• Jamie Bahr

Ep 106 Festooning The Lord's Prayer


Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard

Exercise: Festooning the Lord's Prayer PDF

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Full Transcript

I'm Jamie Bahr, and this is Unlocking Christian Spiritual Practices. Join me as we look at the practices that are essential for growing responsibility and expanding leadership in our families, churches and communities. In this podcast, we're going to explore the practice of festooning the Lord's prayer. Now, the purpose of this exercise is to help you live in the prayer that Jesus prayed, and experienced the kingdom of God in more moments of your day by praying the ideas of the Lord's prayer in your own words. So, it's becoming mindful of a with- God life. That's our goal, becoming more mindful.

But first, wow, have things in our world changed since I started this podcast series, now that we're on lockdown due to COVID-19, this pandemic may have you questioning the depth of your relationship with Jesus. This last week I overheard a young woman say, "I thought I was a strong Christian, but with the lockdown, I'm having second thoughts on what is my relationship with Jesus?" If you base a strong Christian life on attending church faithfully once a week for one hour as enough to handle times of confusion, disorientation, and isolation, you're probably asking the same question yourself. So, what is it that helps you to stand alone and continue to be confident in Christ when everything is changing so rapidly, especially when we find ourselves disconnected from close relationships and everything familiar, especially our familiar schedules that we keep?

A solution that you hear a lot about these days is mindfulness. It's mentioned everywhere, from yoga studios to our schools to the workplace as a way to stay calm, love yourself and focus on the present moment. I even heard an ad for mindful parenting practices. This is a kind of a cultural mindfulness that's so prevalent today, but would you believe it is completely opposite of a Christian mindfulness? Festooning is a way to practice a Christian mindfulness. If you look up the definition of mindfulness on the web, you're going to find that there's mindful practices and mindful training to focus on the present with peace, self-compassion, and wellbeing. But what if the present circumstances are not really that good? Does focusing on these present moments or times of darkness take you deeper into disorientation, or do you just disconnect altogether?

On the other hand, a Christian mindfulness deepens your friendship with Jesus who found confidence in his heavenly Father to move forward in his earthly ministry. You can also find this confidence. You can find it in uncertain times and unpredictable times of your life. So, we need to connect with our heavenly Father for the confidence that surpasses all understanding as we lead our families and influence our communities for good, now and in the future.

Let's talk a bit about our mind. It's one thing we'll all agree on is that the mind, it's powerful. God gave us a mind so we could be free to choose what to focus our minds on. Dallas Willard in his book Life Without Lack writes the most important thing about your mind is what it's fixed upon. The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon or to think about.

Now, this also includes our memories, perceptions, and beliefs. So, we do have a choice as to what we're going to fix our minds on. Now, it's not an easy task when we've had something so disorientating as losing a family member. Those are times so disorientating, and I know that myself because I lost my husband suddenly of a heart attack, and it was something nobody expected to have happened. But it can be so disorientating, and I must say that I can remember after I had a few of these practices down, and I do have practices throughout my day, but when I could sense this feeling of disorientation or loss, I would quickly go back and do a practice like a practice of festooning, completely changed the focus of my mind and I turned to focus on God.

It's amazing how much God can help you make sense of a situation that's almost impossible for you to do it all by yourself. We all had things in our family that we had to continue to do. We had to continue to go to our work, to jobs, continue to manage businesses. I even have a daughter who had to continue to fly a Black Hawk. So, our minds need to be focused somewhere, and we have the power to do that. I mean, it's amazing that God gives us this freedom to select what we're going to require our minds to focus on. But festooning is one of these practices that can really help you during these disorientating times. So, we can focus on worldly things or we can choose to focus on things above. A cultural mindfulness then is focused on the self and the present circumstances.

On the other hand, a Christian mindfulness focuses on God's love and hope for the future. By fixing our minds on the father, son, and Holy spirit, we open a way for God's grace to act in our lives. It's his grace that moves us forward in life with confidence. But we have to choose to focus on God to gain the sufficiency of God. We don't get to sufficiency by focusing on the self. A self focused life leads to narcissism, and that does not end well. It leads to darkness. The scriptures talk about this darkness as the Prince of the air that is all around us. Ephesians two second verse reads, "In time past, you walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." So, the Prince of the world is worldly, selfish, self centered. What do we call these? Well, we call these temptations.

It's the temptation to look to the self instead of to God. They're always around us, always distracting us from focusing on God. So, we are distracted, and of course there are lies that say, "You don't need a relationship with God. You can handle this alone." In First Corinthians, it asks, "Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" Well, that's cultural mindfulness. It's foolishness, and it's worldly. But these temptations are really the same ones that Jesus faced, to look away from God, to look to the self, to think that you're better than anyone else, and finally you end up settling for a whole lot less. Colossians 3:1 tells us, as Christians, we are to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. Wow. This verse speaks to the contrast between an earthly mindfulness and a Christian mindfulness, one delights and the other controls through temptations.

Now, how can we practice mindfulness? Well, one way is through the practice of festooning. It's defined as embellishing phrases of scripture or prayer with new descriptions that touch the heart and emotion. What we do in this practice, we start with a familiar prayer or a passage of scripture. We're going to take a look at the Lord's Prayer for our first example. You would pray each phrase of the Lord's Prayer and then festoon and paraphrase it as the Spirit leads. You really have to slow down to embellish and add descriptive words of your own, for example, and you can also look at different traditions, Bible translations. You can look at the new international version or you can look at the Kings James version. But if you started out with something like, "Our father who art in heaven," you might embellish that and festoon it as, "Dear father, always near us, our great father who is in this place right now, but also across the planet with the starving."

The second phrase, "Hallowed be thy name." You might write, "May your name be treasured and loved. May your name be a favorite word." The next phrase is, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." You might festoon that to say, "May your rule be completed in us, may your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven. Let your kingdom live in me and in everyone I touch." "Give us your daily bread," you would festoon that, as an example now, as you work through this, different words will come to mind for you. "Give us today the things we need today. Give me the basic things I need today and receive them with great joy." So, festooning is just this beautiful way of paraphrasing a prayer or a piece of scripture that is so familiar to you that you really aren't thinking anymore about what it's saying to you.

As we enter into a Christian mindfulness, we come to see with delight that life with God is a perfectly safe place to be. It can help us embrace the gospel by living moments of our day in the presence of God and his kingdom. Those who do will make progress toward God, and he will make himself known to you. It's such a beautiful thing when the words from a passage, and all of a sudden they come up off the page and you realize there's deep meaning in those words just for you. Then as you begin to festoon those words, it takes you deeper, deeper into a soul formation, and then God has ways of revealing himself to you. The purpose of festooning is to help you live in the prayer, especially the Lord's Prayer that Jesus prayed to experience a deeper relationship with your heavenly Father in moments throughout your day.

At any time, you can call up this prayer and you can call it up in your own words. You can pray the ideas of the Lord's Prayer in your own words too. This helps to give new life to often memorize prayers and scripture that's spoken, but you don't really feel it anymore. Then you can pray your festoon prayer in the morning as you wake up. You can even create a poem out of the scripture for yourself, so that's another way to draw near to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to really feel emotional connection to God in your current circumstances. You can go back and you can underline certain words that bring greater meaning to you and your relationship with God.

Now, Francis of Assisi prayed the Lord's prayer, one phrase at a time, amplifying and expanding each phrase. C.S Lewis did the same thing, and he called it festooning, by which he meant decorating or embellishing phrases of scripture with meaning that touches the heart and emotions. That's the main reason, you want something that makes us come alive, that touches the heart and the emotions. It almost touches our subconscious side. What are the feelings we really have in these prayers? What has God really trying to help us to see? In Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy, he provides a few samples of this practice. The more you practice a with-God life, the richer your relationship with God will be, and it also is a way of preparing you for times of disorientation.

I can't tell you enough how these spiritual practices are so important to continue when everything's going well, so that when you get disorientated, you have something to hold onto. That takes your mind back to thinking about God, keeping your mind on things above, and it's so transformative. Another prayer that you could use would be something simple, like a mealtime prayer as another example. Try festooning it for deeper and richer meaning and connection with God. Now, the prayer we said with our children was, "Come, Lord Jesus. Be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed." It's very simple, those are just little three-word phrases, but you can take a lot of time and embellish and expand these three little words that will really give it deeper meaning.

Let's just look at that first one that you might say, "Come, Lord Jesus." I might festoon that to say, "Enter in now into our home and our hearts. Find rest with us at this moment today." The next phrase is, "Be our guest." You would festoon that and say, "Let us treat you with honor, remembering your love for us, longing for your presence now. Let these gifts, let all these gifts of food from farmers who plant, those who pick the produce, the hands that have prepared this meal, the aroma, this table and chair, the gift of being home, the warmth of family." I mean, that's quite a bit you can get from three words. So, just take your favorite prayers or scripture that you've memorized, or words, and take that time to sit there with the Lord and see what phrases and things come to mind. It's just such a beautiful way of connecting with God.

You can do the same thing by festooning a bedtime prayer with your children. "Now I lay me down to sleep." It could be, "Now I surrender to the night and you alone, oh Lord, watch over me." It helps you to be mindful of what you're saying when you pray, and it brings rest and delight to the soul so that you can sense the presence of God with you. This is really where great leadership emerges from the with-God life. Starts out with something small, but over time, this practice, it grows, and God makes himself known and goes with that leader or parent or student because they have a mind that is fixed on things above and not on earthly things. I hope you'll take time now to get started on this practice. It will give you joy in the quiet moments of your day, and you will be blessed as God reveals himself to you.

In my next podcast, we'll talk about the practice of surrendering to a formation friendship with Jesus. We'll look at three surrendering practices that help us gain an attitude that opens the way for genuine formation, transforming failures and humbling circumstances into Christ like character, through an intimate friendship with Jesus and the Holy spirit. If you have any questions or want to view the show notes and resources from today's podcast, please go to my website at Thank you for listening, and blessings on your journey.

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