Prayer, Plain and Simple

“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever” (Psalm 29:10).

Melting snow has pushed the Red River at Fargo, North Dakota to “major flood stage.” The National Guard and an army of volunteers are filling sandbags in anticipation of the flood crest expected sometime in the next two days. Let’s pray for all those facing the onslaught of floods in the upper Midwest and for those also facing flooding in New Jersey and the Northeast.

“God, we cry for your help for those facing rising floodwaters. Give them supernatural courage and comfort and physical emotional strength as they face this nature threat. Protect life and property. God, be with them. With the Psalmist we pray, “Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me,” (Psalm 69:15). You are the Lord over your creation: we confess this as truth! We also acknowledge that nature is imbalanced and fallen and does not now know how to submit under your lordship. At times nature’s weather breaks the dikes of your constraint. It is our part and role, our purpose as humans on the earth to declare your lordship over creation and to call it back into order and peace. We do this now in this prayer for the floods happening now in North Dakota and New Jersey and in other parts of our nation. Jesus on Lake Galilee called to the storm, “Be still!” and it was. We borrow his words and say the same today to these storms and rising waters: “Be still!” God you are good. In Jesus we pray…”

A Blessed St. Paddy’s Day to Ye!

In the book  wrote, “Nine Ways God Always Speaks” Jennifer Schuchmann and I offer the following about Patrick of Ireland’s spiritual contribution to the world: 

St. Patrick’s Day in America is merely an excuse for kids to pinch someone not wearing the right color and for adults to drink green beer. The shamrock is little more than an advertising icon for seasonal green milkshakes McDonald’s sells or the Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser. But these holiday associations are a far cry from the things the real Saint Patrick celebrated.

Patrick was a Brit and while a young man he had been taken as a slave to Ireland. After he escaped and returned home, he felt God directing him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Many amazing tales surround Patrick’s adventures in Ireland including his respect for the natural beauty of his adopted land and his willingness to leverage it as a tool for the gospel. One of the most famous examples of this was St. Patrick using the shamrock as an illustration of three in one.

The ancient Druids worshiped nature in general. They considered the trifoliate plant sacred. They associated it with the coming of spring and the rebirth of the world after the vernal equinox.

Instead of running from that pagan picture of nature, Patrick borrowed it, converted it, and repackaged it with Christian meaning. The clever saint used the three leaves of the clover to explain the counterintuitive doctrine of the Holy Trinity. God is three persons but one God. The concept is abstract. But a small piece of nature gave that idea a visible form.

Remember the C,S. Lewis quote about the association between sky and heaven–that God knew we’d make the association?

Did God also know what the shamrock would say to the Irish?

If he knew, he intended it from the moment he created it.

Perhaps God purposely created the shamrock to represent something more than green beer in March. If so, what other clues could we find in nature if we only pay attention?

When St. Patrick founded the Christian Church in Ireland he incorporated many redeemable elements of the Celtic culture into the new faith community. For all the centuries since the Celtic picture of Jesus and his Kingdom has added a marvelous mystery to our Christian faith. Here’s an excerpt from the book Jennifer Schuchmann and I wrote, “Six Prayers God Always Answers” about the Celtic – Patrick’s – contribution to our faith.  

The ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland associated spiritual experiences with specific geographical locations: a deep, cold cave, a grove of ancient trees on a hilltop, an open meadow between thick forests, or a stubborn, jagged cliff enduring the rage of ocean waves. Through the sublime places of nature, the Celts believed we might glimpse the wonder of super-nature. They believed these beautiful places had a kind of magical power to turn mundane life into mystical rapture.

The Gaelic word for these sacred spaces is “caol ait.” It means, “thin place”–where the barrier between our world and the realm of the spirit is translucent. Thin places serve as holes in a fence where human beings can touch God and in return be touched by him. In thin places anything can happen; these places are approached with a sense of anticipation.

And may we today again find the “thin places” in our world where we too can come close to God, as he has come close to us. By his presence God himself creates thin places in our ordinary world, here and now. We can find him and speak to him anywhere, anytime!


May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fallsoft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

         -an old Irish blessing

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