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Praying from Your Heart and Mind - September 16, 2013

Praying from Your Heart and Mind

In our church tradition, we don't often write out our prayers. We tend to think of written prayers as more formal and somehow less personal. I've also seen this with a lot of preachers who believe that if they were to sit down and write out their sermons, they aren't being led by the Holy Spirit as much when they stand before the congregation to preach.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've heard a lot of prayers and sermons that could have benefited from a little more forethought! Although I'm all for people praying and speaking from the heart, I also think we can gain from the discipline of writing out a prayer every now and then. Join your mind, heart and pen (or keyboard) together to pray to the God of heaven.

A book that has helped me grow in this area is called Prayers Across the Centuries (Harold Shaw Publishers). The book is a collection of prayers from the Bible, the early and medieval church, the Reformation all the way to the present. This is a wonderful tool to grow in our understanding of the power of prayer and in the discipline of us learning how to pray. For example, here is a prayer of Polycarp (AD 69-155) who was the bishop of Smyrna and was martyred for his faith. Tradition has it that Polycarp was bound and burned at the stake, but when the flames failed to touch his body, his executioners stabbed him to death. I'm always willing to listen and learn from someone who has given his all for the cause of Christ!

Consider how much Polycarp suffered as you read his prayer: "Lord God almighty, Father of your dear and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been granted to know you; you are God over all; over angels and other spiritual powers, over the whole created universe, and over those good people from every age who live in your presence. I thank you today for the privilege of being counted among those who have witnessed to you with their lives; of sharing the cup of suffering which Christ drank; and of rigging again to life everlasting with him, in body and soul, and in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today into your presence, a costly sacrifice and so an acceptable one. This is all part of your plan and purpose, and you are now bringing it to pass. For you are the God of truth, and in you is no falsehood at all. For this, and for all the other things you have done for me, I bless and glorify you, through our eternal high priest in heaven, your dear Son, Jesus Christ, who shares with you and the Holy Spirit glory forever. Amen."

The richness and depth of this prayer can guide our minds when we must drink from a cup of suffering. The hope and peace expressed in Polycarp's prayer can encourage us to put our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ from whom we ultimately discover peace. As you reflect on Polycarp's prayer, may it be a resource to help you grow in your own prayer life. Whether your write your prayers, say them conversationally, or try doing a little (or a lot) of both, may your prayers come from your heart and mind in your journey of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.


Our Journey to E91: August 2

I am now "official." Yesterday was my first day on the job, and the staff gave me a warm welcome and tour. I think it will take a number of weeks before I can completely find my way around, and I've even thought about leaving a trail of bread crumbs to help me out.  We had a powerful prayer time where we all called upon the Lord for HIS guidance as we begin this new season together. And then we went to lunch. We joined several hundred of our "closest friends" at Chick-fil-A to show our support of biblical values, which have been challenged through the recent uproar centering around a chicken restaurant. Only in America. Tolerance seems to apply in our country for every group except Christians. I was astounded when the Chicago and Boston mayors both said that Chick-fil-A is no longer welcome in their cities. Really? Other business owners can express their views in support of gay marriage, and yet Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, isn't allowed the freedom to express his support of "the biblical definition of the family unit"? Here's the deal. If you disagree with Dan Cathy, don't eat at Chick-fil-A. I don't agree with the Hooters establishment, so I choose not to eat there. What saddens me is the continued moral slide in our country, but what saddens me even more is the statistical fact that there is very little difference between Christians and non-Christians concerning moral issues and actions. 

Now, before you start thinking that this is just another fundamentalist Christian tirade, let me be clear. My issue is not as much with our country as it is with the church. 1 Peter 4:17 tells us that judgment begins with God's household. For anyone listening (or reading), I call us back to the humility and servanthood of Jesus Christ. We don't take the moral high ground with arrogant hearts and pointing fingers at all the "bad people out there." We get on our knees for prayer and to wash the feet of others. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Call me an idealist, but I believe that if we do these things and not just talk about them, more people will see the love and truth of Jesus Christ and be drawn to Him. 

Lunch at Chick-fil-A with several hundred of our "closest friends" was a good start, but let's take it a step further. If that many people will show up at a fast-food restaurant, how many would show up for a demonstration of Christ's love by serving in our community? Better yet, how about if we all chose to serve those around us everywhere we went? It's the little things that make a difference. Smile. Say "Thank you." Offer to help someone who is struggling, and pray for them. Oh, and don't forget: Love each other, even when you don't like each other. And enjoy another chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A.  Maybe I'll see you there!

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