Sunday, September 27, 2009

Praying with a full deck

Playing cards may not seem too spiritual. Generally they're associated at best with killing time and at worst with gambling and even fortune telling or divination. But I have a simple way to use cards to help you pray or have an impromptu worship service.

You can play this in a group or as solitaire. Deal just enough cards until you have at least one of each suit. Then begin with the Hearts...

The heart stands for God's heart, aspects of His character that you admire. How do you love Him, why not count the ways? However many points you have in the heart suit, that's how many things you need to try to think of about God that you want to praise him for.

Let's say you have an ace and a duce, that's just 3 things. But if you have an eight, a six and a Queen, that's 24 things you need to think of. Here's a help; Love is patient, kind, does not boast(1 Cor 13) ... Whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is praiseworthy (Philippians 4:4-8)... Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness (Galatians 5)... omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient- although it will mean more if you come up with your own or look through the Bible trying to come up with your own, instead of me giving you answers.

Don't be embarrassed to sing a hymn or contemporary praise song.

The clubs represent our failings and shortcomings, our sins and our mistakes. However many points you have in this suit, that's how many things you should think of to admit to God (and/or your fellow group members- and/or your self). They may be mundane or profound, bog or small. Things your embarrassed by or things you're ashamed of and feel guilty about. If you'd prefer, you can do this silently, privately or on paper that you burn.

The point is not to see who's the worst person or who's got the most shady past. The point is to recognize that we all do/say/or think things that get in the way of our relationships with God and with others (or fail to do/say/or think things that would help those relationships). It doesn't matter who you are, none of us is perfect. Ask God to forgive you and help heal the damages and help all involved to move forward. (Psalm 51, Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 Steps)

Some psalms and a few worship songs work for this too. Don't be afraid to let yourself complain to God about whatever is bothering you or whatever hurts or fears you're going through, but do be careful not to let this degenerate into either a bitch & whine session or (as I eluded to before) a brag session either. Seek God's forgiveness and move on quickly, don't wallow in the negative for too long.

For the diamonds, however many points you have, think of that many things that you have to be thankful for. The diamonds are God's blessings. If you're really scared, sad, hurting, or anxious, maybe you should double that number. The more you remind yourself of all that God has done for you, the more your faith will be strengthened (Phil 4:4-8, if you come to Him with praise and thanksgiving, the peace which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds).

Remember what Bing Crosby said in the movie White Christmas, "when I'm tired but I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep..." What a great way to fall asleep, counting your blessings.

The Spade is a shovel, a tool. I think this is appropriate for this last part NOT because it's like digging for treasure- that's the wrong attitude. I think it's appropriate because intercessory prayer, prophecy and helping and healing are all jobs God wants us to take on for Him, ways He invites us to partner with Him in His ministry. You might say that they're shovel-ready-jobs.

However many points you have in the suit of spades, that's how many supplications you should bring to Him. Supplication is a fancy word for requests, but before you start praying for things you want on your Christmas list- try praying for other people first.

You could try using your hand as a reminder;
  • pinky=those who are weak or meek,
  • ring finger=those you love, spouse/family/friends,
  • middle finger=those with importance, prominence or power,
  • index finger=those who lead/teach/preach or mentor
  • and at the thumb, finally you get to pray for yourself.
Another way you could go is that if you have the king of spades, you pray for leaders and government officials, if you have the queen you pray for women in your life, if you have the jack then you pray for young people you know.

This can be tough. It might mean that if you only have 4 points, you never get to pray for yourself, or if you have thirty points you may have to think of a lot of other people to pray for.

Once you've played this card game, whether it takes you just a few minutes or hours, you will have essentially completed a simple worship service. You will have also prayed through the age-old prayer outline; ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).

Hopefully just doing it once will be enough to stick with you, so that you'll remember the ACTS prayer formula every time you see a deck of playing cards. It may just deepen your prayer life and your relationship with God, if you let it.

Here's a more complicated, but meaningful way to use a deck of cards as a devotional aid. This is dedicated to all the service men and women, especially those either in or headed for Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the North African Campaign (part of WWII), a bunch of soldier boys had been on a long hike.

They arrived in a little town called Casino.
The next morning being Sunday, several of the boys went to church.
A sergeant commanded the boys in church.

After the Chaplain read the prayer, the text was taken up next.
Those of the boys that had a prayer book took them out.
One boy had only a deck of cards, and he spread them out.
The sergeant saw the cards and said, "Soldier, put away those cards."
After the service was over, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the Provost Marshall.

The Marshall said, "Sergeant, why have you brought this man here?"
"For playing cards in church, Sir," was the response.
The Marshall asked the soldier, "And what have you to say for yourself, son?"
"Much, Sir," replied the soldier.
The Marshall stated, "I hope so, for if not I will punish you more than any man was ever punished."
The soldier said, "Sir, I have been on the march for about six months.
I have neither bible nor a prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you, sir, with the purity of my intentions."
And with that, the boy started his story ...

"You see, sir, when I look at the Ace, it reminds me that there is but one God.
And the deuce reminds me that the bible is divided into two parts: the Old and the New Testaments.
When I see the trey, I think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And when I see the four, I think of the four evangelists who preached the Gospel: there was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And when I see the five, it reminds me of the five wise virgins who trimmed their lamps;
there were ten of them: five were wise and were saved, five were foolish and were shut out.
When I see the six, it reminds me that in six days God made this heaven and earth.
And when I see the seven, it reminds me that on the seventh day, God rested from his great work.
And when I see the eight, I think of the eight righteous persons that
God saved when he destroyed the earth: there was Noah, his wife, their sons and their wives.
And when I see the nine, I think of the lepers our saviour cleansed, and that nine of the ten didn't even thank him.
When I see the ten, I think of the ten commandments that God handed down to Moses on a tablet of stone.
When I see the King, it reminds me that there is but one King of Heaven, God Almighty.
And when I see the Queen, I think of the blessed Virgin Mary who is the Queen of Heaven.
And the Jack or Knave is the Devil.

When I count the number of spots in a deck of cards, I find 365, the number of days in a year.
There are 52 cards, the number of weeks in a year.
There are four suits, the number of weeks in a month.
There are twelve picture cards, the number of months in a year.
There are thirteen tricks, the number of weeks in a quarter.

So you see, Sir, my deck of cards serves me as a bible, an almanac and a prayer book."
- This version was written in 1948 by Country-Western singer, T. Texas Tyler.
It's origins can be traced back to 1865 in America, and back as far as the late 18th Century in Belgium (1778) and France (1809). It has also been known as "Cards Spiritualised" and "The Soldier's Almanac, Bible And Prayer Book"

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