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July 2, 2020

A Tree of Comfort : STREAM Prayer

Let me start with a story about a tree that gives comfort. When I was growing up in the Philippines as a young boy of twelve, I lived in a place that is very remote and accessible only by hours of walking. My cousins and I would hike to the nearby barrio for hours just to buy some food supplies, such as sugar, cooking oil, or bags of rice. On this particular hiking trail, we would often stop at one point under a huge mango tree. This is the mango variety where the fruit is fibrous and small, but extremely sweet. You know how we eat this mango? We peel off the outer skin and suck the sweet juice but not eat the fruit-meat. (You really can’t eat the mango fruit because it is all fiber.) We always look forward to stopping at this mango tree. The nearby “atabay” or water well provides us with water to quench our thirst. The shade of the huge tree gives us a cool resting place from our journey. A makeshift old tire swing invites us to a time of break and fun. I remember that mango tree was a source of joy and fellowship with other kids in the area, and rest and relaxation from our arduous hike. That tree became a symbol of comfort from our weary journey. The question for us here is: “Do we become a source of comfort and rest to the people around us?”

Jesus shares with us a parable that describes a tree and its invitation of comfort to the birds in the area. Let us read a parable of the kingdom of God. This is found in Matthew 13:31-32:  “He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’”

The question I pose here is: “Do we become a source of comfort and rest to the people around us?” And, our answer should be: Yes, the Lord is my Helper. Or your answer could be: Yes, God is working in me.

Here are some practical suggestions to help us become a source of comfort to others. We can call this as STREAM Prayer. (I have adopted this from another pastor’s sermon.) The acronym means “being still” for S, “giving thanks” for T, “reflection” for RE, “asking for God’s grace” for A, and “meditating in God’s hope” for M. These are five parts of the same prayer discipline. Imagine a stream coming from a mountain and providing us with thirst-quenching water and refreshing our tired bodies with its cool and healing touch. This STREAM Prayer can be source of god’s comfort and rest for our souls as well as for the people around us.

Let us now look at the explanations of these parts of STREAM Prayer. One is being still. This means acknowledging God is our Creator and Savior. He is the Almighty Lord and he is in control of everything. Let us practice the breathing prayer. As you breathe in and inhale, say to God: “I receive your Lordship in my life.” He is in control. Breathe in his power and majesty. As you breathe out and exhale, say to God: “I go forth to obey you in all my ways.” He will guide you in everything. Submit to the Lord’s direction and be still. Surrender your thoughts, your emotions, your whole being to God. Keep repeating this form of prayer. Breathe in and breathe out until you sense God is near you. Be still and know he is God.

Two is giving thanks to God for everything. Think of all the good things you have and praise God. Look around you and appreciate the beauty you see. Give thanks for even the little things. Thank God for the air we breath, the taste of good coffee or tea, the noise of happy children, the shelter we have from the house we live in, the provisions we received from our jobs, or the smiles you see when you go to your favorite convenience store.

Three is reflection.  We take note of our emotions. Reflect on what the Holy Spirit is telling you and ask his help as you name the emotions you are feeling. Then move forward and give each emotion to the Lord. Invite him into those emotions. Redirect your feelings to his will. You can also ask yourself here, “Did I choose the way of Jesus in that situation?” If you did then rejoice. If not, examine your heart for any sin and surrender this to God. You make things right by confessing to Jesus and pray: “Yes Lord, you will be my helper.”

Four is pray and ask God’s grace for a need you are currently experiencing. Choose one need you see in your day. Give it to the Lord, completely. Focus on this day and the need for today. God’s grace is sweeter when applied to our daily life. Take one day at a time. Ask God to transform your life and meet your need so that others will find comfort in our Lord. Pray and say: “Yes God, you are still working in me.”

Five (and last) is meditating in God’s hope and trusting in him with all your being. Tell the Lord that you hope in him for the next hours ahead. Face the day and move forward expectating that God’s grace will be displayed in your life. Anticipate his will to be done in your life. Pray “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done. Grant me joy and peace as I humbly trust you with the outcome of my life and my day.” End with trust. Direct your thoughts to a life of trusting in our Almighty loving Father. 

Practicing the STREAM Prayer means being still, thanking God, reflecting on one’s life, asking for God’s grace, and meditating on God’s hope. STREAM Prayer will prepare us and bring us closer to God so that we can become a source of comfort and rest to the people around us. This is my prayer for each of us.