whose divine tenderness
ever outsoars the narrow loves and charities of earth,
grant us a kind and gentle heart towards all that live.
Let us not ruthlessly hurt any creature of thine.
Let us take thought also for the welfare of little children,
and those who are sick,
and the poor;
remembering that what we do unto the least of these his brethren
we do unto Christ our Lord. Amen.
— John Baillie (1886-1960).
Holy God, you so inspired Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a great awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by your Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share your Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I went over to Kingswood, and spake largely to the children, as also on Saturday and Sunday. I found there had been a fresh revival of the work of God among them some months ago: But it was soon at an end, which I impute chiefly to their total neglect of private prayer. Without this, all the other means which they enjoyed could profit them nothing.
— John Wesley, Journal: Friday September 4, 1772.
and grant that,
by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit,
they may be lifted up to you
with hope and courage,
and enabled to go upon their way
rejoicing in Your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Richard Meux Benson (1824-1915)
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” — Exodus 3:1,2.
Your voice burns within the depths of our being,
O God of our ancestors,
and draws us into your presence and service.
Hear the cries of your people
and speak a word of comfort,
that we may proclaim to all the earth
the glory of your name. Amen.
who after the creation of the world rested from all you works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures:
Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary,
and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A recent article at The Atlantic entitled When Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse points to a problem that others have mentioned before: prayer may (and should) release us from our anxieties, but some types of prayer may make matters worse. It depends on what kind of God you believe in.
But for those who are anxious about everything, prayer can sometimes help and sometimes hurt. Past research on the mental-health benefits of praying have been mixed. Some studies have found that people who pray more are more satisfied and happy, others found no relationship to well-being, and still others found a negative correlation.
A new study published in Sociology of Religion suggests that prayer can help ease people’s anxiety, but whether it does so depends on the personality of the God they believe in. That is, whether someone has a relationship with what they perceive to be an angry, vengeful God or more of a friendly figure could determine whether prayer brings relief—or simply more stress….
What they found was that those who prayed more frequently felt “a secure attachment to God.” But those who thought God was distant and unresponsive were far more likely to show signs of anxiety-related disorders. This echoes an April study that found that people who believe God is malevolent are more likely to suffer from anxiety, paranoia, and compulsions.
I have found this to be true myself. When my focus is on my own anxieties and frustrations, my prayers can make my attitude worse. It is faith and trust that make prayer effective. As I trust God, I release my anxieties — I let go of them. My prayers need to focus on God and not on me. This is why praise is so important to prayer — like true worship, it puts our mind on God. As we re-affirm our faith in God’s character and God’s love, we put our anxieties in perspective. From that standpoint, we can, then, pray about them.
If prayer is making you more anxious — you are (to put it crassly) doing it wrong.
Hollywood publicist Michael Levine comments on the struggles of actor and comedian Robin Williams: “Very few people in this world reach the level of fame Robin Williams did and could understand the type of depression he dealt with…. There tends to be a lack of compassion — ‘So what, you’re famous’ — and it’s hard for people to then empathize. People like Robin often feel like they have to completely isolate themselves from the fishbowl they live in, and are so isolated they are afraid to ask for help.” Found here: Robin Williams worried about faltering career, struggled with survivor’s guilt, sources say.
Also: here is a list of quotes from Robin Williams: The Profound Quotes From Robin Williams That Helped Shape Our Generation. It includes the following: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
“PRAYER has been defined, ‘an offering of our desire to God for things needful, with an humble confidence to obtain them through the alone merits of Christ, to the praise of the mercy, truth, and power of God.’ And ‘its parts are said to be invocation, adoration, confession, petition, pleading, dedication, thanksgiving, and blessing.’ Though the definition be imperfect, yet, as far as it goes, it is not objectionable; but the parts of prayer, as they are called, (except the word petition,) have scarcely anything to do with the nature of prayer. They are, in general, separate acts of devotion; and attention to them in what is termed ‘praying,’ will entirely mar it, and destroy its efficacy.
“It was by following this division, that long prayers have been introduced among Christian congregations, by means of which the spirit of devotion has been lost: for, where such prevail most, listlessness and deadness are the principal characteristics of the religious services of such people; and these have often engendered formality, and frequently total indifference to religion. Long prayers prevent kneeling, for it is utterly impossible for man or woman to keep on their knees during the time such last; where these prevail, the people either stand or sit. Technical prayers, I have no doubt, are odious in the sight of God; for no man can be in the spirit of devotion who uses such: it is a drawing nigh to God with the lips, while the heart is, almost necessarily, far from him. (more…)
Again, Jesus likened prayer to a child approaching the Father. A child who crawls into her father’s lap with a fantasy Christmas list may not get everything she desires. But the very fact that she crawled into his lap, making know her deepest desires, helps cement the bond of love the father cherishes above all else. We do far better to act like a trusting child, presenting foolish requests and letting the Father make judgements, than to fret in advance over appropriate petitions.
Fittingly, some of the most articulate prayers come from the mouths of children. God, help that man we saw at the red light find a place to sleep tonight… Please don’t let my cat suffer anymore…. Help Grandmommy to stop feeling sad all the time…. Teach me how to get along with my mean brother.
My neighbor Elizabeth, age four, was staying with her grandmother while her parents went to New York City on business. Kneeling by her bed that night, she prayed: ‘Help Mommy and Daddy to come home safely. And if they don’t want to come home — ‘ Her grandmother interrupted, ‘Honey, of course they want to come home.’ Elizabeth set her straight with a sharp reply, “I’m talking to God!’ With the wisdom of a child, she knew that in prayer it is perfectly appropriate to voice fear, anger (think of the imprecatory psalms), insecurity, doubt, or anything else we need to get out.
— Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? (Chapter 22).
An old prayer:
grant us, we pray,
the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness,
that we may heartily forgive every injury
and be reconciled with our enemies.
Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offenses of people
with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor.
We further beseech Thee, O Lord,
to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins;
and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith
and sincere conversion.
And help us repay evil with goodness,
and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil
and from all the perils which threaten us,
in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.
We know that the church is called to be a witness to Christ. To what extent is the church today a credible witness to Christ?
The church is called to attest the truth of the Gospel to the world. This testimony, however, stands related to the fact that even in this world the church is a sign of the destiny of the human race to be renewed in the future of God’s kingdom as a fellowship in freedom, justice and peace. The more the church — and the churches as a part of Christianity as a whole — actually show themselves to be such a sign to human eyes, the greater will be their authority among us.
— Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (Volume 3) “Foreword” p xv.
Such witness is going on at the local level: here and there in churches that are faithfully seeking to live out their faith. They don’t make the news (maybe), but their life together is showing the world what freedom, justice and peace can mean — not as a political position, but as a lived-out reality. (more…)
Lord Jesus Christ,
you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross
that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace:
So clothe us in your Spirit
reaching forth our hands in love,
may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you;
for the honor of your Name. Amen.
I don’t know where such ideas come from — but a moment of thought will dispel them. The great Bible characters did not have lives that were devoid of difficulties or setbacks or griefs or disappointments. If this did not happen with them, how can I reasonably expect it for myself? Jesus grieved over Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew setbacks and discouragements in his ministry. How can I suppose my life can be free from such things?
The path of the Lord is not easy, it is worthwhile. Those who choose to live as Christ has taught make a positive contribution to life — to their own life and to the lives of others. We move along a difficult path characterized by faith and love and hope. And, by doing so, we bring more faith and hope and love into the world. (more…)