar songs. It seemed apparent that all the words and phrases people spoke were born out of personal experience or longing. The second exercise was Thanksgiving. We were given pieces of paper which resembled a slice of pie. David encouraged us to think of a slice of time in our life, whether it was school or a place we lived or a particular job or a time in the hospital, or whatever. It could be a good or a bad memory. It could even be a particular person that was related to a particular slice of our life. We took a few minutes to write down many things that we were thankful for in that slice of life. After the obvious ones were out of the way, surprising things came to mind, hidden things, things I had forgotten or overlooked. This exercise made me smile often and sigh with contentment a few times. God is good. Slices are good.

Main course: Grilled chicken drumsticks and breasts with Montreal spices, fresh peaches and cream corn on the cob with unsalted butter.
We licked our fingers and our lips after consuming the chicken and corn, and then it was time for two more prayer exercises. The first was Confession. David used the analogy of a selfie, a snapshot of who we are right now, right here. No time to dress up or make sure everything is perfect; this is a picture of ourselves, as is: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We were given papers to write our confession beginning each phrase with "I am...." It could include positive as well as negative aspects (I am being more patient lately, or I am angry at &*&$^ right now). It was an exercise in honesty and humility, being as real as we could before God at that moment. At the end, we were encouraged to offer these confessions up to God who sees us as we are and loves us and wants to walk through life with us. The second exercise was a Blessing exercise. David talked about blessing being like taking a mirror and reflecting the bright light and glory of God onto someone. We took coloured papers and coloured markers and were instructed to practice blessing a person by writing, drawing, doodling, constructing a Scrabble word formation, or anything else we might think of. I wrote Dean's name in big fat letters and filled them in with designs which each related to words of blessing. One of my sentences went roughly like this, "May you always be solid and steady, safe in turmoil and unbattered in storm and conflict." Dean drew me on a beautiful beach under a palm tree at sunset with some of my favourite words written at the bottom: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (to the greater glory of God). It was touching to receive it from him.

Dessert: Home made blueberry pie warm from the oven and vanilla ice cream, sugar pie.
Now that we were full of sugar and cream and fruit, David closed off the prayer tasting by noting that we had yet not participated in any asking or petition or intercession. And yet, if I may speak on behalf of everyone there, I did not feel any lack or a pressing need to bring a list of requests to God. Too often prayer is only made up of asking, and that is a bland diet indeed, not to mention quite an unhealthy, self-focused relationship. David gave us some homework to try out a few different creative methods of asking prayer (for ourselves and for others), be it simply a body posture, words scribbled on a scrap of paper while riding the subway, pictures or doodles drawn over a period of time, or charts to keep track of ongoing requests or special needs. David mentioned that sometimes he takes pictures of his visual prayers and sends them to the person he is praying for (if that is appropriate). None of these prayer exercises have to take up hours of time (most of them took about 5 minutes), but depending on the time available, one can enjoy a simple 3-course prayer meal or take the time for an extended gourmet feast. Creative prayer exercises like this are not only enjoyable, but end up engaging us more fully and perhaps deeply than mere word prayers. They also require that we make ourselves present in body, mind, and spirit when we turn our attention to God.

Digestif: Wine, sparkling water, juice, and home made vanilla soda. 
After David finished his closing talk, we thanked him, and I suggested that we practice one of the blessing exercises he had mentioned, a Brazilian custom in which people bless someone going on a journey. In essence, the person doing the blessing grabs the one to be blessed by the shoulders and gently shakes them as they pronounce a blessing over them. So we did. Some spoke blessings over David from their seats while others got up close and personal with him, speaking shoulder-shaking blessings. I opted for the uncomfortable shoulder-shaking and was a bit overwhelmed by the intimacy and power of the interaction. Someone mentioned that we should add that particular form of prayer into our repertoire as a faith community. I agree. We make it a practice to bless everyone who goes forth from our church group, and this seems like a fitting addition.

This was a prayer tasting, meant to whet our appetites for more creative and life-giving interaction with God, be it in our individual prayer contexts or as a group. There are many more prayer categories in David's book (11 in all) and different settings in which to incorporate them. The evening inspired me to be more creative and intentional in my praying, making it one of the most enjoyable parts of my day instead of a mundane chore.

For more info, check out David's website. You can buy his book on amazon.ca.

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