Prayer from a Song about Signs

When I was a teenager and a preacher’s son in Weirton, West Virginia, one of my favorite popular songs was “Signs,” originally recorded by the Five Man Electrical Band. The song protests the limitations imposed by signs. Several examples of rights-infringing signs are provided with the band’s response also given to each one. Only one sign in the song does not appear to offend, a sign found in a church:

And the sign said
“Everybody welcome
Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper
And I made up my own little sign
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me
I’m alive and doin’ fine”

This sign is an invitation to pray. When the offering plate is passed around at the end, the singer croons that he had nothing to pay, so he “made up [his] own little sign, a prayer that advocates his gratitude to God for thinking about him. The verse reflects biblical prayers that give thanks to God who cares for the poor, who loves forever, and who provides what is needed. In spite of the perceived limits to his freedom that have been imposed by other people through their signs, he’s still “alive and doin’ fine,” because God cares about him. Other verses have hinted also at his faith when signs prevent him from entering and of awareness of his dignity as one made in the image of God. God does think about humanity and his love endures forever. What does your ”sign” to God say? The psalmist prayed,

“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you” (Psalm 33:20-22).

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.

Lord, Trauma disrupts our lives. Other people aggravate us with their “signs” and actions that seek to limit us. Despite our grief and our frustration, we hold on to hope because we know that you love us fiercely, sacrificially, and dependably. You gave your son so that through his resurrection from the dead we too could be revived. Thank you, Lord, for thinking of us and loving us. I pray with gratitude in the name of Jesus, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women, Chemistry, and Prayer

Lessons in Chemistry is an engaging overcoming-obstacles novel about a female chemist’s campaign for professional credibility and for women’s rights in general during the middle of the Twentieth Century. Along the way she also grows as a parent and learns that she too sometimes prejudges others. Even if you don’t always like some of the primary characters (I didn’t), this book is worth reading because the story addresses important issues, has secondary characters with depth, and makes you want to stand up and cheer for the heroine. Early in the novel, Elizabeth Zott (the chemist) tells her boyfriend Calvin, also a chemist,

“One thing I’ve learned, Calvin: people will always yearn for a simple solution to their complicated problems. It’s a lot easier to have faith in something you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t explain, and can’t change, rather than to have faith in something you actually can,” She sighed. “One’s self, I mean.” She tensed her stomach. They lay silently, both wading in the misery of their pasts.” (Lessons in Chemistry, p 39).

Elizabeth’s story has little to do with prayer. Only once in the book is there a very brief hint of prayer, and it is almost an involuntary reaction as she advocates her hope for another character – to God. Elizabeth, you see, considers herself an atheist. Her exhalation of prayer (?) occurs after conversations with a clergyman who had corresponded years before with her now-deceased boyfriend, but more as a result of observing his integrity and honesty in expressing his own doubts rather than from any attempt to convert her. His subplot, as is the case with some other secondary characters in the book, concerns how religious faith morphs into action in life, whether in positive or negative forms. Elizabeth’s attitude towards religion in general, and Christianity in particular, caused me to ponder just how my actions or words may skew others’ perceptions of God, Jesus, and Christianity.

Elizabeth’s story has much to do with how women were, and often still are, viewed and treated at home, in universities, in churches, and in workplaces. She chafes at her limitations, and protests the abuses that she suffers, but emerges from her own self-doubt to survive, to thrive, and to inspire others, especially women, but also men, to effect positive change through intentional action.

While considering Elizabeth’s story, I thought of another woman whose story emerges only briefly in the biblical book of Luke. Anna, like Elizabeth, had lost her mate. Anna had been a widow for many years. Luke writes that “she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). She had faith in one she could not see. But then that changed. A young couple came to the temple to consecrate their newborn son. They first encountered a man named Simeon, who said some remarkable things about the child. Then they met Anna, whom Luke calls a prophet:

“Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Anna’s story has much to do with prayer, but also about what she did when she perceived that her prayers had been answered. Simeon, who had spoken to the child’s parents just before her, had been awaiting the arrival of God’s Messiah. Like Simeon, Anna realized that this baby, Jesus, was that Messiah. She reacted by celebrating, thanking God. She reacted by advocating; she “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” The prophet Anna proclaimed the good news (gospel) about Jesus in the temple to others who waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Characters in the novel refused to accept Elizabeth Zott as a chemist because she was a woman. People still try to ignore Anna as a prophet, just as they ignore that Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and the wife of Isaiah are called prophets in the Old Testament. Anna prayed and fasted as she waited for the Messiah. Then, when she saw him, she prayed in gratitude to God and then told others about who he was and what that meant. She was one of the very first to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. She had the courage to act on her faith in One whom now she had seen. Her example encourages you and me to follow her in telling others about Christ. Pray hard, live well, and speak courageously, my friends.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singing, Praying, and Serving Work Best Together

“It takes no effort to sing.” I saw that quote shared with approval recently. It is a false statement. With the understanding that Christians should live our faith in the public square, singing is part and parcel of that experience. From biblical calls for all of creation to sing praises to God to singing attested in Paul’s letters to singing before God’s throne in Revelation, followers of the living God sing. How can they do otherwise? To call for a cessation of singing by Christians borders on heresy. Jesus and his disciples sang at the Last Supper. The church sang in the days and weeks following Pentecost. Christians in Corinth sang. James urged,

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-14).

Singing expresses joy. But we also may sing songs of lament that communicate our brokenness or that advocate that God take action against injustice and other sin. Singing usually is intentional. We decide to sing. Sometimes, it is true, we may find ourselves singing a song that we heard without paying much attention to the lyrics or whether we are singing well. The tune is “stuck in our head.” For some reason it resonates with us and so we sing it as we move about. Usually, we sing what we believe, what we enjoy, or words that express what we feel. Singing has transformed movements and provided an emotional underpinning that sustained during the darkest hours. Singing and prayer together with action that flows from those lyrics and prayers glorifies God, lifts hearts, corrects wrongs, and fastens convictions firmly in our hearts.

Singing takes effort. We have to breathe to sing. We have to read, hear, or remember to sing. Sometimes it may take courage to sing. Sing can awaken an individual’s awareness, but also capture the attention of a society. Singing may vilify, but it may also teach righteousness and chart a path towards God. And sometimes, whether we sing songs of praise or psalms of lament, we also pray, as in these words from James Weldon Johnson’s chorus, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,”

“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.”

Songs and prayers without serving ignore God’s answers to our advocacy for others. Serving without singing and pray removes joy and spirit from discipleship. We must not separate our singing and prayer from our living as people who follow in the path blazed by Jesus, who demonstrated love in action, by association, by selfless service and by sacrificial giving of himself, who called us to follow him, the Messiah who sang, even when the chorus of our song reflects that we suffer as he did in overcoming the power of death. Let us sing, let us pray, and let us serve courageously.

  • Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorable Gifts and Prayers of Thanks

What is the most memorable gift you have received? When I was in my twenties, my younger brother Mark, to whom I referred in a recent post about my earliest memory, gave me a Christmas present that impressed me from the moment I received. The present was not impressive because my brother had spent lavishly to obtain it. He had spent only five dollars to purchase an unwanted mirror at a yard sale. He really didn’t have the means to spend much more at the time. I was impressed that he had chosen a gift that I needed, since I recently had moved into a house where for the first time, I was living by myself. He cleaned it and, when he gave to me, this now attractively framed mirror filled a need I had at the time for something of its size to fill a space on my living room wall above a couch. The mirror also looked nice and provided a means to check one’s appearance before leaving the house. Forty years and several moves and houses later, that mirror still fills those needs and still looks good while doing it. From time to time, I still offer a prayer of thanks for my brother and his timely, generous gift.

My brother’s generosity in giving the gift reminds me of the generosity of early Christians in Macedonia to which the apostle Paul refers in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In those passages, Paul talks about excelling in “this grace of giving.” Like my brother, those Christians had not given from a position of wealth. Paul wrote,

“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).

The grace of giving blesses not only the recipients, but also the giver, since it testifies to their obedience that followed their confession of Christ. Paul told the Corinthians that their generosity would not only supply the needs of other Christians, but would result in abundant prayers of gratitude being offered for them because of their generosity. He concluded,

“And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:14-15).

God had given his grace to Christians, but specifically here the grace of giving. This gift produced prayers of gratitude for the gift, but also for the givers, who in giving were reflecting the image of God, who had given this grace to them. Our God is a generous God, who has given abundantly and sacrificially for humanity. Two passages describe his generosity,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not rom yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:6-10).

The saving generosity of God is tied to life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the reflected by believers repenting of sin, being buried in baptism, and arising into a new life (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-4). The generosity of God is reflected in the generosity of his people, not only by the financially wealthy, but by others who give within the means they have. Their generosity is built on a foundation of love, as is God’s generosity. That generosity is echoed in abundant prayers of gratitude for God and his people.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version

God, we thank you for your love and your generosity that flows from that love. May your generosity be seen in our own love and grace of giving. Thank you for surrounding us with others who seek to obey you and who bless us as, hopefully, we bless them as well. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer About Meditation on God’s Word

Call for Fire Seminar

Prayer and meditation on God’s message in the Bible builds spiritual strength. Psalm 119:97-104 describes the equipping power of the Word of God as a psalmist prays to the Lord. He begins,

“O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

He describes a passion for doing the will of the Lord that drives him to study the instruction revealed within the pages of the Bible (although for him it was more likely a scroll). He is a person of prayer, but his prayer is grounded in written revelation of God and his desire to comply to God’s will rather than his own desires. Although many prayers in our time center around petition, asking God to grant our wishes and supply our needs, this prayer includes no request. He recounts his love for the law of the Lord, and how God’s instructions have benefited…

View original post 494 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Do You Show Love?

How do you show love? In his 1995 book The 5 Love Languages, author and family life consultant Gary Chapman identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Although he identified these as primary love languages, he also emphasized that love is a choice and that it is possible to learn to love someone that you think you hate. Exercising your primary love language and recognizing the love language that your loved (or needing to be loved) one most appreciates make that choice easier and makes that apparent impossibility more likely.

Of Chapman’s five languages, Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation probably are my dominant languages. Both seem to fulfill the requirements of the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12,

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I enjoy serving those whom I love. In regard to my wife, this means that I enjoy cooking for her and helping with tasks around the house like house cleaning, yard care, and auto maintenance. Another way that I express love for her is writing poetry, which has become a regular feature of my Valentine’s Day card for her. This year’s poem was about how this “girl with the long hair” is my “Mrs. Incredible.”

The term “love language” implies communication. The five love languages proposed by Gary Chapman communicate love. Some of them rely on spoken words. Others consist primarily of physical actions or presence. Absence, contrary to an old folk belief, does not make the heart grow fonder. One expression of words of affirmation, in my opinion, is prayer. Although some people scoff at the idea of “thoughts and prayers,” both thoughts and prayers indicate that a person or cause is on a person’s mind. When that is true, positive action is more likely to follow. I pray for my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. I pray for my children’s spouses. I pray for them because I love them.

The words of Jesus that he spoke just before the Golden Rule indicate a connection between prayer and the Rule. Jesus compares our giving good gifts to our children when they ask to how God responds to our prayers. He suggests that just as our love for our children prompts us to give to them, so God gives to us. He stresses how important it is to seek and to ask in prayer:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

How do you show love? What is your primary love language? Love languages, like prayer, don’t work unless we speak and act on them. Love and pray with courage and audacity.

  • Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.

Lord of love, we ask you for gifts, but we also seek opportunities to serve, ways to show our love for you and for other people. Help us to express our love more consistently. Help us to show our love in ways that will be understood as we intend them to be. Help us to recognize better the love languages that our loved ones need to hear. Thank you for your generosity, for your presence, and for your sacrificial love. May we love one another as you have loved us. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Listening to God when You Cannot Pray

A little more than thirty years ago, I endured a series of events that traumatized me. I was angry at God, so angry that I didn’t want to talk to him. However, I did want to hear what he had to say. I hoped that his words would bring reason for my pain, would restore order to replace the chaos. I did not pray for months, but I read the Bible every day, craving to hear what God had to say that would make life make sense. I said that I did not pray, but if prayer is a conversation, perhaps I just was not talking and giving God a chance to make his case. In the end, I prayed fully again. I still grieved, but now I understood better what Paul meant when he said that God told him, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

An endangered psalmist prayed concerning the threats posed by his enemies. He knew that he had nearly died and that the danger persisted. He called out to God, but Psalm 119:89-96 reveals that he also listened. In a recent post, I said that when we pray, we celebrate, we advocate, we lament, and we listen. In this prayer, the psalmist celebrates God’s faithfulness and the reliability of his enduring message. He advocates for his own salvation, while he laments the threat that his enemies pose to him. He also listens. He hears what God is telling him in his divine instructions, his laws. He prays,

“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never for get your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless” (Psalm 119:89-96).

This past week, I participated in a Zoom call where participants discussed losses that we had endured, and how lament had played a role both in our grieving and in our healing. When I mentioned the time when I didn’t want to talk to God, others responded that they too had had a time like that. If you too, because of trauma, loss, or illness, do not want to talk to God, perhaps you still can listen. When I could not pray, God spoke to me, as he had to the psalmist before, through his written revelation. I read how biblical heroes had suffered, but survived because they trusted that God would provide. I heard about God’s love through the care that two churches lavished on me, first in Maryland, and then in Tennessee. They walked with me in my suffering and helped me regain my trust in God by being patient enough with me to let me serve how I could while I slowly healed. If I had not listened to God’s message, I likely would have perished in my affliction.

Like the psalmist, I pondered God’s word and sought out his answers to what I was experiencing. Like him, I remembered that I belonged to God and I sought out his way. I rediscovered his love in the accounts of his faithfulness with his people, but also in the life and teaching of Jesus, whom the books of John and Hebrews respectively say is the “word of God” and the one through whom God speaks to us now (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-4). I encourage you to concentrate on hearing God if praying to him just seems impossible right now. Take time to read his word for twenty minutes or more each day. Spend time with people who love God and who love you. Reflect on what you hear in what you read. Perhaps soon you too will talk to God again as you pray, grateful for feeling whole again.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.

Posted in Prayers from Psalms | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Praying for Preachers

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:35-38).

Do you pray for preachers? Jesus, seeing large numbers of harassed and helpless people, realizing their need for good news and healing, told his disciples to ask (pray) to the Lord that he would send workers (preachers, teachers, healers) to help the suffering. During the past few years, I have read several articles and books that lamented a shrinking number of people who were training to be a preacher, an increasing number of preachers who were leaving preaching for other work, churches that were closing down or shriveling, and preachers whose behavior betrayed their hearers and their calling. Meanwhile, people still hurt. They complain about injustice, wonder about the meaning of life, and ask whether there is a reason to keep trying. Those hurting people need someone to tell them good news. Those dying churches need someone to guide them back to the Good Physician (Jesus). Those scarred and hurting former preachers (whether they were treated badly or they were the ones who treated others badly) need someone to listen, to help them heal. Today, as when Jesus lived, people still need preachers who guide them to the good news and healing found in the message of Jesus about the kingdom of God. Jesus urged his disciple to “call for fire,” to cry to God for reinforcements in an emergency situation. We still need to pray that prayer- that God will send preachers – today.

We also must pray for the preachers who are engaged in helping now. Preaching can be emotionally draining. Sometimes preachers can feel isolated and alone even when they’re preaching to large congregations. Who asks them where they are hurting? Who encourages them?

Recently I learned something new while I was going through some of my mother’s files. Mom was the daughter and granddaughter of preachers. There were even more preachers farther back and in connected branches of her family tree. I found among her papers advertisements for revivals preached by her father and grandfather. But I also found a poem that seems to have been written to and about one of them. The poem is not dated. No location is given. I didn’t recognize the name of the poet and a search online was fruitless. The people in my family who might have answered my questions are dead. The poem tells one of my preaching ancestors that someone always is praying for him. Grace Crandall was heeding the call from Jesus, and from the apostle Paul also, to pray for preachers. Here is her poem, her promise of prayer support:

A Traveling Taylor

In the short time we have known you,
Impressions you have made
Upon these lowly hearts of ours
That time will never fade.

You have preached us Gospel sermons
As we wanted you to do,
To the best of your ability,
Though listeners be few.

You cared not if we watched you,
Even closely as we did,
For when you ever made mistakes
You didn’t want them hid.

If all preachers were converted,
(We have often heard it told)
The sinners would not be confused,
But enter the right fold.

So, preacher, keep on preaching,
As God would have you do,
And remember in your journeys
Someone always prays for you.

Your travelings may take you
Into far and distant parts.
Yes, you may leave our country,
But you’ll never leave our hearts.

by a true friend —-Grace Crandall

The poet says that the impact of the preacher’s work will endure. She refers to his integrity. She urges him to “keep on preaching.” She reminds him that wherever he may go, some still cares and always is praying for him. The preachers that you know need that assurance, too. They need to know that people care, that people trust them, that people are praying for them with love. As I mentioned earlier, Paul also requested prayer for preachers, specifically that Christians would pray that he would not be discouraged, but would continue to speak courageously. He wrote,

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Pray also for the preachers who are prepared, but who are not being fully used. Part of the cause for the preacher shortage, in my opinion, is that many churches seeking a new preacher are considering seriously only those who currently are preaching for another church. Preachers who have stepped away because of family illness or education, or have served in chaplaincy for a time, or are “too young” or” too old,” are overlooked. Pray that we too will persevere. Pray that your children will grow up to be preachers. The harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. Pray that the Lord will send the workers where they are needed. Pray for preachers.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.

Lord of the harvest, thank you for preachers who seek to heal the hurting and to bring the good news of Jesus into despairing hearts. Thank you for preachers who live with integrity and preach truth lovingly. Thank you for preachers who persevere when it seems that no one cares. Thank you for Christians who do care and who pray for and encourage those who proclaim the good news of Jesus. Thank you for churches that still strive to be a healing place and a family for the abused and confused. Thank you for the church members who asked me when I was very young, “Are you going to be a preacher?” I pray for those who despair, that they will learn of the way to hope again. I pray for the confused and hurting, that they will find identity and healing in Jesus. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prayer and Overcoming Fear

What fear have you overcome? In November 1998, I was preaching as an Army chaplain under a large tent in the Mojave Desert to a group of elite infantry soldiers. A siren rang out, interrupting our worship. The blaring noise warned us of a (notional, for training) chemical attack or air raid by the enemy. We quickly donned our chemical protective uniforms with gas masks and rushed into a tunnel they had dug in a nearby hill. As I sat in my tightly fitting uniform and gas mask, with my knees against my chest, crowded by a soldier on either side, and staring at a dirt wall three inches in front of my mask, I realized for the first time at age 41 that I was claustrophobic, afraid of tightly confining places. I panicked and wanted to crawl over the soldiers to my left to reach the distant exit into bright sunshine and open space free of restriction. There I would rip off my mask and breathe in gulps of fresh air. At that moment, despite my frantic fear, I realized that I would not flee because such action would destroy any future hope of ministry to the other soldiers who were with me. If they could endure, I could endure. I remembered also participating in Lamaze classes before the births of each of my children ten or more years before. I had learned deep breathing exercises that would help me calm my wife (and myself) as our child was being born. In that desert cave, I started practicing that deep breathing exercise even as I remembered a prayer from Psalm 23:4,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

My heartbeat slowed, my fear dissolved, and I endured until we evacuated from the tunnel. I had overcome what could have been a crippling fear. That memory has protected me in other moments when I was in closed spaces. Breathe deeply and pray. Remember the presence of the Lord, who told other fearful disciples,

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:26).

The words of Jesus and of Psalm 23 remind me that the primary danger behind most fear resides in my mind. Remaining calm, trusting my training and prior experience, and praying with an awareness of the presence of a loving God will give me the resources I need to overcome those fears. May the Lord be with you as you overcome your fears.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version. Psalm 23: 4 as quoted above is from an alternate translation attested in a footnote in the NIV.

O God of courage, you tell us not to fear. We struggle to believe those words in moments of contact with that which overwhelms us with terror. Help us to remember to pause, to breathe, to pray, and to trust. May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. I pray in his name, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer and Procrastination

What are the pros and cons of procrastination? How may we overcome the urge to procrastinate? There indeed are possible positive outcomes to procrastination. Delaying departure may result in avoiding an accident or a confrontation. Delaying response to a housing or job invitation may mean avoiding a disastrous mistake. Procrastinating about breaking up a relationship may give time to discover just how vibrant and totally necessary for happiness that relationship is. Negative outcomes to procrastination abound. Procrastinating about writing a paper for a course in school may cause failure and, if continued, make a change in degree major or career goals necessary. Procrastinating in relationships more often will cause them to crumble and waste away. Procrastinating departure may also cause you to be less careful when leaving and result in rather than avoiding injury or confrontation.

One of the classic procrastination practitioners in the Bible is the character described in the book of Proverbs only as “the sluggard.” Laziness prompts some of his procrastination, causing him to fail to satisfy his desires:

“The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work” (Proverbs 21:25).

Fear and arrogance also lead to procrastination by the sluggard. He fears what dire consequences may befall him if he acts, so he waits. He or she fears success and the responsibilities that come with it, so acts to guarantee failure. She knows better than others, so does not need to research or question beliefs. It’s easier to stay in bed than to face problems. The proverbs say,

“A sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets! As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly” (Proverbs 25:13-16).

Sometimes I procrastinate because I fear making the wrong decision. Although procrastination has helped me to avoid some mistakes, it has also cost me opportunities. The pain from procrastination-caused failures persists. I have learned to pray when tempted to procrastinate. Don’t pray as procrastination, but pray for wisdom, for discernment, for courage to act quickly but carefully and correctly. The description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18 describes a strategy for overcoming fear and anxiety that cause procrastination. Stand firm with truth. Decide with peace in your heart because you’re prepared. Pray and be alert. Peter also described the place of prayer in this kind of inner conflict:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Prayer overcomes procrastination when done in faith and when followed with decisive action. Prayer deteriorates into procrastination when a decision does not follow. Pray, then do all that you do in the name of the Lord, confident of your decision. I can tell you that I feel much better when I stop procrastinating, then pray and make a decision. Pray hard and live courageously, my friends.

  • Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version.

O God who loves and who empowers, when fear, anxiety, or just laziness paralyze, rejuvenate us with courage to go to you with those fears and to act confidently when we have prayed. Help us to listen well to your word and to the guidance of wise advisors. Give us discernment to help us navigate conflicting advice. Calm our anxieties; remind us of your never-ending love. Help us to conquer procrastination. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment