A Prayer: On the Occasion of “Remade”

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This invocation was offered in Truett’s chapel service on April 26, 2022.

Lord of all creation,
Maker of heaven and earth,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

We enter your presence with gladness,
For all you have made is good.

As we come before you to worship, as we enter into your courts, as we lift our voices in song, as we open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to you,
Grant us your grace, your strength, your wisdom, your guidance, and your power.

We confess you as our Creator.
We confess you as our Redeemer.
We confess you as the one who sanctifies us, sustains us, preserves us, and as the one who alone brings ultimate peace, justice, restoration, and renewal.

In a word: Salvation.

If we turn toward you, if we behold you as you truly are, we are compelled to lay our hearts low, to fall upon our faces and to admit we are unworthy, that we do not honor you as we ought, that we fail you, we sin. We serve other gods. We do not love our neighbor as ourselves. We do not keep your commands.

And yet, where we are faithless, you, O God, are faithful.

And by your great, unending, and unceasing mercy, you have unleashed the power of new creation through the life, death, resurrection, and reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You have undone death.

You have cast down the devil.

You have disarmed the powers, principalities, and authorities.

You have renewed your covenant.

You have extended your salvation to those who were once far off.

You have taken our hearts of stone, and given us hearts of flesh.

You have mended bone and sinew, muscle and flesh, and you have moved us from death–death in our transgressions and sins–to life–life in and through Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and who has sealed us for the day of your redemption.

Your work of new creation is evidenced here. All we need to do is look around and witness those you have gathered as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have anointed, appointed, called, and equipped us for your kingdom work. You have gathered us to worship.

We trust you are sanctifying us, even making us perfect and complete in your love.

We know one day you will glorify us, and welcome us to your banquet table in the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth.

We wait for that day. We hope in it.

Give us patience, Lord.

Grant us diligence, as workers in your field.

And as we wait, and as we work, remake us in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

May we adore him, and worship him, this hour, and discover our hearts being made new.

We pray these things in Jesus’ name, the worthy one, the honored one.

Amen.

Be That Person

Dayspring Baptist Church, Waco, Texas

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work— work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 30

An Invitation

Come, Holy Spirit, with all your sweet and precious favor.
Come, Lord, to convince and comfort me, to humble and direct me, to chill my affections to the world, and to warm them toward Jesus.

Come, you holy, gracious, almighty reviver and restored–and glorifier of my God and Savior!

Cause the graces you have planted in my soul to go forth in a way of love and desire, faith and expectation. Let me hope in the person and glory of the one my soul loves. Then I will cry out with the church, “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat of his pleasant fruits.” Amen!

Robert Hawker, as cited in Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans, Robert Elmer, ed.

Every Moment Holy: A Collection of Liturgies, Prayers Worth Having

A few weeks ago Molly and I stopped by our local bookshop, and as we browsed the shelves we came across a little book called Every Moment Holy [affiliate link]. I’ve linked to the pocket edition. There is a full-sized edition as well. It is published by Rabbit Room Press. This collection of prayers are written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey, and the book is illustrated by Ned Bustard.

You can visit the Every Moment Holy website to download sample liturgies, to purchase prints, and to learn more about the book. If you like what you see, you could also pick up Every Moment Holy, Vol. 2: Death, Grief & Hope [affiliate link]. The pocket edition of Vol. 2 releases later this month.

The prayers contained in Vol. 1 include liturgies for window washing, changing diapers, fiction writing, and meal preparation. Those are “Liturgies for Labor and Vocation.” You can view the contents here. There are prayers of petition, lament, for recreation, for relationships, for the table, for laughter, for thoughts of another…and for so many common occurrences of life, which, when bathed in prayer, take on a new frame.

I’ve only held Vol. 1 in my hand. This book contains compelling liturgies and prayers; it is also pleasant to hold. Not all books these days are.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing.” These prayers help us see that every moment, every occasion, can be conducted while in communion with God. The heart can be set, fixed upon God’s presence and activity. Words help us direct our attention and sharpen our focus. Every Moment Holy is a tool, one that can be put to edifying use.

Check it out.

Brancusi’s Observation

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957)

I met icon-makers during my youth in the country. I remember that an icon-maker before starting to paint, or a maker of wooden crosses before starting to carve, would fast for a few weeks in a row. They prayed continually that their icons and crosses would be beautiful.

Constantin Brancusi, Artist and Sculptor, quoted by Cameron J. Anderson, “Transcendence and Immanence: The Sculpture of Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti,” in God in the Modern Wing: Viewing Art with Eyes of Faith, edited by Cameron J. Anderson and G. Walter Hansen

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Brancusi observed something that should be true of all good Christian work: everything begins with prayer.

Thomas Kelly on Continuous Prayer

Photo by Luke Tanis on Unsplash

This practice of continuous prayer in the presence of God involves developing the habit of carrying on the mental life at two levels. At one level we are immersed in the world of time, of daily affairs. At the same time, but at a deeper level of our minds, we are in active relation with the Eternal Life. I do not think this is a psychological impossibility, or an abnormal thing. One sees a mild analogy in the very human experience of being in love. The newly accepted lover has an internal life of joy, of bounding heart, of outgoing aspiration toward his beloved. Yet he goes to work, earns his living, eats his meals, pays his bills. But all the time deep within, there is a level of awareness of an object very dear to him. This awareness is private; he shows it to no one; yet it spills across and changes his outer life, colors his behavior, and gives new zest and glory to the daily round. Oh yes, we know what a mooning calf he may be at first, what a lovable fool about outward affairs. But when the lover get things in focus again, and husband and wife settle down to the long pull of the years, the deep love-relation underlies all the raveling frictions of home life, and recreates them in the light of the deeper currents of love. The two levels are there, the surface and the deeper, in fruitful interplay with the creative values coming from the deeper into the daily affairs of life.

So it is sometimes when one becomes a lover of God.

Thomas Kelly, The Sanctuary of the Soul

Kelly adds, “How do you begin this double mental life, this life at two levels? You begin now, wherever you are. Listen to these words outwardly. But, within, deep within you, continue in steady prayer, offering yourself and all that you are to Him in simple, joyful, serene, unstrained dedication.”

Laubach: A Walking Prayer

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One of the best ways to pray is to take a vigorous walk, talking to God in rhythm with the steps, thus:

“Lord, use my prayer–to help these people I am passing–to look up to Thee–to be hungry for Thy voice–to long to do Thy will–to hear Thee speak–to obey Thy voice–to do Thy will.”

There is no more exhilarating way of taking exercise than a walking prayer. When your brain is weary, go out into a crowd and waft prayers in all directions; let them trial you like a bridal veil, after people as they pass you. You will get the sense that something delicately gauzy, like soft morning light, floats after those for whom you pray. If your experience duplicates mine, you will feel a strange power developing like some long unused muscle.

Frank Laubach, Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World, pgs. 85-86. Published 1946.

Frank Laubach (1884-1970) was an American Christian missionary and champion for global literacy. One of his most famous teachings was to encourage Christians to purposefully turn their thoughts toward God for at least one second of every minute of every day, thus keeping God front-and-center in all of life’s activity.

He was also a strong advocate for global peace, and for prayer. His book Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World, contains numerous “experiments in prayer,” or ways of praying during the course of an ordinary day. He encourages his readers to keep a notebook handy, to observe results, to record answers. His instruction is often as simple as to pray the name of Jesus in each encounter. Laubach had a firm conviction that prayer activated the power of God in the world, that our prayers, somehow and someway, were woven into the unfolding of God’s purposes for the world.

In Secret

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“Let there always be quiet, dark churches in which men can take refuge. Places where they can kneel in silence. Houses of God, filled with His silent presence. There, even when they do not know how to pray, at least they can be still and breathe easily. Let there be a place somewhere in which you can breathe naturally, quietly, and not have to take your breath in continuous short gasps. A place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship the Father in secret.”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

I’ve been in many a silent church, a place of worship, ground designated for meeting with God. Most of these spaces have been found in cities. Those spaces are a gift. During my youth ministry years I traveled to Philadelphia, Chicago, Omaha, Minneapolis, and Houston to serve in urban contexts. If I’m in a downtown and I come upon a church, I pull the door. If it is open, I go inside.

A church building is, on the one hand, just a building like any other building. On the other hand, whether it be a simple A-frame building located in the countryside or an elaborate cathedral, there is something special about those spaces. There is a spirit to them, a character. There is a sense of history. Even if the singing in that space has long since ceased, and the prayers offered on those grounds have long echoed into silence, there is a resonance. It invites me to sit awhile, and wonder, think, pray.

Let there always be such spaces.

A Prayer as a New Semester Begins

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

O Lord,

Help me to do the things you want me to do,
Know the things you want me to know,
Seek the things that you want me to seek,
Feel the things that you want me to feel,
Think the things that you want me to think,
Speak the things you want me to speak.

Nothing more.
Nothing less.

For the glory of your coming kingdom,
And for the honor of your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Benner: Beyond “Conversational” Prayer

Image by reenablack from Pixabay

The problem with understanding prayer as conversation is that prayer is so much more than communication. Reducing it to conversation makes it simply mental activity–words and thoughts being a product of the left hemisphere of the brain. Prayer includes the mind, but is not limited to it. God invites engagement with more of our brain and more of our being. The glorious truth is that I can be praying to God without speaking to God, or without even consciously thinking of God. If this wasn’t true, how could we ever hope to realize the ideal of continuous prayer that is encouraged by the Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18)? Obviously we cannot be thinking about God all the time. Nor can we be talking to God all the time. But prayer can be as foundational to our daily life as breathing. It can become a part of living, not just a religious practice or spiritual discipline.

A better starting point for an adequate understanding of the breadth of prayer is to view it as communion with God. Communion includes conversation but is much broader. Because it involves union, not just closeness and connection, it also entails much more intimacy than mere conversation. We are, as Paul reminds us, in Christ, just as Christ is in us. That language reflects the intermingling that is part of true communion. It does not get much more intimate than this–an intimacy that is based on the reality of a mystical union with Christ, in the present moment, not simply something to be hoped for in the future. Our experiential knowing of this reality may be limited. But the union is real, even now. And the communion that we experience in prayer is also real–so real that, more so than anything else that I know of, this prayer communion has the power to transform us from the inside out.

David Benner, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer (Expanded Edition)

That pretty much nails it.