Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthA Renewed SpiritualityDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Creative prayer: trees

Lynne Baab • Friday July 19 2019

Creative prayer: trees

I was 15 the first time I saw a tree as a thing of beauty. Three trees, to be precise. We had just moved from Virginia to Tacoma, Washington, and our new house had three young birch trees in the back yard, planted close to each other. When the wind blew, they looked like three beautiful girls dancing. My heart always lifted when the wind tossed them into a dance.

For 17 years of my adult life, we lived in a house near Greenlake in Seattle with a huge Western red cedar in the front yard. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in the living room, gazing into the branches of that tree, awed by its size and beauty.

For 12 years we lived in Lake City, also in Seattle, with a tall hawthorn tree next to our deck. When it was covered with white flowers in the spring, I smiled. And for our ten years in Dunedin, New Zealand, our living room windows looked onto a rata tree, a non-deciduous tree with dark green leaves, where a European blackbird roosted each spring. Those leaves were a delight all year long.

Trees are a powerful metaphor in the Bible. For example, Psalm 1 compares people who loves God’s law to

“trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)

Comparing our lives, and the lives of those we love, to the four characteristics of a flourishing tree described in the psalm can draw us into some lovely creative prayer.

1. Praying for our placement by streams of water. In what places and circumstances do you feel connected to the streams of water that nourish you spiritually, physically, emotionally and relationally? While reading or pondering a passage in the Bible? While praying with a family member or friend or small group? While singing in church or playing a musical instrument or listening to a CD of praise music? While eating in a leisurely setting with loved ones? Perhaps in nature, gardening or walking or sailing or biking?

We can pray for ourselves and for the people on our minds that all of us will find streams of living water and make choices to spend time there. This opens up prayers for discernment, for our schedules, for self-discipline and for the sheer joy of experiencing God’s life-giving water in daily life.

2. Praying for fruit bearing. Do you ever look at your life and pay attention to the fruit you are bearing? I like to imagine a small vineyard beside an orchard full of a variety of fruit trees. Then I imagine myself standing with Jesus looking at the fruit my life has borne. I ask Jesus to help me see the fruit that pleases him, and I thank him for the privilege and joy of bearing fruit. I ask him to help me make choices every day that increase good fruit in my life.

We can pray for fruitbearing in our own lives and in the lives of friends and family members. This is also a great thing to pray for leaders in all settings of life.

3. Praying that our leaves will not wither. These are prayers for the kind of perseverance that comes from keeping our roots firmly planted in the streams of living water. These prayers focus on the ability to keep on loving, serving, and working hard. And these prayers must also focus on the kind of rest and renewal that enable us to maintain green leaves. Just like the rata tree in our yard in New Zealand, God wants us – and those for whom we pray – to have green leaves in all seasons.

4. Prayers for prospering. Here’s an opportunity for a variety of prayers for ourselves and others. We might pray for financial prospering, or for ourselves or others who struggle to prosper in their work or ministry. We might pray for prospering relationally, for relationships with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.

Two other scriptures inform my prayers using trees as a metaphor. The oaks of righteousness in Isaiah 61:3 display God’s glory. I love to ponder what being an oak of righteousness looks like for me. And the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3, prays that the Ephesians would be “rooted and grounded in love” (verse 17). His whole prayer in Eph 3:14-19 focuses on love, and I find it helpful to pray for the ways I desire to be rooted in love, like a tree rooted in healthy, well watered soil, and for the ways I desire that rooting for the people I pray for.

Next week: creative prayer as affirming truth. Illustration: Dave Baab’s interpretation of the tree in Psalm 1.

A favor: I wonder if any of my blog readers have read my book A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife. I’d like to have more reviews of the book on amazon.com, and I would really appreciate it if some of you could post a few sentences about the book. (You have to have an amazon account to post reviews. Here’s where to post the review.) If you read the book in the past, and need a reminder of the content, the amazon page has a good overview of the content. I have excerpted several chapters of the book on this blog. Here are the first posts of those excerpted chapters:

Thanks for your help!



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