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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

ash-wednesdayTonight our church entered Lent with two Ash Wednesday services. One of the themes was “keys” and how we can use those keys to unlock those places hidden away inside our hearts.

Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heartand not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. [Joel 2:12-13]

We mark the beginning of Lent with this day. It can become a mere ritual of ashes, bread, and wine, or it can be enriched with commitment and desire. Do I want more of God in my life? Do I want to surrender the secret places?

Lent is not just a time of “giving something up.” It’s a time of exchange. I will to exchange one time sucker, one habit, for something new, for devotion, for meditation, for prayer, for reading, for conversation with Spirit. I not taking away. I am adding. I am making a promise. That is the message of Ash Wednesday and Lent for me.

One of the stations we had was a cross where we could affix a simple post-it note with something (or someone) that is hindering our journey to the Cross. This roadblock we gave to Christ. As one of the organizers of the Ash Wednesday service, I feel compelled to treat these requests with respect. And so, as part of my devotion, I will be praying over and with these requests along with those who left them there. I will be their Aaron for these 40 days, as God reveals.

 

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the tenWhat is your take-away in the negotiation between Abraham and the 3 “angels” about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Abraham: Please don’t be angry, Lord, at my boldness. Let me ask this just once more: suppose only ten [righteous people] are found?
Eternal One: For the sake of only ten [righteous people], I still will not destroy it [the city]. [Genesis 18:32, The Voice]

And there it is, the ultimate question and answer, “Will God sweet away the righteous with the wicked?” Those who study the end times have all kinds of scenarios about the final destruction, the great apocalypse. But in the end, don’t we really wonder, would God cast all away in one full sweep? Abraham wondered the same thing.

The answer was that God would save the city for the sake of the ten . . . but ten could not be found.

Ten could not be found.

How many are enough to save the Earth? or our nation? or continent? Will God stay the hand of destruction for the sake of the beloved? Am I one? Am I enough to make a difference in my world’s fate?

followershipToday, at our church’s “Code Red Revival,” the last of our guest speakers [Daniel McNaughton, from his book, Learning to Follow Jesus] laid out a clear context in which any believer must be operating in the world:

  • Learn to be with Jesus (like any mentor and mentee relationship, you must hang out together).
  • Learn to listen (it takes practice to hear God and there are many places where that can happen: in a large group like a church setting; in a small group like a bible study or micro-church; in a one-on-one relationship with another person; or simply alone with God).
  • Learn to heal (for this is modeled by the Christ and healing is promised, whether physical-mental-relational).
  • Learn to influence (being the salt of the earth or light in a dark place).
  • Learn to love (for God is love and until we step toward people in love, even those we “hate,” nothing changes).
  • Learn to pray (it is a dialogue built on respect and trust in which we can intersect with the divine).
  • Learn to manage God’s resources (work with the gifts we are given, now and along the way).

This is how we can  be one of the ten or twenty or 10,000. Thanks be to God.

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I love the verbs in this Psalm. If I took those verbs into my heart, I would have a prayer life that could change the world.

prayers are manyLord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief. . . .
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground; . . .
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you; [surrender]
    I thirst for you like a parched land. [Psalm 143:1, 3a, 5-6]

It’s so simple.

I ask God to hear, listen & come, while the “enemy” pursues & crushes, but I am busy: remembering, meditating, considering, surrendering and thirsting [desiring] after the things of God: voice, heart, peace, and confidence.
If I am to successfully face the trials of life, this must be my mode of operation. There is no trial or circumstance that has not been covered by the promises of God when I am surrendered to God. The deal was struck through the covenant relationship that God has with human. . . . and with me.

Trials and disappointments will still be around. In fact, the world pursues us all, through the evil actions of others which cause hurricanes of pain and sorrow. I cannot stop the flood of terror or violence or stupidity fueled by selfish ambitions and delusion. I cannot always understand what drives others. I can only do my part: remember who God is my life; meditate on the presence of Christ’s Spirit within; consider the implications of living a surrendered life; and desiring God’s way and not my own.

This is what it means to pray.

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Oh foolish we who don’t believe we need salvation.

heal the worldRestore us again, God our Savior,
    and put away your displeasure toward us. . . .
Show us your unfailing love, Lord,

    and grant us your salvation. [Psalm 85: 4, 7; NIV]

It’s gotten corrupted, this idea of being “saved.” I suppose we can blame all the good-hearted Christians who claimed the “born again” phrase and the Bible thumping preacher whose gaze pierced the crowd and said, “you must be saved!” And we’re all looking around and saying, “saved from what?” The whole saved got totally personalized. And although it’s true, we all do need personal salvation (or in my view, better described as surrender), it is global salvation we should think about now.

Our world is in deep danger.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization one in eight people in our world is starving to death. Most of these people live in developing countries. Of the 10.9 million children deaths, almost half are due to malnourishment and hunger. In 2005, the World Bank estimated that almost 1,400 Million people live on $1.25 or less per day. According to a 2002 World Health report, 1.6 Million people lose their lives to violence. Just in America alone, over 30,000 people commit suicide every year [Suicide Facts]. And the number one cause for suicide is “untreated depression.” In 2004, NIMH estimated that 26% of all Americans, 18 and over, could be diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder in a given year.

Naturally, none of these statistics is hard and fast or specifically represents where we are today, but regardless, the numbers are staggering.

Humanity is in need of saving. We are dying. We are killing ourselves. And who knows when the next “real” weapon of mass destruction is loosed upon humans. We are killing each other.

Personal recovery is important. I know that very well. I lay out my state of soul to God each day, asking forgiveness and renewal. But I find my God asking me to reach out for the greater good. The psalms are teaching me about praying corporately, with a wide net.

“Show us your unfailing love, oh Lord . . . “

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And God pricked my spirit saying, you can’t just write about prayer. You must actually “do it.” This is where wisdom is born of knowledge and understanding.

So I turned to the most well known prayer of all. My first stumble was on the first word: Our. And then, it came to me that every prayer, really, is an “our” prayer because I am asked to pray on behalf of all humans. This is a prayer for humanity:

And so I prayed this way:

prayer2Our Creator, God who made us: You are heaven (we are still earth).
A mere name cannot hold all that You are. Holy. Father. Mother. Creator. God.
We need heaven here and we need Your authority.
We accept and surrender to You here.
To transform ourselves and our world into You, into heaven.
Allow us the nourishment we need to sustain our bodies, our minds, and our souls for one more day.
Forgive our abuses of your grace.
We will forgive others too. We must. Because we are no better than they are.
Keep drawing us away from the selfish choices, the rebellious preferences, the well-traveled roads;
And instead, shepherd us into Your Presence.
When we willfully continue the wrong way and entangle ourselves in the web of evil: save us.
We acknowledge You, Heaven, Holy Other and Hope.
You have the power and love to do and will what is best for humanity, for us, and really, for me.

This is my prayer.

Psalm 8:1

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When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

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The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?  [Psalm 27:1, NIV]

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Three words drove my prayers from this verse: light, stronghold, and fear.

There are so many different kinds of light but they all get similar results: they transform the appearance of a place or thing by illuminating it. Light pushes back darkness. Light is often a reflection of energy. “God is light, and in God, there no darkness at all.” [I John 1:5] Light reveals things that are hidden. Light is no respecter of persons. Light does not judge, Light is.

And apparently, the presence of Light (the Light) gives confidence against the people, situations or causes I might fear.

A stronghold is best described as a fortified place which has been created as the best (and often the last) line of defense. It is like safe within a bank or a tower within a castle. It is built with defense and safety in mind. This, then, is within me as well. There is a location within me that is protected by the Holy Spirit. This place cannot be breached without permission, an open door or window, opened from within. This is where God’s Spirit dwells in tandem with my own spirit.

But fear is also a strong word and it manifests most often through people. It is unfortunate how often I engage people (and my fear) before I engage my place of strength within or before I shed the Light on the situation. This task is to be done daily, hourly, and even minute by minute. Some people call it centering.

I want to stop “reacting” and simply be fully in the moment and allow that moment to be what it is and me to be who I am in Christ. That’s one of the reasons why it’s called “the peace that passes understanding.” That place is not always apparent if I don’t practice being there.

It is prayer from the place of strength. It is prayer of abandon and trust. It is authentic and transparent.

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