A Disciple’s Full-Bodied Prayer

Humility and gratitude flow through prayer in Psalm 40, grounded in a full-bodied devotion to the Lord God. The psalmist recognizes his helplessness without God; he recalls how God not only rescued him previously, but also provided for him:

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me an heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:1-3).

These initial verses lay the groundwork for the prayer that will follow. God has rescued a worshipper from a predicament that is described as slimy and muddy. He has secured the worshiper’s future with a secure foundation. These verses introduce a vision of intense commitment to God. The psalmist’s whole body will follow God, will praise him and sing of him, will preach about his saving power, refusing to be silent about what God has done for him. A description of “full-bodied discipleship” emerges:

  • God has set his feet on a rock and given him a firm place to stand (v 2)
  • The LORD has put a new song in his mouth (v 3)
  • God has opened his ears (v 6)
  • God has prepared a body for him (v 6)
  • God’s law is within his heart (v 8)
  • The psalmist does not seal his lips (v 9)
  • The psalmist does not hide God’s righteousness in his heart (v10)

A prayer begins in verse 5 and, as can be seen, continues to develop a description of devoted discipleship. The prayer reveals an awareness that following God transcends practice of ritual and following of rules:

“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you died not desire – but my ears you have opened – burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do you will, my God; your law is within my heart. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly” (Psalm 40:5-9).

There is more at: https://callforfireseminar.wordpress.com/2021/05/28/a-disciples-full-bodied-prayer/

In Him

~ Call for Fire

This past Sunday evening, I challenged the assembly to listen for the words “in him” or “with him” as I read Colossians 2:6-15.  Those phrases reverberate through the passage, confirming the Christian’s dependence on Christ, in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” and yet was raised from the dead by God.  Christ, in other words was both deity and human.  We all learned about Christ from teachers or directly from reading the Bible.  Many of the first readers (or hearers) Colossians had heard the message from a man named Epaphras, who apparently was with Paul when he wrote the letter (Colossians 1:7).  Having met Epaphras, Paul could write confidently, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught , abounding in thanks giving” (Colossians 2:6-7). All authority rests in him in whom Christians have been filled.  In Deuteronomy 10, Moses envisions a time when God’s people will “circumcise the foreskins of [their] hearts.” Jeremiah does also in Jeremiah 4:4. In Colossians 2, Paul writes that Christians

https://callforfireseminar.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/in-him/

Prayer to the God Who Sees

from The Call to Fire Seminar by

“So she [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Many women and men in our world experience physical and emotional abuse in places where they should feel safe. Like Hagar, many flee and sometimes find themselves in situations that are equally or more dangerous.  Sadly, sometimes we fail to “see” those who suffer. We fail to protect. We may deny their abuse. We need to be more like the God we worship, the God who sees and who looks after the outcast.

God who sees,

Help us to see. Open our eyes to injustice that enrages you and causes you to reach for your armor, asking why no man or woman has stepped into the breach to fight for your cause. We pray that we will discern deception that seeks to distract us from doing your will. Help us to hear. Open our ears to cries for help that arise from the harassed, the abused, the depressed, the unemployed. Help us to remember. Revive our memories so that we recall our promises to you and one another when we were baptized, when we wed, when we were employed. Remind us each day that we are your ambassadors. May we seek to reconcile rather than repel by our words and our actions. Help us to see the victims so that we may help, the opportunities so that we may serve, the challenges so that we may overcome. You see us as we are. Help us to see as you see, and to be who you want us to be. Thank you for seeing and for caring. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Less Disputing

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More than two hundred years ago, five Kentucky preachers penned a document (“The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery”) in which they opined that Christians should “pray more and dispute less.” Their words resonate with me when I read disciples of Jesus and disparaging one another’s character and integrity while they question motives and liturgical practice. Jesus prayed that his disciples “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 18:23). Such unity will not result from calling each other names. If we differ, let us correspond about what Jesus wanted from his followers, and let the writings of his apostles shape how we interact. Choices that a congregation or church leader make may shock us. Some changes in practice may trigger a sort of traumatic shock as they bring to mind past controversies and divisions. We will not achieve a greater unity by repeating either decisions or attitudes that fueled controversy in the past. Let us focus on the Christ who unites and forgives. Let us sing, pray, and share as his earliest disciples did. Let us show Christ to the world in our spirit, our relationships, and our disciplined obedience. Culture implodes around us as searchers hear bitter bickering rather than declarations of love for God and one another. Let us love God and one another the way that Jesus loved the sinners of his time – sacrificially. Pray hard, my friends.

God, you commissioned us to serve as your ambassadors. We have distorted your message; we garble your intent in our quest for acceptance and power. Help us to discern the cries for help demonstrated by hateful exchanges and arrogant pronouncements. Turn our hearts to you so that we may love one another and walk as Jesus walked. We may follow him in paths of rejection and suffering; help us to retain our focus so that we may remember that he who suffered so greatly in his obedience sits now in a place of honor by your side. Give us the words that will send your message to those who need it most. Give us the resolve to live, to serve, to worship in ways that please you rather than ourselves. You are our guide and our Shepherd. Bring us back when we stray from your purpose. Make us one in you as we pray more and dispute less. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Praying with Reverence

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Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?

– from the words of Elihu in Job 35:9-10. Elihu’s role in the discussion between Job and his friends has been debated. Does he misunderstand Job’s plight and the reasons for it like Job’s older friends, or does he represent a proper perspective on Job’s actions? Whatever the case, his comments here regarding perspective in times of need or loss merit our attention. At times, we forget the blessings that God has given us. When we pray, let remember to thank God for what he has given even when we lament what we have lost. Elihu may not have understood Job, but he realized how pride shapes prayer when we hurt: We forget the blessings God has given, and focus on what we do not have.

Lord, We hurt, and we complain to you about our pain. Sometimes we blame you for our pain, ignoring our own culpability or the role that others have played. Help us to remember your love even as we lament our losses. Help us to believe even as what we hold dear is stripped away. Help us to hope when defeat seems certain. May we revere you as you deserve even as we lament. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

https://callforfireseminar.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/praying-with-reverence/

Prayer that Glorifies God

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In an age where rage and insult infest social media posts and where people get shot after blowing their horn at a potentially speeding motorist, it is easy to be captivated by the fervent and righteous outrage and to yearn to participate in it. Then, just I am about to unleash my own potently phrased angry outburst, I read what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2 about prayer and what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4 about how self-control affects prayer.

Paul urged that prayers be offered for all people. He expressly included heads of state and government leaders among those people for whom we should pray. Why should we pray for these people? First, “that we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). We pray for leaders so that society may be at peace. Second, we pray for these people, including our leaders, because God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Paul reminds that Jesus gave his life as a “ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). This is the reason men should lift holy (a reminder about proper attitude and behavior) hands in prayer “without anger or quarreling.” In other words, pray that God will turn the hearts of world leaders to himself, that he will help them find ways to break down barriers that divide while they govern effectively. Pray that he will cause perpetrators of evil, whether here or on the other side of the world, to awaken to the horror of their rebellion against their Creator and repent. Pray that he will mold them and us into the holy and loving family he wants his people, his church, to be.

Peter reminds us that we need to be self-controlled and sober-minded because “the end of all things is near.” He says that we must do this for the “sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). He then ties love of others, hospitality (without grumbling), speaking like a representative of God, and performing acts of service into this template of behavior and mindset. We must act and pray in a way that glorifies God. Living, acting, and praying in these ways demands that we curb our tempers, that we establish what is true before we castigate in speech or print, and that we conduct ourselves in the way that we expect others to act. Failure to be self-controlled will affect our prayers. I suspect we don’t want to experience the impact of that failure.

O God of peace, you call us to be ministers of reconciliation. That mission sometimes requires us to confront and to call to repentance. Give us the maturity to look hard at ourselves and our own behavior before we criticize others. Give us the wisdom to pursue truth and to admit the possibility that we may not know all the variables that drive decisions by our leaders. Help us to remember that that they, and our enemies, also are people whom you love and want to be saved. Help us to be instruments of their salvation. May we stop before we say or write words that will incite their anger against you and your people, unless those words will provoke a reaction that ultimately will cause them to glorify you when they realize that we truly spoke or acted with love and desire for their salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Patient Prophet’s Prayer of Joy

~ Call for Fire Seminar by

Receiving a delayed gift unleashes pent-up joy. When we read a patient elderly prophet’s prayer in Luke 2, we may miss the joy that surely soaked Simeon’s words. He had received a promise that he would not die before he saw God’s Messiah, “the consolation of Israel.” Life in Roman occupied Israel starved hope. Substantial time had passed since the promise. Now, however, as two new parents carried their newborn child into the courts of the temple in Jerusalem, hope washed over Simeon as he prayed:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Hope delayed had become hope realized. Simeon could die peacefully and happily because he had seen the Messiah, he had witnessed the beginning of God’s saving work in Jesus, if only by anticipation when he recognized the child as the one who had been promised.

We also wait, and hope may wane as Christ does not return on our timetable. We grow older. We suffer physically and emotionally. We struggle to pray; we doubt God will keep his promises. In our obsession with our pain, we ignore the sunshine peeking through the clouds.

Father, Thank you for the promise of joy. That hope sustains us. Help us to remember when distractions multiply, when deaths dismay, when world events horrify. Focus our attention to Jesus, and help us to discern the “great cloud of witnesses” who, having survived this test themselves, now cheer us on. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Prayer to God as Shepherd

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Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvelous things” (Micah 7:14-15).

I spent the last few days concentrating on ministry in response to disaster or pandemic. The enormity of need that explodes into existence when calamity strikes staggers me. The impact of Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy illustrates. Those storms damaged or destroyed millions of dollars of property. People who had believed themselves secure in their place of residence suddenly found themselves homeless. A cousin of my mother’s lost their house in Homestead, Florida, and everything in it during Hurricane Andrew. In the aftermath of some crises, public order breaks down; desperate people loot abandoned stores and homes. These disasters require great cooperation between government agencies, the military and police, volunteer groups, and medical personnel. They also call for people of God who remind survivors of the resilience they may doubt they have and help them recall blessings (life, family, faith) that remain. Micah preaches to a nation ravaged by attacks from enemies; his people had forgotten the God that rescued their ancestors from slavery. He reminds his nation of their spiritual heritage; he foretells a return of blessing under a messianic leader. Micah concludes his prophecy with a prayer, reminding God of his work on behalf of these people in the past and calling him to act once more to deliver them. He prays that God will guide his lost sheep who have forgotten, blinded by their losses, that they still live in a fertile land.

Disasters, whether community catastrophes or family implosions, often numb us spiritually. In shock, we forget ethical, moral, and spiritual concepts that have protected us in the past. We founder, and like people whose home has been obliterated by a storm, make rash decisions that harm us in the long run. Like Micah’s contemporaries, we need to pause and remember a God who provides, and who calls us to holy living that will help us to survive times of spiritual injury and material loss. Like Micah, we should remember how God has acted in the past, and call for his help in prayer. The remainder of the prayer reminds God’s people of his compassion and his capacity for forgiveness. God is faithful, but like a faithful shepherd who guides his flock from a rocky desert landscape to a fertile pasture, he prods his people toward holiness as he restores what they have lost.

“Our God, our Shepherd and Redeemer, guide us from spiritual poverty to blessing. Open our eyes and our ears to your Word; lead our feet in paths of obedience that will restore our faith. Help us to realize the blessings we have even when we have lost much; show us the way to abundant life. May we remember the promise we made you when we were baptized, buried in water and arising into a new life where we realized the new life made possible by death and resurrection of your Son. May we live lives worthy of our confession and worthy of you, our Refuge in the storm. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Praying in Unity Despite Diversity

from Call for Fire Seminar by

Have you ever considered the assortment of people who gathered to pray after the ascension of Jesus? After listing the eleven remaining apostles, Luke writes, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Most lessons I have heard focus on the apostles preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit by gathering to pray. Some teachers have also noted Mary’s presence. Fewer have mentioned the other women or the brothers of Jesus.
Who were these women? I suspect that they are the women mentioned in Luke chapter 8:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary [called Magdalene] from whom seven spirits had come out; Joanna, the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3).

Read more: https://callforfireseminar.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/praying-in-unity-despite-diversity/

Praying Praise

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“There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might” (Jeremiah 10:6).

Prayers of praise celebrate the power and wonder of God, the Creator and Savior. We often request when we pray, and we may at times lament God’s apparent absence. Prayers of praise focus on God as the recipient of worship, as the One who is worthy to be worshiped. It is difficult for some of us to forget that it is not about us when we pray. Certainly, it is appropriate to ask God for help; the “call for fire” metaphor reminds us that God is the source of salvation. As Jeremiah does in other prayers within his book, we also can tell God about our pain and our anger. Sometimes, however, we need to pause and just praise when we pray. It helps us to remember who we are and who God is.

Creator and Sustainer of all, As I ran today, the changing color of leaves on the tree reminded me of the beauty you planned when you spoke our universe into being. The enormity of that universe testifies to the creative force you exerted and to your imagination. Jeremiah was correct; there is none like you. I will sing of your greatness and your power to bring life where there is none. In Jesus’ name, Amen