Environment and emotions sometimes shape our prayers as much as a desire to please God. At a gathering of charged-up believers, our prayers may resound with joy and assurance of victory. When a child dies or another interview fails to land a job after months of unemployment, bitterness and anger may creep into our prayers. At times, like the father of a boy in Luke 9 who wished Jesus would heal his son, we can only pray, “We believe. Forgive our unbelief.” Anxiety over failing loved ones, fear that we will not meet a “critical” deadline at work, or shock over a loved one’s sudden stroke also jolt the content and mood of our prayers. As I have reviewed biblical prayers in recent years, I learned that this impact of context on prayer did not begin with us. Heroes of faith like David, Jeremiah, Elijah, and Paul struggled as do we to choose a direction for ministry, to live righteously, and to maintain courage when others fell away.
Lord, give us strength to move forward when doubts threaten to overcome. Heal our hurts; help us to see beyond our selfish desires to discover your will for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
My life has been packed with travel, learning, teaching, and prayer in recent weeks. I have spoken to groups in Georgia, Tennessee, and Washington (the state). I’ve had a physical fitness test within three weeks of oral surgery (I do not recommend that anyone else try that). During one of our trips, my wife and I learned that my mother had had a stroke. I have learned more about humility and self-denial; I have marveled at how much less time I seem to have. I’ve read the prayers of Jeremiah again as well. His frustration, fear, and anger are obvious as he prays. The prophet served God faithfully, but continued to suffer. His pain, and the apostle Paul’s reflection on how God denied his petition for relief from a “thorn in the flesh,” help me to keep my pain and fear in perspective. Stories of abject suffering in other nations and violence in the United States open my eyes to blessings that I enjoy despite disappointment. Internationally, locally, and personally, it is time to call for fire, to request urgently God’s assistance, to pray fervently for rescue and for healing.
O God, our refuge and defense, we pray for courage and discernment in the midst of busy lives. Even as violence and conflict increase, opponents of your teachings scorn your calls for forgiveness and peace. They laugh at the concept of ethical and moral standards. Help us to recognize the blessings you give us, and to navigate successfully the labyrinth of moral choices that confront us. May we cherish those key relationships that give our lives meaning and substance. When we believe we stand alone, remind us of the love that surrounds and nourishes us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Tagged christianity, discernment, faithfulness, forgiveness, holiness, humility, Jeremiah, love, overwhelmed, Paul, Prayer, Problem of Evil, Theology, war