“Good” Friday: stationing yourself to pray

1. See Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane … and pray.

… Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, ‘Stay here while I go and pray over there.’ When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.’ Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However — not what I want but what you want.’

He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.’ (Matthew 26.36-41)

2. Examine Judas, and yourself, as Judas betrays Jesus and he is arrested. Who can do so and not pray?

And immediately, as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: ‘You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.’ As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. ‘Rabbi!’ he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14.43-46)

3. Peer into the courtroom as Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin. God have mercy! Pray.

Then when daylight came, the assembly of the elders of the people, which included both chief priests and scribes, met and marched him off to their own council. There they asked him, ‘If you really are Christ, tell us!’

‘If I tell you, you will never believe me, and if I ask you a question, you will not answer me. But from now on the Son of Man will take his seat at the right hand of almighty God.’

Then they all said, ‘So you are the Son of God then?’

‘You are right; I am,’ Jesus told them.

Then they said, ‘Why do we need to call any more witnesses, for we ourselves have heard this thing from his own lips?’ (Luke 22.66-71)

4. Consider yourself as you behold Jesus denied even by Peter, the man who first confessed him as the Christ. Pray.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’

But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’

Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’

Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’

At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26.69-75)

5. Observe Jesus judged by Pilate. Pray to the only true an righteous Judge of all of creation.

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. …

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15.1-5,15)

6. Stare as Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns. Pray with each lash of words and whip.

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. (John 19.1-3)

7. Gape as Jesus takes up his cross. Take all of this up in prayer.

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’ …

So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’

Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’

The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’

So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19.6,15-17)

8. Gaze with all the mixture of feelings as Simon is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. Pray with all three of you mind: Jesus, Simon … and yourself.

Along the way, they met a man from Cyrene, Simon (the father of Rufus and Alexander), who was coming in from the fields; and they ordered him to carry the heavy crossbar of the cross. (Mark 15.21)

9. Notice how Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem as he bears his cross. Pray silently as you hear them cry aloud and as he answers their cries.

A large number of people followed Jesus. Some were women whose hearts were filled with sorrow. They cried loudly because of him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. The time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the women who can’t have children! Blessed are those who never gave birth or nursed babies!’ It is written, ‘The people will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” They’ll say to the hills, “Cover us!”’ People do these things when trees are green. So what will happen when trees are dry?” (Luke 23.27-31)

10. Refuse to look away as they nail the Christ to the cross, crucifying him. Pray as Jesus prays.

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23.33-34)

11. Capture with your eyes and heart Jesus promising his kingdom to the repentant thief. Pray this man’s prayer.

One of the criminals began to shout insults at Jesus: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Then save yourself! And save us too!’

But the other criminal stopped him. He said, ‘You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment as he is. We are punished justly; we should die. But this man has done nothing wrong!’ Then this criminal said to Jesus, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!’

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Listen! What I say is true: Today you will be with me in paradise!’ (Luke 23.39-43)

12. Take in Jesus entrusting Mary and John to each other. Pray by means of, and through, your tears.

Jesus’ mother stood beside his cross with her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene was standing there too. When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, ‘This man is now your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘She is now your mother.’ From then on, that disciple took her into his own home. (John 19.25-27)

13. Watch Jesus breathe his last on the cross. Hang your head … and pray.

It was about twelve o’clock when the sun stopped shining and darkness covered the whole country until three o’clock; and the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father! In your hands I place my spirit!’ He said this and died. (Luke 23.44-46)

14. And finally, witness Jesus’ body laid in a tomb. Walk silently away from the tomb with Joseph, praying as you go … praying with the groans of your spirit.

That evening a rich man named Joseph, a follower of Jesus from the town of Arimathea, came to Jerusalem. Joseph went to Pilate and asked to have Jesus’ body. So Pilate gave orders for the soldiers to give it to Joseph. Then Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. He put Jesus’ body in a new tomb that he had cut out of a wall of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb. Then Joseph went away. (Matthew 27.57-60)

VIVE LA REDIRECTION!

 

Donald Trump.

Do you see him as a savior? Then I say to you:

“Trust in the name of the Lord.”

Do you view him as the enemy? Then I remind you of the command of the Lord:

“Love your enemies.”

Are you somewhere inbetween or elsewhere? Then I say to you:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord.”

And so, to us all I preach the words of the Spirit of the Lord:

“Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respectful fear of God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

And how then shall that be done? It begins with honor. Donald Trump is not God, nor is he Satan. He, like each and every one of us, is made in the image of God, and is a victim of Satan.

And so, let us redirect our hearts from veneration or vilification of him. Let us redirect our knees to the ground and our hearts no longer to Washington, but to the throne of heaven instead. Let us redirect our misguided and misled spirit and so, invite every Christian to unite in prayer with me and say with faith in the Lord and with the will of the Amen:

“O Lord, open the President of the United States’ eyes!”

honor everyone … honor the emperor

 

He is virtually worshiped by many. He is, simultaneously, vilified by many. And by many others, something in between.

He occupies an exceedingly powerful position. His choices and actions affect the lives of billions. Billions. And who, I ask, is adequate in themselves for such a task?

Now I don’t care on which side of the aisle you sit – if either – but, as Christians we do take God at his word, don’t we?

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

And so, how exactly can/will we, Christians, “honor” Donald Trump?

If in no other way, we can do this: we can honor Trump by holding him up before God in prayer. Deliberately and regularly.

Not in reaction to matters we see or hear in the news. Not motivated or filtered by our own personal, political perspectives.

And if our prayers are heard by others, we will not pray in any way “to the gallery,” as if to make a point, get in a jab, or to stimulate a mocking laugh or sneer. Nor will we pray in knee-jerk response or with a “Monday morning quarterback” air about us concerning his attitudes, behaviors, policies, or Tweets.

But, simply to pray for a fellow human being made in the image of God, Donald Trump. A man who is just like each of us: a being in desperate need of God and so, the prayer of others on his behalf.

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

Imagine. Imagine every Christian in this land praying for Trump on a regular basis. What might happen? What could happen? For Trump? For ourselves? For the world? For the church families of which we are a part? If we pray in faith?

And so, let talk to God, with trust, for Trump, laying aside any and all sense of human politics within us.

For our Lord has sent his Father’s to us through his Spirit and his will says to us:

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

Q & A: my political Facebook posts

 

Q. David, for someone who is apolitical, you certainly don’t shy away from posting links to articles on political subjects on your Facebook. Why is that?

A. I pray the news. I refuse to simply “scan and stew” over or “glance at and gossip about” news that appears in my news feed. Instead, I deliberately attempt to re-frame such in my mind so that they become prompts for me to pray. I believe such is a healthy way of engaging the news that helps me keep the leverage of spiritually-healthy habits in my own hands. That is, rather than just being a passive sponge soaking up what happens to come my way, I seek to actively take people and matters to God in prayer. That’s where they belong, right?

For example, if I come across piece that stirs up in me a reminder to pray for a person or people group spotlighted by that piece I am either not accustomed to praying for, then I pray for them, then and there. I occasionally share links to such posts, along with comments as to how that particular items moved me to pray, with hopes that it will spark in others similar prayers.

Q. While prayer is certainly good, wouldn’t it be better for you, and perhaps for all, to just ignore the whole political scene?

A. I think not. What good would that do? It isn’t like politics is going to just go away anytime soon or that people are going stop drinking in the news. No, we’re just like the ancient Athenians, aren’t we? (“For all Athenians, and even foreign visitors to Athens, had an obsession for any novelty and would spend their whole time talking about or listening to anything new.” – Acts 17.21, Phillips)

And so, if the news if going to wash up on us and we’re going to choose to swim in it, then someone needs to be modeling how to swim in the surf, how to avoid being carried out to see by the riptide, and how not to drown in the swell. I seek to humbly instruct. Period. Among other things, true Christ-followers seek to hold up to the Lord in prayer all who are leaders, not merely those we happen to agree with or who we want to see become leaders (1 Timothy 2.1-2).

Q. Noble. But really now, how many people do you think are actually going to take up seriously praying the news? You’re pretty much alone in this, buddy.

A. No, I don’t believe I’m alone in this by any means. And I seek to lay out and model good. Whether anyone else takes that up or not should have no bearing on my choice of doing what I understand to good in the light of Scripture. I believe I see many people making unhealthy choices all the time as to how they process, or fail to process, “the news.” I seek to hold up a good way of handling “the news” and leave what is done with all of that up to God and others.

Q. Well then, do you have any advice or thoughts in general about how to read your posts, particularly if they link to political matters?

A. Do remember, I am apolitical and so, I refuse to stump for or promote any particular candidate anywhere. If you find some news links I post offensive, recall that they just might have been offensive to me in some way, too. I post not because I necessarily agree or disagree with everything in a piece, but because I know others are likely encountering the same or similar and because such posts prompted me to do the very best thing I could do – talk with God in some way about it all.

prayer before a hummingbird feeder

 

I have several hummingbird feeders in my yard and most of the year we have guests at those feeders. The Ruby-throated hummers are by nature extremely territorial. If I happen to walk near one of the feeders and there is a hummingbird nearby at the time, I can expect to hear them repeatedly voice their displeasure and often begin to see them zoom about a bit several yards off. However, this month is the first time I have had a hummingbird “strafe” me.

The particular Ruby-throated male I have in mind is exceedingly bold, unflinchingly flying, or even hovering for relatively long periods of time, within 1-2 feet of me. If he is hovering beside me or behind me and I then turn and face him directly, he will immediately put a bit more distance between us – beyond arm’s length – but will then proceed to repeatedly buzz me quite close until either I leave or he changes tactics.

I greatly admire his courage and bravery. How much bigger am I than he? There is no comparison. But does that make a difference in his actions? None whatsoever. I can consistently count on this: if we are in the yard at the same time – and believe me, he knows it if we are – he will confront me, the “enemy,” and will do so courageously with skill and wisdom.

All of which reminds me of two things. First, that one of the themes that runs like a rope throughout the entirety of the book of Acts – the book in the Bible like no other that tells of the true life of our community of faith for today, the church – is backbone and fortitude, guts, and nerve.  In fact, such even forms the final word in the book. It is the dominant thought that Luke, the author, wants imprinted on our mind and ringing in our ears until the end:

“… proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28.31)

Second, it reminds me of things James, Peter, and Paul said:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4.7)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (1 Peter 5.8-9a)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16.13-14)

And so my feathered “friend” – my aerial “hero” – prompts me to pray this way:

God, make me ever like this bird: courageous and strong, skillful and wise, confident and yet well aware of my limitations. May I know no fear save fear of displeasing you and may every beat of my heart be beats of trust in you, for I know you care for me always. So, what have I to fear, for you are with me? And so, may I be with you. Daily. By the courageous Christ I pray. Amen.

a preacher’s prayer at sunrise on Sunday

 

Father, who will give attention to you this morning? And should you allow me the privilege once more to speak of you, who, I ask, will hear you through my feeble, fumbling words? Will it be those who have heard many times before? Let them not be indifferent or complacent through familiarity. Will it be some who have never heard you before? Do not allow any of us to not encounter you. Work out my words, work through my words, work despite my words this morning – just work what you will in the moment, Father.

Give us your attention, Lord, even as we ask your help in our giving you our own; give us audience as we seek you. Take us by our hands to the Father and plead our need with your outstretched hands. Open our minds and break open our hearts, shining all you are on all that we are that we might change more into the likeness of you. Let us be all about you – entralled and enraptured with you, adoring you and freshly committing ourselves to emulating you.

Spirit holy, your ways and words are beyond our grasp, and yet, it is your words and words that must touch us, stir us, trouble us, settle us, and teach us. And so, I pray you will handle us and hold us this morning, working into each spirit present things far beyond what any of us can see and hear with our eyes and ears. As you have arranged for this time and place, our providential meeting with you in the presence of others, do walk among us and talk to us.

Begin this work with me, I pray. Where I need to tremble afresh, make me tremble. Where I need to rest confident in you, please plant me there. In all things today, work through me for the blessing of others and so bless me to that end.

In the name of my Savior, with trust, I come asking.

Amen.