In Prayer

This is another day, O Lord.

I know not what it will bring forth,

but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.

If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.

If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.

If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.

And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.

Make these words more than words,

and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Just Now

From Longing to Pray, by Ellsworth Kalas:

“[The psalmist] may well get over these feelings an hour from now, or certainly a week, a month, or a year from now. But that isn’t the point. The point is that he hurts just now, and that’s what his prayer is dealing with…. Just now, he hurts, and hurts deeply. Tell him later that he should have been more patient, and that he should have trusted God. That’s all right for later. But just now, it hurts, and he isn’t writing later, he’s writing just now.”

Psalm 102:1-11 (ESV) 

A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
  Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
    and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
    those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
    and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
    for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

 

“This is strong language, no doubt about it, but it is so strong precisely because the psalmist is so confident of God’s character. He isn’t afraid that God’s love is provisional, that it will be withdrawn if we speak anything other than our better thoughts. In a sense, we can pay God no higher complement than to speak with utter candor. Such honesty reflects the quality of a truly great friendship–a friendship secure enough that we can speak our minds.”  (Longing to Pray, p 22-23)

Thanks Giving

From The Book of Common Prayer:

O Lord, accept our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Hallowed Ground

How much more ought we to cherish and marvel at the fact that for nearly two thousand years people have prayed this prayer. When you take these words on your lips you stand on hallowed ground.”  N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer

Matthew 6:5-15 (NRSV)

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial,
        but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Lent – Good Friday

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When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:33-34, 44-46)

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

Psalm 31:3-5

“A new sort of power will be let loose upon the world, and it will be the power of self-giving love. This is the heart of the revolution that was launched on Good Friday. You cannot defeat the usual sort of power by the usual sort of means. If one force overcomes another, it is still ‘force’ that wins. Rather, at the heart of the victory of God over all the powers of the world there lies self-giving love, which, in obedience to the ancient prophetic vocation, will give its life ‘as a ransom for many.’” (N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion)

Lent – Day 34

Today’s Thought: It sure is windy out there…

The 40 days of lent are coming to an end, as Holy Week begins tomorrow. This morning I’m forced to turn my attention elsewhere as the deadlines of my seminary work loom large… books to read, research to explore, papers to write. The demands of the day have begun. I know you’re facing your own set of deadlines.

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” — C.S. Lewis

Try to come out of the wind sometimes today, and I’ll promise to do the same.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Lent – Day 32

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Today’s Thought:  Can faith and questioning co-exist?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

There have been many times when I’ve read Hebrews 11:1 and felt immediate guilt about the long list of questions I have about the Bible and God. If I really have Christian faith, doesn’t that mean I’m supposed to stop asking so many questions? Aren’t I just supposed to have faith?

Oftentimes, those feelings of guilt originate with the Christian community we grew up with—the faithful around us who told us to stop asking so many questions. I don’t know about you, but that just made me want to ask more questions! Were they afraid of questions? Worried that others would assume they were lacking real faith? Which brings up an interesting question:  Why do questions equate to unfaithfulness for so many Christians?

Author Sarah Bessey writes:

“Just when I think that this time I’ve settled something once and for all, I find a new angle or a new question arises or I read something that pushes against my answer – relationships, encounters with God and Scripture, circumstances even – and I’m left again, wondering. Perhaps this is the shift we’re really talking about – not settling down on our answers, building temples their weight was never meant to hold…. my catalog of right answers grows smaller every year.”  (Bessey, Out of Sorts)

It was a game-changer for me to read authors like Sarah Bessey, Rob Bell, and Rachel Held Evans—questioners who also had deep faith. To know it’s not only okay to question, but to keep questioning, and to keep adjusting the answers, is a truth reaffirmed by my seminary professors and fellow students. Questioning doesn’t even mean that you’re having a faith crisis or some dark night of the soul. It means we can strengthen our faith and sharpen our insights even in the blurriness of not-knowing. Admitting we have questions, yet still believing there’s a God in heaven… that’s real faith.

Thursday’s TheologianI pray that when people, often well-meaning, try to quiet your questions or placate you or numb you, you would remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of love and power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  –Sarah Bessey, Christian author and lay theologian