February 3, 2012

Aspects of Offering

Filed under: Financial Commitment,Legacy,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 9:17 pm

In their book Celebrating the Offering, brothers and Methodist ministers Melvin and James Amerson assert that offerings of prayer, presence, gifts, and service are all required to be good stewards.

This must have been in the back of my mind when I read this week’s lectionary. I little detail in Mark’s account of Jesus’ early ministry that I had read right over in the past: There in the midst of preaching and teaching and healing and fellowship, in the morning scurry to pack up and get the show on the road to the next town…. Jesus slips away to pray. It grabs my attention that Mark, never one for verbosity, takes particular care with the details of this scene. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

We don’t know what he prayed, what was on his heart in that moment. All we know is that Jesus allowed himself to be discovered in the practice of stewardship of his intimate relationship with God the Creator. Jesus taught by example that his prayers, our prayers, indeed all offerings of prayer “communicate our gratitude and love of God’s grace, love, mercy, protection, provision, and …petitions for God’s blessings upon those gifts.” (Amerson, p.54)

Regular readers know that I struggle with prayer. The offering of prayer does not come naturally to me. Gifts and service, easy; I’ve grown tremendously in learning to offer presence. Prayer, not my thing. In the course of these writings I’ve had the pleasure of dialogue with others, some of whom share my discomfort and others who have found the richness of a gifted prayer life.

In this spirit of fellow-journeying, the Amersons suggest four questions that we might ask of ourselves and one another in order to deepen our understanding of the offerings we make. Realizing that each of us is growing differently in each of the four aspects, I have broadened the questions:

  • What motivates you to pray, offer your presence, make a material gift, or serve in the name of Christ?
  • Have you always been generous in your sense of offering?
  • What is the most exciting moment you have experienced in offering prayer? In experiencing presence? In making a gift? In the act of serving?
  • Is there a verse or passage of scripture that has influenced your practice of prayer? Your call to be present? The discernment of a tangible gift? An offering of service?

I like these questions because they invite both introspection and community dialogue. They ask us to look inside ourselves and learn from one another. They invite us to enter into Jesus’ example of transparency in the stewardship of our most intimate blessings and give us strength for the journey.



  1. This is a wonderfully timely essay.
    I want you to know how very helpful your workshop was to me, and hopefully by extension, to my church. It gave Marilyn and I both some good ideas to carry forward.
    Joline Frazier

    Comment by Joline — February 12, 2012 @ 4:37 pm |Reply

  2. Many years ago, I was asked to serve a retreat weekend by being in prayer on site before, during, and after talks by fifteen individulas. I very much wanted to serve in this way, but was terribly aware of my own inadequacy in offering up prayers. Each talk was thiry minutes in duration — how could I pray that long at one time?! I decided to try to pray about it. It was an incredible experience — when I stopped I realized I had been in prayer for almost an hour. I had had no sense of time passing. God convinced me that he wanted me to accept this position. It was a pivotal moment on my spiritual journey.

    Comment by Brenda Armstrong Eckles — February 24, 2012 @ 5:31 pm |Reply

    • What a beautiful story, Brenda. I can very clearly see you in the prayer role you describe; I’m glad you were open to the Holy Spirit’s showing you that you could do it.

      You also remind me of the first time I tried silent Quaker meeting. At the ten-minute mark I got the wiggles; the next thing I was aware of was that the hour had ended. You are so right about having no sense of time passing; it’s something one has to experience.

      Comment by Lisa Meeder Turnbull — February 24, 2012 @ 11:59 pm |Reply

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