We All Need Some Quiet Time

My small group at church is reading the Gospel of Luke this month.  Taking it slow, not rushing through but looking carefully at the stories Luke tells.

One thing I noticed as I read is how often Jesus took some quiet time away from the crowd.  Three different times in the early chapters Luke tells us:

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place.”

“Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayers.”

“Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night.”

If the Son of God needed quiet time, how much more do I?

I find myself surrounded by noise – TV, radio, cell phones.

I need that quiet time – time spent not only talking to God but taking time to allow His peace to be mine.

Today there is a lot of interest in “meditating” where we are encouraged to empty our mind.  But the quiet time I think Jesus calls us to is not emptying our mind but rather filling our thoughts with His word, His presence.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”   Joshua 1:8

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

I realize finding quiet time is easier for me at this age of life.  I’m retired, children all grown.  My days are pretty much free to do what I please, when I please.

But for a young couple with small children or families with teenagers, finding that quiet time has to be a difficult thing to do.

As I have thought about taking more quiet time myself this week, I have asked God to help me spend more time praying for those single moms, busy families that they will feel God’s presence even in their “noisy” environments and busy lives.

Do you find it difficult to have quiet time?

What do you do to make that quiet time?

How Do I Pray For My Family?

In my small group at church this week we talked a little about how we pray.  One of the members of our group mentioned reading Paul’s prayers for the church.

Knowing what to pray for my family has always been a topic of concern for me.

I confess most of my prayers are for their needs for the “here and now.”

  • Help this grandchild to find a good job
  • Provide the finances for this grandchild to pay for college
  • Heal this son/daughter
  • Take care of this difficult situation this child is experiencing right now

Looking at the ministry of Jesus on earth I do not think praying for their physical and financial needs in this life is wrong.  While on earth Jesus often spend time meeting the needs of those who followed Him.

  • He fed the hungry
  • He opened the eyes of the blind
  • He reached out and healed the leper
  • His very first miracle was actually supplying wine for a wedding party

Clearly He was and is concerned about all our needs, not just the “spiritual” ones.

Still, when I look at the prayers the early church prayed and the prayers of Peter and Paul in their writings it is clear that their main concern was not for the “here and now.” They were not so concerned for their own needs but for God’s kingdom to be advanced, for “eternal” things.

I say as a Christian I believe  there is life after this one on earth.  I say it is my desire that my children and grandchildren know and serve the Lord.  But do my prayers really reflect that?  Am I more concerned about the “here and now” than I am with the “eternal”?

One prayer the early church prayed which I think really reflects their focus on the kingdom of God rather than their own needs, is the one found in Acts 4.  Here, Peter and John had been in prison for preaching about Jesus.  Upon being released, they were warned to stop sharing the story of Jesus and threats were made if they did not refrain from doing so.

They immediately gathered with the other believers.  Now, today if this happened to our pastor, I believe our prayers would probably be for God to protect us or to change the hearts of the religious leaders.  But I love their prayer.

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

To help me focus my prayers more in line with the early church, I have been praying one of Paul’s prayers for my children and grandchildren.  It is found in Colossians 1.

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

Truly I want all the best for my children and grandchildren.  It is my desire that they have great marriages, successful careers and good health.  But most of all, my greatest desire is that they will grow to know God better and better.

How do you pray for your family?

It’s “When” Not “If”

When Jesus was on earth He seemed to assume that as His followers there were things we would naturally do.  Not to try to earn a place in heaven.  Not to rack up points on the “goodness” scale.  Not to “prove” we were His followers.

No.  Things we would do because as a committed follower of Jesus it would be as natural as breathing in and out.  We don’t stop and consciously think “I need to breath now.”  When we walk we do not think “I need to lift my right foot up, move it forward and put it down.”  These are just natural reactions to being alive.

So Jesus states that there are actions we will take – perhaps not even consciously but just as a natural response to His love and forgiveness to us.

Sadly we often seem to think the things He mentioned are suggestions, not actual outcomes of following Him.

Jesus told us:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That last one is a bit hard, isn’t it?  But if we are to be like Jesus, we need to rejoice when we are put down for our beliefs.  Rejoice, not complain.  Not get mad.  Rejoice.

As our culture seems to be going further and further from Christian principles, we need to remember that one.

But even with society becoming more hostile to Christian standards, we in the USA know nothing about real persecution.

The following is a list taken from the 2019 World Watch List by Open Doors.  This is a mission organization that supports persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.

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North Korea  – Afghanistan –  Somalia –  Libya –  Pakistan –  Sudan – Eritrea
Yemen –  Iran –  India –  Syria –  Nigeria –  Iraq –  Maldives –  Saudi Arabia
Egypt –  Uzbekistan –  Myanmar –  Laos –  Vietnam –  Central African Republic
Algeria –  Turkmenistan –  Mali –  Mauritania –  Turkey –  China –  Ethiopia
Tajikistan –  Indonesia –  Jordan –  Nepal –  Bhutan –  Kazakhstan –  Morocco
Brunei –  Tunisia –  Qatar –  Mexico –  Kenya –  Russian Federation –  Malaysia
Kuwait –  Oman –  United Arab Emirates –  Sri Lanka –  Colombia –  Bangladesh
Palestinian Territories –  Azerbaijan

For more detailed information on these countries and suggestions on how to pray for each particular nation, check out this website.

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WWL2019_FullBooklet.pdf

 

Prayer in the School? Yes – No

I hesitate wading into this controversial subject but I see so many posts on Facebook calling for us to put prayer back in the schools and arguing that many of our problems are because prayer has been removed from the classroom.

Wondering which side is right, I decided to go where I always go when I need spiritual guidance or answers – to the Bible.

Here is what I discovered the Bible teaches.

  • Prayer and religious education is the responsibility of the parents and grandparents.

We see it first with Abraham.  When God selected Abraham to be the patriarch of God’s chosen people, the Israelites, one reason He gave was this:

I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just

Later as the nation of Israel were given the Law they were told this:

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In Psalm 78 Asaph instructs the people of Israel that they should:

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
    for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
    stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.

The New Testament confirmed this belief that the parents are the ones to teach their children about God.

In Ephesians Paul tells us:

ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Paul commended Timothy’s faith and noted that it was a result of his mother and grandmother’s faith.

To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

  • The other place the Bible indicates where prayer should be is in the church.

Isaiah stated that God’s house should be a house of prayer.

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.

Jesus confirmed this when he said:

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

The Book of Acts tells us that the church began when the disciples were gathered together in prayer.

And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.  These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Questions that come to my mind when I see this cry for prayer in the school.

  • What would happen if we had more prayer in our homes and in our churches?
  • How much time do those crying for prayer in the school actually spend praying for our schools, for our teachers, the students?

I’m not saying I’m against prayer in our schools.  But like it or not, we are a multi-cultural nation now.  So – if we put prayer back in schools, who will be leading the prayer?  To what god will they be praying?

And now to really get some readers upset, what about all these prayer breakfasts we have?  I have been to several but quit going a few years ago.  I went expecting that we would pray.  Instead, we had special singers, a special speaker, a meal – and yes we did have a couple of people say a short prayer.  The emphasis was more on breakfast than on prayer.

  • What if we called for a prayer breakfast where we spent a few minutes eating a simple breakfast and then actually prayed?

Join me in praying for our schools and our teachers:

Lord, Grant our teachers an abundance of Your wisdom. Prepare their hearts to welcome and love our loved ones, and may we make sure to show them love and respect in return. Give them grace as they help students who aren’t thriving, courage to say what needs to be said, tools and knowledge on how and when to speak love, and strength when they feel weak. When they feel unseen, remind them that no moment goes unnoticed. They are shaping the future in one million small – yet incredibly important – ways every day. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of learning they share with our children. Bless them, Lord, and may they see even just a glimpse of how their faithfulness will forever impact generations to come.

And our children:

Bless our children and keep them safe from physical harm. Protect them from abuse, abduction, child trafficking, and addiction. Guard their hearts from the devil’s schemes, and protect their minds from things that are not appropriate for their eyes to see and their ears to hear. Bless them with hearts of compassion for their fellow students and teachers.  May they be kind on the playground and quiet in the hallways. Protect our children from gossip and bullying. May they know and hear Your voice louder than all the others.  Godly friends are important, and we pray today that You bless our children with those friends. May their friendships be innocent and light, and may the be filled with kindness, understanding, and compassionate consideration for one another.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayers for Our Children Returning to School

It’s that time again!  Off our children and grandchildren go to school.

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School used to be a pretty safe place to be.  In my generation many of us walked to school and back and no one worried about us being harmed in our walk.  School was one of the safest places children could be.

Sadly, that is not true today.  Not only do we have shootings in school but there we now worry about bullies and even about some of the teaching our older kids may receive.

Truly, school time is a time for us to pray for our children.

Along with prayers for safety, may I suggest the following:

  1. I pray you will be near them when I can’t be.
  2. I pray if they don’t feel your presence, they will seek you and discover you’re right there with them.
  3. I pray you will surround them with peace and comfort in every new situation.
  4. I pray when they are pressured, you will help them stand.
  5. I pray they find one good friend, a brother or sister in Christ because it’s hard to stand alone.
  6. I pray when they fail, they will forgive themselves and try again.
  7. I pray my kids will befriend those that are new, lonely or both.
  8. I pray they will be a blessing to their teacher and not a curse.
  9. I pray you will bless them with Godly teachers.
  10. I pray they will let their light shine, quietly or loudly, but in their own way.
  11. I pray above all, God, that you would use their challenges, disappointments and victories to draw them closer to you this school year.

And while you are praying for the children, don’t forget the teachers.

 

 

 

 

Pray to God….sometimes it helps

My little seven-year-old granddaughter spent the night with me.  She has a stuffed character from Dr. Seuss that always joins us for games.  When she was very little we bought this character for her.  I named him Willie, gave him a voice and she began interacting with him.

As time has passed Willie has become a part of the family.  He goes with us to the movies, colors with us (I, of course, have to use his hands to help him color) and we have some great conversations between the three of us (Willie, my granddaughter and me).

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In the afternoon we started to play a game and she wanted Willie to join us.  Although we searched all over the house we could not find him.  It was hard to believe we could not locate him since we have packed up most of the “stuff” in our house in preparation for moving and there is not a lot of places he could be.

After a few minutes of searching my granddaughter stopped right in the middle of the living room and said,

“I’m going to pray to God.  Sometimes it helps.”

She then proceeded to pray a simple prayer.

“God, help us find Willie.  Amen.”

After the prayer I turned around and immediately saw Willie.  He was sitting behind my recliner.  We had walked around that chair several times and had not seen him.  But there he was.

I had to laugh to myself at her comment….”sometimes it helps.”

I thought of how much we probably all need to take that attitude.  When problems arrive, too often I try to figure out what I can do, I talk to family and friends for solutions, and I even “google” it.

Not that those things are wrong but what if I first said,

“I’m going to pray to God.  Sometimes it helps.”

 

Seven Reasons to Ban the Lord’s Prayer

In 2015 the church in England had an advertisement which featured the Lord’s Prayer set to run before a Star Wars movie.  The cinemas banned the ad because they said it might be offensive to some.

In response Bishop Steven Croft wrote an article saying “from the perspective of the spirits of the age, there are very good reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and culture and public life.”

Lord's sprayer

Here are Bishop Croft’s reasons:

  1.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”   –  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time….We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human being who are therefore our sisters and brothers.
  2. “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  –  The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish His kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  It invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.
  3. “Give us this day our daily bread.” – This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer for only what we need.  It teaches contentment.  This one restrains our greed.
  4. “Forgive us our sins.” – This teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  It offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily.  The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.
  5. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” – We are not meant to live in feud or hostity or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.
  6. “Lead us not into temptation.” – When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale.  We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the most challenging moments of our lives.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.
  7. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.” – The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Our lives are to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, reminds us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, built resience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder many want to ban them from our consumer culture.