Singing Prayers

Earlier this month, I enjoyed watching the movie, Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.

One moment that really spoke to me was how Martin Luther encouraged singing in church services. These hymns were also a great way for people to keep singing praises and scripture while working in the fields throughout the day.

The Psalms were created for this as well. They are meant to be sung. I was thrilled to learn that Seedbed Publishing has created an online resource for singing Psalms to popular hymn tunes.

This is a powerful way to pray the scriptures. Often, it’s easier to remember words when they are set to music. Singing the Psalms helps us draw the words into our hearts. And music does something amazing to our spirits.

Look at Revelation 5:8 – the verse on which the harp and bowl style of worship is modeled. Music and incense (representing our prayers) rises before the throne of God.

When we sing Psalms, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are participating in the worship around God’s throne. And we can do this any time of any day or night. How amazing!

Often, people hesitate to sing in praise because they feel like they don’t have a “singing voice.” That doesn’t matter. We don’t need voice training to sing to God. And we don’t need to feel like we can carry a tune. All He asks is that we make a joyful noise (Psalm 100:1). God gave each one of us our unique and beautiful voice. He loves to hear us.

So let’s start singing the Psalms in prayer, praise, and worship. God is worthy!

Praying around the World

As a missionary of prayer, I believe it’s important to pray locally, for my nation, and also for the world. There are many ways to pray for the world and the Holy Spirit should lead our prayers.

Praying for the world can also open up many educational family prayer opportunities – learning together about different countries, cultures, and attuning our hearts to the daily lives of people in different places. Even within a particular country, prayer needs can be vastly different from one region to another.

There is so much to learn and so much to pray. No one person can cover it all. It requires the body of Christ praying together with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and orchestration. I trust that the Holy Spirit prompts our individual and family prayers for the world, placing on our hearts something specific we can pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe.

One of my favorite ways to pray around the world is to contact specific organizations and missionaries to learn more about them and to find out about their specific prayer needs. Sometimes prayer points are listed on an organization’s website. It can be a fulfilling family project to look up some of these online and set aside time to pray for them. At other times, I have emailed organizations and missionaries to ask specifically how I can pray for them.

As I have searched for different ways to pray around the world, I was delighted to come across a blog that publishes prayer needs for ministries in different countries:

Pray for Ministries around the World

I subscribed to this blog and enjoy receiving these global prayer updates by email. Each blog post focuses on people serving in a specific location. It helps me focus prayers on specific people and current situations. I appreciate knowing that my prayers are joined in unity with people around the world. The praises are also wonderful – to hear how God is moving in different places. This is very encouraging.

I hope you will enjoy visiting this blog and praying around the world.

Thanksgiving Prayers

Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful time to reflect on God’s goodness in our lives. We are reminded to really focus our hearts on who God is and how much He loves us. It’s an opportunity to ask God to align our hearts with His, so we can see through His eyes, and love with His love.

As we give our thanks to God, we become aware of the many ways – large and small – He is involved in our daily lives. Thanksgiving is a time to recommit, through our prayers, to live in gratitude each day. Our Thanksgiving prayers can open our hearts to be more thankful, and to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives daily – even (and especially) on difficult days.

As I began to prepare for my Thanksgiving prayer time, I wondered what kinds of prayers people are praying. I found this beautiful website that shares prayers for Thanksgiving, along with prayers for many other moments of our lives. It’s a resource I have bookmarked and will revisit often. I hope you will enjoy their collection of Thanksgiving prayers as much as I did:

12 Thanksgiving Prayers for Family, Children & Dinner Times

May God bless you and  your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

Words and Spiritual Energy

I love object lessons that help me reflect about my prayer life. I’ve been reading a book about energy technology, electric power delivery, and smart homes (Seyi Fabode, Advancing Technologies & The Utility Industry, Amazon Digital Services, LLC, 2017). Three items really stood out in connection with prayer and the spiritual power of our words, good and bad.

The author talks about an augmented reality device that allows a person to “see” the effects of energy use (Loc 914-920). For example, if I’m watching a movie at home, this device would allow me to visually see the energy resources that make this activity possible. The idea is that this visual understanding might help me become more aware of the need for conservation.

This made me wonder what it would be like if we had an augmented reality device that allowed us to “see” the effects of our words, thoughts, and prayers. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that our words can bless or harm. What if we could see that with our eyes? In fact, we can ask God to give us His eyes to see this. And by staying in His presence throughout the day, we can cultivate an awareness of how our words and even our thoughts affect those around us.

The author also describes sensors in the home that can capture and store energy from movement, such as the closing of a door (Loc 807). Later, this stored-up energy becomes available for use in the home. This made me wonder how much energy the slamming of a door in anger or frustration would create. Even more importantly, how much spiritual energy is absorbed into the atmosphere when we slam a door out of anger? How much of that do we create and absorb – and leave where others can absorb, like our kids and any other child that visits our home?

We all get upset at times. I hairline-fractured my wrist knocking my hand against a wall in frustration. We’re human and God understands. But after we settle down and find our balance again, it might be a good idea to repent and ask God to cleanse the atmosphere. We have a bigger impact on our atmosphere than we think – which is good news when we carry God’s peace.

In this book, the author also discusses the increasing use of robots for customer support centers. He comments on how a bigger customer support role for robots would spare human customer service reps from being yelled at all day long (Loc 953).

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when we get upset with a customer service rep (it happens), that this anger is not being heaped on a real person who will take all that angst home at the end of the day? Better yet, even when we are talking to a robot, we can become more mindful of our rising anger, take a step back, and reorient ourselves to God’s presence – maybe not so much for the robot’s sake, but at least for our sake and for those around us.

Meanwhile, let’s keep customer service reps in our prayers. They have a hard job. Not all of them know to put the cross between themselves and others at the beginning of the day, or to pray cleansing at the day’s end. Pray for God to protect and heal them of harsh words spoken and to help them stay in peace.

It’s also good for us to pray that God will guard our hearts and tongues the next time any of us makes a customer service call. By the way, I usually try and ask God ahead of time to get me to the right person (which, believe it or not, often involves disconnections and dropped calls). Not only does that put the conversation in His hands but it also allows a cooling off time as this prayer is spoken.

How about you? What are the practices or habits that help you stay in God’s peace throughout the day? How do you remember to take your thoughts captive to Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5) I’m sure others would love it if you’d share what helps you. Thanks!

A Prayer for Veteran’s Day

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for your love and for the amazing people you have brought into our lives.

We know that today, many of the people we love are remembering painful moments. Many are suffering from the trauma of wars. Please bring them your love and comfort. Please heal the pain of trauma. Give them the peace that only you can give.

Many of us are mourning the loss of our friends and family because of war. Bring us comfort. Help us to remember sweet things about those who are gone, so we can continue to celebrate their lives, even as we mourn.

God, thank you for every person who is serving or has served to protect our country and to bring greater freedom, hope, and peace into our world. We are thankful beyond words, but you hear our hearts. We want to honor their lives, their service, and their families through our prayers of gratitude.

Please forgive each of us for the ways we undermine that peace in our daily lives and interactions, through our thoughts, words, and actions. Help us to stay in your peace.

For all the people who serve in our armed forces today, and for all the veterans who have served, we ask that you keep them safe, bless their lives, and bless their families. Let them know how much you love them.

Thank you, Jesus, for how much you love us. As we remember the people who have died serving our country, we remember too that you died for us, to bring freedom from bondage and to give us eternal life. We thank you today with our whole hearts.

Amen

Praying the Psalms in Communion Liturgy

Currently, I am involved in a non-denominational church. Yet I grew up and at one point served in the United Methodist Church, whose prayer roots I continue to learn about. As a seminary student and prayer missionary, I am interested in learning about prayer traditions of the many branches of the Christian Church. It’s fascinating to me. I think we can learn a lot about biblically based prayer from Christian history and different church traditions.

When I was growing up in the Methodist church, we celebrated Communion on the first Sunday of the month. (Not enough, in my opinion.) Back then, before the days of overhead projectors, we used hymnals to read the Communion liturgy. By the age of five, I had it memorized – not because I was trying to, but simply because I had repeated it so many times. What I never appreciated, until now, were the biblical roots of that liturgy.

On Sunday, I opened my email to find this message from Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, who is president of Asbury Theological Seminary where I attend as a student. I am getting ready to take a class this spring on the Psalms, so this particular article caught my eye:

The Grammar of Repentance: Psalm 38

In this article, Dr. Tennent talks about the importance of repentance in Christian life. He also traces the roots of the typical Methodist Communion liturgy to many of the Psalms, as well as Isaiah.

And he says something that really stood out for me: ” … the Psalms have always been the prayer book for the people of God.”

With my passion for prayer, I am more excited than ever to study the Psalms this spring.

Even though liturgy and hymnals don’t seem to be used as much in the church as they used to be, it might be an interesting family activity (or church class) to look at some of the words of earlier church practices, trace the biblical roots, and pray those prayers as so many people have done across the ages.

If you are curious about the liturgy referred to by Dr. Tennent, here is the full text:

A Service of Word and Table IV

As I was reading over this text, so familiar when I was young, I realized that even in traditional services where hymnals are still used for Communion, often the prayers of confession and pardon are left out – probably to cut down on time. Yet that means we’re missing out on this rich tradition of prayer.

Instead of removing these prayers from the Communion liturgy, it might be helpful even to incorporate these prayers in other aspects of church life. They are great prayers.

I am only familiar with the United Methodist Communion liturgy, referred to in the article by Dr. Tennent. However, it would be interesting to look at the equivalent prayers and liturgy in the history of other branches of the Church.

Does your family or church pray any of the older liturgical prayers, or pray from the Psalms? I would enjoy hearing and learning about your prayer traditions and practices.

 

A Shoebox of Hope

I remember one Christmas when I was a teenager, I opened a box from my cousin who lived on the other side of the country. She had stuffed it full of goodies – “little things,” she called them, but they meant so much to me. She had listened closely, through letters and visits, and knew my heart really well. The items in her box were handpicked especially for me.

It wasn’t the size of the item that mattered; it was the way each item spoke to my heart and affirmed me. The contents of the box told me how much she cared and how important I was to her. The timing was also significant because I had just lost my father. The Christmas box from my cousin was a way to celebrate life in the midst of grieving. That’s where I first learned that really good things can come in a small box.

I love the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoeboxes. Just like my cousin’s Christmas box, these shoeboxes tell a child that you care enough to pay attention to his or her needs. And that a lot of love can be stuffed into a tiny box. More importantly, your shoebox sends the love of Christ. Your gifts tell this child that God loves him or her so much that He moved someone’s heart from miles away to fill their Christmas with joy, love, and hope. Your shoebox allows God to touch a child’s heart with His love.

Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox collection week is only one week away! There is still time to send your love and prayers to one of God’s kids this Christmas. Have fun! God bless you.

I volunteer for the public Samaritan’s Purse Blogger Network.

Grow Your Family’s Prayer Life with Prayer Stations

Prayer is a journey. It’s an amazing daily adventure with God. You never know where He will take you, but you know it will be good. He is good. Time spent with Him daily in prayer will make your whole life an amazing adventure.

Prayer is largely invisible. Sometimes it helps to find symbolic ways to make visible what is happening in the spiritual realm. Prayer stations are a great way to do this.

You might have seen or participated in a prayer station. It’s a space that is set up to visually represent and prompt a time of prayer. The station might depict a scene from the Bible. It might suggest a prayer for a particular situation, with pictures or items to represent that prayer. It’s just something that makes prayer tangible.

A more elaborate form of prayer stations are the well-known Stations of the Cross that are often set up during Holy Week. We did this at our church one time with live actors, and it was a very moving experience. At one of our stations, we invited people to write out their prayer requests. The bowl was overflowing with their heartfelt requests, just like the incense of Revelation 5:8.

At a local monastery, they have a beautiful outdoor path that moves you through the various Stations of the Cross. It invites you to walk where Jesus walked as He carried His cross to the outskirts of Jerusalem. If you go to Israel, you can find these moments marked with signs.

One year during the Lenten season, our church set up small prayer stations in the sanctuary. We left these up in the window sills for the entire season. They weren’t Stations of the Cross, but simply prayer stations, each one focusing us on a biblical theme of prayer. It was a great reminder to pray, and it was a way to interact with God in prayer each time we entered the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was open during the week, so people could stop by anytime and pray through the stations, or just find one station to focus on.

Those are some of the ways churches can offer prayer stations for their church families. But how about your own family? Have you considered creating prayer stations at home?

There are many ways you can do this. If you enjoy decorating seasonally along with your children, it might be fun to set up seasonal prayer stations – for Advent, Lent, the four seasons, or even school exam time. Let your children have the biggest part in putting the stations together, which might include drawing pictures or collecting natural items from outdoors. Then spend time each week as a family at those prayer stations. Don’t be surprised if the children or grownups enjoy additional time stopping to pray on their own.

Another way is to set up smaller prayer stations that stay there year round. This could be as simple as putting a post-it note in a corner of the hallway that says, “What are you thankful for?” or “What do you love best about talking with God?” These could serve as daily reminders and prompts for prayer.

One of your family prayer stations might include a cork board with pieces of paper, pens, and pushpins, where family members can write and pin up prayer requests. Encourage your kids to write prayer requests for themselves and for friends they are concerned about. During your regular family prayer times, you can talk about and pray for these requests. The prayer station offers a way to keep those requests in front of the family all week.

Prayer stations are a great way for your family to grow in prayer. They will help you keep prayer as a major focus of your family’s day.

Have you tried prayer stations at home? How about in your church? What are some of the ways you have done this? What do you like best about prayer stations? What results have you seen in your family?

I would love to hear about your experiences. Please consider sharing in the Comments below so that others can benefit too. God bless  you! Have a prayerfully adventurous day with God.

Jesus Has It Covered

I love object lessons in spirituality.

Recently, a friend needed to move her office and several of us pitched in. She has a giant painting of Jesus on her wall. This was painted prophetically during a worship service and it is a stunning portrait. It’s also hard to move and hang on the wall.

In the process of moving her office, a piece of furniture scratched the wall. Fortunately, that’s where she decided to hang the Jesus painting. It was big enough to cover the scratch.

A friend made the observation: “Look! Jesus has it covered.”

Given that our friend uses that office for healing prayer, that seemed very fitting. That’s the message God gives to everyone who comes to Him in prayer: “I’ve got it covered.”

What a wonderful reminder to see that painting on the wall, over the spot that was scratched. Now, every time I see the painting, I will remember: “Jesus has it covered.”

Why Aren’t We Desperate?

I was talking yesterday with a friend who just returned from Uganda. She spent several weeks with a neighborhood ministry that had requested inner healing prayer. As she shared about the desperate situation and the hunger in the people’s hearts, she also lamented that she seldom finds that kind of hunger here at home.

We considered what it means to be desperate for God and why that often seems more prevalent outside the United States. Then we talked about the desperate situations all around us here at home. Perhaps there are two aspects of “desperate.” One involves situations. The other concerns attitudes of our hearts.

Despite the disparity of wealth among nations, people’s lives can be in despair no matter where they live. Here in the United States, I know plenty of people in desperate need of God. But they don’t recognize it the way people in some other places do. Why not?

A scene from a movie comes to mind. The doctor in Beyond Borders is operating on a dying woman in Ethiopia during a time of famine. He explains that people thank him with their whole hearts there, whereas back in London,  they don’t thank doctors as deeply. In the Ethiopian camp where he is serving, there are no pain killers, so the people feel everything. They appreciate help on a gut-wrenching level.

He asks the visiting American, “What do you do when you have a cold?”

She suggests several common remedies.

He says, “Do you ever just have the cold?”

The answer is no. When we have the means, we doctor ourselves up, doing whatever it takes not to feel the cold, the pain, the discomfort.

And that is the difference between desperate situations and desperate hearts.

Here in the United States, we have many ways to mask our pain. We numb ourselves, seek self-comfort, hide in false refuges, drown things out with our noise and busyness, deny our realities, and sweep truth under the rug.

We can only become desperate for God when we realize how desperate our situations are. The more we hide, numb, self-comfort, and deny, the less we will recognize our deep need for God.

In fact, as another friend pointed out, our ability to numb ourselves is what makes our situation desperate. We have become really good at blocking God from the places in our hearts that hurt the most.

How do we change?

It has to start with each one of us, individually, and then as families, and then as church families.

We have to be real with what’s going on in our hearts. We have to let God bring things to the surface so He can deal with them. We need to acknowledge the pain, feel it, and embrace it. To recognize that we have nothing without God. Then we need to invite Him into those difficult places in our hearts, so He can bring true healing.

We also must be willing to hold each other accountable to this – and to let ourselves be accountable to others as a family, and as a body of Christ.

What do you think? Wouldn’t this be a good day to start?

Will you join me in this prayer?

Lord Jesus, thank You that You came to set us free from the ways we have become held captive in lies, denial, and our ability to sidestep our own pain. Forgive us for the ways we cover up, numb ourselves, and whitewash the realities of our lives. Search our hearts and show us where our deepest hurts and fears are hidden. Bring Your light, truth, and healing to every area of our hearts. We want to be completely in relationship with You, with our whole hearts. Help us, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“’The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;'”

     — Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

     — Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)