Tag Archive: prayer


hemustbecomegreateriless1.jpg

It is the start of a brand new week.

With it come opportunities to reflect on what has been, to consider what might be, to wipe slates clean and start again, to get freshly excited for old relationships and new causes, to lift up your head once more and believe in everything that is possible, to seek forgiveness where relationships might be frayed, to entertain the ‘What If?’ of the seemingly impossible and to consider how each one of us might be a part of changing our world for the better. Both on the smallest scale as well as in a family, provincial, national and perhaps even global way.

So i wanted to share a prayer with you that i was reminded of again this last week.

When tbV and i were in Philly, we got to spend a few days at a Benedictine monastery connected to a university and our short time hearing some of how they operate with such a much bigger life picture [600 year plans as opposed to 60 year plans, 60 years of seeing transition happen as opposed to viewing it in one year increments] affected and hopefully infected some of how we see and do life. This is a Benedictine prayer and may each line move you to your very core…

My prayer for you this week:

Prayer of Discomfort

“May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.”

How about you print this out or make it a screensaver or something so that you can start each day this week by reading and praying and meaning those words, and let’s see just how incredible a week we can all have together.?

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prayer

i was inspired by this blog piece my friend Shae wrote over here where she spoke about a meeting she went to where the pastor proclaimed that the prayer the people would pray [to follow Jesus] was the most important prayer they would ever pray.

Shae was not convinced:

I’m not convinced. I’m open to the fact that I may be wrong in my disbelief here, but I’m still not convinced. What is the most powerful prayer you’ll ever pray? I’m not sure. Is there such a thing? I don’t know.

And as i commented on her blog about why i was convinced it was, i realised i also was convinced that it was not.

Huh? Yes, that.

You see, i think there is a whole lot of truth in that pastor’s statement that that prayer is a moment of the most extreme significance in the life of anyone who makes it. The decision and the commitment probably more than the actual prayer itself is what is the most important thing though – the prayer itself is more like a vehicle.

However, at the same time, i think that that moment of “This is the most important prayer you will ever pray.” can also be completely misleading in another way and this is an area where i feel the church has failed big time on many occasions.

In Luke 23, we see Jesus extending this invitation to His disciples:

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

What is key in that verse is the word ‘daily’.

So while this is the most important prayer you will ever pray in your life the first time you pray it [true], it is ALSO the most important prayer you will pray in your life today. And tomorrow.

It is the prayer of invitation to Jesus to once again be King of your life for this day. It rests on the understanding that His command of ‘Love God, love people’ is going to be greater than anything you could come up with on your own and that despite the horrible mess christians have made of the name through the centuries, today there is another chance to redeem it and shine the spotlight back on Him.

The big problem of the church that i alluded to earlier was when we settled for converts over disciples.

People who would step forward and give Jesus a hug instead of those who would choose to live for Him every day. And even die for Him if it became necessary.

Jesus was never interested in short term conversion. His call was only ever for long life discipleship.

And so the most important prayer you will ever pray was the one you prayed that day when you decided to choose to follow Jesus and make a commitment to Him and His kingdom.

But the most important prayer you will ever pray is ALSO the one you pray every morning, consciously or not, when you choose to follow Jesus and His ways over your own.

Will you pray that prayer today?

With regards to the fig tree, my friend Niven had this to say which makes a lot of sense:

Check out the significance of the fig tree by how it relates to the religious system the Pharisees were running. Much of what Jesus does is largely counter-intuitive so the real story is often just beneath the surface. The fig tree was representative of the system. The end of the old oppressive regime. Jesus goes to the temple just before Passover and turns one of the most important sacrificial feasts upside down. He is announcing a new way by rendering the old as obsolete. The fig tree was also used as a place of prayer for young Rabbis in training then off course there’s the fig leaves used in the garden of Eden we can throw back to employing the principle of first mention. Just some thoughts around it.

Let’s look at the second part of that story im Mark 11.20-26 and the whole idea of praying for mountains to move… and the urgency of forgiveness.

[For the next passage in this Mark series looking at Jesus dealing with questions intended to trap Him, click here]

i shared this the other day as part of a CCDA post, but it is so powerful and deserves its own space… i hope you make time to really read it and meditate on the words.

This is a prayer that was prayed to remember Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
Amen.

i especially like both the encouragement and challenge wrapped up in that last line:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

do you wish to be FREE?

tbV and i are friends with a guy called Mark Scandrette, who together with his wife Lisa, just finished a book called ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most.’

the presentation that they did for the book was so inspirational that we signed up to lead an 8 week book study which will be starting early October. the main question the book asks is whether you are spending your Money and your Time on the same things that you claim to Value most in life [which most of us probably aren’t]. then through activities and discussions it seeks to help you put some things in place and change some mindsets so that those things will line up a lot more.

i have just started reading the book and this ‘prayer of abundance’ really connected with me. The invitation is to pray this prayer daily as you are working through the book:

I know that I am cared for by an abundant Provider

I choose to be grateful and trusting,

I believe I have enough and that what I need will always be provided.

I choose to be content and generous.

I know that my choices matter for myself, for others and for future generations.

Help me to live consciously and creatively,

celebrating signs of your new creation that is present and coming.

Creator, who made me to seek the greater good of Your kingdom,

Guide me to use my time, talents and resources to pursue what matters most.

Teach me to be free,

to live without worry, fear or greed in the freedom of Your abundance.

Give me my daily bread, as I share with those in need.

Thank You for the precious gift of life.

[From ‘Free’ by Mark Scandrette]

imagine what the world could, and would, look like if we all prayed that, and meant it, every day.

[To look at the next post i did on Avoiding the Rush of Life, click here]

God parts the Red Sea using Moses

“Just part one ocean in front of me, once, God, and i will never doubt you again!”

that’s how i think sometimes. but a huge part of me knows it unlikely to be true. it wasn’t enuff for the Israelites [a day later they were whining about water so God made  it appear out of a rock, then it was food and God made bread appear six days a week, then it was about the fact that it was bread and so God sent meat and then finally when Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God they get tired and ask for an alternative God to worship…  [it doesn’t end well]]

but it’s a nice thought to have anyways – if God just does this big amazing impossible thing then i will believe-Him believe Him for ever and ever.

tonite, in the room of inspiration, i came up with the term ‘Pramnesia’ which i think a lot of us are inflicted with:

Pram.ne.sia

/pramˈnēZHə/

Noun

A partial or total loss of memory linked to matters relating to answered prayer.

we see or experience God answer prayer [in some small or big way] and then the next time we are faced with an obstacle or a difficult person or a huge loss, we forget completely how faithful God has been to us and either rail against Him, or forget about Him completely while we try sort the thing out in our own strength, or just completely fall to pieces.

now this becomes a ‘thing to hold in tension’ or a ‘the mystery of God piece’ when we add it to the fact that God is not a big one-armed-bandit in the sky – say the prayer, pull the leaver and instant win… sometimes God’s very real answer to prayer is “No!” and other times it might be, “Yes, but not now” and even other times it might be, “Absolutely yes, but completely not in the way you are expecting.”

another part to hold on to is this description of God in Ephesians 3.20: ‘to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,’

actually, the Message sums it up pretty well: God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.’

and therein lies the point: God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than ALL WE CAN HOPE OR IMAGINE.

i say this a lot, but i want to encourage you to start believing that perhaps we need to start hoping or imagining bigger. or at least more consistently.

so if you have been struggling with pramnesia, then my advice is to stop it.

let the answered prayers of the past be the catalysts for the bigger prayers you are going to pray for this day – i’m not talking prosperity doctrine at all but about kingdom doctrine – His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven… or another way to look at it, ‘what this earthly kingdom would look like if God was King here.’

why not try this… for the next week, at the start of each day, pray a simple prayer inviting God to present an opportunity for you to: show Love to someone who is feeling down/speak to someone about something God has done in your life/have a conversation with someone you know by name but whose story you have never heard/highlight a person who you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from… whatever it is doesn’t matter, but pray a prayer inviting God to action in your life… and then be on the look out for the opportunity and take it.

and i’d love it if you returned here and shared some of those answered prayers once they’ve happened…

 

so this is the last of the ten ways to Love and it might be good to mention again that i got these on a list and just expounded on them – this was originally number 4 but i bumped it to the end, not because it is any less important but because the others were more relevant to everyone whereas this one is specific to people of faith…

Colossians 1.9 reads, ‘For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…’

in my experience relationships are never easy. or never always easy. some seem easier than others and usually when you are looking at someone else’s dating or marriage relationship, you are exposed to the public side of it and so it will usually look movie-like and if you have ever had a strong difference of opinion with the person you Love and are in relationship with, then you may quickly find at that moment that the genre shifts from romantic comedy somewhat.

and so for this reason [and others] it makes a lot of sense not to do relationships alone and i am thinking specifically of marriage here but to differing degrees it can be relevant to friendships and dating as well. the colossians verse above starts with the phrase “since we heard… we have not stopped praying” and so this last way to Love could perhaps as significantly be titled ‘be an active part of community’ [whether church or small group or strong group of friends or combinations thereof] because the knowledge that people are praying for you is a powerful thing.

when i got married [to the beautiful Val] it felt like God took relationships and marriage in particular and placed them heavily on my heart – the growing statistics of divorce [as equal among christians as non-christians apparently] break my heart in terms of the statement it makes loudly that ‘We don’t do relationships well!’ and i wanted [and want] to be used wherever i can be to speak life and hope and perseverance and longevity into them, and hopefully model healthy relationships too.

and i am hoping it will make my Taboo Topic list someday altho finding anyone brave enough to share might be tough but ‘People who struggle in marriage’ is a topic that is never spoken about [until suddenly a separation or divorce is announced and often hits a lot of friends and family by surprise as everything looked great on the outside] but is really real and my desire is for married people to find safe people that they can share their struggles with in a way that brings them and their person closer together and provides outside prayer and assistance.

but also within the relationship it is good to have it centered on God and people do that differently whether praying together or praying individually but for each other or combinations of both. one of the strongest times for our marriage has been lying in bed together late at night having God-filled conversation about life or people or situations we find ourselves in and as we talk those out, they become like prayers to God as well [as prayer is as simple as conversing with God] and so it is incredibly important to find those places and times to really invite God into the midst of your stuff.

i will finish off with the rest of the passage that initial verse comes from as i think it is a powerful piece to meditate on:

‘For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ [Colossians 1.9-14]

as i seek to bring the concept of praying without ceasing into my own marriage, may i also be reminded to constantly be praying for the relationships of those around me, that they will be built on the Love of God that always hopes, always protects, always perseveres.

to head back to the start of this series in case you missed any of them, go here.

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