Tag Archives: prayer

Forgivenesss for Kids

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In an article called “Sin and Forgiveness,” in the March 2019 issue of Living Lutheran, author Erin Strybis talked about a time when her young son’s tantrum led her to have a tantrum of her own. To her surprise, her son came up to her afterward and said, “It’s OK, Mommy,” and hugged her (42). Our kids “get” forgiveness more than we perhaps realize.

Strybis suggests three principles to practice in the home to reinforce the power of forgiveness:

Lean on story: The Bible is filled with stories of people who sinned and were forgiven. Think of the prodigal son, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross. Bible stories of forgiveness can be the bedtime stories we tell our children.

Lean into hugs: Remember the father of the prodigal son who ran to embrace repentant son. We need to be quick to reach out and wrap our arms around our children when they come to us confessing their sin. We need to show them that we love and forgive them wholeheartedly.

Lean on prayer: Prayer is an important piece in the practice of forgiveness. We need to pray to God when we are angry at our child and need to reorient ourselves to God’s merciful ways and we need to pray with our kid when we express forgiveness to remind us all the forgiveness comes first from God through Christ and the cross.

Let forgiveness flow freely in our families by the grace of God.

Making a House a Christian Home

home sweet homeSome friends of mine recently moved to a new house and posted this on on their Facebook page when they closed on the deal: A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.

What a beautiful sentiment to ponder as they embark on a new adventure in a new dwelling place.

This got me to thinking: What makes a house a Christian home?

A Christian home is a place where there is genuine love for one another and for Christ.

A Christian home is a place where the Word of God is shared and perhaps even displayed through plaques with favorite verses.

A Christian home is a place where forgiveness flows from one to another.

A Christian home is a place where prayers are said over meals and at bedtime and at anytime.

A Christian home is a place where all our hopes and dreams are grounded in the good news from Jesus who comforts us with these words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

We know as Christians that our homes here on earth are only temporary, but our eternal dwelling place is in heaven, where we will join with all the saints in praising the name of our Savior, Jesus. May our homes here on earth give us glimpses of our home yet to come.

 

 

Before We Begin

before we beginIn these early days of the new year, it is good for us to remember what we are called to do before we begin events or journeys of any kind in life. Martin Luther suggested that the first thing we do before beginning our day is to make the sign of the cross. Like we do in worship, it is good for us to begin our day, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And it is always a good thing to begin a new day with prayer. Many church traditions have even established times for more formalized morning prayer services.

Beyond the beginning of each new day, it is important to begin each meal with prayer and begin each night’s sleep with an evening prayer. I remember my dad having a prayer with the whole family in the car as we started on each summer vacation.

As we start on this new year and go about our new as well as our regular routines, it is good practice to stop for a moment before we embark on each endeavor, and say to ourselves, “Before we begin, let us pray, let us praise, let us give thanks to our God who has brought us to this moment to take part in this activity, event, job, meeting, meal, day, vacation” or whatever it may be.

I am reminded of this hymn:

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast ev’ry care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.

Keep these thoughts and words in mind each day of this new year, and remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

 

A Royal Priesthood

priesthoodI recently attended a seminar at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, entitled “You Are a Royal Priesthood—God Calls and Equips Christians to Serve One Another,” led by Dr. W. Mart Thompson. The term “royal priesthood” is only mentioned four times in the Bible, Thompson noted, but it truly is a blueprint for how we should live our lives as Christians in this world, since each one of us is called to be a part of the priesthood of all believers.

But what does being a part of the priesthood entail? For an answer to that, Thompson took us to the Old Testament, which outlines very clearly what the role of the temple priests was. Here are 8 characteristics of the Old Testament temple priests:

• Separated and anointed (Exodus 30:22-38)

• Representative (Exodus 28:28-38)

• Mediator of the covenant (Malachi 2:4ff)

• Maintain holiness (Exodus 28:36-38)

• Offers sacrifices (Leviticus 1-9)

• Blesses God’s people (Numbers 6:22-27)

• Instructs God’s people (Malachi 2:7)

• Offers prayers (2 Chronicles 30:27)

I was amazed by how practical and “doable” these characteristics were and how applicable they can be to our lives today as we serve as “little priests.”

Theologians have outlined the 3-fold shape of priestly work for us today, which mirrors the work of the ancient temple priests:

• sacrifice (for God in serving others)

• prayer (speak to God for others)

• proclamation (speak to others for God)

Since this seminar, I have become much more aware of how to live out my calling as a part of the priesthood in these three facets. I can serve where I see need. I can pray multiple times throughout the day. I can talk to people about my faith in Christ more freely and energetically, knowing it is part of my role here on earth.

As 1 Peter 2:9 tells us, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” What a wonderful picture of the life of a Christian!

 

 

 

 

In the Style of Taizé

taizeFor those of you who may not know, Taizé is an ecumenical Christian monastic community in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgandy, France. Established in August 1962, it has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage, especially for youth. The community is known for music that emphasizes simple phrases, usually from Scripture, repeated and often sung in canon.

I was recently at a concert in which the choir sang  a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila “in the style of Taizé.” The choir and then the audience sang the following words several times and in a round:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

The effect was very calming and soothing. Any problems I was having that day seemed to be washed away by the words being sung over and around me. God alone is truly all I need in this life, my soul heard loud and clear through that experience.

Shortly after that concert, I was worshiping at my church and the congregational responses to the prayers were sung “in the style of Taizé,” the bulletin noted. After each petition, the following words were sung:

O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer, when I call answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer. Come and listen to me.

The repetition of the words and the feeling of the words being sung by me and my brothers and sisters all around me was moving. I could sense the deep desire of the people to receive guidance from God and the constant drive for us to stay connected to God in prayer.

Songs and prayers should always be flowing from our hearts, if not our lips, over and over again throughout the day “in the style of Taizé.” Repeating meaningful words and Scriptures to ourselves can have a positive impact on our faith and life and actions. We have a tendency to forget things. But if we keep reminding ourselves of the good and gracious God we love who loves us in Christ and listens to us and cares for us, we can stay grounded in him.

Find a favorite Bible verse this week or a favorite hymn and speak or sing it several times “in the style of Taizé,” as part of your daily devotionals, and see how how your approach to the day’s struggles can be positively affected and spiritually grounded.

 

 

Gospel Goodbyes

gospel goodbyesI must admit that I am not very good at goodbyes. After spending time with my family or friends at a holiday event or summer vacation far from home, it is hard for me to bid farewell to these people I love so much.

Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas talks about the difficulty of leaving colleagues at a church he ministered at to begin work at another parish. What has helped him get through it, he says, is remembering the what he calls the “gospel goodbyes” that happened in the Book of Acts {“Multiplied + Divided,” Christianity Today, December 2017, 49).

The way that Paul framed his goodbyes to the church members he loved so much was to connect them to the good news of the gospel, that we will be together in the end in heaven with our Lord, who died and was raised that we might have eternal life with him. So it is never “We will never see you again,” but “See you next time, either here on earth or in heaven.”

Consider this “gospel goodbye”:

Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (in Antioch). After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  —Acts 15:32-33

This gospel goodbye was characterized by a blessing of peace. The people of Antioch knew that Barsabbas and Silas had to move on from them to spread the word about Jesus. Barsabbas and Silas’ goodbye was made with encouraging words to those in Antioch to continue the faith there.

What a great example for us to follow to incorporate blessing, peace and encouragement in our goodbyes in the name of the Lord.

Now take a look at this “gospel goodbye”:

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. —Acts 18;27

Those Apollos was saying goodbye to helped him to get settled in his new place and made sure he would be welcome there. They did not stop him from carrying out his calling by asking him to stay with them. They made sure to support him in his new venture.

I think it is good for us in our own gospel goodbyes to realize that God’s plan for our loved ones is often beyond us and that our loved ones are doing their best work in the Lord in places that are not near us, but that that does not diminish our bond with them.

One of the most compelling goodbyes is this one between Paul and the elders of Ephesus as he leaves for his mission to Jerusalem:

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. —Acts 20:36-38

You can feel the pain, but you can sense the overarching love among them. I like that the goodbye is accompanied with prayer. It is prayer that will continue to bind them together. And though they will not see Paul’s face again on this earth. They have the faith that they will see him again in the courts above, singing praises to the Lamb, who will wipe every tear of parting sorrow from their eyes.

I am reminded that even the word “goodbye” is a shortened version of “God be with you.” So each parting we experience in the end is a reminder that God is with us wherever we may be and he always will. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Types of Prayer

prayer typesWe all know how important prayer is in the Christian life. Then why is it so hard to do sometimes? One thought I had is that I find myself at a loss as to how to go about it. A prayer book from my alma mater, Valparaiso University, lays out 6 types of prayers to consider when you are not sure of how to start the prayer process. Take a look at these prayer patterns and think of ways to incorporate one or more of them into your schedule on a regular basis.

Examen prayer: This is the deliberate examination of God’s presence or absence in one’s life. The practice involves sitting quietly and asking the Holy Spirit to make you aware of Christ’s presence with you at that moment. Consider how you have not noticed or been mindful of Christ. Make confession of your unawareness of him. Ask for increased awareness of his presence, Give thanks for Christ’s presence with you.

Praying the Scriptures: In this practice, you identify a section of Scripture you wish to pray, like the Psalms. You find a quiet place to read the Scripture. You reflect on what the Scripture is saying to you and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a greater understanding of God’s Word and its impact on your life.

Intercessory prayer: This type of prayer focuses on praying for the needs of others. In this approach you make a list of individuals and their specific needs. You organize your prayer into types of requests: for the sick, for those celebrating, for those going through hard times. Praying for others takes the focus off of yourself and puts anything that is going on in your own life in perspective.

Lectio Divina: We have mentioned this type of prayer before in this blog, but it is worth revisiting. It is a type of prayer from monastic tradition that involves reflecting on or ruminating over  a single verse, phrase or word from Scripture and letting the meaning of that selection wash over you and fill you with greater knowledge of God.

Silence prayer: Go to a quiet place to pray. In silence we become more receptive to the voice of God. We allow him to speak to us in the quietness and do not clutter our minds with our own words or opinions. Focus on your breathing. Let your mind center on an image for God like a cross or a candle. Calm your body down and feel God’s love surround you.

Walking the sacred path: Take a walk as a prayer. Walking a labyrinth or other path as a prayer has been the topic of a blog post before as well. The purpose of this type of prayer is to physically walk a designated path of some kind. Think of your prayer during your walk as a journey, with a beginning, a middle and and ed. Reflect on what you see. Really listen to the environment around you. Feel the motion of your body and walk with purpose as you pray. Imagine God walking with you. Let him speak to you along the way.

These are great ways to expand your prayer life and grow in your connection to God.

Spiritual Prepping

emergency kitBefore Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit, we witnessed all the preparations people were making to protect their homes and keep themselves safe. This is just one example of a burgeoning business called “prepping.” providing people with supplies to prepare for disasters of many kinds, both natural and man-made.

Janie B. Cheaney in “Ready for the Worst?” in the June 10, 2017 issue of World magazine, ponders this question: “What spiritual resources should you add to your emergency supply list?” (World Magazine, June 10, 2017, p. 14).

Surprisingly, the answer involves similar elements to our earthly emergency kits. Take a look:

Food: Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God in times of trouble and every day.

Water: Drown the old Adam in the waters of your baptism in hard times and be refreshed by the living water that only Christ can give.

Protective clothing: I think here about the armor of God from Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace fitted around your feet.

Back-up power: Be regenerated through prayer and gain new strength through your conversations with your Lord and Savior. i think of this prayer from St. Paul: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16).

Back-up heat: When you are feeling left out in the cold, draw on the warmth of God’s love from family, friends and your faith community. Listen to the warmth of Paul’s love for his fellow believers in these words: “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1). That same warmth of love is available to you through your brothers and sisters in faith.

Be sure to pull out this prep kit the next time a spiritual emergency of any kind hits. You will be glad you did.

Even If

fiery furnaceA new song by MercyMe is getting a lot of air play on Christian radio lately. The song is “Even If” and it is based on this passage from Scripture from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” —Daniel 3:16-18

The faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was so strong that they knew that even if God did not save them from the fiery furnace, God was still their God and loved them.

So often we think of God as some sort of genie who dispenses wishes. It is like we are saying to God sometimes, “Our wish is your command.” But that, of course, is not how prayer works and how God works. God knows what is best for us and he knows what we need more than we do and he knows what will impact the world in the most profound way. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is yes. Sometimes it is no. Sometimes it is not now, but later. And sometimes it is yes, but in a way you will not expect.

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A Ritual of Thanks

thanks ritual

One of our our most pervasive rituals of thanks is gathering for a feast with family and friends.

When we were little and someone gave us something or complimented us, our parents prompted us with, “Now what do you say?” We would dutifully say thank you (perhaps rather meekly and/or begrudgingly) and run away.

As adults, we often continue to need prompting from our heavenly Father to say thank you. As the Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Scripture itself is encouraging us to develop a ritual of thanks in our lives. We are called to make thanksgiving a regular part of our every activity.

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