Many people come to Washington, DC, every four years for the inauguration of the President. They don't attend the concert. They don't have tickets to the swearing in. They don't line the parade route. When asked, they are not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat. They are pro-Jesus and they are here to pray. Some come before the election and are back again before the inauguration. Others just come once. They may be here a few days or a week.
You may find them walking around the White House, the Capitol, or the Supreme Court buildings, heads bowed, arms raised. These people don't make the news. What they do is not exciting or glamorous. Instead they are often cold and wet, even bedraggled.
Paul spoke of this very type of prayer in his exhortation to Timothy (! Timothy 2:1-4). We should note that we are to pray for our leaders. We are not to pray against them nor at them. Our prayers should not be a veiled message of what we think they should do. We are to pray "intercessions and thanksgivings" for them. Why? So that we "may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity", and because God wants "everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Whether we are called to pray in DC or to pray from where we are, let us remember to pray for our leaders, for their salvation and for them to know the truth. Let us do so with thanksgiving no matter how we voted.
For Reflection: If our new year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside, perhaps a good resolution would be to pray for one member of government each day.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I thank you for all of our elected leaders at the federal, state and local level. If they don't know you, I ask that you send someone to tell them about you and to introduce them to the good news of salvation. I thank you for their hard work, their giving of themselves, their time, their lives. Grant them wisdom to govern as you yourself would. Help them to enact just laws and to keep our land at peace.
I also thank you, Jesus, for those who have been upholding our government in prayer for many years. Give them the strength and determination to continue.
One way to pray is to make the Scriptures our own by putting them in the first person so that we see how they apply to us. Today let us do that with Psalm 91, the great Psalm of God's protection.
God, you are my refuge, my fortress, my God in whom I trust. You will save me from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. You will cover me with your feathers and under your wings I will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart. I will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Although a thousand may fall at my side, ten thousand at my right hand, it will not come near me. I will only observe with my eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
I make the Most High my dwelling – the Lord, who is my refuge – and no harm will befall me, no disaster will come near my tent. He will command his angels concerning me to guard me in all my ways. They will lift me up in their hands so that I do not strike my foot against a stone. I will tread upon the lion and the cobra; I will trample the great lion and the serpent.
Because I love the Lord He will rescue me. He will protect me because I acknowledge his name. I will call upon him and he will answer me. He will be with me in trouble. He will deliver me and honor me. He will give me long life and salvation.
The last of the spiritual works of mercy is controversial to many Christians. Praying for the living is OK with all Christians, but not all believe in praying for the dead. Praying for the dead is too complicated to get into with these short meditations, so let's concentrate on praying for the living.
Most of the time in this blog we pray for ourselves to become better followers of Christ. I think that is the most easily answered prayer. When we pray for ourselves we know that we are doing this of our own free will and we really desire to have that prayer answered. When praying for someone else, we may not know where they stand on the issue about which we are praying. Take for example, praying for someone to be healed of a physical ailment. If we know that the person truly wants healing then we are not praying against that person's free will. But if the person does not want to be healed what would be the point of our prayer? Do we want to ask God to heal the person in spite of what that person wants? And would God do that?
When we want to intercede for someone, it might be best to find out what the person in need really desires. If we can agree with that, a mighty prayer can be offered. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:19-20).
I think the catch is finding two or more people who really agree in prayer. At times when a group has prayed for one particular person, I have asked the individuals in the group afterward "What specifically did you pray?" It turned out that none of them prayed for the same thing. There was no agreement in prayer.
We are looking at how Jesus began to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which he read in the temple in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He has been preaching the good news to the poor (financially poor and spiritually poor), he has been healing people and working other miracles. Now it is time for him to choose a team who can help him with doing this work of God.
Alone Jesus cannot cover enough ground, even in one country, to make a big difference and spread the word as far as he wants it to go. He needs help (Luke 6:12-16). His next step is to spend the night in prayer. That's a long time to pray about one thing. I don't know about you, but I don't very often spend the night in prayer. But as you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, often late at night or early in the morning when he could get away from the crowds.
After the night of prayer, Jesus didn't choose just any 12 men. He chose from among those who had been with him consistently, who knew his basic message, and who had seen his miracles. Even with the choice of Judas, who ultimately betrayed him, I believe he selected the men his Father wanted him to name.
This short passage can teach us a couple of things: the importance of prayer before important decisions, or developing a team rather than trying to go about God's work alone. But it also causes me to think about those who were not chosen. What happened to them? Were they fine with Jesus' selection or were they jealous and disgruntled? What did Jesus say to them to smooth things over?
For Reflection: Have I been passed over, not chosen for a team before? Was I the last one chosen for a team in school? Was I turned down for a date? Was I passed over for a job? Let us forgive the person(s) who did not choose us and pray a blessing for them.
Let us pray. Jesus, there have been times when I was not chosen, when I was overlooked. I choose now to forgive that person(s) for not choosing me. And I ask you to heal the memory of the rejection in me and pour out a special blessing on that person today.
Jesus is in the house! As we saw in yesterday's post, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus' standing up and reading from Isaiah in the synagogue is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He then goes out to start fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, as he said he would do. He teaches with authority (Luke 4:31-32, 36); he frees a man possessed by a demon (4:33-35); he heals many people (4:38-41); he preaches the good news to all who would listen (4:42-44).
Jesus does not ask us to do anything for which he did not give us an example. And just as he did not do things in his own strength, he does not want us to do things on our own strength. He had the authority of the Father and the power of the Spirit to preach, to free, to heal. He prayed before he began his ministry, he prayed all during his ministry, he continues to intercede for us before the Father (Romans 8:34).
For Reflection: If Jesus needed to pray, how much more so do I need to pray?
Let us pray. Jesus, you set the example. You laid out the mission. You showed us how to accomplish it - through our prayer, with the authority of the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit and your own intercession. It is in partnership with you that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). You are the source, the holy one.
Wasting time with God. That's what some people call it. It's the time we spend with the Father/Jesus/Holy Spirit when it seems like nothing is going on. We're not conversing, we're just enjoying each other's company, sharing the same space.
Perhaps it's like a long-married couple who don't talk so much any more, but they don't want to be away from each other either. In a book I read recently an older gentleman told his adult children, when their mother had to spend some time in hospital, "You're mother and I have never spent a night apart. I don't intend to start now." So he slept in his wife's hospital room. Conversation is not always necessary, but presence is.
If we've never spent time like this with God, it can be helpful to imagine our favorite place - a beach, the mountains, the woods - and invite God to join us. Replace the present with God's presence.
With regard to the prophets, such as Elijah whom we've been reading about, I'm not sure how far in advance God spoke to them about what he wanted them to do. For example, we don't see, "God said to him, 'Next month I want you to go to the desert.'" It always appears to be immediate instructions that are given.
Sometimes there are long periods when the prophet is not speaking for God. Elijah waited during the 3 years of the drought before God told him to go back and speak to King Ahab again. What did he do during those 3 years? We could assume he did whatever type of work he was doing before God called him to speak to Ahab. Although he fled his home and went to Zarephath, perhaps he had a skill or trade that could be practiced anywhere. But even if he was able to practice his trade in Zarephath, he had left his home and his family behind.
Nor do we know how old he was. Was he about the same age as Ahab? Older? Younger?
What we do know about Elijah is that he had a relationship with God; he listened to God; he waited on God; he was devoted to God. When God spoke, Elijah listened.
For Reflection: Where am I? Do I have a relationship with God? Do I listen to God? Do I wait on God? Am I devoted to God? If God called me to drop everything and do something for him, would I do it?
Let us pray. God, I tell people you are the most important person in my life, but I see now that may true. I'm not sure that I could drop everything to follow your instructions. How do I build my trust in you to the point where I could do that?
"Go and make disciples" is a powerful command from Jesus which is not to be taken lightly. Last weekend we at Manna Prayer made an effort to "Go" by having a space at a local Labor Day Festival. Amid booths for home remodeling, drug addiction, and candidates for public office, we offered to pray with people. A number of folks stopped by to inquire and some to share faith. We passed out brochures and business cards. Just a simple effort to bring Jesus into the public square.
For Reflection: What efforts am I making to fulfill the great commission of Jesus to "Go!"?
Let us pray. Jesus, I don't find it easy to go out among people and talk about you publicly. However, if you can use me, I'm willing.
Our weapon against Satan is words, so what we have is a war of words. Some might not consider words to be very powerful. But we are not speaking of words of diplomacy. These are not the words of Secretary of State. We are speaking words with the same power as God's words of creation. When we speak, all of creation listens.
God's word did not go forth at the time of creation without effecting what he set forth to do. His word does not go forth void now (Isaiah 55:11). No, the word of God is living, active and sharp. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and applies to all of creation (Hebrews 4:12).
Since we are praying again today on behalf of the persecuted Christians around the world, how then ought we to pray? We need to pray aloud and our words might be something like the following. As always, please feel free to add your own prayers.
We command all man-made weapons to be silenced and broken and to never work again (Isaiah 54:17).
We send the word of God into the hearts and minds of those who have a murdering spirit: you shall not kill (Exodus 20:13).
We proclaim the word of God to all who worship false gods: you shall worship the Lord, the God who brought the Hebrew people out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 20;2-3).
We command those with a spirit of hatred and covetousness: you shall not rape women, nor evict people from their homes (Exodus 20:14-17).
We proclaim the word of God for all to hear: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29). You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:13).
Sit, walk, build, put off, put on. What's next?
In our brief review of Paul's letter to the Ephesian church, we have come across these command verbs. We are to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. This is a time of resting in Him and learning who He is and who we are. When we have done this, we are to walk in the ways Christ has shown us. We are to build one another up into the mature body of Christ. Then put off our old ways, and put on the new ways of Christ.
So what is next? Imitate God. Paul writes, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). We learn that we are dearly loved children when we sit in the place of rest with him and learn his ways. When we sit with him in the heavenly places, we observe the ways of the kingdom of God. Since Jesus and the Father are one, when we learn the ways of Jesus, we learn the ways of the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That is how we learn what is to be imitated. Children learn by imitating their parents.
Even Paul did not begin his apostolic life by going out right away to do things. He began by learning about Jesus and learning new ways of living and loving. He began from that place of rest in Christ before he began to preach. Although he began with "the big reveal", he had to learn to walk all over again. He had to learn to build rather than tear down. He had to put off his old ways before he could put on the new. He had to learn to imitate God when he himself had not seen Jesus in his earthly life.
For Reflection: There are many ways to learn to imitate God: reading and studying the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, walking with others who are more mature than we are. And, if we belong to a sacramental church, availing ourselves of the sacraments.
Let us pray. Jesus, we know that you do not leave us adrift when it comes to learning how to follow you. Help us, your beloved children, to grow more like you every day. What do you want me to grow in today?
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.