Paul's letter to his assistant Timothy is full of instructions. Earlier we looked at his instruction about praying for governmental leaders. Today let's look at 1 Timothy 2:8. Paul says he wants "men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing". I don't know how common it is for men to pray with hands uplifted. It is probably more common in some churches and gatherings than in others. Lifting hands is a sign of lifting hearts and minds to God. That prayer posture - lifted hands - also causes us to lift our heads. It's a completely different prayer posture from bowing our heads and clasping our hands.
Paul's instruction "without anger or disputing" was probably because Timothy's group had been doing just that. It reminds me of Jesus' admonition in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift". Lifting hands and hearts is difficult when we are angry or arguing with someone.
For reflection: What posture(s) do I assume when in prayer? Do they differ with the type of prayer (prayer of thanksgiving, praise, petition, sorrow)?
Let us pray. Today, Father, I lift up my holy hands in praise to you. You are the King, eternal, immortal, invisible. You are my source of inspiration. Honor and glory are yours forever and ever.
I have often wondered what it would have been like to live in the first century. How it would be to be there walking and talking with Jesus? I mean, how would I feel to actually witness his marvelous deeds, to sit at his feet and listen to
It occurred to me that of all the things the apostles
could of have asked Jesus, to do, they asked him to teach them how to pray. They were with him all the time; they saw him curing the sick, feeding the masses and his compassion for the poor. I'm sure Jesus would have granted them almost anything they may have asked, but they chose to ask him to teach them to pray.
I imagine that like many of us, the apostles had some sort of prayer life already. They were
after all, like Jesus, "good" Jews. So what was it about Jesus' prayer life that made them sit up and take notice? We know Jesus often withdrew from the crowds to pray. What was his demeanor when he returned? Was he calmer, more rested, more animated? Whatever it was that led the apostles
to ask, I'm glad they did and I'm glad he taught them.
When I reflect on that prayer, one thing that stands out is Praise God. It was the first thing he did. I am not discounting the other elements of the prayer, but this is one that stands out to me. Praising God can be challenging because we often think of God as a granter of gifts or wants. Oh yes, we have no problem praising him when our prayers are answered, especially if they are favorably answered. But how often do we praise God, just because? Not the old standard saying, "I praise him because he woke me up this morning". When we say that are we earnest in our prayer as Jesus was. or is it just "a matter of fact", something we say, like "excuse me"?
True praise of God requires one thing from us. That we use our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul to praise him. We just praise him, no thank yous, no requests, just pure unadulterated praise (love). It can be challenging because we must make a conscious decision to offer prayers of praise. Can we do it?
Reflect: How many times a day do I praise God? Take a moment and offer a simple prayer of
praise right now.
Prayer: God of all, you have created everything out of love, I praise you.
You have created me in your own image, I praise you
You are my help and salvation, I praise you.
I praise you, I praise you, I praise you. Amen
Praying for Governmental Leaders
At the end of Paul's letter to the Ephesians we saw that he was asking them to pray for him. In his first letter to Timothy he gives some instructions for prayer. "I urge . . . that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim 2:1-2).
The leaders of the U.S. don't make it into my prayers every day, but they certainly should. In addition to praying for the wisdom to govern, we should be praying for their salvation because, as Paul goes on to remind Timothy, God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:4-5). If we want to live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness, we need leaders who believe we should be allowed to do so and who will work to see that it happens.
For reflection: For which governmental leader(s) shall I pray today? Are there leaders of other countries for whom I should be praying?
Let us pray. King of kings, Lord of lords, Ruler of the universe, Almighty God and Father of all, we desire to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We thank you for our leaders. We know that you love them as your children. If they do not know you, we ask that someone be sent to bring them to the knowledge of your love for them. We ask you to inspire them with paths to peace and not war, and the best decisions that can be made for the welfare of the people entrusted to them.
Note: I am taking a few days off from blogging, the phone line and the email prayer requests. Other members of Manna Prayer will be posting and checking the phone and email. I will see you again in October. I'd also like to remind you that under "Prayer Resources" on the website there is a prayer for anyone you think might be dangerous to himself or others. It is my strong belief that with prayer we can avert mass shootings and suicides. -- Alice
Praying for Paul
While Paul was telling others to put on the armor of God, he was in prison (Eph 6:19-20). No doubt he clothed himself with that same armor, recalling the Torah and the teachings of Jesus. He may have had to remind himself every day of the experience of Jesus touching him on the way to Damascus; how he was blinded, and God healed him. He knew that he had been saved from a life of sin since he often referred to himself as the foremost of sinners.
Great evangelist that he was, he asked for prayer from the other believers. "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should" (Eph 6:19-20). Paul knew the value of his own prayer, but he also knew the value of having other people pray for him.
For reflection: All preachers, evangelists and missionaries are in need of prayer. For which one am I called to pray today?
Let us pray. Father, I ask your protection for _______. Help them to put on the full armor today. May they proclaim the Gospel without fear, without worry and without doubt. Give them the proper words to say at the right time and the right place. May they truly be your ambassadors.
God's Armor + Prayer
After putting on the armor of God there is one more element Paul mentions for success in defeating the enemy, and it is prayer. Paul says, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Eph 6:18). I realize that praying in the Spirit, or praying in tongues, is controversial. I don't know if it was controversial in Paul's churches or not, but he speaks of it and recommends it frequently. He thought it was extremely important as a tool for both offense and defense, and for worship.
Just as the armor of God is a gift (there is no way to earn it or manufacture it), praying in the spirit is a gift (see 1 Cor 12 - 14). We can ask the Father for it and receive it as long as we will be responsible for using it. We must be diligent in using whatever God gives us. I think praying in the Spirit is the only way we can "pray always" or "on all occasions". With practice we can train our subconscious to pray in the Spirit at all times.
What about "with all kinds of prayers and requests"? I often think my prayers are not big enough. I don't have God's vision for the big picture - and I should. We know that God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-5). We can pray for the safety and salvation of entire countries, or certain populations, or even towns.
For reflection: What area or what people is God laying on my heart for prayer? Is it a nation, or people who suffer from a certain illness, or refugees, or a religious denomination?
Let us pray. Father, I open myself more to your Spirit. I open myself to praying in the Spirit. Lead me to pray as you want for what you want, to join my vision to your vision, to see as you see, to love as you love, to bring about your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Paul continues in Ephesians 6 to describe an entire suit of armor to protect us in battles against evil. In addition to the belt of truth, he mentions the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Those are all for defense and really depend on faith in God and what God can do and has promised to do.
The sword of the Spirit is an offensive weapon. It is the word of God which can be used to combat the words of the evil one such as Jesus did when tempted in the desert. He came right back at Satan with Scripture (Mt 4:1-11) to contradict what Satan said. We can't fight the father of lies if we don't recognize the lie for what it is and know the Scripture which contradicts and overcomes it.
The other part of God's armor which Paul mentions is the shoes of the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). Most see these as another defensive weapon, but I see them as an offensive weapon. The shoes of the gospel of peace enable us to go forward, to tread on the enemy (Christ has put Satan under his feet), and to spread the gospel of peace where the enemy engenders war, chaos and death.
Again, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:11-12).
For reflection: God provides the armor. Will I take it up and use it?
Let us pray. Jesus, help me to recognize my true enemies. By faith help me to take up your armor and continue to go where you lead me, spreading your good news, your gospel of peace throughout the earth.
The Belt of Truth
Friday we began to look at our true enemy, Satan. Paul instructs the Ephesians to put on God's armor, the same armor God is described as wearing in Isaiah 11:5 and 59:17. The first item to put on is the belt of truth (Eph 6:14). Why? Because John says in his Gospel (8:44) that Satan is the father of lies.
Satan will tempt us with lies and half truths and by trying to sow doubt as he did with Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). If we know the truth of the Scriptures, it goes a long way toward defeating temptation. If we know "The Truth", that is even more powerful. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). The Truth we need to know is Jesus himself. Then we can "put on" Jesus. It is not sufficient to simply know the Scriptures, we must know Jesus. He is our Truth.
For reflection: Am I spending time in dialogue with Jesus each day so that I can get to know him better? Am I spending time with the Scriptures each day? What truth is God speaking to me today?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. You are the living bread, the bread of life. You are the light of the word and the light of my life.
Who Is Our Enemy?
Lately I realize more and more the truth of Paul's statement to the Ephesians that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12). And as James says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight" (James 4:1-2). If our enemy is not a flesh-and-blood person, then killing that person is not the answer. Killing and war are not the solutions that so many people think they are.
As Christians we must take the battle where it belongs. It is a spiritual battle of good against evil, of control over the minds and hearts of people, because a person devoted to God seeks peace not war and death. Whether the battle is between nations or just two people, as Christians we must identify the real enemy and engage the battle there.
For reflection: Am I able to identify the true enemy facing me? Facing my family? Facing my country?
Let us pray. Father, I ask for discernment in identifying the true identity of the enemy facing me. And I ask for the spiritual weapons I need to defeat that enemy. I also need greater love for the people who appear to be my enemies. Help me to see them as you see them.
Praying for Others
Paul's letters allow us a glimpse into his prayer life. In his letter to the Colossians, he tells them that he thanks God the Father for them when he prays because "we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints" (Col 1:3-4). He goes on to say that he is "asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (verse 9). Then Paul goes on to tell of the result he expects to see from his prayers: that they "live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power . . . (having) great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father" (verses 10-11). Paul prays a short prayer, expecting great results.
For reflection: Am I praying this way for other people? Who needs this kind of prayer? My family? My pastor?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for (my pastor), for his/her great faith and love for the community. I ask you to fill him/her with the knowledge of your will and that you bless him/her with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
On Work and Rest
On this day to celebrate labor in the U.S., I am reflecting on the movie showing now "Lee Daniel's The Butler". Cecil Gaines is a man who begins his work life at a very young age picking cotton. With no formal education at all, he eventually becomes a butler at the White House where he serves 8 American presidents over 30 years.
Mr. Gaines works as a butler with honesty and dignity and to the best of his ability, but his older son Louis disdains the work he does as being beneath him. Also at one point his wife resents his job because he spends more time at the White House than at their house. Both of them have a point. Mr. Gaines endures much self-effacement in order to serve "properly" and he eventually cuts back his hours at the White House to be home with his family more.
He has two dilemmas common to many people today. Being underemployed and working enough to provide for his family while still having adequate time to spend with them. (I haven't done the movie justice. I'm just reflecting on the work aspect of it.)
Let us pray. As we thank God today for the jobs he has given us both at home and in the workplace, let us pray for those who are unemployed, underemployed and seeking balance in their life. Let us pray for child laborers and child soldiers. Let us pray for those involved in human trafficking and illicit work.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.