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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

No doubt about it.  Our senses are bombarded with stimuli during the Christmas season.

Decorated trees, wreaths, and garlands; figures, swags, and fairy lights festoon building after building, home after home.

 

 

Carols and holiday songs accompany every errand run and shopping excursion.

The scent of cinnamon, pine, and gingerbread; peppermint, vanilla, and clove urge us to breathe deep—frequently.

 

 

Velvet dresses, satin bows, and cloud-soft batting; feathery bird-ornaments, and fuzzy teddy bears beg to be touched.

Grandma’s stuffing, Butterball turkey, and squash casserole; Wassail, snowball cookies, and cranberry coffee cake all tantalize the tongue.

 

 

Some days, however, we practically drown from total immersion in everything Christmas. What is a worn out sensory system supposed to do?

If you Google “strategies for stress relief” you’ll be presented numerous options from the experts.  Some suggestions require more time than many of us can sacrifice during December. Examples include working on hobbies, getting a massage, or taking a vacation.

 

 

I can hear you through my computer screen: “NOT gonna happen this month!”

But there are other strategies we can weave into our days no matter what the to-do list requires. And SURPRISE! The experts often echo what scripture has taught all along.

We can calm ourselves through:

 

 

Meditation

Not mind-numbing exercises that supposedly elevate us to euphoria, but meditation on scripture, God’s works and mighty deeds (Psalm 119:97; 77:12). For me, that includes starting each morning with him and his Word, to set the tone for the day.

And as we fix our thoughts upon him, God has promised to keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He is our source of equilibrium and tranquility, prosperity and contentment of soul. Daily he supplies what we need to accomplish what is necessary (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The rest we can let go.

 

 

Music

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him” (Psalm 147:1, emphasis added).

Sometimes that means a loud and majestic “Hallelujah Chorus.”

But when nerves are frazzled, the experts recommend slow, quiet music. And many of our favorite carols offer just such repose.

So, when tension rises, be ready to select “Silent Night” or “What Child Is This.”  Save “Ring Christmas Bells” and “Sleigh Ride!” until the stress subsides!

 

Prayer

We can allow all the sensory input to turn our minds toward Jesus “by praying continually–simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment” (Romans 12:12 and Sarah Young, Jesus Calling).

Sentence prayers such as these:

 

 

Thank you, Jesus, for the laughter of children that opens my heart to your joy.

Thank you for the power of delectable aromas—like clove-studded ham, vanilla sugar cookies, and cinnamon rolls–that conjure up sweet memories of Christmases long ago.

Thank you for the family and friends represented in this stack of Christmas cards, who’ve left their love stamped upon our hearts.

 

 

Thank you for the familiar carols, reminding me of that wonder-filled first Christmas.

And thank you, Jesus, for lights that glimmer and candles that glow, celebrating you, the Light of the world, our Emmanuel.

 

 

They say it takes just three weeks to learn a new habit. With all the sensory reminders around us, this may be the most opportune time to become continual pray-ers.

And as we seek to turn everything Christmas into gratitude and praise, the joy of the Lord will surely follow.

 

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.doncio.navy.mil (photographer:  Diana Quinlan); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Last Saturday eleven more American citizens lost their lives to domestic terrorism. Six more were wounded. The chief federal prosecutor called the tragedy a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”

And we hate the evil forces that entice men (and sometimes women) to such unconscionable violence.  Our hearts ache every time we hear of a new murderous attack, with more lives changed forever by horror, more pain and suffering, more lives lost.

 

 

How do we pray in the face of terrorism? Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways is to pray back to God the absolute truths of his Word.  For example:

 

Dear Lord God,

We pray for your compassion, peace, presence, and power to pervade those suffering in the aftermath of such attacks as the one on Saturday. We pray for your protection over our towns and cities, schools and churches, community servants and law enforcement officers, friends and family. “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (Psalm 7:9).

The question plagues us: Why, God? Why do men think they have the right to injure and destroy innocent lives? We are outraged by their cunning as they conspire to wreak destruction against those you cherish (Psalm 83:3). How dare they plot against their fellow human beings (Psalm 37:12)?

 

 

The evil imaginations of their minds know no limits (Psalm 73:7). And we cannot fathom such callousness that breeds unthinkable tragedy.

With David we want to pray:

“Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve” (Psalm 28:4). 

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness” (Psalm 10:15). 

But your Son taught a different way—a way that disarms hatred from growing in our own spirits:

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Thank you for reminding us that enemies often carry pain of their own.

 

 

And so, as best we know how, Heavenly Father, we pray your Word over those misguided individuals who inflict terror. Remove their hearts of stone set on evil ways, and give them tender, responsive hearts, anxious to follow your ways (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

We pray they would constantly be exposed to truth through what they see and hear—even in their dreams (Job 33:14-18).

 

 

We pray for enlightenment, that the lies of the deceiver would be exposed (John 8:44).

And we pray unmistakable God-incidents would draw them to you, and they would recognize the One behind the miracles–like Naaman of Old Testament times.   When he was instantaneously healed of terminal leprosy, he said: “I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God anywhere on earth other than the God of Israel” (2 Kings 5:15 MSG). May those who have perpetrated terror or are even now planning an attack, come to the same conclusion by the influence of your Spirit.

 

 

“Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:11), that your soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Psalm 11:5 ESV).

Last, we pray you thwart the efforts of those who plan vile destruction. Again, “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (Psalm 7:9).

We do praise you, O God, that in spite of the apparent madness, you are in control (I Chronicles 29:11-12). Such comforting truth! In addition, no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Such reassuring affirmation! And you will use for good what misguided men intend for evil (Genesis 50:20-21). Such splendorous hope!

 

 

In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray all of these things for your honor and glory, Amen!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

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“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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After running a few errands last Saturday, Steve and I stopped at Panera for soup, salad, and sandwich.

We’d been seated for a while when Steve said, “A few tables behind you are two young men, and the one facing this way is wearing a T-shirt that says, ASK ME FOR PRAYER. Great big block letters too. ”

“Interesting. ‘Haven’t seen that one before,” I commented.

“Do you suppose he means it?”

“It’s a bold statement; I’ll bet he does.”

When we’d finished our lunch, I headed to the cold drinks bar to refresh my tea; Steve headed to the table of the young man in the T-shirt.

(We never did exchange names, so I’ll call him Paul, because I can see the Apostle Paul wearing just such a shirt, if it were available in his day.)

By the time I reached their table, Steve had discovered Paul did indeed mean what was blazoned on his chest.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d put me on your prayer list,” Steve told him. “I’m facing some serious health problems right now.”

But Paul did not assure us that he would pray. Instead he said, “Let’s pray for you right now!”

He and his friend immediately stood up, laid their hands on Steve, and Paul prayed for him right in the middle of Panera—and very articulately.

 

 

With conviction he praised God for His power to heal every kind of disease and sickness. He thanked God for his compassion on those who suffer, and prayed for the Spirit to move in Steve’s body and restore him to health. Paul also prayed against the spiritual forces of evil that would try to attack–and all in the powerful name of Jesus.

 

 

We spoke for a few moments more, first thanking them for hitting the pause button on their lunch to minister to us. Steve told them he’d been a pastor for forty years; Paul said he was from Tennessee, just passing through Cincinnati.

On the way to our car Steve said, “That was the most genuine, thorough healing prayer I’ve heard in a long time.”

And it undoubtedly came from a righteous man. In just those few moments of contact we saw passion, sincerity, obedience to God, humility, and grace.

You might remember what God promised about the prayers of such a person:

 

 

I found myself wishing we’d asked Paul for his business card. Wouldn’t it be fun, perhaps a year from now or so, to share with Paul how God had answered every part of his prayer on behalf of Steve.

Then, I remembered.  Eventually Paul will know, because:

  • God knows everything (Isaiah 40:13-14).
  • And since God and his Son are One (John 1:18), Jesus knows everything.
  • And when Jesus returns, we’ll be like him (1 John 3:2), and then we will know everything too.

 

 

So, one day, “Paul” will realize the outcome of his prayer for that preacher named Steve, while he just happened to be in an out-of-state Panera restaurant, wearing his ASK-ME-TO-PRAY-FOR-YOU T-shirt.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, O God, for your excellent deeds–like engineering delightful, specially designed events.  What God is there in heaven or on earth who can do such marvelous and mighty works you do?  We also praise you for your acts of power–like healing, because you are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

(Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 77:14)

 

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.maxpixel.net.)

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Saturday afternoon provided the perfect circumstances for a cozy sit by the fire.   The calendar was clear for the day and we could burrow into the quiet. Snow showers added to the tranquility as they gently outlined backyard trees in white.

 

 

The serenity of our sitting area is enhanced by the beloved hand-me-down decor: the clock, oil lamp and child-size rocker from my grandmother, lanterns that belonged to Steve’s Dad and grandfather, books of our parents’ youth, and a painting that once hung in the home of Steve’s parents.

 

 

Altogether, the golden firelight, familiar furnishings, and cozy comfort engender peace and contentment.

But as delightful as these moments are, this kind of tranquility is fleeting. At any moment the phone might ring and the caller share distressing news. Then we’ll hardly notice our snug surroundings as concerns and questions begin to demand our attention.

When that phone call comes, circumstantial peace will not be enough. But that’s the only kind this world can offer. What we really need at such times is a stillness of spirit that originates outside this world from the Master of Peace.

My peace I give you,” Jesus told his disciples. “I do not give you as the world gives.”

 

 

Remember when he spoke those words? The night before he died.  He well knew what was to come (1). The next day would be a maelstrom of suffering, climaxed by tortuous pain on a cross.

How could he speak of peace on the eve of such horror?

Because his heart was always directed Godward, resulting in radiant peace. Jesus faced rejection, false accusations, hateful treatment (from religious leaders no less), and even attempted stoning. And yet he remained unruffled.

“Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived…But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there” (2).

 

 

And this is the peace he offers us—a peace that includes tranquility, security, and prosperity of spirit in spite of circumstances. It is “a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts” (3).

How do we avail ourselves of this treasure?

By reviewing the attributes and promises of our Prince of Peace–all day long.

“Great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

 

 

Perhaps we could word our great thoughts of Christ as a prayer:

You, Lord Jesus, are our Good Shepherd, always leading in the way we should go. You tenderly watch over us, meeting every need and protecting us from evil—including wild, fearful thoughts and emotions (4).  

You are full of love for us. Out of your kindness and compassion you see us through every dark valley of life. Though we may not always be aware, you are ever-present, ready to offer strength and support (5).

 

 

You have said, “Everything is possible for those who believe” (6). And we know that’s true because we’ve seen your miracles. You’ve healed incurable diseases; you’ve protected and provided in hopeless situations. You’ve enabled others to transition to heaven with impossible grace and joy.

For these reasons and many others, we place ourselves in your attentive, all-wise, all-powerful care.

You are our Mighty One, our Rock, our Haven of Peace.

 

 

______________________________

 

P.S. I started rough drafting this post last Saturday afternoon, while sitting by that fire. Uncertainty had already moved into our hearts after Steve’s blood work last week turned up questionable results. The doctor immediately called for a cat scan that took place on Friday. Monday he shared the results with us: liver cancer.

Steve is now on an obstacle-ridden road toward a liver transplant, and the future holds much greater uncertainty than we faced last week.

Do you suppose it’s just coincidence that I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about peace for the last six days?

I don’t think so either.

 

Notes:

(1) Luke 22:15-16

(2) Henry Drummond

(3) Sarah Young

(4) John 10:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 10:11

(5) Ephesians 5:1-2; Luke 6:35; Matthew 28:20

(6) Mark 9:23

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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