A Prayer for Those Needing Hope

As is my custom, whenever I am asked to offer prayer in public worship, I post it here. Today, I also had the privilege of leading the worship service, in the absence of both of our pastors. Another congregant, Dr. Greg Spencer, Professor of Communication at Westmont College, preached a powerful word on learning to hope well. This prayer was built on two passages — Psalm 33:18-22 and John 11:1-44. Immediately before this prayer, the congregation sang 3 verses of
“Be Still, My Soul.”

I want to invite you to still your souls for a few moments. To quiet and center yourselves in the presence of the God who loves you,
the Lord who is on your side,
the One who is your best, your heavenly friend.
I will extend this same invitation to stillness
at several points throughout today’s prayer.

 

Please pray with me:

Faithful Friend,
Loving Father,
Beautiful Savior,
Winsome Holy Spirit,

Blow through the cobwebs,
loosen the grip of fear and anxiety,
free us from the distraction of the various responsibilities we carry,
open our minds and our hearts to YOU.

Help us to remember you are consistently guiding us to a future which you can see, but we cannot. You are not controlling us or condemning us, you are guiding us.You are coming alongside, you are a companion on the way. A companion who knows us, inside and out . . . and loves us anyway.

Part of what keeps us distracted, what makes it difficult to still ourselves, are all the lists we carry around in our heads. One of those is the list of ways in which we have fallen short — fallen short of who you’ve designed us to be and fallen short of what you’ve called us to do.

So, in the silence of the next moment or two, help us to still our souls, and to offer that list to your tender care. Help us to also receive the forgiveness and acceptance that your grace makes possible.

Hear our prayer, O Lord:

+++Silence+++

There are other lists inside our heads, too, Lord, lists we sometimes fail to recognize
or acknowledge in ways that might bring us life and joy. A primary one of those is the gratitude list — all those things, which, if we take just a minute to think about it, we are deeply grateful for — things about our life, our work, our community, our home, our relationships. It’s a good thing to be grateful, God, a very good thing. So hear our words of thanksgiving now, as we sit, quietly, with you.

+++Silence+++

And as a gentle word of encouragement to those sitting nearby us, we offer to you one or two items from that list out loud, all together, right now:

+++Shared speech+++

Oh, it’s lovely thing to say thank you! And we truly do have so many things for which to say it. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Then there is different kind of list, a heavier one. That’s the list of people and situations that feel difficult, maybe even hopeless to us — physical, emotional, mental, financial, political, relational — all of them places of pain, in our lives and in the lives of others whom we love. Hear and answer, O Lord, as we silently lift to you some portion of that list which we each carry in our hearts. Have mercy, Lord Jesus. Hear us as we pray:

+++Silence+++

Last, but far from least, in that pile of lists we carry with us is the one which holds those things we hope for — events, milestones, healing, newness, times of refreshment,  moments of reconciliation — this list is unique to each one of us and yet the hope is something we share, at a level deeper than words. Will you help us to hope well? To trust that you know best? To learn from our mistakes, to focus on your faithfulness, and to practice resurrection as we wait? Help us in this moment of stillness to verbalize or to visualize those things for which we hope:

+++Silence+++

God of all hope, thank you for listening. Thank you for the invitation to be still in your presence, and for the assurance that though the way may be thorny, the end, ah, the end, is filled with joy.

Be with our brother Greg as he breaks open the Word for us this morning. And bless our pastors this day, Lord God — Ian and his family as they find rest and recreation in the Sierras, and Jon and his family as they meet and worship with the congregation in Salem on this day. May each one of them find moments of soul-stillness, moments when the assurance of your loving presence fills them, and us, with joyful expectation.

We pray all these things in the blessed name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John 11:1-44
“Well, what did you expect?”

 

Here you are reading this. You anticipated something, or you hoped for something, right? “What did you expect?” is a question we often hear—and it has a hint of criticism in it. “Aren’t you shrewd enough to know what’s coming next . . . that there would be traffic . . . or a negative answer . . . or that you would need your sweatshirt?” Expectations are part of how we think and talk about the future. So are anticipations and hopes. Jesus cares about how we live in relationship to the future. He wants us to “anticipate well” by keeping our insistent expectations about this world low and our hopes for what God can do high. Sound like a hard line to walk? We’ll walk through it together this Sunday morning.

A Prayer for Those in Need of Goodness and Mercy

Whenever I am invited to pray in public, I try to post those prayers in this space. Sometimes, people ask me for a copy and this is the easiest way to make that happen. In our church community, we find ourselves in a surprising season of discord and misunderstanding. We’re working on it! And the sermon for the day helped, as did the song that just preceded this prayer, “Psalm 23,” with the chorus that begins with, “Surely goodness, surely mercy” Yes, indeed. Please, Lord. (Our primary teaching text was Zechariah 8)

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Oh, Good Shepherd, we gather together in this place,
at this time in our history and in the history of the world, to acknowledge —
out loud and with all of who we are —
that we stand in need of goodness, we stand in need of mercy.
Every last one of us as individuals, and all of us together as your people at Montecito Covenant Church. All of us.

We need to remember, and to give thanks for, the truth that You are on our side,
even though the valley be dark and the way ahead, uncertain.

Lead us, O Lord, into green pastures. Restore our souls, refresh us with the water of life, remind us that we belong to You, and remind us that You are good.

Even as we acknowledge that goodness in You, O God, we must also own the truth that we are sometimes not so good.

We step on toes, 
we say harsh things,
we talk about others when they are not present,
we make judgments with incomplete facts,
we make assumptions,
and stand on entitlement,
and fail to practice grace and peace.

Forgive us, O God. Forgive us. And help us to forgive one another, too.

The climate in the world around us right now is not particularly conducive to forgiveness, nor to goodness and mercy. So it seems even more important than usual that we — as members of Christ’s body — practice what we preach. Will you help us to do that, please?

The text before us today reminds us of some of those things we preach, and we need to hear them, we really do. Bless Pastor Jon as he brings us your word for today. Give us ears to hear, O God, give us hearts to understand, and give us feet that walk out that truth into our world, beginning with the patio, and then the lunch tables we will share together a little later today. May your grace and joy infuse every conversation, guiding us into wisdom, and good decision-making.

Most of all, Lord God, will you help us to let your goodness and mercy inform what we say and do in our day-to-day living? That is not always easy for us. Some of us are in the throes of deep grief during these days of summer —

loved ones die,
relationships dissolve,
circumstances take a nosedive,
hard decisions must to be made,
ugly voices rise to the top in too many dialogues,
children suffer,
politicians seldom tell the truth,
poverty of all kinds surrounds us,
wars never end.

To us, the world feels a shambles, and we forget about goodness and mercy.

But we are not YOU, O God. Help us to look around us and see what you see — a world in need. . . yes. But a world that is also deeply loved, a world held in place by a Good and Merciful Sovereign, a world in which we are invited to partner with that Good Sovereign in the necessary work of restoration, reconciliation, recovery, and renewal.

We give you thanks this day for the evidence of that good work in the lives of those graduating from Bethel House and the Rescue Mission last night, celebrated right here, in our sanctuary. And we give you thanks for the changed hearts in thousands of teenagers, including some of our own, who were at the CHIC conference in Tennessee this past week. Thank you!

Bless and encourage every hurting heart in this room, O God. And use each of us to make that blessing real. Help us to be good neighbors — to each other, and to all those we meet day by day. Because everybody, from the grocery clerk to the rude driver behind us, needs a little goodness and mercy in their life, too.

They need the truth that we already know: that all of us belong to you — every last, mixed-up, weird and wonderful one of us.

Glory be.

In the name of Jesus — who loves us, who died for us, and who, by the power of the Spirit, was raised to new life, the One who dwells today in the church, including this one, in that name, we, together say,

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wide Believing — For SheLoves, April 2018

I took a month off from SheLoves in March, but I’m back in the April edition, pondering some words that I found in the memoir I reviewed here last week — “Forgiving God,” by Hilary Yancey. Come on over to their site to finish this reflection. Click here.

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“If I could ask anything of us, this ragged band of us looking for a way home, crossing the Jordan River, it would be to believe wider for each other.” — Hilary Yancey,
in “Forgiving God: A Story of Faith,” pg.57.

 

I have heard the truth that ‘thoughts and prayers’ are not enough. This is a phrase shouted by voices around the world in recent days, words that flow from the painful experiences of those who are oppressed, victimized, traumatized, ostracized, threatened, abused and neglected. And these words are true. Thoughts and prayers are too often not enough, at least in the way ‘thoughts and prayers’ are so often understood and defined.

I find myself wondering if we have allowed our language about prayer to descend into the realm of cliché because we have not fully grasped what prayer is and what prayer can do. I am in the late autumn of my life and I still do not fully comprehend either the definition or the experience of prayer. It is an idea we use (and abuse) far too easily, I think, a word better saved for deep times of soul connection and firm commitment. It is no small thing to promise someone that you will pray for them; no, it is not.

Hilary Yancey’s words, quoted at the top of this post, are from her new memoir . . .

Please do click this link and come join us at SheLoves. After a month off, I’m back in that good space today with some thoughts about prayer, about widening our understanding, definition and practice of it. Just click here!

An Advent Prayer: SheLoves — December 2017

Just click right here to finish this prayer with the readers at SheLoves.

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We’re halfway there, Lord. Halfway.

We’re walking through this season of waiting we call Advent,

this season filled with songs in a minor key, and we’re grateful for it.

 

More than many in recent memory, this particular Advent feels

heavy, confusing, and terribly sad.

The world around us is rife with tension,

with pain and loss and too many people living with heartache and fear.

And some of those suffering are friends inside our own circles,

sisters and brothers we know and love.

Some of that heartache and fear is even inside of us.

 

So these four weeks that we set aside

to wait, to look for your coming,

to remember the story that centers us —

these four weeks are a gift in the midst of all that is not right,

all that still needs the redeeming work of a Savior.

 

As we move through this time we’ve set aside to pause,

this time of intentional waiting and wondering, we want it to be a time

of making ready, of being ready.

We want to be ready for that tiny baby,

for that holy family,

for those shepherds and wise men,

for those heavenly singers, the ones that lit up the night sky

with a song of good news!

 

So, Lord, as we wait together,

this cluster of sisters who live all around this world you’ve created,

will you help us to be on the look-out for that angelic light?

To look for it with hope, and with expectation,

and most of all, with grateful hearts?

 

Because, Lord — in the midst of the busyness,

the gift-wrapping and the cookie baking,

the family gatherings and the carol-singing,

in the midst of our own personal struggles and worries,

we need you to help us hang onto hope,

and to firmly grab hold of gratitude.

 

We confess that sometimes we forget.

We forget to say ‘thank you,’

to slow down, to look up, to look around

and tell you and one another

that we are grateful.

We are so very grateful for this story of ours.

 

We are thankful for its life-changing power,

and we are thankful for its grittiness.

Ours is a story that fairly reeks of real life — life as we know it,

life as we live it, and as we see it in the world around us:

families living under oppression, poverty, homelessness,

the murder of innocent children,

an unexpected, even scandalous pregnancy.

 

And this is the story that you — our Great God, Creator of the Universe —

this is the story that you deliberately chose to step right into.

You chose to experience this life, this human life here on planet earth,

in all its crazy mixed up-ness.

 

And you chose a girl like Mary,

and a man like Joseph, to be the ones who would help to tell the story.

So we thank you for these good people, these good parents.

And we ask you to open our hearts, settle our minds,

and learn what they have to teach us. . .

A Prayer for Communion, Written for People in the Midst of Real Life

I record all my public prayers in this space, which means there will be an extra note from me in your inbox today. For that, I apologize. Maybe there’s a way to post without sending an email to subscribers? If so, I have yet to discover it. This is the prayer from last Sunday, when our new pastor and his wife had to leave unexpectedly due to a family tragedy and our associate stepped in at the last minute and asked me to assist him at communion and to offer the pastoral prayer for the morning. This is that prayer.

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Gathered as we are, Lord, around this table, this place of remembrance and celebration and recognition, it seems natural for us to talk to you about how we are, and who we are, and where we are.

And yet, as Pastor Jon has so powerfully reminded us, it’s really all about grace, isn’t it?

It’s not about us so much as it’s about YOU and how you love us.

This is hard for us to believe, Lord, we’ll admit that. We look around our world and see disaster, illness, death, and loss upon loss being suffered by good and innocent people. Ugly politics and greed-disguised-as-business-as-usual seem to rule the day, and we wonder,

“Where are you? Who are you?”

If we’re honest, that’s a primary reason we’re here today, Lord. There’s something about being together to worship you, and to ponder your word, that helps us to remember the answer to those questions of“where” and “who.”

You knew this truth about us, Lord Jesus. You knew that we would need to remember that we are joined together by “ligaments and sinews,” as the writer of Colossians put it. Yes, even when we’re not thrilled about it, even when we’re not sure we even like each other a lot of the time, even when we forget — we still belong to one another.

And we belong to you — all of us together — we belong to you: we are joined to you, for you are our head.

That’s where you are. That’s who you are.

You are the God who is with us, the God who is one of us, the God who calls us to live together in ways that are new and life-giving and graceful. The One who says ‘yes’ over us! Thank you!!

As we prepare ourselves today to receive these elements — the bread and the cup — we begin by agreeing with you that we get it wrong a lot of the time. We misread your call, we sully your design. We try to go it alone, we close our hearts to one another, and to you. Forgive us, we pray.

Remind us that we are better together.

Remind us that you put us together in the first place. Remind us that even when the world gets ugly-looking and the people we care about are struggling and everything seems to be heading to destruction with increasing speed — even then, Lord, remind us that you are good.

That you are the Ever-Present One, that we don’t walk through the tough stuff by ourselves.

And some of us are walking through some pretty tough stuff these days. Many of us are grieving, right here, in these pews. We’ve lost people we love, relationships we care about, our health, our job, our hope. Comfort us, we pray, and use us — each of us and all of us — as members of your body — your arms and legs, your hands and feet — to do that comforting.

We pray particularly today for Mindy Noyes and for her family, in the loss of her twin sister, Mara, this past week. It’s been a long and difficult journey and now a loving husband and two young children are without their wife and mom. Yes, we take comfort in knowing that Mara is with you, restored and rejoicing. But oh, Lord. Those who are left behind are struggling.

You’ve promised that you will walk with us through the valley of the shadow, so we are bold to ask you to do that in ways that are unique and personal to each member of the extended Noyes family. We also ask that you do that for each person in this room who has lost someone they love in recent months, and for each person we care about in our city and beyond, who is facing uncertainty and confusion in days ahead. There are quite a lot of us, Lord. Hear our prayer.

As we make room in our hearts for lament this day, we also want to acknowledge that lament is not the only song we sing. We sing a song of thanksgiving and we sing a song of praise. We sing a song of beauty and we sing a song of joy. We sing a song that includes both dirges and dances, a song that weaves its way into the very sinews that connect us. We sing a song of YES. Help us to sing it well, O God. Help us to sing it true.

For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Photo Journaling: Day One – An Introduction

At the beginning of September, I had such high hopes for this year’s 31-day series. I wrote the introductory theme piece several weeks ago and never got back to add more. So I have decided to change course! I will be joining Kate Montaug’s 5 Minute Friday 31 day group, writing on a particular theme each day of the 31 days of October. Hopefully, it will happen each and every day this month. Time will tell, right?

So here is the intro piece to the first series I planned to write. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try this series idea next year!

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It’s (almost!) October again, and for the sixth year in a row, I am joining Crystal Stine’s 31 Day Challenge, choosing a theme to write on every day of the month. I am trying to be just a tiny bit more intentional about this blog space again, despite the loss of subscribers I experience every time I write here!

This space has been an important part of my life for the last decade and I’d like that to continue. One way for me to do that is to be disciplined about writing short, hopefully pithy, posts on a daily basis whenever the invitation arises. And this invitation is a big one! So . . . “once more, into the breach,” right?

The theme I’ve chosen for this year is Photo-Journaling, something I love to do and can easily transfer here. I take pictures a lot. A lot. And I always have — even before the invention of phone cameras! It’s a way of documenting, remembering and reflecting on my life. My photo folders tell our story as a family, my story as a pastor and as a child of God/wife/mother/grandmother/friend. I have often used my photos to organize my blog posts or my newsletters, weaving words around the pictures as I go. Something about the combination of the photo and the words tells the story more completely.

So here are a few thoughts for day one of our journey together this year. The photo above was taken on one of the walks I take several times each week. My husband and I have headed for the marina in our town quite a lot during the last few weeks and always see something fun/interesting/educational/inspiring when we do. This particular late afternoon was an interesting one. The fog had rolled out about midday, sitting like a lurking giant just beyond the breakwater. It was a low roll, however, leaving space for the clear blue skies which had become our predominant view just a few blocks further inland.

As we walked out on that concrete barrier that protects millions of dollars worth of yachts and fishing boats, a small sailboat was cutting across the water at exactly the right angle for me to capture both the fog and the blue, blue sky behind it. Something about that image grabbed my heart. I saw myself as that little boat, sailing across the vast mystery that is our life as followers of Jesus. Sometimes thick fog blurs my view and feels as though it is limiting my options. But what I need to remember during those times is that the blue sky is still there, somewhere just above me, encircling both my small boat/life and the fog bank, no matter how huge it may appear to be at any given moment. And that boat is heading straight for safe haven, making a bee-line for the harbor entrance. That’s where I want to be — en route home.

Can I hear an ‘amen?’

Longing for Home: An Advent Journey, 2016 — Day Nine

Today’s post is a little bit different. I offered the prayer of consecration and supplication in  yesterday’s worship service and am posting that prayer here. It comes out of the same set of readings we looked at yesterday and seemed an appropriate way to launch into this third week of Advent. We will be back on schedule with our daily readings/reflections tomorrow.

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An Advent Prayer

2nd Sunday, December 4, 2016

Montecito Covenant Church

It’s the Sunday of peace, Lord, and we gather now around your table
to remember how you chose to come to us,
as one of us,
to be our peace.

Yes, it is your death we remember
as we gather round today.
When we come to this table, we remember your sacrifice on our behalf,
and we thank you, with our whole hearts.

But on this particular Sunday of the year,
we also remember your life among us,
as one of us, and we remember it from that very first moment
when your mother heard 
a special word from your Father,
from our Father.
And oh, we thank you for that, too, with our whole hearts.

We also must admit that some of these hearts of ours
feel far from peaceful this morning, Lord.

Some of us are grieving the loss of a person we love very much;
some of us feel utterly exhausted — by school, by life, by illness;
some of us are worried about people we love; some of us are frightened about
something we ourselves are facing into right now.

In this moment of silence, we lift those concerns before you now.

— SILENCE —

And now, as we gaze on this bread,
as we consider this cup,
will you help us to remember
that this ordinary, torn-up loaf
and this common purple liquid
become something more, 
for us and in us, on this day.

We offer these simple things to you now,
and ask you to bless them, to set them apart,
and to make them uniquely beneficial to us, in body and in spirit.
May they become emblems of your love,
and strong, clear symbols of your Peace.

Even as Gabriel spoke to Mary those strange and wonderful words of invitation,
may you speak to us through
this time at the table.
Help us to hear you,
help us to be open to whatever invitation you are extending to us,
both individually and communally,
and help us to say a resounding,
“YES — let it be to us according to your word!”

And then, Lord, as we gather our belongings and turn to head out the back door into the sunlight and the friendly chatter of the patio, will you help us to remember that there are “Elizabeths” all around us today — male, female, young, old — all sorts of folks who have in some way or another experienced the reality that for you, “nothing is impossible.”

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear
the miracle stories that are all around us.
No, not all of those stories have what we might label a ‘happy ending’ —
Mary’s story wasn’t exactly all sweetness and light, was it?

But all of us who have walked with you for a little while or for a lifetime —
all of us know
that your faithfulness can be trusted,
that your goodness is unassailable,
that your peace is ever and always available,
even when the tough stuff happens.

Help us to live those truths, those stories, out loud, Lord.
Help us to be encouragers in all our interactions with one another
and within the larger communities
where we live and work.
Help us, dear Lord,

to seek peace and to live it.
For Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Communion, Two Days Before An Election

Our sermon text on Sunday came from the end of the Sermon on the Mount — Jesus’ words about the narrow way. Pastor Jon did his usual excellent job of parsing and paying close attention to the text and to life. Perfect timing for the morass we find ourselves facing at this juncture in our national history. May grace prevail, no matter the outcome today.

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We’re gathering ourselves around this table again today, Lord God, grateful for it, grateful for the story it tells us, glad to do it together.

And today, we’re going to come to it one by one, a physical and tactile reminder that sometimes, it is good to be deliberate about finding that narrow way, the way that leads to the real, the wonderful.

Please take these simple things in front of us — this torn up bread, this poured out purple — and bless them. Breathe on them and breathe on us with the gift of your Holy Spirit, your Holy Spirit of love and invitation.

Some of us really need to hear the love in your voice this morning, dear Lord. We’ve been listening to so.many.voices. for the past too-many months of electioneering, voices that speak ugly words, voices that tell lies of expediency and excuse, of dissatisfaction and disdain. Help us to hear your strong, clear words of truth, and grace, and acceptance amid the word overdose that clutters our life in this season.

As we listen for your voice of love today, we also ask you to forgive us for giving into fear, for speaking words of judgment, for caring too little for the ones you’ve commanded us to love — the least and the lost. And forgive us for sometimes forgetting that also includes us, Lord. Truth be told, we are all little and frequently lost.

So we ask you to hear now our prayers of silent confession, our prayers for forgiveness for the ways in which we fall short of your dream for us, your call to us.

— SILENCE —

Thank you for hearing, for offering us the grace of forgiveness, and for calling us forward to a better way, a more narrow way.

We also ask you to bless all those whom we love who are struggling this day. And sometimes that group includes us, too. I think it is fair to say that all of us are carrying around a fair amount of grief these days. Will you bring comfort, please? And will you help us to be comfort for one another?

Through it all — all the grieving, the worrying, the wondering, the recognition of our own contribution to the ugly voices all around us . . . and sometimes, inside us, too — in the midst of it all, please give us ears to ear your voice of love, your words of invitation.

Grant us grace to choose, day after day, minute by minute, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of Jesus. 

In whose name we pray, Amen.

A Prayer for Those Who Ask, Seek, Knock

Our worship service yesterday morning was filled with many lovely things, including a final song arrangement that was one of the richest worship experiences of my life the past dozen years or so. Our brand-new, quite young Interim Music Director took two songs we love to sing and braided them together, alternating men’s and women’s voices, including our singing the choruses simultaneously at one point. These two favorites were: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and “Great Is Our God.” 

Our prayer time was led by a long-time member, a Professor of Communication Studies at nearby Westmont College named Greg Spencer. The gospel text was from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7, and included Jesus’s strong words about our need to take care when we are judgmental. That passage ends with Jesus’s 3-fold command to “ask, seek, and knock.” Greg led us in a moving meditation on what that asking, seeking and knocking looks like in the dailyness of our lives. 

Several in the congregation asked for a copy of it, and as Greg does not yet have a blog of his own, I offered to post it here. It blessed us all very much.

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Lord, we come to you for many reasons, to learn from you about how to live, to sit with you and talk about our day, to worship you—but we also come for gifts. We ask. We seek. We knock. And so we do this morning.

We’ve asked, Lord, and you’ve answered. We’ve asked you for help and help has come—to overcome our temptations, for help with our children and their foibles, for good diagnoses, and easy passage. And this is what we’ve been given: this power to overcome, this guidance in relationships, this fear of disease removed, this mercy in our travels. Thank you.

But we’ve also asked and you’ve given us this, this answer that seems like a question: this on-going struggle, this wandering in brokenness, this accident.

We trust that you will not give us a stone when we ask for bread. We pray this morning for friends struggling to overcome addictions, for strength to triumph over besetting temptations, for our family members in trouble. We ask, Lord, we ask.

We’ve sought you, too, Lord, and you have delivered this, this thing what we have sought: a marriage, a baby, a job, more love for you. Thank you.

Sometimes we have sought and you’ve given us this, this solitary life, this childless marriage, this unemployment, this dark night of the soul.

We trust that you will give us what we need, that our nets will be full of fish, not snakes. You want to set the best before our table, so we seek you this morning. We pray for work for those who need better work. We ask for wisdom for this church as we are in transition. We seek, Lord, we seek.

We’ve knocked, Lord, and you have opened the door. We’ve knocked, we’ve pounded even, about our pain, about our loss, about our worries—and you’ve given us this, this relief, this consolation, this hope and contentment. Thank you.

But sometimes we knocked and we received this, this increase of pain, this separation or death, this fulfillment of our worry.

We trust that you love us as a father does his children. Though we aren’t always sure of the immediate answer, we know the ultimate answer comes from your loving heart. So we knock this morning.

We knock about the pain in our Church body—for those who are sick or care for those who are sick. We knock on your door for those with loss, that you would comfort them and remind us to come to comfort also. We knock on your door about our nation and world, our angry citizens in this election. We knock about war and strife and refugees. Peace, Lord, we knock for peace.

We’ve asked you, Lord, for salvation, we’ve sought relief from our guilt, we’ve knocked on your door for redemption—and you’ve given us this, this Jesus, this substitution for us, this death for our life.

Thank you for keeping your promises.

Amen

A Prayer for Those Who Worry

It was my privilege to lead the congregation in prayer this morning. Our texts for the day included Proverbs 3:1-8, 1 Peter 5:5-9 and Matthew 6:25-34. The song just before the prayer was a lovely arrangement of James’ Ward’s “Consider the Lilies,” which is based on the gospel text of the day. 

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“Seek first the kingdom,
keep the righteousness of God in view;
(you better) seek first the kingdom —
he said, all of these things will be added to you.”
                    (from ‘Consider the Lilies,’ by James Ward)

Such truth, Lord. Our songwriter this morning has borrowed the words of our gospel lesson and written truth. Good truth. Necessary truth. But such hard truth for us to live!

“Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you,” says the writer of Proverbs, “bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart . . . Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”

 Again, Lord. Truth. Good and necessary and hard.

And one more time today, we hear your word to us in Peter’s letter: “Cast all your anxiety on him,  for he cares for you.”

 We’re gettin’ it from all sides this morning, Lord God. It seems what it all comes down to is this idea of trust, isn’t it? It’s about getting our priorities in the right order, about paying attention to what we look at, it’s about remembering who we are, and — most importantly — it’s about remembering who YOU are.

Why is that such a tough thing for us to do? We are puzzling creatures, Lord, choosing, time and time again,

     to look in the wrong direction,

     to follow our worst instincts,

     to try like crazy to keep some kind of ‘control’ over our lives,

         our loved ones,

         our plans,

         our minds,

         our circumstances . . .

Yet what we really know to be true . . . what we really know is this: there is not much in this life over we which we have any real control.

You know us so well, don’t you? You know our penchant for anxiety, our desperate need to hold onto the reins, our yearning for all those puzzle pieces to fit together perfectly.

And so you teach us this good, necessary and oh-so-hard truth over and over again:

Trust.         Let go.         Believe in your goodness.

Relinquish our conniving, and all our anxious plotting, and rest in the truth that YOU are the one who sees the end from the beginning. YOU are the one who cares for us, who promises to walk with us, no matter what life throws our way.

We lost a good friend this week, Lord. We loved Arvid and now he is gone from us. Too soon — at least to our way of understanding. And we have other friends who are walking through difficult times, facing things that are hard and that we do not understand. Maybe we ourselves are the ones hearing news we did not plan on and do not want to hear.

And, of course, everything we see in the media causes that anxiety level to mount, from the election carnage to the wars in the Middle East, to the storms threatening the west coast this week, and the continuing, deeply rooted and festering racial tension, prejudice, and fear that rise up like the sins they are and seem to shake the foundations of our union

When these hard things happen, our go-to mode is almost always exactly the opposite of what our song and your word are saying to us today. We do worry; we are anxious. We do forget to trust you, only you, to set things right with this world of ours.

Will you forgive us, please? Forgive our faithlessness and our disloyalty. Forgive us for allowing our fears to push us into trying to manipulate people and circumstances, to pull strings, to work behind the scenes in a feeble attempt to make everything turn out the way we think it should.

Hear our prayer, O Lord!

And help us to bind your goodness and your loyalty and your faithfulness around our necks, like a beautiful, shimmering shawl, one that can wrap our worried hearts and over-anxious minds in warmth and release. One that can help us learn to trust.

For Jesus’ sake,

Amen.