Category: Prayer (page 1 of 22)

Prayer of Our Lord

It’s striking to me that in the very last recorded conversation between Jesus and his Father in the Gospel of John, just hours before his hands and feet would be nailed to the tree, Jesus is talking about our unity as his followers. These are some of the very last words of our Lord. And they carry so much weight.

“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All the ones I have are yours, and all the ones you have are mine. And glory has come to me through them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe… May they be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” ~John 17:9-23

This prayer of Jesus is very familiar to us. Maybe a bit too familiar, like maybe we’ve heard it so often and read it so much and NOT made it the priority that Christ does, we’ve NOT pursued it and practiced it or been willing to die for it like Christ is. Maybe it’s lost its punch. Verse ten has really jumped out at me the past couple of weeks. Maybe the message of verse ten can revive the punch in our Lord’s prayer.

“All the ones I have are yours and all the ones you have are mine.”

All those who belong to God belong to Christ and all those who belong to Christ belong to God, which means all those who confess Jesus as Lord — “all who will believe in me” — all belong to each other. We’re not promoting Christian unity here, we’re practicing it. Christian unity is not something we chase or pursue, it’s not something we must generate or create; it’s already the reality! Christian unity is the gift we’ve all been given by God in Christ.

Scripture tells us we all form one body, that this is the way it is in Christ.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… In fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” ~1 Corinthians 12:13, 18, 27

We don’t try hard to be a part of the body. We don’t do our best to share in the blessings of belonging to God’s one universal and united people. No! Listen to the Bible! You. It’s plural, actually, so, you all. Y’all ARE the body of Christ. So act like it.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:26-28

Because of our fallen, sinful nature as humans and because of the broken systems and structures of the fallen, sinful world, we don’t see each other enough. We don’t listen enough to each other’s stories. We don’t know each other well enough to practice and live this unity that’s already there if we’ll just pay attention to it. If we’ll just look each other in the eye. If we’ll really listen to each other well. If we’ll commit to loving all believers in Jesus as the brothers and sisters in Christ they are.

“In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5

What does it mean for all Christians to belong to each other? It means we love each other. We forgive each other. We help carry each other’s burdens. We look out for each other and take care of each other. It means offering grace to people we’d rather punch in the throat. It means standing alongside those whose politics we might detest.

This is what Jesus prayed. This is who Jesus is. The way Jesus lived his life, the things he taught and the stories he told — he erase all the labels we attach to others. He obliterated the ways we draw lines and build walls between us and others. He lived and taught the complete unity of all God’s people.

When you see the hungry and thirsty — listen to the words of Jesus — when you see the alien, the naked and the sick, when you see the prisoner, you’re looking at me.

The Samaritan? Yeah, he’s your neighbor. That’s right, the guy who doesn’t look like you, his skin’s a different color than yours, he lives in a different part of the city, he doesn’t smell like you, he doesn’t vote like you, he believes and practices his Christianity a little differently than you — he’s yours. You are responsible for each other.

Jesus completely turned upside down the whole economy of the way the world operates. The first are last! The poor are blessed! The oppressed are kings! We love our enemies and pray for those who treat us wrong! Why would we ever stand by and ignore or go along with the world’s status quo when our Lord Jesus prayed that it would all be changed?

Each member belongs to all the others. All the ones I have are yours and all the ones you have are mine. Taking care of each other. Uniting as one. That’s the prayer of our Lord. It’s what he asked for the night before he died.

Peace,

Allan

We Need a Prayer

We need a clear solution for what’s wrong in our broken world. We need a vivid picture to make it real. We need a bold call for what’s necessary. We need the courage for what’s demanded. We need a vision for what’s really possible.

We need hope. We need a prayer.

“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All the ones I have are yours, and all the ones you have are mine. And glory has come to me through them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe… May they be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.” ~John 17:9-23

Uniting as One is the prayer of our Lord and the hope of the world.

This is God’s goal and our destination. This is at the core of God’s covenant promise that his people would live and serve and worship together in joy and peace. It’s at the heart of who we are as followers of his Son, that we are all one together. It’s the very reason Jesus died on the cross, to destroy all the barriers that divide his people.

It doesn’t need biblical explanation as much as it needs fearless proclamation. We don’t need to read it and believe it as much as we need to preach it and practice it. Uniting as One brings glory to Christ and it testifies to the truth about Jesus and his claims. It validates who Jesus is as the Son of God and the eternal and reigning Prince of Peace.

This is the solution given to us by God. This is the vivid picture that makes it real. This is the bold call for what’s needed. This is the vision that can invigorate our imaginations and our witness in a world that’s groaning for what God’s Church has to give. Uniting as One is the prayer of our Lord and the hope of the world.

The time is right now. The opportunity is right here. And it’s not going to be easy. The racial division among Christians and the racial injustice in this country is territory our Enemy has had for a long, long time and he’s not going to give it up to a bunch of Christians like us without a fight.

But our faith is in God through our risen and coming Lord Jesus. And our trust is in his promise that the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit flows through us to equip and encourage and embolden and heal us when we’re together. When we’re united as one. Then the whole world will believe. May that day start right now.

Peace,

Allan

Wake Us Up, Lord

There are dark places in this country, Lord. Please open our eyes to see. And give us courage to act so that we may shine the light of your goodness and mercy into those spaces.

There are hurting people in this nation, Lord. Please open our hearts to feel. And give us the vision and the initiative to provide comfort and healing and peace.

There are divisions in this country, Lord. Please unite your Church. And bring us together in worship and service so the people of this land will know that you are God.

There is sin in the United States, Lord. Please open our souls to live and work together as your people in this nation. Compel us by your Spirit to forgive others, to love our enemies, to sacrifice and suffer in putting the needs of others ahead of our own, to point our neighbors to the glory of your great Name and to the free gift of salvation in your Son by the ways we truly care.

Wake us up, Lord. Give us a renewed awareness of the pain and the problems around us. We pray for healing, Father, for our families, for our churches, for our country. Send your Holy Spirit, God, to work in us and through us for the sake of this nation. And may your holy will be done in and through your Church in the United States — through your children here, through those of us who call your Son our only Lord — just as it is in heaven.

In the name of our risen and coming Lord Jesus.

Amen.

A Covid-19 Lament

Our church Communications Director, Hannah McNeill, and I took our church family through a lament exercise on this week’s Central Podcast. We looked at lament from a biblical view point and then walked our congregation through writing a personal lament prayer. I believe lament is the biblical and historical way God’s people have always worked through suffering and injustice. Lament is a holy way to process what’s happening in the world and in our own worlds so as to be both honest with God and honoring of God. It’s a mostly neglected form of prayer that feels especially appropriate and helpful during this season of suffering and loss. You can listen to the podcast here, download the worksheet here, and learn how to write your own psalm of lament. This is the prayer I wrote and shared at the end of the podcast.

Father God, you are the Holy Creator of Heaven and Earth,
you are the giver and sustainer of life;
you are our protection and provision,
you are the healer of all diseases.
You, O God, give life to the dead and call things that are not
as though they are.

So, where are you right now?

How can you allow the older saints among us to suffer so —
those with already debilitating issues,
those with compromised immune systems,
those who already struggle with so much —
how can you allow them to suffer even more with the fears and the realities
of this new virus?

Why are you allowing the socio-economic minorities to bear the brunt of this new disease?
Why do the refugees in the camps,
the orphans in the homes,
and the homeless in the streets
carry the weight of this worldwide pandemic?
Why are the people who need their jobs and the income the most
the only ones losing their jobs and income during this crisis?

How long is this going to last?
Our sons’ graduations have been canceled,
our daughters’ weddings have been postponed,
and our church hasn’t worshiped together in the same room for nine weeks.
Lonely people are lonelier,
sick people are suffering by themselves,
dying people are being buried without songs.
How much longer, O Lord?

This disease is making the division in our country worse, not better.
Our politicians are more on the attack and less willing to compromise
for the sake of the people.
We don’t have any answers.
We don’t know what to do.
We can’t make any decisions. Nothing is stable.
We can’t make any plans. Nothing is certain.
Everything feels out of control and up in the air.
Why do you just stand there, God, and do nothing?

Lord, in your kindness, would you intervene?
God in heaven, would you please do something here on earth?

Heal us, loving Father.
Drive this virus away from your creation, powerful Healer, and give us a break.
Have mercy on us, O God.
Show us your compassion and grace and destroy this disease
that is causing so much heartache and pain.

It is hard to feel your presence, Lord.
It is hard to know that you care.
This doesn’t feel like love.
This doesn’t seem very fair.

Good people are suffering, Father.
Don’t you see them? Don’t you care?

But, God, you are Emmanuel; we know that you are always with us.
We know that you suffer with us and care deeply for every part
of your creation.
We know that you are near.
We know that you listen to our cries for rescue and that you hear
our prayers of petition.
And we know that you care.
You are faithful and good, Father.
You have answered our prayers in the past,
and we know you will answer our prayers today.

Our trust is in you, O Lord.
We see you at work in the middle of our discouragement and despair.
Our society is paying more attention to the vulnerable and the weak,
our culture is celebrating acts of sacrifice and service —
you are the One causing that.

Our hope is in you, O Lord.
You are keeping our church family together
and working in us and through us to bless others.
Orphans in Kenya are sheltered and safe,
students at Bivins Elementary have food,
Amarillo heart doctors have masks,
our city’s needy have meals and money —
you are the One behind that.

Our faith is in you, O Lord.
You have revealed yourself to us in our Savior Jesus Christ,
and our faith is in you.
You have provided everything we have ever needed
and you have promised to provide for us today and forever.

Praise the Lord.
Amen.

Zoomin’

It looks and feels more like Brady Bunch than Upper Room, but our elders at Central are continuing to meet regularly to pray over our church family and to shepherd our congregation. What a joy to spend time with these godly men and to hear their hearts as they lift up our brothers and sisters to our Father in prayer. What a blessing to be the personal recipient of so much encouragement, support, and love. What a privilege to be part of this Christ-centered, others-focused, mission-minded, prayer-first leadership team.

I praise God for these men. And I’m so thankful we’re at the same church at the same time.

Peace,

Allan

Prayer of Petition

For the past two years, my mornings with the Lord have been guided by my little blue book. I was given the book, “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants,” at the Transforming Community in Chicago. For each week of the year it contains the Lectionary readings, some inspirational writings, a hymn, and some prayers. (When I don’t know the hymn, I sing it out loud to the tune of “Amazing Grace” which, somehow, usually works.)

What follows here is the prayer for the week offered in my little blue book. I have prayed this prayer out loud every morning this week and I used it to close out the podcast we recorded yesterday for our church family. It seems divinely-ordained to be used by God’s people this week. It’s attributed to William Barclay. And I’d like to share it with you.

O God, our Father, we know that the issues of life and death are in your hands, and we know that you are loving us with an everlasting love. If it is your will, grant us to live in happiness and peace.

In all our undertakings,
grant us prosperity and good success.
In all our friendships,
grant us to find our friends faithful and true.
In all bodily things,
make us fit and healthy,
able for the work of the day.
In all the things of the mind,
make us calm and serene,
free from anxiety and worry.
In material things,
save us from poverty and want.
In spiritual things,
save us from doubt and distrust.
Grant us
in our work, satisfaction;
in our study, true wisdom;
in our pleasure, gladness;
in our love, loyalty.

And if misfortune does come to us, grant that any trial may only bring us closer to one another and closer to you; and grant that nothing may shake our certainty that you work all things together for good, and that a Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear.

Hear this, our prayer;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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