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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Advent Prayer, Day 13: Coming Out of Darkness

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Friday, the second week of Advent

“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” John 3:1-2 NRSV

Why do you think Nicodemus came to Jesus at night? He already believed in him. Maybe the quiet nights, free from unruly crowds were the best time for Nicodemus to ask his most penetrating questions. Or maybe, he didn’t want the spiritual leaders he served with to know of his interest in Jesus. Jesus must have startled Nicodemus when he used the cloak of darkness surrounding them as a metaphor. He said, “For all who love evil hate the light, and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” Be it fear, depression, ignorance, or the darkness of sin in our lives, many, many people come to Jesus in their night.

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Light of the world,

I’m not wise or self-aware enough to truly know my motivations. Your Word says, “the heart is devious above all else; it’s perverse–who can understand it.” I’m asking for you to illuminate me. Nicodemus, in coming to you, came to the light. Help me, beloved Jesus, to come out of any form of darkness that may be surrounding me. You are good to make yourself available to me in the night, but I want to know you in the warmth of your blazing sun.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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21 Ways to Pray: Through the Family Album

posted by Mark Herringshaw

A picture may say a thousand words; a picture may also prompt a thousand words. This morning I’m looking through a series of photos of my father who died 18 months ago. We were on a fishing trip in Canada with my boys and some friends. It was an amazingly rich time, and these pictures bring it all back. Looking them over makes me reflective, pensive, and dredges up emotions I hope never fully diminish. I’m looking through these alone, but then again, I’m strangely aware that I’m not alone. These photos probe something deep in me, and remind me that while I don’t have my father with me now, God is with me and I can speak with him.

We keep photos of family and friends to prompt our memories and to etch particular moments deeply in our minds. In our family we’ve not taken a lot of time to organize our photos. Maybe that will come one day soon when we’re no hectically longer running our children to dance and ball games, events we probably should document in photos with more consistently than we do!

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Sitting and looking through photos from our past can be a rich, emotional, painful, refreshing time, particularly this holiday time of the year. This is a season for making memories and for reliving them. Photos can help that, and surprisingly, they can help us pray. God alone can fill our deepest longings, heal our loneliness, disappointments and answer our hopes. Seeing important images brings our heart up to the surface. They can be a good platform for prayer.

Today try something new: Pray through a family photo album a file of images on your computer. Use these pictures as an opportunity to thank God for the precious people in your life. Ask for God’s blessing on them to fulfill their destinies. Ask God to heal relationship rifts, and to help you heal from the grief of loved ones lost. The people in your life are created in God’s image. Images of them help us see and remember this, and can, if we choose prompt us to lift them to God.

Check out the other “21 Ways to Pray” in a special Beliefnet devotional I’ve written. And as always, feel free to add in your own perspectives.

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Advent Prayer, Day 12: Being Compassionate

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney
Thursday, the second week of Advent

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ John 2:1-5, NRSV

My friend Lisa and I talked about this story the other day, and she mentioned something I’d overlooked. “All his mother said was, ‘they have no wine.’ She could have just wanted him to go to the market and pick up a few bottles.” What was it about that statement that made it the prelude to a miracle? It’s a good question to ponder.

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Compassionate Jesus,
There are so many needs I can lay at your feet: she has no home; he is very sick; the children don’t have enough food. Help me to be like your mother, so concerned when the people around me don’t have enough that I take their needs directly to you. Give me the sensitivity to know when you are about to do something spectacular, and the wisdom to gather your servants and urge them to do whatever you say. In this season of giving, so many are desperate for what only you can provide, Lord. Make me and those who journey with me your servants to them, and through us…
“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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Advent Prayer, Day 11: Hard Truths

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Wednesday, the second week of Advent

“When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to
the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s
favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ Luke 4:16-19

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What a curiosity Jesus must have been. His graceful speech amazed his astute audience. “Isn’t that Joseph’s son, the carpenter?” they asked. At first. But as Jesus continued his prophetic proclamations, searing his listener’s ears with the hard truth about themselves, and who he was, their surprise turned to rage. Not only did they run him out of the synagogue, they tried to drive him off a cliff. Talk about a prophet not being accepted in his own hometown!

Wise and holy God,
 

Everything Jesus said in the synagogue that day was the truth, but his hearers still rejected him. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to face the facts about myself. I’m tempted to reject those who care enough to tell me when I’m wrong. Advent is a season of repentance. As I watch and wait for the arrival of Christ in fresh ways in my life, please help me recognize and receive those you send to correct me. And more than that, good Father, help me to remember that when you chastise me out of your great love, you’re only doing so to release me from captivity, open my eyes to my blind spots, and free me from oppression. These are all good news, and I thank you that Jesus is exactly who he said he is.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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