Learning to Pray- God, please help

God please help October

God, please help… for many of us, it’s our first prayer, our first time reaching out to God. It comes in the midst of tears or as a whisper in the night or a cry of anguish when we are in way over our heads.

Help, I lost my job
Help, I’m losing my mind
Help my kid to love me again
I’m so lonely, help me
I don’t know what to do, help
Help, I have cancer
Help, she’s going to leave me
This pain is unbearable, help me
Help, I can’t do this
help, I can’t stop doing this
Help, I hate my life

We don’t have to be taught how to ask for help. We’re born knowing how. We know how to cry out for a diaper change, or a bottle, or to be burped. Help! It’s as natural as breathing.

But somewhere along the way we grow up and start taking care of ourselves. We start buying into the myth we can become educated enough, rich enough, powerful enough not to need help.

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help.

Even Jesus asked for help. He often went off alone to pray so we don’t know what he said then. But we do know what he prayed on the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane the night before his death. (Matthew 26) He was vulnerable and honest in asking God for help and asking for help from his companions.

In her wonderful book Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers, Ann Lamott said, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making. Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.”

The truth is we all need help. We will always need help. When we know this and accept it, asking for help can again become as natural as breathing. In the asking, we realize God is already there, close as breath.

So let’s learn to pray by re-learning to pray.
It’s not important how you say it.
Just say it – real, raw, honest.
It’s as easy as finishing a sentence-
God, please help…

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Learning to Pray- God, please help © 2019 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.

My Needs, My Hopes- a prayer based on Matthew 4

left human hand photo

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

What would it be like to turn toward Jesus right now and place everything into His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. All that weighs heavy upon you – for yourself, those you know, and our weary world.

God is near. God is good. God is strong to save.
Let us pray…

Jesus, my Light, my Savior
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

I’ve been carrying this by myself
I hear your call to repentance
The turning will save me
Save us

I’ve been trying to make it right in my own strength
I hear your Good News
The trusting will save me
Save us

I place every need into your healing hands
name your needs

I place every hope into your divine care
name your hopes

I’m listening
pause in silence

Thank you for receiving it all
Receiving me

In you, I find rest and wholeness
In you, I find life
Now and New and Forever
Blessed be your Name. Amen.

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My Needs, My Hopes, a prayer based on Matthew 4 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this prayer in July of 2013. The husband of one of my clergy friends had cancer. He was preparing to receive a triple lumen cath followed by 4 days of chemo before receiving a bone marrow transplant the following week.

I admired how transparent they were about the whole experience. She posted on social media, “With a healthy dose of fear and much hope, we are walking this path together with the support of each of you and the grace of God to lead us.” She also posted his words before receiving the cath: “and so it begins.”

And so it begins… so much in so few words.

Their faith and the promises of God inspired this prayer.

Over the years, I’ve sadly returned to it. Every time my heart hurts. Every time God remains true and near.

This week my prayers begin for a sixteen-year-old I’ve known since she was a baby. She has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

May this prayer be a blessing to her, to you, and to all at the beginning of a medical journey. – Lisa <><

And so it begins,
the wondering
the diagnosis
the treatment

You are The Alpha and Omega
The Beginning and the End
The First and the Last
Unmatched Majesty, yet you draw near
to this beginning
to my frailty, my brokenness
my unknowing
closer than breath
closer than pulse

You are with me
You are for me
Jesus

You are Spirit
Animating, Leading
Pioneering, Perfecting
Way, Truth, Life
Glory Itself, yet you walk with me
on this small path
through the shadowy valleys
unknown or anticipated
My Guide and Guardian
Every day of my life

My eyes are open to my need
You make space to feel it fully and honestly
You meet me there with
Goodness and Mercy
Help and Wholeness

Holy One
You are my Hope and Peace
I love you and trust you and place myself into your compassion and care
Today and Tomorrow
Amen

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Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why you should memorize Numbers 6.24-26, The Priestly Blessing

priestly blessing Numbers 6

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 61).

What a powerful reminder of the benefits to memorizing scripture. Let’s add one more, especially regarding Numbers 6:24-26. You will always have something to offer when its time to pray out loud. 

Many people are terrified of praying out loud. Some are scared of public speaking, but far more are concerned they won’t choose the right words, or say them in the right way. (That’s a whole discussion for another blog post!)

Numbers 6:24-26 is an ancient, timeless blessing packed with rich, deep meaning.

Asked to say grace before a meal? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Asked to say a few words for a graduation, anniversary, birthday, retirement, or other celebration? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Use it when someone just shared their troubles with you.
When someone is ill or headed for a medical test.
At the birth or adoption of a child.
When its the last time you’ll see a dear one before a move or a trip…

It’s always the right thing to say because its a blessing straight from God’s Word. 

The easiest way to always have Numbers 6:24-26 at the ready is to memorize it. Then you can look the person in the eye, and offer the blessing with every ounce of your being.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. She stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, already loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Fun Facts: In ancient times, God through Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to God’s people. Aaron and his sons served God’s people as priests, thus the name priestly blessing. This blessing is still used today by both Christians and Jews.

HOW TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE
Dr. Andrew Davis memorizes entire books of the Bible. In his free, online memorization method booklet, he says, “Saying a verse one hundred times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for one hundred days. The absolute key to successful Scripture memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.”

Applying Dr. Davis’ method to Numbers 6:24-26

  • Day 1
    • Read Numbers 6:24 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 2:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:25 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 3:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:26 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:26 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 4
    • Recite Numbers 6:24-26 from memory and continue to do so daily.

Other helpful memorization techniques

  • Write the scripture you want to memorize several times for several days
  • Post the scripture where you will see it often- on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, on your calendar, etc.
  • Make up a tune or find a tune so you can sing the scripture. If you aren’t a singer, say the scripture rhythmically.
  • Create hand motions or use American Sign Language to help you remember the scripture.

What other scriptures have you memorized and how have you found it helpful?

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Why you should memorize Numbers 6:24-26 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday

words_from_the_cross_nivIt’s a long-standing practice for many Christians to pray from 9am-3pm on Good Friday as they remember the six hours Jesus spent on the cross. Some pray the entire six hours, some pray on each hour, and some pray sometime during the six hours.

Another option would be to pray for 30 minutes, starting when the minute hand reaches 9 and continuing in five-minute intervals till the minute hand reaches 3.

The amount of time isn’t as important as the remembering- setting aside time to watch and wait with those few faithful followers who did not abandon Jesus.

Below you will find a guide for praying on Good Friday. It includes the scriptures relating Jesus’ words from the cross plus some sentences to focus your prayer time. The more formal prayers come from the book Listening At Golgotha by Peter Storey. (Click here for a review of the book and purchasing information. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!)

May this guide be a blessing to you as you seek the deeper graces of God this holy season. Your comments for its continued improvement are appreciated. – Lisa <><

Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. – Nadia Bolz-Weber

PRAYER GUIDE: HOURLY SCRIPTURES AND PRAYERS FOR GOOD FRIDAY
The 9am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:32-38 NRSV

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Holy Jesus,
Your forgiving love saves and disturbs me.
Without it, I am lost,
yet, if I receive it, I must practice it.
By your mercy, make me merciful;
by your forgiveness, help me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Amen.

Continue by praying for all who are trapped in bitterness, revenge, and resentment so that all may know the freedom of forgiving as Christ did. Include yourself, as needed.

The 10am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:39-43 NRSV

One of the criminals who was hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Holy Jesus,
Love held you to the cross for my sake, but not mine alone.
Your love is frightening in its breadth and depth;
When I embrace it, it stretches my poor spirit.
Enlarge my heart to make space for your friends;
Let me love as one forgiven. Today. Amen.

Continue by praying for the salvation of family and friends who do not know Christ,
For those living in our community, in our nation, and across the world

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Jesus, Remember Me.

The 11am Reading and Prayers
John 19:25-27 NRSV

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Holy Jesus,
I give thanks for your mother
and all like her who have borne the pain of loving too deeply.
Thank you for your gift the church.
Help me receive as your gift all whom I encounter, whoever they are,
And to become family to them in Your name. Amen.

Continue by praying for Christian unity,
For the dividing walls between denominations to come down
For congregations in the midst of misunderstanding, pain, and conflict
For protection from the evil one and all that distances God’s people
That your congregation, and every congregation, would love as Christ loves
Embodying the hospitality and welcome only Christ can provide
Sharing His Word and ways with grace, compassion, and boldness

The Noon Reading and Prayers
Matthew 27:45-46 NRSV

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Begin by praying for all who are suffering,
For our brothers and sisters across the globe who are persecuted for their faith
For those who are suffering because they do not have access to daily needs-
clean water, housing, education, medical care
For those who are suffering due to war, injustice and tyrannical leaders
For those who are suffering due to mental or physical illness, addiction, or grief

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani 

Holy Jesus,
There was no suffering like yours.
I am silent in the darkness, Your darkness.
There can be no words, only worship. Amen.

The 1pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:28-29 NRSV

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Holy Jesus,
All the longing of God,
Through all the ages, for all humanity,
Cries out to me from your cross.
Give me a heart to hear that cry
And a longing to be found by your love. Amen.

Pray today for all who are longing,
Longing for love
Longing for answers
Longing for healing
Longing for daily bread
Longing for justice
Longing for hope

The 2pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:30 NRSV

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”

Silent adoration and wonder

The 3pm Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:44-43 NRSV

Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Rest now, Holy Jesus
Hero of the Cross
Your work is done.
The world has done its sinning,
And you have done your loving
Each beyond limit
And, in the end, limitless love prevails.
Your dying becomes my hope and the hope of the world. Amen.

Offer prayers of surrender, commitment, and thanksgiving

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Click here for an excellent article by Rev. James Martin, S.J. entitled The Five Lessons of Good Friday

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday compilation
© 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting or church setting with proper attribution. Proper attribution would include references to Peter Storey’s book, Listening at Golgotha, the source of the formal prayers. (Published by The Upper Room – October 1, 2004)

Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm

Quotefancy-806355-3840x2160As I write this, Hurricane Irma has turned toward us. I keep thinking of my friends in the Caribbean, my congregation, my neighbors, and my family who are so far away. There is much to warrant true concern. There is much that is unknown. In the midst of it all, God is near. God’s well of hope and safety and belonging is deep and it is for you. Love one another, make the best decisions you can, pray and trust God. You are not alone.
Your sister and servant in Christ- Lisa <><

Jesus, we see You calming storms
Storm tossed seas and stormy lives
Extend Your power and grace again,
Upon us and all in need

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits
overwhelmed by the crashing waves of circumstance
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and perspective over minds and hearts
adrift in confusion or drowning in fear
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and hope over people, families, and communities swamped by danger and loss
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and truth over the media that they may use their influence to build good will rather than stir up anxiety
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and protection over first responders – firefighters, law enforcement, medical personnel, power workers, and shelter workers- as they risk their lives to help those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and belonging over those who are displaced by evacuation – those in shelters, those stranded on highways, those in hotels, those far from loved ones.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and well-being over those who are hunkering down- the well prepared, the foolish, and the vulnerable, especially those who are poor or alone.
Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in You

Offer your own prayers. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

If you are using this prayer in a group setting, one person reads the light print and everyone reads the bold print. 

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Speaking Peace in the Face of the Storm © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer of the Unemployed, based on Matthew 20.1-16

unemployedBased on Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the vineyard owner hiring workers

My hope rises with the sun
I want to be hired, to be useful
I need the work

The day is passing
I need to be hired
I need to work
I have responsibilities and debts
I need to work to care for myself and my loved ones

The day is nearly gone
I have skills to offer, yet no one sees them
Why am I not valued?
Why am I not wanted?
The idleness eats my soul

The day is nearly done, as is my hope
Yet, you see me
You want me
You come for me

I give you what I have
The sweat of my brow
The labor of my limbs
The dreams of my heart
The weight of my needs
The hole of my soul

Help me to trust you in this lean time
Help me to trust worthy work is coming soon
With a boss as generous and fair as you
Help me trust there is work to be done
all are wanted
all are needed
all are chosen

Help me hold on to hope
Stay here soul
Stay here

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Prayer of the Unemployed © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.