Praying Toward Unity: a simple resource for prayer on our own or with others

Over the past few days, I preached and then have written (here and here) about living as a unified church in divided days. Talking about unity is great, but my sense at this time is that we need more than talk…we need to take a step. And so, I’d like to encourage us to pray about unity. I’m offering a brief reflective prayer tool below that you could use on your own or with others. It is built around a series of questions that could lead you to reflective confession and intercession. But first, I think it is important to just take a moment to be still. So why don’t you take a minute or two (you may even want to set a timer) to still ourselves before God.


First, we know that the essence of our kingdom life is focused on Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So let’s prayerfully consider this question:

How do I need to return to the truth that life is all about Jesus and God’s Kingdom?

  • maybe something else is distracting us at this time
  • maybe we’ve become confused about what is most important
  • maybe there are ways we need to simply say again to the Lord: “it’s all about you…but I’ve lost my way”

Take several minutes to reflect on these questions and consider what you might need to ask of the Lord in your own life or in your church family.


Now, consider with me a second question that is particularly pertinent as we have walked through great seasons of difficulty. Many times we can point the finger at our circumstances or at others as the source of our problems. However, as we continue to let the Holy Spirit search through us, consider this:

What do I need to lay down at the foot of the Cross, specifically surrendering it to Jesus?

  • maybe there is a fear that has gripped our heart
  • maybe there is anger that is stewing within us
  • maybe there is bitterness that has hardened within your soul
  • Regardless of what might be there, what do we each need to lay down at the foot of the Cross during this season?

Take several minutes to reflect on these questions and consider what you might need to ask of the Lord in your own life or in your church family.


Finally, prayerfully consider this question:

How is God specifically calling me to love others and support the unity of the church during this season of time?

  • maybe there is a specific person that comes to mind that we need help loving
  • maybe there is situation or environment that is difficult for us to engage in because of past experiences or hurts
  • regardless of what is there, in this moment let us hold it up to God and ask Him to help us grow in love and unity

Close out your time with several minutes of stillness before the Lord. Let God speak to you about what you have just walked through in prayer. Thank Him for His goodness and grace in your life and ask for His power to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received in Christ.

A Litany for Pastors based on Matthew 23

I wrote this litany for those who are in ministry after reading Jesus’ sharp rebuke of the Pharisees and teachers of the law as recorded in Matthew 23. Every one of us in ministry struggles to live our calling faithfully, yet we also must let the Holy Spirit regularly search us and lead us to repentance. May this series of prayers help all of us in ministry continue to grow with God and serve others for His glory out of the overflow of humble and repentant lives.


O Lord, deliver us from the hypocrisy
of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.

Save us from burdening others in how we present Your truth
and help us to practice what we preach.

Rescue us from practicing our spirituality for others’ eyes
and focusing more on externals than true inner change.

Humble us that we might not seek position or title
but might learn to be servants of all.

For the ways we make Your kingdom hard to enter
and for how we lead people toward ourselves instead of Your kingdom
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the ways we discriminate about trifling matters
and miss the most important things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the false righteousness we build in external things
and the dead places within us that have not yet been transformed
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the ways we honor the Word of God and Your messengers
while our lives are at odds with You and Your ways
—forgive us, O Lord.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Almighty God, the Creator of all things and preserver of life,
heal and transform us, forgive and deliver us,
that our lives and ministry might reflect the joy of Your kingdom
and that those we encounter and under our care
might know You, the One true God better
and thrive in the good life of Your kingdom.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ,
who, with You and the Holy Spirit,
are One God,
both now and forevermore.
Amen.

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 January 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Sebastian Kim“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.


Praying for the World“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.


wayne

Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:


Wintering“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”


Jefferson Bible Jesus“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”


Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge

Join in a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation

Today on January 20, 2021, we are inviting Eastbrook Church into a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation on the day of the presidential inauguration. The goal of this day is not to pray in a partisan way, but to bring our hopes and fears about the future of our nation to God, even as we intercede for the preservation of our nation, unity amidst divisions, and revival of hearts turning to the Lord. We welcome all of you to join us.

Prayer is the most appropriate first response we can make to circumstances like this. Prayer is not the only response, but it is vital. In prayer, we lay down our thoughts and feelings before God, relinquishing our desire to control, our visions of what is needed, and fears that grip us. We can release this all into the hands of God. In prayer, we also venture into encounter with the God who has made us and holds all the world together by His providential power and goodness. Prayer leads us to intercede for the needs of the world, to call out to God on behalf of those with power in the world, and also brings us into the silence of entrusting all things to God who knows better than us what is truly needed. God changes us and changes circumstances through prayer.

Fasting is simply voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is the opportunity to express to God in a very tangible way that we need Him more than anything else, even a physical meal. Fasting is always accompanied by focused prayer. If you do not know much about fasting or would like to grow in your understanding of this spiritual practice, let me encourage you to make use of the resources on my blog here.

As we engage in this day of prayer and fasting, here are some prayer points to guide us:

  • pray for true peace in our city, nation, and the nations of the earth in this divisive, confusing, and tumultuous time
  • pray for a peaceful transition of power as President Trump steps down and President Biden is inaugurated
  • pray that God would guide the leaders of our nation with His wisdom, and that whether they name Jesus as Lord or not, God would mercifully lead us forward in His ways
  • pray for healing of wounds in our nation, reconciliation across divides, and a constructive pathway forward toward a more whole and unified national life
  • pray against the powers of evil, both spiritual and physical, that seek to disrupt and destroy, both in the church and the nation
  • pray that the church of Jesus Christ might stand united for God’s kingdom and ways as we navigate a season where even we as God’s people have been destabilized by tension
  • pray for revival in our nation; that God would lead people to a true understanding of the gravity of sin and evil, as well as the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ
  • ultimately, pray that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven

These additional resources on prayer may be helpful as you pray:

National Day of Prayer service today at noon

National Day of Prayer

Join us today at noon for a 30-minute prayer service via Zoom to call out to God on behalf of our nation at many different levels. For more information and the Zoom invite, reach out to me via email.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)