Prayer Emphasis: Day 31

 

Lord, watch over your Church...

What do we mean when we use the word "church?"

We have all heard sermons (and perhaps preached some) that the church is a people not a building.  Yet, we easily find ourselves saying, "I'm meeting so and so over at the church," or "Hurry up; we have to get to church on time."  We need to intentionally renew our minds to understand God's view of the church.

The word for "church" in the New Testament is ekklesia, which means "assembly."  Sometimes, the writers of Scripture are referring to the universal, global assembly of fellow believers on every continent and in every nation.  Today, in our intentional prayer time, let that be our focus - the worldwide church.  We are part of a life-transforming movement of the Holy Spirit that bridges every human divide - language, socio-economic status, national origin, gender, level of education, etc.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ that we have never met, and yet they have prayed for us.  Raise your prayers for those who believe and those who will believe that we will only meet in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 30

 

Lord, you have given us a tremendous power...

Towards the end of the letter of James, the half-brother of Jesus encourages us to pray.  He asserts, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."  He roots this belief in the example of the Old Testament prophet Elijah.  He had "a nature like ours," meaning he was just an ordinary human being like you and me.  His prayer held back the rains for three and a half years, and then his subsequent prayer brought forth rain.  We can be tempted to think that if perhaps we were holier, more righteous, more perfect, then God would hear our prayer.  Through faith in Jesus, we have been given a perfect righteous - one we could not earn.  We can be confident that our prayers carry tremendous power.

Today, in your intentional prayer time, give thanks for that power.  Recognize that power.  How will that lead you to pray today?  Perhaps, there is something seemingly impossible on your heart.  Pray with power.  Perhaps, you desire certain spiritual gifts. Pray with power.  Perhaps, you have avoided praying too boldly or in too risky of a manner.  Pray with power.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 27

 

Lord, you are nearer than I think...

Prayer is portable.  You don't need a preacher, a worship band, a set time, or a building.  At any time and anywhere, you have the opportunity to connect with your Creator and Redeemer.  This reality makes every moment sacred and special.  This reality breaks down the barrier we try to erect between the "secular" and the "sacred."  Your mundane tasks are sacred and can be prayerful as well.

This week we have invited the Lord into our planning, our eating, our drinking, and our breathing.  We have welcomed the presence of the Divine into the most ordinary parts of our lives.  Today, and this weekend, let's recognize that same presence in our rest and relaxation.  Say a brief prayer as you read, as you spend time with family and friends, as you watch a movie, as you listen to music. 

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 26

 

Lord, you are my air...

Breathe.  Just breathe.

The average person takes over 23,000 breaths every day.  The simple, regular, forgotten act of inhaling oxygen keeps us alive.  Just a few minutes without oxygen and we move from discomfort to distress very quickly.  We must breathe.  Breath is to life as prayer is to spiritual life.  As we grow in our prayer walk, it can become more subconscious - we start praying before we even realize it.  Just as we do not plan out our next breath, prayers naturally arise as our awareness of God's presence is heightened.

Today, for our intentional prayer time, let's meditate in his presence.  Instead of trying to empty ourselves, let's allow ourselves to be filled by the Spirit.  Let this be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation.  Turn off your phone (you will live for the next five minutes).  Close your eyes.  Breathe.  Bask in the knowledge that God is present.  Breathe.  Listen.  Breathe.  Speak a simple prayer.  Breathe.  Amen.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 25

 

Lord, you quench our thirst...

Water is essential for life.  A human being can fast from solid food for over a month but cannot go without water for more than a few days.  Over half of our body is comprised of water.  Furthermore, in the developed world, we think very little about access to clean water.  We simply turn on the faucet.

In John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan woman have a misunderstanding over water.  He tells her of a well that never runs dry.  She takes him literally and asks where this well is located; however, she eventually understands and believes Jesus to be the Messiah.  Jesus uses something as common as water to point to himself.

Today, let the water you encounter during the course of the day draw you into prayer.  When you drink a glass of water, pray.  When you wash your hands, pray.  When you shower, pray.

Also, given the lack of clean water in many parts of the world, let our prayers move us to action.  Consider donating some money that you have saved from fasting to the Student Ministries' clean-water well project or another charity that brings sustainable sources of water to the developing world.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 24

 

Lord, you provide our daily bread...

Food is a good gift from God.  He designed and crafted the vast array of tastes and textures that we enjoy every day.  Walking through the grocery store, we see his creativity and his grace on display.  However, sometimes our relationship with food is broken.  We eat too much, we eat too little, we eat for comfort, or we eat to escape.  Other times, we eat without any thought of the God who provided the meal for us.  In prayer, God can restore us to a proper perspective on food.

For many of us, our only experience of prayer and food is a grace said before the meal.  Today, let's experiment incorporating prayer in different ways with our meal and snack times.  Do not feel limited to only one way of doing this.  You can pray before the meal, but what if you tried praying after the meal?  What if you prayed during the meal - just a short prayer of thanks for the taste and provision of what you are eating?  What if your afternoon snack became a personal prayer time with God?

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 23

 

Lord, you are Lord over every day...

Sometimes when you feel unsure what to pray for or about, look to your calendar.  Some of us keep detailed schedules and others of us only outline major events.  Regardless of our personal style, our calendars are windows into our lives.

Today, during your intentional prayer time, pull up your calendar, whether you keep a paper planner or utilize Google calendar.  Begin to bring your calendar before the Lord.  Pray over upcoming meetings and projects.  Pray over youth sporting events.  Pray over tests and assignments that are due soon.  Pray over dinner plans.  Pray over your leisure time.  Pray over upcoming summer plans.  In these prayers, you are reminding yourself that God is Lord over every day and not just Sunday.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 20

 

Lord, you are with me through sunrise and sunset...

Similar to Augustine, Martin Luther, the 16th century protestant reformer, has had a profound impact on the course of western thought.  We also see him as a spiritual father in the faith.  His devotion to the practice and importance of prayer is well documented.  Today, we learn from his brief prayers for the morning and evening from the Small Catechism.

Morning Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that you would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you.  For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.  Amen.

Evening Prayer

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that you would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night.  For into your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.  Amen.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 19

 

Lord, I have a restless heart...

Augustine was possibly one of the most influential theologians in church history.  Though he lived in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, his thoughts and writings shaped Christian theology through the Reformation to today.  In his spiritual autobiography, he writes a brief yet powerful prayer.  A prayer that acknowledges that we only find ultimate satisfaction in pursuing the Lord.  In your prayer time today, join the words of Augustine to your own pursuit of the Lord.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 18

 

Lord, begin within me...

Today's prayer from church history comes from Ambrose of Milan.  He was a bishop in the 4th century and was widely popular as a preacher.  The brief prayer below begins with confession, and yet realizes that we need more than just a clean slate.  We need the Holy Spirit's power; we need a renewed heart.  Pray through each petition - make each your own.

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore thee,
a heart to delight in thee,
to follow and to enjoy thee,
for Christ's sake.

Amen

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 17

 

Lord, join the prayers of your people together...

If we are being honest, there are times when we feel as though our prayers have fallen into a rut.  We feel stuck.  We feel like we are praying the exact same thing over and over again.  Now, there is a time and place for perseverance in our petitions, where God is inviting us to come again and again to him with the same requests.  However, other times, we feel like our requests have become stale.

Something that can help us in our journey of prayer is to look at prayers that Christians have prayed for millennia or for centuries.  For the rest of this week, we will be praying alongside the saints of the church throughout the ages.  If you come from a tradition that is skeptical of written-out prayers, I would encourage you to simply see these prayers as a lattice structure, where the ivy vines of the Spirit's power and your faith can grow and bloom.

Today, we start with the most famous prayer of all: the Lord's Prayer.  This prayer is recorded twice in the Scriptures (Matthew 6, Luke 11).  In these two instances, Jesus invites us to "pray this" prayer and to "pray like this."  We can utilize it as a model for our own prayers, or we can pray these words.  With familiar as this prayer is, do not rush.  Take time moving through each petition, adding your own thoughts and feelings as you pray through it.

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

[For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, AMEN.]

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 16

 

Lord, renew my resolve...

As we begin our third week of intentional prayer and fasting, let's take today as an opportunity to reflect.  Sometimes we do not build reflection into our schedules.  We move from one task to the next and barely stop to catch our breath.  As a result, we overemphasis the failures of the past and minimize the successes.  When you think about the past two weeks of prayer and fasting, the times when you felt as though your prayers were hitting the ceiling or you cheated on your fast probably come easily to mind.  However, today, when we take time to honestly reflect before the Lord, ask him to show you the times that he empowered you, that he strengthened you, that he grew you.  The Old Testament, in particular, is filled with the refrain, "Remember!"  God does not want his people to forget his faithfulness and his patience.  Do not let your successes lead you to pride or your failures lead you to despair.  Today is a new day and a new beginning.  Learn from the past, but, by reflecting, we do not let it determine our future.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 13

 

Lord, let me love as you love...

During the course of this week in prayer, you probably noticed that the themes were not random.  We were praying through Jesus' answer as to what was the greatest commandment in the law.  When questioned by the scribes, Jesus said, "...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30; Deuteronomy 6:4-5).  We utilized this verse for two reasons.  First, this commandment is something that we need to bring before the Lord again and again.  We need his Spirit's power to grow in our ability to know and to love him.  Second, this serves as a model of how to pray through the Scriptures.  As you unpack a verse, its themes, promises, and commands all lead us to insight, conviction, repentance, and prayer.

Jesus continues his dialogue with the scribes by naming the second greatest commandment.  Quoting Leviticus 19:18, he says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  While this could rightly lead us to pray for anyone, let's focus, as we move into the weekend, on our neighboring churches.  Pray for their pastors, their staffs, their preaching, their worship, their ministries.  Pray for Ascension, Resurrection, and City on a Hill, as we continue to find ways to partner, to foster unity, and to proclaim good news.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 12

 

Lord, strengthen my body...

Have you ever been speaking with someone where his words and his body language did not match?  He may have said, "Yes, I want to talk about this," but, with arms and legs crossed, his body sent a very different message.  When we receive (or send) mixed messages like this, we begin to realize that our nonverbal communication is important.  Our bodies speak without words.  In the same way, we are invited to have our bodies speak to the Lord in prayer.

There is no one right posture for prayer.  Today's invitation is to experiment with different ways of placing and moving our bodies as we pray to the Lord.  Perhaps, a posture that you have not tried before will focus your heart and mind in an unexpected way.

  • Orans - This classical prayer posture is very ancient.  Stand, stretch out your arms, and face your palms to the heavens.  [Psalm 134:2]
  • Kneeling - We kneel before the lordship of Jesus.  [1 Kings 8:54; Psalm 95:6-7; Philippians 2:9-11]
  • Bowing - We bow to show honor and respect.  [Genesis 24:52; Psalm 95:6]
  • Sitting - We sit to learn from the source of all truth.  [Luke 10:39]
  • Lift Your Eyes Upward - This seems to be a regular posture for Jesus when he prayed.  [John 11:41-42; 17:1-2]
  • Prostrate - Lay with you face towards the ground, symbolizing humility.  [Luke 5:12]
  • Supine - Lay down facing upward.
  • Walking - Go for a walk during your lunch break or this evening, and pray.
  • Daily Tasks - Use a task like washing the dishes, gardening, your commute, doing laundry, as opportunities to pray in the midst of action.
 

prayer Emphasis: Day 11

 

Lord, elevate my mind...

As a staff, we have been reading AW Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy, a short book on the attributes of God.  Tozer begins his book by asserting, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  In other words, who we think God is will shape our minds, our hearts, and our whole lives.  For instance, if we think God is a far off distant God, then we will not come to him in prayer because we assume he is disinterested in our lives.  If we think God is a brutal taskmaster, then we will not come to him in confession for fear of how he will respond.  However, if we see God as he reveals himself in the Scriptures, we see a heavenly Father with abounding grace, mercy, and justice.  In short, good theology (who God is and what he is like) leads to healthy spiritual lives.

God does not ask us to turn in our brains at the door when we worship, pray, and read our Bibles.  He does not pit our heart and soul against our mind, but rather he wants to align our whole selves to know him.  Today, as we enter our time of intentional prayer, let's meditate on Numbers 23:19: "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?"  Reflect on the Creator; reflect on his creation; reflect on God's truthfulness; reflect on God's faithfulness.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 10

 

Lord, move my soul...

The Bible is a library of 66 books that tells one story - God with us.  While these three words do not capture every nuance of the biblical narrative, they do lift up the very heart of the story.  The Garden of Eden is about 'God with us.'  The promises of blessing and restoration to Abraham are about 'God with us.'  The temple is about 'God with us.'  Jesus is 'God with us.'  The Holy Spirit dwelling within every believer is 'God with us.'  The final consummation of all things in the new heavens and the new earth is about 'God with us.'

God desires communion with you.  So, for our prayer time today, let's ask God to make us more aware of his presence.  As in any human relationship, our relationship with God will involve communication, but it is more than that.  Remember the time that you just sat with your friend or your spouse.  No words were spoken, but there was a sense of togetherness.  Sit (or stand) in the presence of a God who loves you.  Sit in the presence of a God who is pursuing your soul.  Sit in the presence of a perfect Father.  Even if there are no words, sense his presence and know him.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 9

 

Lord, work in our hearts...

Prayer can change circumstances.  We absolutely believe this.  Prayer can also change us.  As we enter our second week, we want to take time in prayer to simply soak in the presence of God - to ask him to transform and shape us.

Today, we focus on our hearts, our emotions, our desires, our affections, but we do so indirectly.  Instead of praying, "Lord, make me more loving, more patient, etc." (which is a perfectly acceptable prayer), let's take a different route.  Instead of us being at the center of our prayers, let's move our focus outside of ourselves.  Let's pray specifically for our enemies, for the person we cannot stand, for the person we are avoiding, for the person who hurt us.  Praying for God's grace and blessing to be on someone we do not personally get along with is powerful.  It forces us outside of the normal quid-pro-quo of life (i.e. I'm nice to those who are nice to me.) and pushes us to align with God's heart and will.  After all, we pray to a God who moves towards his enemies.  When we were enemies of God, Christ died for us.

 

Please note that although there will not be prayer emphases on the weekends, continue to press forward in prayer.  Utilize Saturdays and Sundays intentional prayer time to ask God to bless the gathering of his people, the preaching of his Word, the sharing of his Sacraments.

Prayer Emphasis: Day 6

 

Lord, hear my prayer...

We conclude the ACTS model of prayer with supplication - humbly asking for those things that we want or need.  Now, before we consider those petitions, perhaps you have wondered, "Why even consider a model of prayer like this?  Why can't I just have a conversation with God?"  Prayer is absolutely a conversation with our Heavenly Father, born out of our faith and relationship with him.  Models of prayer, like ACTS, are not meant to constrict our prayers, but to expand them.  Where we may be likely to only come to the Lord in confession when we have sinned or in supplication when we want something, this model reminds us that there is always new territory to explore when it comes to prayer.

So, today, let's pray for God to expand our prayers, especially our supplications.  Continue praying for the health of your loved ones, protection for your travels, and opportunities for work.  God welcomes us to ask for anything we need because he is a generous Father.  But let's also be open to God expanding our vision in prayer - to pray for the situation that we are tempted to hide from him, to pray for our enemies, to pray for blessings in the lives of people we cannot stand, to pray for miraculous healing, to pray for the impossible.

 

pRAYER eMPHASIS: dAY 5

 

Lord, we give you thanks...

In considering the ACTS model of prayer, we have moved from viewing God in his majesty and holiness (adoration) to seeing our own brokenness (confession).  Now, we turn to thanksgiving.  When we confess our sins, God forgives us, renews us, strengthens us, and empowers us.  We are not only thankful for the gift of salvation, but thankful for every good gift that our heavenly Father gives us.

In prayer, we want to be intentional about our thankfulness.  Spend a few moments thinking about what you are thankful for beyond the usual answers that come to our mind.  Ultimately, prayer, and thanksgiving in prayer in particular, cultivates a perspective of gratitude.  Seeing our lives through the blessings we have and not what we do not have, changes our outlook.  We can be thankful for our next breathe, our next cup of coffee, our friendships, our challenges, our work, etc.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 4

 

Lord, we confess our sin...

The ACTS model of prayer leads us from adoration to confession.  In adoring God, we get a clearer picture of who he is and what he is like.  We see his beauty, his perfection, his patience, his love, and his holiness.  As a result, we recognize more and more that we do not measure up.  We often do not measure up to our own standards, let alone God's standards.  The prophet Isaiah experienced this when he was visited by God in the temple.  Seeing the Lord worshiped by angels, leads him to confess, "Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips."

Today, let's confess our sin before the Lord.  In the Bible, confession is sometimes over individual sins (Psalm 51) and other times for the sin of the community (Ezra 10).  Confession is sometimes private before the Lord, and other times we are challenged to confess that sin to one another (James 5).  Confession, however, is not ultimately about wallowing in our sin or how broken we are, but rather it is about experiencing the grace of God.  When we confess today, whether to God or to one another, hear God's words of grace over you: You are forgiven because I gave my Son for every one of your sins past, present, and future.  God will never turn away from you, regardless of the sin, when you turn towards him in repentance (1 John 1, Romans 8).

 

Prayer emphasis: Day 3

 

Lord, we worship you alone...

Prayer is both natural and learned.  Prayer is natural in that our heavenly Father created us for communion and communication with him.  Prayer is learned in that we are all shaped by our spiritual mentors in how we converse with God.  In Luke 11, the disciples, who most likely prayed multiple times a day, see Jesus return from a time of private prayer.  They ask him to teach them to pray, and he gives them the Lord's Prayer.

When we were taught how to pray, perhaps we memorized the Lord's Prayer.  Some of us were taught the ACTS acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).  For the next few days, let's dust off this old method, dating from the early 19th century, and prayerfully enter the presence of God.

Let's begin with adoration.  God is worthy of our worship.  He is an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God.  He created the universe and yet came near to his people in Jesus.  Ask God to enable and empower you to worship him, not just in words or song, but with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 2

 

Lord, prepare me...

We often pray over the circumstances in our lives.  We ask God to open doors of opportunity in our career.  We ask God to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to a strained relationship.  We ask God for safe travel and health over sickness.  All of these are good things to bring to the Lord.

Today, though, we ask God to prepare us - to prepare us for the ways that he will move in our lives.  Prayer and fasting in the Bible is often preparatory.  In particular, we think of Jesus praying and fasting in the wilderness before the beginning of his earthly ministry.  So, before we ask God to move, we pray that he would prepare our hearts and minds. 

 

Prayer Emphasis: Day 1

 

What am I pursuing?

We pursue.  Our lives are built around pursuing - pursuing a job, a title, a family, a house, our happiness, our dreams.  None of these are bad things, but we have been called to pursue a relationship with the God of the universe.

In Acts 13:1-3, the church at Antioch is pursuing the presence and direction of God through prayer and fasting.  Let your prayer today be simply to ask God, "what am I pursuing?"  Spend a few moments in his presence and have faith that he hears our prayers and answers them.

As we walk through the next 40 days together, this web-page will change each day.  Some days you will have some Scriptures to consider, others will point to specific things to pray for, and still other days will have different forms of prayer to consider.  All of this is simply to guide us in praying together.  Let's pursue God together!