Tag Archives: Prayer

Intercessory Prayer

Living in the Spirit
October 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’ –Exodus 33:17-23

Does routine contact with God make a difference? Made in the image of God, some part of each of us mirrors God. Think about our interactions with people. Are we more apt to respond to the needs of people with whom we have regular contact? I think we all are. When Moses approached God on behalf of his people, he relied on his previously established relationship, and God responded.

Intercessory prayer is a bit of a mystery to me, yet my gut tells me it is important. I often do not know what or how to pray for another. I distinctly remember one instance of prayer asking God to forgive the sins of another for which I received a clear revelation that that was not mine to ask.  There are also the instances of praying for healing with no idea of what the best outcome might be. We do not see the breadth and depth of life as God does. Am I faithful or namby-pamby by attaching the phrase “let your will be done” to every intercessory prayer? I have concluded the important aspect of intercessory prayer is following Moses’ example by just being ourselves before God and trusting God who knows us completely to respond in love.

My interest in intercessory prayer comes at a time when my country seems to be falling apart as a house divided. Moses was dealing with a house that gave up on God and turned to idols not being willing to follow God’s lead but deciding to shape a god in the image that best suited their selfish ambitions. Their idol worship did not work then and will not work now. Let us all keep praying and keep listening for the guidance of that still small voice, for God is working God’s purpose out.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for letting us deluge you with our fears, doubts, and uncertainties in how to deal with all that is confronting us. Help us to learn to be still and know that you are God and listen as much as or more than we talk to you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Self-Examination

Living in the Spirit
August 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 17:1-7,15

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
   if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
   my feet have not slipped. –Psalm 17:1-5

Apparently, the author of this Psalm felt the need to justify this prayer. First, the Psalm professes the justice of a plea for vindication and then it itemizes the worthiness of the one making the supplication. I assume the person praying feels unjustly accused of wrongdoing. In high school, I was called to the office and questioned about missing money from the snack bar collections made at a basketball game the night before. Both the superintendent and principal were present and very serious. I was in charge of the snack bar and left the money box as instructed as we closed. I had no explanation for why there was money missing. Two people counted the money and put a note in the box with how much was in it at the beginning and how much was there at the closing. I was given no information about how much was missing. I explained the process we followed stating I had no idea why the cash on hand was less than the amount reported. I was excused and never heard another word about it. I felt the sting of unjust guilt and the importance of following protocols. My guess is the officials discovered what happened and handled it confidentially. Lots of rumors spun lots of possibilities. I remained in charge of the snack bar, and we continued to count the money the same way, but it was transferred directly to the principal after that rather than leaving it in an office.

My first reaction to this Psalm was that if we had to prove we were perfect to God before we asked for God’s justice, we were all lost. None of us are perfect, and God is the God of both justice and mercy. My prayers more often start with a request for forgiveness than a listing of my righteousness. That said, I think it is important that we routinely self-examine our behavior asking God to reshape us in the ways of love. Often our most conspicuously bad traits are the ones we do not see as they are so ingrained in our way of being. Holding ourselves up to the plumb line of Christ, using Christ as our model may be the only way we can free ourselves from habits that limit our success in serving God.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I fall short of being the person you want me to be. Help me see myself more clearly and enable me to shed bad habits. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Eastertide
May 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 104:24-35

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
   may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
   who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
   for I rejoice in the Lord. –Psalm 104:31-34

Do we take God for granted? Yes and we should but we also should not. I believe that God is eternal, always present, all powerful, and all knowing.  The Psalmists prays May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in his works in acknowledgment of and reference to the favor we receive from God’s love and to pledge our love to God and all of God’s creation.

What meditations are pleasing to God? I must confess I probably spend more time ranting and raving to God about the injustices I see and cannot change and the complexities of solving problems working for and with others who share a diversity of understandings of the issues and ideas for addressing them. I do not think God minds. It is when I can put words to what I am experiencing/feeling; I am pliable to God’s amazing ability to reshape and refocus my responses.

When something finally works, when good things happen, when love rains on parched lands and lives, including God in our rejoicing, brings God joy too. God’s sustaining grace and love makes all things possible.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for loving us so much you accept us as we are and work to make us love like you each day. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Teach Us To Pray

Eastertide
May 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:6-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. –Acts 1:12-14

Are we as perplexed about prayer as we are about the Holy Spirit? We went along for hundreds of years in modern times thinking we were making great progress, but in recent years it sometimes seems we have not progressed much at all. I read two articles recently one saying everything we thought we knew about what causes heart disease is mostly wrong and the other saying everything we thought we knew about how salt interacts with our bodies is now in question. One day we are told caffeine is bad for us the next we are told drinking a cup or two of coffee is good for us. (I support the latter finding simply because I like coffee.) Just as we question our knowledge of what are good health practices, we question what good faith practices are. Some even question whether spiritual disciplines like prayer are relevant.

I attended my church’s child care graduation for the three-year-olds moving into preschool recently and loved every minute of it. Some think these recognitions of such milestones are over the top, but I think they help us understand the transitions in life that are necessary for us to grow in wisdom and truth. The move we are making from one set of cultural norms referred to as modernity to another called post-modernity is on a much grander scale and recognition that we are ready to take on a broader spectrum of God’s reality. Part of this struggle includes the place of faith and religion in our lives. Thus we plunge i
nto questioning everything.

I have found in my life that prayer takes on a different mode as I age. Sometimes I pray with a laundry list of names for God followed by a list of concerns and task. More often, I find myself following Paul’s instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. There are some things that have survived the test of time.

A primary route to a nearby hospital complex runs right behind my house. Ambulances racing past in the night occasionally awaken me. At first it was disturbing, but eventually, I found it an opportunity for prayer as I place whoever is headed for medical care in God’s hands and return to sleep.

The purpose and appropriate mode of prayer are whatever solidifies our relationship with God.

Prayer: God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Holy One, teach us to pray. Guide us not only in communing with you but also in taking in and applying your responses. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Living into God’s Vision

Epiphany
February 1, 2017

Scripture reading: Psalm 2 or 99

The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
He is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob
Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool.
Holy is he! –Psalm 99:1-5

I draw the scriptures I use each day from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday. It forces me to read the whole Bible and consider scriptures that are old favorites and ones that make me uncomfortable. It chases me to commentaries and concordances making me work at discerning with care and in context what I glean from it. A Psalm is included each week and I have become a little more comfortable with the stark communication styles that appear right next to the Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23) and I was glad when they said let us go into the house of the Lord. (Psalm 122:1) Today I was greeted with a choice of two Psalms. When I read Psalm 2, I understood why. The poet does not mince words regarding his disdain for world leaders. I know how he felt. I, too, wonder at times “What were they thinking?” When leaders do not seem to have the best interest of the people at heart.

I then flipped over to the second reading, Psalm 99, and found more hope and less discord. I think it is valuable at times to share my rantings and ravings with God so God can clean my filters clearing a path for greater objectivity and a place for God’s vision to return and rest in my soul. Perhaps those are the prayers best spoken in secret. (See Matthew 6:6) Even if my sense of the issues that frustrate me are right or partially right, my response to the situation to be effective must be a God-centered response.

My sister, who also gets to hear my rantings and ravings, reminded me this week that God is in charge and God is working God’s purpose out. Psalm 99 reinforces that message.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your infinite love and patience with people like me. Help me focus my energies in the most productive ways possible to live into your vision. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

God’s Terms

exhausted playersLiving in the Spirit
October 24, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ –Mark 10:46-48

Have mercy on me is the prayer I pray when I do not know what else to pray. Strong’s Concordance of the Bible* expounds on the meaning of mercy as used in this scripture using the example, acting only on [God’s] terms. Mercy used in this sense calls out asking for God to act in accordance with God’s covenant of loyalty. It is the only prayer left when one has no clue what else to do about a situation. It probably should be the first prayer we pray.

I am not suggesting that we should not try to solve our own problems. The key here is to have a relationship with God that is always present, always a part of any action that we take. Paul uses the example of an athlete who stays in top shape ready to run any race at any time. We hear this all the time in descriptions of teams particularly toward the end of the game. Often the commentators will say something like “the defensive players are grabbing their legs and catching their breath. They don’t have much left in them.” The commentators will then often begin to talk about the other team’s outstanding strength and fitness coach.

Jesus is our spiritual strength and fitness coach. His life of prayer and communion with God are woven throughout the gospels. He practiced other spiritual disciples like worship, study, fasting, solitude, and more. We would do well to follow his example.

Prayer: Have mercy on us Lord. In your own good way enable us to live life’s that are pleasing to you. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/1653.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Near to the Heart of God

Near to GodLent
March 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 5:5-10

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. — Hebrews 5:7-10

And he was heard. Ever feel when you pray that you are just saying words that are bouncing back toward you off the ceiling? One of my friends described the scene in the delivery room when her first child was born. She was accustomed, shall we say, to using very foul language when she was among friends that were accepting of it, perhaps they even encouraged it. She was fairly good at guarding her mouth in company that would have been offended, although occasionally she slipped up. In the delivery room she reverted to what came naturally, embarrassing her husband mightily as her expletive deleted language was mixing with the prayerful cries of “God help me” from other women. I assured her that God hears God’s children’s cries even when they are not prayers. I believe that God not only hears more importantly God listens, understanding the depth and breadth of the concern being voiced.

The great comfort Jesus had was knowing God intimately. Jesus knew the unconditional nature of God’s love and knew he was not alone in his suffering. He also knew that his suffering would lead to something more important like the birth of a baby. Jesus’ suffering led to his death and his resurrection that led to the spread of the good news of God’s love from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It led to our commissioning as the Body of Christ in the world today sharing God’s love so that all of God’s children might know God intimately when they cry out for help and find that there are people in the world today that are trying to love like Jesus and are willing to try to provide the help needed.

My favorite hymn since I was a small child is Near to the Heart of God. It is consider old fashioned now, we do not sing it much but it is true but I will share it with you here:

 Near to the Heart of God
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

Refrain
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Prayer: Hold us who wait before Thee near to your heart and empower us to share that gift with others. Amen.

*Words and Music by Cleland B. McAfee, 1903, see at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/neartoth.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers for Children

Created in the image of GodLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
September 10, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Psalm 114

 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,    at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water,    the flint into a spring of water.—Psalm 114:7-8

Today we begin a season of prayer for children as a part our preparation for the celebration of the Children’s Sabbath on October 19, 2014. Started by the Children’s Defense Fund more than 20 years ago, the Children’s Sabbath is a weekend set aside for peoples of all faiths to come together in solidarity for the future of our children. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) initiated the Light a Candle for Children to encourage all peoples of faith and particularly Christians to pray for children each day for 40 days leading up to the Children’s Sabbath. Beginning today and continuing through the Sunday of the Children’s Sabbath these devotions will be provided to assist in your meditation and prayer. If you wish to know more about the Children’s Sabbath visit http://www.childrensdefense.org/ . For more information about Light a Candle for Children and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) daily meditations on children go to https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/dhm/dhm-ministries/family-and-childrens-ministries/light-a-candle/

Since I live in Oklahoma, I will be providing each day some facts from the lives of Oklahoma children. These will be taken from KIDS COUNT a project of the Anne E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT tracks the status of children nationwide and you can trace it down to your county. That information can be accessed at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/.

Why do we prayer for children? I think our scripture today answers that question. We serve and awesome God whose very image is planted in the souls of each of us. God wants all of God’s children to thrive and be a blessing to one another. God is calling us to make that happen as God’s envoys in the world today. Let it be so.

 Oklahoma Fact: in 2014 Oklahoma ranked 39th among the states in Overall Child Well-Being

Prayer: Lord make us conduits of your love as we strive to open doors of hope for the children of our world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Go Up the Mountain

Living in the Spirit
August 9, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:22-33 

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ — Matthew 14:22-27

It surely feels like we are in a boat that is about to capsize. The waves of war are beating against us as strife increases in Syria and Iraq, in Israel and Gaza, and in Ukraine and Russia.  The winds of crime blow across our own country with what seems like ever increasing senselessness. Our crime is also impacted by the drug cartels from Mexico and Central America. And in all these plays on power and greed, it is the children who suffer. In times like these, Jesus had to go up the mountain by himself to pray. He sets a good example for us as he apparently did for Abraham Lincoln who said:

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.  

We do serve a risen Savior He’s in the world today.* We need to lock onto that reality and into the word “serve”. If we go up the mountain and pray or in the backyard or in a quiet park, we too will find the guidance we need to deal with both the waves and the winds of life.

Prayer: Lord, we do not know even how to pray about the problems across our world, the needs of people caught in the crossfires of human thirst for power and money. We are especially concerned for the innocents being forever damaged if not killed. Open our hearts and minds to see more clearly what we are doing that may be contributing to the strife. Guide us in our actions and attitudes. Make us a blessing to the nations. Amen.

*From Hymn: He Lives by Alfred H. Ackley
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Whistleblowers and Tattle Tells

Living in the Spirit
August 4, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. 

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.* But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. — Genesis 37:1-4

Thou shalt not tattle is one of the most sacred of childhood’s codes. Chronic tattle tellers are shunned and sometimes banned from the play group. I suppose the same could be said for what we adults call whistleblowers. Usually associated with the work place, both private sector and governmental, these are the people who report what they perceive to be less than acceptable work, or lack thereof, occurring on the job. Part of the problem is discerning whether the tattler or whistleblower is truly concerned about what has transpired or if they are trying to raise their own status at the expense of others. My hunch with Joseph is that his motivation was a little of both. As one of the younger brother, he was already envisioning himself as an equal to his father and thus saw the need for work to be productive. He had visions of ruling his brothers. At seventeen and younger, he did not have the good sense to not flaunt his superior talents and skills.  He soon got a lesson in humility in an empty cistern.

If nothing else the story of Joseph is a story of redemption. We could all take sides as to who was right and who was wrong in this situation. Rueben obviously knew what the brothers were doing was wrong. He even tried to intervene but failed. How many times have we wished we had stopped something or started something and did not? And when the dust has settled, how often would things had been better if we had implemented our wishes?

I personally have prayed many times, “God guard my tongue”. Those are usually times when what I wanted to say was more a shot back at something rather than addressing a problem. Shots back usually cause more problems, I have discovered. However, as far as regrets go, I have had deeper senses of failure when I have not spoken. It takes courage to tattle or to whistle blow when one’s motivation is spot on right and one knows it to the depths of that still small voice of God whispering in his or her ear. I still need to pray for God to guard my tongue. I also need to pray for God to loosen it when it is God’s will that I speak.

Prayer: Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) but help me also remember when you said if these were silent, the stones would shout out. (Luke 19:40) Give me the courage to speak out in your service. (Luke 19:40) Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.