Empty Hands

We don’t know what to do with prayer sometimes. We’ve heard so many different perspectives from fatalistic ones that claim prayer is only an act of obedience that doesn’t change anything to entitled views that we can demand what we want and it will happen. I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to have experienced both unexpected abundant blessings as well as heartbreak following prayer that exhausted every cell in my body.

Right now this topic of prayer is so relevant to my life and the lives of people I love dearly. What do you say to the mother who has lost a child in a tragic accident? What do you say to the family in an ongoing battle with cancer? Or the friend who is staring death in the face? And how do you pray when you know that God heals, but not always.

Recently, I spoke with a friend with her own concerns who gave me her take on prayer. She said she prays to the God of miracles, recognizing that God is at work in the details, asking for faith both to trust and to act. I needed that reminder, and the conversation that allowed me to clarify my own thoughts on how to pray in the face of the impossible.

When Jesus prayed facing the impossible–a tortuous death, even with the promise of resurrection is incomprehensible–he first poured out his heart. He asked that if there was any other path, any other way, anything else would be preferable. God if there is any way for healing to come, if there is a way for you to supernaturally heal, if there is a way for this person to receive healing medicine, if there is any other way, let’s do that. Let’s walk the path of healing and restoration, please, that is my heart’s desire.

Then, Jesus says something else, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

When some read these words and pray them, it feels like a cop-out. It feels like giving up or not investing in the outcome, and it can be. Simply praying “thy will be done” can be a way for us to pass the buck, but it can be a supreme act of faith as well. We can say those words with a heart that trusts God’s perspective is greater than ours. We can trust that God’s healing sometimes comes in a release from suffering. We can trust that when our circumstances are full of pain, God is still good. “Thy will be done” can be “God I trust that you are good. I trust you to work good in this situation. I trust you to bring life where there seems only death.”

But I’m not Jesus.

Sometimes I have to follow that with “And help my unbelief.” My faith has room to grow. My trust has room to expand into areas that are unsteady. My belief is not 100% of what it could be. I won’t lie to you and pretend to have it all together. This is a struggle.

Paul didn’t have it all together, either, even as he penned much of the New Testament. He said it himself, “Not that I have already obtained all of this or have already been made perfect…” (Philippians 3:12) But his determination was to press forward into the circumstances that would bring growth.

This is where I stand: trusting, while asking for more faith; loving, when that love brings risk; praying my heart’s desire even when the outcomes are not guaranteed.

For me this honesty brings peace and rest in my soul.
And that’s ReFreshing.

 

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A Prayer for Peace

I offered this prayer at our Vigil to Pray for Peace in Emporia, KS on July 10, 2016.

God of grace and mercy,

We come tonight with our hands full, our fingers tightly gripping our fear, our anger, our pain, our suspicion, our frustration and feelings of powerlessness in the face of what seems an impossible problem.

We know that our fear leads to isolation, our anger builds walls and our frustration can lead to apathy. By your mercy, forgive us for allowing our bitterness to bring division, and our pain to excuse contributing to the pain of others.

Tonight we look to you for the healing of our hearts and hearts across our land. Teach us to let go of all we are clutching, lest we use our closed fists to add to the violence.

Give us strength to pry open our fingers so that we may stretch out our palms to you and receive your healing grace.

May your healing produce a peace that is not only an absence of violence or conflict, but full of forgiveness, restoration, and joy.

Instill in us a love that reaches across racial boundaries, economic boundaries, religious boundaries, and every dividing wall of hostility. Grant us wisdom as we work toward reconciliation wherever we are, whatever our context.

Turn our hearts toward you when we grow weary. Unite us in purpose so that we know we are not alone. Light a path before us so that our steps may be clear as we journey together toward peace.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, who laid down his life for the healing of the world.

Amen.

Prayer in the Face of Terror

Creator of all things, Savior of the world, we bring to you our hearts wounded and broken by sin–our own actions and the actions of others that ignore the wholeness and peace you offer and seek to create our own good.

We lay before you our sadness in having witnessed the deaths, the martyrdom, of 21 of your servants. We will remember the witness of their lives, that your love is greater than death.

We lay before you our fear of persecution, and we pray for those who committed this act of terror. They are also your creation, and our hearts break with the breaking of your heart at the evil in which they have rejoiced. Shed your light on them and bring them to a change of heart and mind that sets aside death and destruction, to embraces your life and healing grace.

We lay before you our desire to live in safety and ignore the cross. Call us to a faith that produces love–a love that lays down its life for its friends and its enemies. Teach us to love our enemies and pray for those who would use us for their own purposes.

Give us wisdom to see the danger of complacency in the face of injustice–particularly the injustice we perpetuate.

Light our path and enlighten our hearts so that we will have light and life and grace to offer those around us.

May we embody the love that did not seek its own good or its own safety but left all that was comfortable to walk in the dust of our world to bring us shalom–peace and wholeness in every aspect of life.

In Christ Jesus our Lord, Savior, and Great Example, let it be so.

Amen.

Prayer for today

This week several of my friends are in very difficult circumstances. With loved ones in critical condition, babies on respirators, and spouses barely hanging on, my heart is straining to be with them. While I must remain far away, I know that prayers are not limited by location and God is present everywhere.

God hold close to your heart those too far away for my arms to hold.
Bring courage to troubled hearts as they walk through the darkest valley.
Strengthen the hands of those who today bear unimaginable loads
and guide their feet into paths of peace & restoration.
Amen

National day of prayer 2014

Today is the first Thursday of May and so it is the National Day of Prayer. At noon, several will gather in White Park on the corner of 6th Ave and Merchant St. to pray for our nation. Here is my contribution to today’s prayers. Sometimes the best prayers are those we think about before we pray. Written prayer is not part of my tradition, but I find beauty in contemplating the words I will speak on behalf of myself and all of God’s children.

Hebrews 4:12-16
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

Prayer for repentance & rededication
God of grace and mercy, draw the hearts of your children to you. Open our eyes to the broken places in our hearts and lives that need your touch. Convict us of our sin through the Holy Spirit. Show us the way of peace and wholeness that you offer those who follow your Son, Jesus. Turn us away from the distractions of the world, and the temptation to wander in our own ways. Cause our hearts to chase after your heart.

Give us a passionate dedication to the beauty of the Gospel message and the desire to shine your light into dark places. Convince us that the things we hold onto are useless and hinder us from running with victory the race you have set before us. Help us to lay down whatever does not lead to a deeper love for you and a fuller heart of service for those around us. Show us how to put aside not only sin, but anything that keeps us from fully dedicating our very selves to you.

Take our lives, our hearts, our families, our jobs, our relationships, our activities, our churches, and wring them out of the excess and the corruption of serving our selfish motives. Fill us with a vision of every part of our lives lived to bring glory and honor to you.

May your Holy Spirit produce mature fruit in our lives that you can use to feed those around us who are hungry for the things of you. May your love pour forth from us, your joy fill every moment, your peace pervade our relationships, your attitude of long-suffering give us perseverance in difficulty, your kindness characterize our interactions with the world, your goodness motivate our decisions, your faithfulness the foundation of our grounded life, your gentleness evident in our evangelism, and self –discipline the strength that enables us to continue putting one foot in front of the other as we follow you.

All for your glory and the revelation of your rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven, through your Son Jesus, our LORD.
Amen.