Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, June 8. Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. 1) What strikes you about this short text? 2) Do you think that prayer opens up the sort of Carte Blanche as Jabez had?
Tuesday, June 9. Read 1 Samuel 14:1-6. 1) What is the occasion of this text? 2) What does David say about God’s intervention that shows extreme faith?
Wednesday, June 10. Read Matthew 7:7-11. 1) How does Jesus teach his disciples to pray in this text? 2) What does Jesus say about the character of God?
Thursday, June 11. Read Daniel 6:1-10. 1) This text concerns an event in the life of Daniel when he was in Babylon. What did the satraps conspire to do against Daniel? 2) What kind of courage did Daniel show in verse 10?
Friday, June 12. Read Nehemiah 1:1-11. 1) What did Nehemiah hear, and what concern did it stir in him? 2) What was Nehemiah’s response to this concern?
Saturday, June 13. Read 1 Kings 8:22-53; Matthew 7:7-11. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer for the Week:
We do “thoughts and prayers” easily and glibly.
We do thoughts without thinking.
We do prayers without praying.
We commit that glib act
Because it is what we know how to do that with an anemic god or
Because we are embarrassed to do more, or
Because it is convenient and costs us nothing.
Now, however, we are driving to unthinkable thoughts, about
All that is ending, and
All this we have lost, and
All that leaves us with a sinking feeling.
Now, however, we are driven, some of us, to unutterable prayers.
We are driven to such prayer
By awareness that our usual reliabilities are gone.
We are driven to you, the abiding God
When other helpers fail and comforts flee.
Thus we are bold to pray:
We are bold to ask because it will be given!
So we ray for the end of the virus,
For the health of the neighborhood,
For the fair treatment of every person in our nation.
We are bold to seek because you will be found!
We see your mercy and your goodness and your generosity
So let yourself be found by us.
We are bold to knock because it will be opened.
We know many doors slammed shut,
Doors of health and safety and comfort and fun.
Open to us the door of life, and love, and peace, and joy.
Here we are in your presence:
We ask for bread:
The bread of life,
The bread of abundance,
The bread of neighborly sharing.
Do not give us a stone or a crumb.
We ask for fish:
The fish of a good diet,
The fish of your abundant waters,
The fish that signs the gospel.
Do not give us a snake or the hiss of poison.
We dare to pray, not because we are at our wits end,
But because you are at the center of our life,
Our hope in in no other save in You alone!
So hear, heal, save, restore!
Be the God you have promised to be. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
By John Greenleaf Whittier, 1872
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
Devotional Article of the Week:
Building a Culture of Honor: Prayer
Prayer changes something much more important than our circumstances!
by Phil Ware
“I wish I had three hours to sit around and do nothing but pray!”
This statement, given by a friend who was a successful business executive, dripped with sarcasm. He had important missions-related issues for our church leaders to consider. However, they let him know that he wouldn’t be on the agenda because they were committed to have one meeting per month where they prayed without any other interruptions, business, or distractions.
I was furious with him for his loud and publicly issued statement aimed at our shepherds in front of others. So angry, in fact, that I wisely kept my mouth shut and didn’t revisit the subject with him for several years. When I did visit with him about it, he remembered the comment and said that he deeply regretted this arrogant and ignorant outburst. We then talked about his spiritual hero’s favorite phrase: “I only get done what I pray for!” His heart had changed.
If we are going to build a culture of honor in our family, our organization, our business, or our congregation, I firmly believe that we will only get this done if we pray!
Prayer is one of five characteristics that I believe helps us build a culture of honor whether we are a family, organization, business, or congregation:
This is not a recipe or color by numbers linear process, but a journey fashioning us to become the presence of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13-16).
Prayer is indispensable as both a great gift of grace and a gut-level commitment to self-surrender. When we pray, the Holy Spirit guarantees us the immediate and focused attention of the Creator of the universe (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12). The Spirit also intercedes for us, taking our groans and sighs too deep for words and presenting them to the Father so that they are heard and acceptable (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer is an incredible gift of grace.
At the same time, prayer is also a gut-level commitment to self-surrender. Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:10) and showed us (Mark 14:36) that prayer is the willing surrender of our lives to the will of God. Our Father wants this self-surrender to permeate every practical area of our lives. We recognize that we depend upon God for our daily food, the forgiveness of our sins, and our deliverance from the power of evil (Matthew 6:11-13). And even as we open our hearts to our own deep need, God also reminds that we are to share this grace with others or we forfeit the grace we so desperately need:[Jesus said,] “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).
Jesus’ postscript reminder to the Lord’s Prayer is an echo of similar words spoken earlier in his Sermon on the Mount:
“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV).
Jesus will also say:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:26-27 NIV).
Prayer reminds us that we are God’s children and that we are called to share God’s redemptive grace with those around us — both those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ and also those who are outside our family of faith:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14 NIV).Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable (Romans 12:17 NLT).Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21 NIV).Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9 NIV).
Prayer becomes this grace-driven vehicle of transformation for us because it gives us the avenue to invite God to enter our hearts, our lives, and our relationships to conform us to his will. We commit to pursue what matters most to our Father. We trust that he will provide us all we need physically and spiritually. We invite our Father’s power and presence into our most hurtful, dangerous, and worrisome relationships. We choose to not seek revenge, but to share grace!
When we begin to pray for God to forgive our enemies, our attackers, our nemeses, our opponents, our persecutors, our mockers… and to bless them with his blessing, something amazing happens to us. Our hearts are transformed! We reflect the nature of our Savior who prayed for his murderers forgiveness as he was berated and murdered (Luke 23:34). In the process of this prayerful grace, we begin to live out the call of God’s Kingdom. We get to participate in God’s counter-cultural revolution as a culture of honor takes hold in our own lives!
So I invite you to join me in pursuing the most challenging grace I know: the grace of praying for God to bless our enemies — just as Jesus did — even if it costs us as much as it cost Jesus. Such prayer honors God and brings salvation when everything seems lost. This kind of prayer shapes us into a culture of honor as we become people of honor — people sharing God’s grace with others through prayer.