praying with government & military service in mind

Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?” He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.” (Luke 3:14 CEB)

“From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.” (Acts 17:26 CEB)

First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity. This is right and it pleases God our savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 CEB)

Heavenly Father, any and all deliverance from evil is from you and you alone. You are the Savior. You are the Deliverer. You are the Government. All glory and praise be to you!

We confess that into this world of yours, we, your creation, have sinned, and still do constantly, endlessly introducing confusion and havoc, tension and fighting, into the rest of your creation. You have borne with us long and we ask you to bear with us yet longer. Where would we be without your constant care and involvement in all of humankind’s affairs, God?

As you often hear us ask that you would pour your wisdom into the leaders of all government and guide all soldiers by your will, today we come to you with thanksgiving.

For your concern for every person in harm’s way, be they civilian or combatant, we thank you.

For all the means – visible and invisible, known and unknown – that you use to keep to keep us all from total self annihilation and complete self-destruction, we thank you.

For your sparing of every life you spare and for the strength you extend to all who suffer from loss due to human hatred and war, we thank you.

For every soldier in every army who is respectful of your will and selfless in the execution of their duty first to you, we thank you.

For the knowledge, wisdom, courage and endurance you cause to be in the lives of all who serve others in every way, near or far away, we thank you.

For every good thing you work through any and all governments to make for a more peaceful and meaningful existence for all, we thank you.

For all the opportunities and blessings by which we can honor others before ourselves, we thank you.

For all of that you give through every means that facilitates the flow of your good news and favor to those of every tribe and tongue, we thank you.

For all that is integrity and honesty, justice and mercy, that we see in those who serve in any government and any army, we thank you.

For the way you show no favoritism, but raise up and cast down nations to advance your will, we thank you.

For the hope you hold out to us in your kingdom’s existence here on this earth, that swords can be beat into plowshares, and that one day, no more nations or arms at all will be, for this great hope, we thank you much.

And with thanksgiving that you hear our prayers, Father, we would ask this: that you would continue to work your will in the defeat of any and all powers of evil that be, wherever they be found. Use us how you will toward that end so that your gospel would run throughout the earth and be embraced by more. Do so to the ultimate end that your name would be exalted above every other name.

Father, we pray you would bring every Christian to the place in their spirit where the government whose affairs that enrapture their attention is not any human government, but your rule and order in all things first. May our first allegiance be pledged to no one else but you, ever and always, in every way and in all ways.

In the name of Jesus, we pray.

Amen.

praying for the family of Osama bin Laden

“Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.” (Matthew 6:12 CEB)

“… you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 CEB)

Father in heaven,

I come to you with praise for who you are and all you do. You alone are God and great! And so in the name of Jesus, your Son and my Lord and Savior, I come asking of you with Osama bin Laden in mind. For his family and for all who were close to him and who now grieve his death, I pray.

As I ask for myself, I intercede for them. Forgive me. Forgive my not having loved them as I should and for not praying  for them as I could. Forgive them of any and all evil within them. Much of it they surely do in ignorance, knowing no better; much of it is surely with a will. But in either case, Father, have mercy on them, forgiving them of any and all sins of ignorance, commission, and omission. Deliver them from all that is hell.

Give them eyes to ever see your will and to have the vitality and courage to live it out, no matter the personal cost. May their lives become testimonies of your redemptive power and not be squandered. Shine your light into their lives, dispelling all that is darkness, that they might truly see.

Console them in their loss and comfort them in their pain, Father. Surround them and bathe them with your obvious concern and care. Bring into their lives people who model your life, Father. May those you provide be given the support they deserve and need from others like them.

When the spirits of Osama’s family and friends are so heavy they can do nothing, pick them up and carry them, showing mercy to them so that they might not only be enabled to go on, but might be drawn to seek you and find you, even as they mourn. May your peace settle on them and remain, fostering peace in their hearts and then, outwardly in their ways. May they give praise to you for the true rest only you can offer and dispense.

Wither and put to death any root of bitterness that would grow in them. Steer their hearts away from hate and toward everything that is imitative of your true love. Shield their minds from any seeds of vengeance that threaten to land and sprout, lest their thoughts be corrupted and only more grief come to many. When they falter and think to act without love, stay their hands, block their path, and cause them to consider again. Give them wisdom and discernment as to the way of holiness. And as surely as they receive all different kinds of counsel and influence from all kinds, and from so many sources, may you just as certainly assist them in making good choices, choices that respect you and all human life.

I ask much, Father, for I know you love much and give much. All good things come from you. And so may my life reflect your ways and only underscore my requests of you.

I love you, Father.

Amen.

fresh bread: revisiting prayer 101

Today’s thought in the Fresh Bread devotional series is deceptively simple: memorize Luke’s version of what we know today as “The Lord’s Prayer” and memorize it as it appears in the Common English Bible. Meditate on its meaning and pray this prayer throughout today. Let it inform your prayers daily.

Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:

‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.’” (Luke 11:1-4 CEB)

fresh bread: how to make sure your prayers get heard

During his days on earth, Christ offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death. He was heard because of his godly devotion. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Hebrews 5.7-8, CEB)

Now what specific point in Jesus’ life in the flesh does the author have in mind? It seems clear his experience in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night of his betrayal, is in view.

He [Jesus] said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” … He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Luke 22.42,44, CEB)

We know how things played out: the cup of suffering is not removed and Jesus is led off to die on the cross for our sins. Which leads me to ask: how is it then that the writer of Hebrews can say Jesus’ prayer “was heard?”

1. Some believe that Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemane was actually his request to be delivered from imminent death there in the Garden so that his whole life’s work and mission would not be compromised. That is, since Jesus didn’t die in the Garden, but survived to complete his mission by dying on the cross in our place, we can say that that was what was meant by the statement that Jesus’ prayer was “heard.”

2. Others think Jesus’ Garden prayer was actually not so much a prayer for his avoidance of death on the cross, but a prayer for deliverance out of, or from, the bonds of death. Consequently, when Jesus was raised from the dead we can say specifically this this is how his prayer was “heard.”

3. And there is yet another possibility. Could it be that since Jesus’ prayer was ultimately about his Father having his way, Jesus’ death on the cross was the answer to the prayer, and so the Father’s will was done?

To me, the third option makes the best sense of both the context of Luke 22 and the statement in Hebrews 5, especially vs.8:

“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5.8, CEB)

Which leads me to ponder with a bit of wonder over the place of prayer in my own life. Particularly in connection with the will of God and my submissive obedience to him. When I want God to have his way most of all and am willing to live out whatever he would will for me, then I can say with confidence, that my prayer are always “heard.” I don’t have to “get my way” to be persuaded God “heard” my prayers; I need only know that my Father yearns to hear from me and longs for me to simply live by his guidance.

Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son and my Savior Jesus, deliver me from the dead end road that conceives of prayer as having been truly “heard” or “effective” only when things turn out the way I would have wanted them to happen. Always bring me to that place of submission where I perceive you hearing, and so answering, every single prayer I utter when my longing most of all is for your will to be done. Amen.

fresh bread: knowing what to pray for

Having read Matthew 20:20-34 as a part of today’s reading in the Fresh Bread project, you surely noticed the following two back-to-back incidents:

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus … [and] asked a favor of him. … “Say that these two sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and one on your left, in your kingdom.” … Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! …

… two blind men sitting along the road [on hearing] … that Jesus was passing by … shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” … Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord, we want to see,” they replied. Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him.

Prayer is much, much more than asking things of God, right? But when you do ask something of him, for what do you ask?

The mother of Zebedee’s sons asked one thing of the Lord: give mine your best for their benefit. The two blind beggars asked one thing of the Lord: benefit us just to see you.

There’s a world of difference.

Both asked blessing for themselves, but the former did so with her own’s end in mind, the latter did so with just the beginning in mind. The woman asked selfishly while the men asked so as increase their awareness of Jesus. The former had honor for her own in mind, while the latter longed to behold God’s glory. The woman wanted her sons to sit and bask in God’s blessing while the men wanted to go with God wherever he might lead them. The former wanted what would appear to be power and resources while the later asked for not a thing regarding resources and were content to remain powerless.

It’s not just a good question, or even an important one. It is, rather, the crucial question: “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” And our reasons for asking reveals much about what (or who) really matters most to us. Our speech will betray us.

It comes down to this: do you want yourself or the Savior to be at the center?

  • It’s the difference between “God bless America” and “God bless everyone, no exceptions.”
  • It’s the difference between “God make me well” and “God make me usable to you now and however you would call me to be.”
  • It’s the difference between “Keep us from suffering loss” and “May we count all things for loss, but Christ.”
  • It’s the difference between “continue with us through this service and through the remainder of our lives here on this earth” and “give us the grit to stay with you wherever and through whatever you would lead us.”
  • It’s the difference between “Give us more comfort and peace” and “Unsettle us with a holy discontent for everything less than you.”
  • It’s the difference between “Increase our numbers” and “Increase your glory.”
  • It’s the difference between “God protect our troops” and “God, in your wisdom and goodness, do with us all what you will.”
  • It’s the difference between “Keep us free from molestation” and “May we offer a good confession each time we are put to the test.”
  • It’s the difference between “Bring us back at the next appointed time” and “Lord, make us fully yours in this and every moment.”

Or to take us straight back to the text that got us here …

  • It’s the difference between having a passion and being shown Christ’s compassion.
  • It’s the difference between seeing and being enabled to truly see.
  • It’s the difference between sitting in one place and getting up to follow.
  • It’s the difference between yourself at the center and Christ as your all.

All of which will likely mean the difference between Jesus shaking his head, saying to us “You don’t know what you’re asking” and him stopping in his tracks, calling to us, and having compassion on us.

Lord, we want to see. See you. See you go wherever you would lead and see you do whatever you would with us. And to never stop seeing you. Amen.