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.

God’s words falling into us

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In his book A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer relates an old Hasidic tale that examines the tension between the limitations within our current reality and the possibility of our hearts opening into a new reality.

He writes:

The pupil comes to the rebbe and asks, “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The rebbe answers, “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks, and the words fall in.”

I find this to be so true in my life. How often there come moments where God mysteriously opens my heart to receive transformationally in new ways truths of His word that I have known intellectually for quite some time.

It is valuable to store up God’s words in our heart, but sometimes, they may merely rest on top of our hearts. May God give us grace to have hearts open to His word in such a way that His word comes into the deep places of our souls, transforming us into the fellowship of the burning heart. We may say, as the disciples did after their walk with the risen Christ along the Emmaus road, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

A Plea for Prayer

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Today we have more than enough activity but less than enough praying in the church today.

Today we have more than enough hearts distracted by many things and less than enough hearts that live with the solitary focus of approaching God in prayer.

I do not say this to make us feel guilty, but to challenge us to live the teaching of Scripture that leads to abundant life.

Prayer was one of the chief characteristics of Jesus’ life, and so it should be of our lives as well.

Prayer is the means by which Jesus faced the struggle — whether tempted in the wilderness, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, or in the Passion upon the Cross — and it must also be our means for staying alert in the struggles of life.

Prayer is hard work –- it requires discipline and diligence. Yet prayer is also joyful work –- it leads us into the presence of the God who loves us and holds the world.

Prayer is overwhelming –- we stand before the Holy God of the universe with the burdens of the world upon us and the onslaughts of the evil one against us. Yet prayer also brings peace -– we know that we approach a God who hears us and cares for us, who holds the world together even as we lift the world’s needs up to Him, and who has won the victory over sin, evil and death upon the cross.

Prayer is something that takes us beyond ourselves while simultaneously helps us to find ourselves in the presence of God.

Prayer takes us around the world in intercession even as we are able to “be still and know” that the Lord is God.

Prayer is something that we mature in over the course of our lives, and yet we are ever and always beginners at prayer.

Will you join me in learning to pray, even as the disciples said to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray”?

Will you step forward in the face of the struggle in your personal lives, and with others, to learn the pathways of prayer?

Will you bring the needs the needs of the world into the presence of God through intercessory prayer, groaning with God over humanity and the entire cosmos?

Let us join Jesus’ first disciples in saying today:  Lord, teach us how to pray.

Still

Still Series GFX_16x9 TitleIn our frenetic world, many of us struggle to find time to do all that must be done in a pace that doesn’t break us. Rest is sometimes a word with which we have a love/hate relationship. The prophet Elijah was a godly person who struggled at a particular season of his life with these same things. We want to look at this strained seasons of Elijah’s life in 1 Kings 19 in order to see what it means to live into Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Join us over these next two weekends at Eastbrook Church for our new series, “Still.” You can follow along with the series via our web-site, our Vimeo page, our Facebook page, or by downloading the Eastbrook Church app.

Tips and Tools for Memorizing Scripture

As we prepare for our upcoming series, “Rooted,” I am encouraging people to try to memorize Psalm 1.

In Psalm 1:3, we read these words:

…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

Why Memorize Scripture

We see here both the call to delight in God’s instruction and also to meditate upon it steadily. I believe that memorizing Scripture helps us to both delight and steadily meditate on God’s truth. Memorization enables us to more deeply understand and reflect on what we are reading. As we ponder the words we are trying to work into our memory, we will begin to see – from our own reflection and by the Holy Spirit’s work in us – ways in which these truths can work themselves more deeply into our lives. What we think about has a significant impact upon our inner and outer lives. When God’s truth becomes a constant part of our mental activity we begin to live into Paul’s words in Romans 12:2:

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind

How to Memorize Scripture

There are no end of approaches to Scripture memorization, but let me suggest three here that I have used at different times in my life:Read More »