April Kingdom Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

When I sat down to write this morning’s prayer, my mind naturally drifted to my Dad, who just left this earth to be with you, Lord. I don’t know exactly what happens after death or what it looks like and it often leaves me feeling strange and a little uneasy. I make no claims to be bible savvy and don’t know how specific it gets when describing the immediate afterlife. Funerals and health scares gets one thinking about these types of things and for good reason. It does encourage envy in me sometimes of those already gone because when pain and failure hits, I want the ease of something other than this life. Jesus prayed that you, God, are in heaven and that You have a plan. If I’m choosing to believe that the Jesus of the Bible is honest and true, then I’m choosing to believe this prayer, given to Jesus’ disciples, is guaranteeing to us that this earth is not all there is, that You are worthy of honor and that You intend for much more. This morning I lift up in prayer to you the families that have lost someone they love and are wondering about the mystery and what comes after that last breath. I also pray for those of us hurrying about our days with little to no thought of death. My prayer is that you will hold us in a way that we can feel the sorrow and also practice the trusting in there being something greater.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lord, what about that anger I feel? Anger over the power of words and anger over things out of my control. Anger that I don’t feel how I want to feel. Death and loss is hard enough, but having other feverish emotions grabbing ahold of the coat tails of grief feels plain tacky. Lord, help us to separate ourselves from the strong emotions that we often wear like reading glasses. Help us to step back and see them as something that could be getting in the way of a healthy perspective, a gentle response, or a kind attitude. When we see and feel pain caused by others words and actions, please give us space to separate from those, too; to see that others’ sin and mistakes do not define them and that we can choose forgiveness and grace regardless of how we feel about it. You tell us to forgive just as you do and I know that it can only be done with Your help.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

The movies I see and headlines I read give me pause as I consider what I truly believe. Wouldn’t it be easier to agree with this or that? Wouldn’t it feel freeing to escape the confines of my everyday life and explore one more adventurous and tempting? What truly is right and wrong? How much do we rely on generational “rules” or uptight guidelines that are never mentioned or implied in Your Word and that cause us to unnecessarily judge others? Are we falling prey to people pleasing that leads to jumping on the trendy bandwagon without too much thought or prayer? Stop us in our tracks before we make that comment or that choice, pass that gossip, or assume the worst in others.  

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

February Kingdom Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Although my moods and feelings change often and doubt creeps about, right now I feel a deepness in my belly as I think of You in heaven. Oh, what Your Kingdom will be like. I think it’s similar to how one feels when we become enraptured with a fairy tale or love story; the excitement over what will one day be true is thrilling. I can only imagine the sigh of relief we will feel. When life feels overwhelming or when we feel ridiculed for believing in such a story, I pray that you will give us just what we need to move through those emotions and CHOOSE to trust in You and choose to trust that what You say is true. Your Will is mysterious and to be honest, frustrating at times. My first instinct is to assume You feel annoyed with our ignorance and doubts, but then I’m remembering that You see us a sheep; helpless little creatures that receive Your gentle compassion, love, and patience. Thank you for loving us. 

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Help, Lord! Generations of us are falling prey to commercialism and without knowing, are spending money and time on things of little value. We might want attention, approval, more confidence, or just the warm feeling of “one more thing” or “one more minute”. Why is self-control and self-discipline so hard for us humans? Please forgive us for ignorance, laziness or excuse-making. Forgive us for judging others, even those closest to us, for something that we are also guilty of, but are unable to see because of the giant log that’s in our own eye. Thank you that You do forgive us and welcome us to try again and learn the art of relying on You for our comfort, confidence, and acceptance. 

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

Help us see those temptations differently, if even as a tiny glimmer. Whisper into our ear an opportunity to stand firm and choose differently. Help us not forget that we can put on the armor and even in baby steps, learn a new rhythm and pattern for the 24 hours of each day You give us. 

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Emily

I’m in the midst of reading Tim Keller’s book called, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God. I’m enjoying it because it’s both speaking down to my level on this sometimes tough topic and doesn’t sugarcoat what prayer can be “in just three easy steps”. One piece Keller addresses is how The Lord’s Prayer, as it was intended by Jesus, can be a guide for our own prayers as simple humans. As I’ve been reading I keep thinking, “Aha! My pastor must have read this book!” because we were emphasizing The Lord’s Prayer in church for a while where we took the basic outline of the prayer and filled in or elaborated with what that realistically looks like in our current world and community. To me, this practice in corporate worship has given it meat and more substance than we stereotypically give it since it’s become a rote memory version for many people. This prayer came directly from Jesus Christ in response to the question of how to pray. It’s not long, yet is deep and covers a lot of ground. Keller says, “Prayer in all its forms-adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and petition-reorients your view and vision of everything.”

I’ve written on my struggles with prayer in a previous post, and one of the refreshing and encouragingly honest reminders I read was that prayer is often hard work and that we should do it even when we don’t feel like it. Keller says, “We sometimes have to wrestle even in order to pray. We often wrestle in prayer just to concentrate” and he quotes Austin Phelps (nineteenth-century theologian): “When those hours of the day come in which we should be having our prayer sessions with God, it often appears as though everything has entered into a conspiracy to prevent it.”

Not only have I found it challenging to establish consistent quiet time, but I have also felt like I rarely “hear” from God (at least not like I’ve been thinking I should). When I do pray through the day or sometimes write out my prayers, I’ve been focusing on specific people that need help, circumstances, etc., but often about how to best use my time or I’ve asked to be guided by Him on decisions and how I can both glorify and rest in Him. I also spend a lot of time asking God to help me see how He loves me, to settle my mind and heal the broken parts that alter my thinking and outlook. With all of that asking, I have been hoping to really sense direction or “hear” it in my mind, so when it doesn’t come like I think it should or as often as I think it should, I bop around in a bit of doubt, frustration, and loneliness. However, I was reflecting recently on my frustration with myself and God on this issue of prayer and wrote this in my journal:

“I’m finding myself upset with God because I don’t think He’s making himself evident or close to me, but my definition of Him being accessible is that I would also feel good each time; giddy and peaceful, knowing He’s there. That can’t always be the case though, I wouldn’t think. How do I feel uneasy or unsettled inside, but also sense God? I don’t know. But, I don’t want to have a silly expectation that frustrates me with God and even possibly miss Him in other ways He reaches out to me.”

Realizing that I have misguided expectations was good for me. I’m hoping it will continue to help me let go of the efforts to try and pray just the right way in order to get Him to hear me. It doesn’t work like that. He does hear us. I have just recently seen encouraging reminders of that, too. After a rather honest journal/prayer entry about my frustrations, I ended it with, “I want you to change and heal me. I also want you to blow me away with supernatural direction or insight; to have certainty that you hear me or want to use me in some way. I know that doesn’t have to be spectacular, but I guess I want and desire affirmation from you that my issues and struggles aren’t for naught.”

A couple weeks after writing that, I was honored with the opportunity to encourage a dear friend’s child who is having an incredibly tough time with anxiety. Although his mother is one of my favorite friends and is devoted, loving, and tender, she couldn’t relate to many of his obsessive worries. I could though and I knew how his little brain was wracked with icky thoughts. I have had enough “practice” of my own with it to send him encouragement and tips that have helped me find rest along the way. I feel like God gave me just the right words, too. You should have heard his response and gratefulness! What a joyful treat it was for me to feel as though I have finally been able to use my own mess to bless another. I feel like God heard my prayer and that He gave me a gift of encouragement, too. Even though I had tangible evidence that He heard me in that situation, the truth is that He always hears us.

Tim Keller, using the wisdom of John Calvin as inspiration, says, “Cry, ask, and appeal-you will get many answers. Finally, where you do not get an answer, or where the answer is not what you want, use prayer to enable you to rest in his will.” He also directly quotes Calvin as writing, “Though cast down and overcome by true humility, we should be nonetheless encouraged to pray by a sure hope that our prayer will be answered.” 

I hope this can serve as an encouragement to you that even though it may seem as though you’re not being heard or if you’re feeling frustrated with God or worried you’re not good enough for Him and avoid prayer as a result, our prayers are not empty or unheard.  Ask Him to help you to pray and KEEP GOING. Tell Him everything and be open to the many ways He may respond, whether it be His word, others around you, opportunities, etc. You are heard and can rest in that truth.