Fervent Prayer

Image by Karen Holland

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m praying to the exact same God Elijah prayed to”? Do you genuinely believe that Moses, Esther, David, and Daniel had no advantage over you spiritually? In fact, some would argue that you have the advantage of both the risen Christ and the indwelling Spirit. Let’s stop looking at the godly men and women in Scripture as though their prayer lives are unattainable! Pray fervently, knowing that Peter and Paul and Mary and Ruth were men and women “with a nature like ours” (James 5:17).
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Our prayers lay the track on which God’s power can come.
Like a mighty locomotive, His power is irresistible,
but it cannot reach us without rails.
– Watchman Nee

Is prayer a steering wheel or your spare tire?
– Corrie Ten Boon

Psalm 105:1-4 NRSV
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name,
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Tell of all His wonderful works.
Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.

If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Prayer ought to enter into the spiritual habits, but it ceases to be prayer when it is carried on by habit only…. Desire gives fervor to prayer. The soul cannot be listless when some great desire fixes and inflames it…. Strong desires make strong prayers.
– E. M. Bounds

There is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the Church’s power against the world.
– Andrew Bonar

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NRSV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Prayer cannot truly be taught by principles and seminars and symposiums. It has to be born out of a whole environment of felt need. If I say, “I ought to pray, ” I will soon run out of motivation and quit; the flesh is too strong. I have to be driven to pray. Yes, the roughness of inner-city life has pressed us to pray…. But is the rest of the country coasting along in fine shape. I think not. – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

The more we pray, the more we sense our need to pray. And the more we sense a need to pray, the more we want to pray. – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Help me Lord, hear my cry
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I
You are my hiding place, my impenetrable shield
My heart expectantly trusts and waits
Sheltered beneath Your wings
Filled with joy unspeakable
I am helped
My thankful heart sings.
– Karen Holland, Lead Me to the Rock

************
For more of Karen Holland’s powerful prayer and artistic ministry, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Serenity

Surrender to Serenity by Nancy Eckels

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

No matter who you are… trust God
No matter how you feel… trust God
No matter what people do… trust God
No matter what happens… trust God
No matter where you are… trust God
– Daily themes from Group Publishings Sky VBS 2012

Most people think of peace as a state of Nothing Bad Happening, or Nothing Much Happening. Yet if peace is to overtake us and make us the gift of serenity and well-being, it will have to be the state of Something Good Happening.
-E.B. White, 10 Steps to Peace

Galations 5:22-25 (The Message)
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good – crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

Serenity, or peace as we have called it, comes as a gift from God. We cannot manufacture it. We will not find it outside of a real, genuine, and growing relationship with God. The message of the Bible is unmistakably clear: There is a God. This God is totally good, totally love, and totally competent. God has come to us in Jesus Christ, whom we can totally trust. When we turn to this God with open hands and ask for serenity, the gift of peace will be given to us. This does not mean that our lives will instantly be filled with a deep, inner peace. Nor does it mean that we need do nothing from here onward. When we pray the Serenity Prayer, the gift of peace comes as a seed, planted in our hearts. It still needs to be nurtured. At the very least, this will require us to face the different sources of unpeace in and around our lives, changing the way we think and live, and working for peace in the practical realities of our daily living. There is no lasting peace without effort. But when we do what we need to do, like a seed hidden in the soil, the gift of peace begins to germinate silently and then bursts into flower in our lives and finally begins to bear fruit.
– Trevor Hudson, The Serenity Prayer

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
– The original version of the Serinity Prayer, as attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

**********
Click here for more excellent work by today’s featured artist, Nancy Eckels of California.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader's Theater: Psalm 111

Reader’s Theater Script for Psalm 111 (NRSV)
For two voices. The entire congregation or a choir of voices could be substituted when both voices speak in unison.

BOTH VOICES:
Praise the Lord!

VOICE ONE:
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

VOICE TWO:
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

BOTH VOICES:
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.

VOICE ONE:
The Lord has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
The Lord is gracious and merciful.

VOICE TWO:
The Lord provides food for those who fear him;
He is ever mindful of his covenant.

VOICE ONE:
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.

VOICE TWO:
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
All his precepts are trustworthy.

BOTH VOICES:
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

VOICE ONE:
He sent redemption to his people;
He has commanded his covenant forever.

BOTH VOICES:
Holy and awesome is his name.

VOICE TWO:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

BOTH VOICES:
His praise endures forever.

***************
For a devotion and original prayer based on Psalm 111, click here.

Psalm 111 (NRSV) from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

arrangement © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer for Bishop Carter

Bishop Ken CarterLast week, several jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church gathered representatives for the election and appointing of bishops. Five new bishops were elected in the SE jurisdiction. (were I live and serve.)

On September 1, my conference (the connection of United Methodist congregations in Florida) will receive a new bishop, Rev. Dr. Ken Carter from North Carolina. You can get to know our new bishop through his blog and through this nomination website. I am already hearing and seeing great things about his wisdom, experience and devotion. Praise the Lord for providing faithful servant leaders!

Thank you for your continued prayers during Bishop Whitaker’s transition into retirement, Bishop Carter’s transition into leadership, and both families as they move to different states. Please also remember the many other conferences that are also in a season of transition. – Lisa <><

Lord of All, thank you for sending us a new bishop to shepherd us, teach us, and preside over us. Fill your son and servant Ken with strength to lead and wisdom to discern. Grant him eyes to see what is needed and eyes to see what you are providing. Protect him from every attack, discouragement and falsehood. Raise up godly people to counsel and companion him. Infuse the influence of your son and servant Ken with prophetic power, so every congregation is cut to the heart with compassion for all people, so your Name is glorified in word and deed. Use him to focus us and unite us in your mission of salvation, reconciliation and new life. We trust the movement of your Holy Spirit in this time and season, and cry out for a fresh anointing upon Ken and upon us. Come Spirit, come. Amen.

God, I Need You

my god… i need you… by Zahra Jafari

Psalm 142:6a NIV
Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need

The devout man has Jesus with him everywhere to be his comforter, and to him he says: ‘Be near me, Lord Jesus, always and everywhere.’ – Thomas à Kempis

Prosperous people already know they matter. They are already so secure in their human dignity that they usually don’t give it much thought. It is the poor whose attempts to claim their own dignity — small, but often so costly — need affirming. It is the poor and the weak, who are most aware of the need for comfort and refreshment all of us have. When things are going your way, it’s easy to forget that you depend on God for everything you have. It’s easy to begin thinking you don’t, that your power resides in yourself. The powerlessness of all human beings shows clearly in the lives of the poor. The rich can hide from it — for a time. But there is nobody who will not one day find himself bearing a load too heavy to carry alone. None of us are self-sufficient, however strong or weak or rich or poor we may be. We are all in need of comfort, in need of refreshment. Blessed are those who know their need of it early; they are the ones who will put themselves in the way of the Comforter. – Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, “A Little Refreshment! A Little Comfort!” (www.Day1.org, 7/7/96)

Hearing it so often, I believed for years that I was a failure anytime there was more on me than I could handle. If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, what is to be said of us when our burdens are more than we can carry? And why does the Lord offer us rest and salvation, if we are only given what we can do just fine on our own? We were never designed to do this alone. We were made for relationship. – Fanci Rosselot

Psalm 116:6 NIV
The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Are not we all prone to be a little cocky and think we can handle things just fine? But let some trouble come, and how quickly we sense our inadequacy. Trouble is one of God’s great servants because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord. Otherwise, we tend to forget about entreating him. For some reason we want to carry on by ourselves. – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Thread the needle.
Let go of everything, now, in this moment.
In the perfect poverty of prayer
walk away from it all to God,
poor and naked, alone and without recourse.
Utterly needy and dependent, fall helplessly
into God’s waiting arms,
where you will receive,
Beloved,
you will receive.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, The One Thing

Click here for another terrific post by Steve Garnaas- Holmes entitled Lay Your Burdens Down.

Worship Resource: God, I Need You
Instrumental music begins and continues throughout. The scriptures may be read by one voice aloud or projected on a screen for all to read silently. If projected, allow ample time for slower readers and reflection.

Psalm 79:8b NIV
May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.

ALL SINGING:
Traditional Setting:
I Need Thee Every Hour
United Methodist Hymnal #397, chorus only

Contemporary Setting:
Breathe as made known by Michael W. Smith
CCLI Song No. 1874117

Psalm 42:1-2 (NRSV)
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?

ALL SINGING:
Traditional Setting:
I Need Thee Every Hour
United Methodist Hymnal #397, chorus only

Contemporary Setting:
Breathe as made known by Michael W. Smith
CCLI Song No. 1874117

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 50:15 (NRSV)
Children of God, claim God’s promise,
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Persons are invited to pray for needs, silently or aloud. Close with the Lord’s Prayer.

**********
Click here for more excellent work by today’s featured artist, Zahra Jafari of Iran.

God, I Need You compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Rest = Sabbath Re-creation

Lily Cousins by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. My photography hobby helps me to slow down and appreciate life. What hobbies or practices help you to sabbath?

Matthew 11:28-29 The Message
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

The practice of Sabbath is an essential spiritual discipline due to its origin as a command (God requires us to observe sabbath) and to its therapeutic value (we cannot continue to work or serve without rest). At its best the sabbath is an opportunity for prayer and play, self-denial and celebration. The practice of sabbath is also an act of trust and witness: God is able to act in the world apart from human effort or achievement. In this sense the sabbath can become a sign of God’s grace. … In a culture that affirms activity and busyness, the gift of sabbath is both a challenge to our lifestyles and a means of God’s saving grace in our lives.
– Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., Alive Now, July/August 2012

The sacrament of Sabbath—keeping a chosen time sacred (though all time is holy; there is no distinction or division between profane and sacred!)—was offered by the Jewish people as a gift for all of humanity. And in our busy, technology-driven culture, it is especially important that we intentionally seek rest and re-creation. It might be saying that at least one-seventh of life must be about non-performance and non-egocentric pursuit, or we forget our life’s purpose. – Richard Rohr

Perhaps you need to consider a retreat because you were made for both engagement and withdrawal–engagement with the world and life and withdrawal to be renewed and re-created. In the Creation story, this profound truth is modeled in the action of God who labored for six days and rested on the seventh. What kind of Superman or Wonder Woman would it take to say, “God may need withdrawal and rest, but I don’t!”
– Ben Campbell Johnson and Paul H. Lang, Time Away: A Guide for Personal Retreat

Some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual … And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform. -Thomas Merton

Mark 6:31 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi 

Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.
-Ashleigh Brilliant

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes. – Etty Hillesum

I do not know what restores you, where you take your rest, how you find the sustenance that enables you to meet those who wait for you with their insistent hungers. But whatever it is, whatever soothes you and brings you solace, may you find it in the rhythm of this day, as close as the beating of your heart, as quiet as the space between the beats. – Jan Richardson, Come Away and Rest

Prayer for Rest
Cleansing breaths are incorporated into this prayer as a means to help us slow down and clear away the distractions that keep us from deep communion with God.

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Jesus
Lord of the Sabbath
Prince of Peace
You invite me to come away with you and rest a while

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

My world is so fast
So noisy
So needy
So full
Help me rest

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Reveal the fears that drive me
Free me from false pressures and priorities
Renew a right spirit within me

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Cover me with your healing wings
Surround me with your refuge and grace
Fill me with your peace and hope and home
Till my being finds complete rest in you

Breathe in…. Breathe out…
Rest in God’s presence…

For another breath prayer/poem entitled Rest a While by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, click here

**********
Prayer for Rest © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

For a reflection and worship resource entitled Claiming Sabbath and the Bread of Life, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: Overcoming Labeling

Loser by Valerie (aka sketchingheaven)

Romans 2:11 (NRSV)
For God shows no partiality.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. – Richard Cowper

We are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always, in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them. – Anais Nin

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. – Anais Nin

Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

The problem isn’t in the labels themselves, but in how conscious we are of them. Labels are just a mental shorthand for leveraging past experience, and preparing us for what lies in store. But when I am unconscious of these labels, I start believing them to be the full truth, when in reality they merely reflect my own conditioning. Then, instead of giving me a head start on gaining more information, labels collapse my experience and actually limit my opportunities to grow. – Viral Mehta, The Neurobiology of ‘Labeling’

Colonialism is about power and conformity to a set of beliefs. Gospel is about love and giving away power. The Spirit affirms our uniqueness and giftings. Empire conforms us into a particular image. – Randy Woodley, Ask and Indigenous Theologian

God’s purpose is relationship, restoration, reconciliation. But there can’t be any reconciliation without communication and certainly no communication if we can’t or won’t listen, say we don’t have the time, or refuse to really try. Two key elements to this journey are perspective and intention. God has gifted us with the ability to see from inside our heart. So do we observe through a wide-angle lens or limit our vision to the endemic cultural myopia? Do we run free or are we restricted by blinders? Do we search for new stars with purpose at night or do we glance up without belief in the middle of the day? -Derek Maul, The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian

We needed to have real faith that anyone who walked in, regardless of his or her problems, would become a trophy of God’s grace. – Jim Cymbala discussing the transformation of his congregation The Brooklyn Tabernacle in the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

James 2:1 (NLT)
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?

Our separateness is the most seductive illusion. God’s one kiss awakens us. You are one with the stranger, the enemy, the very ones you distance yourself from. Their blood runs in your veins, your dreams haunt them. We breathe in one another. One hand holds us all. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Made into One

Ephesians 2:13-19 (NRSV)
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God…

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
– Brandon Heath, chorus from the song Give me Your Eyes

***********
For more information on today’s featured artist, click here

For an original song lyric/poem on this theme entitiled Image of Love, click here

For more information on the use of the quotes, scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.