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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

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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21 Ways to Pray: God is a Dog Person AND a Cat Person

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Our family includes a dog, but no cat. We hold nothing particular against felines, except that four of the six humans in our house get puffy eyes whenever they’re around. JoJo, our feisty firebrand miniature poodle has another kind of allergy to cats. A cat isn’t an option, but all other things considered, we’d probably consider keeping one around, just for variety.

Supposedly dog people and cat people see the world very differently. Dogs and cats certainly do. You know the stereotypes: dogs are loyal; cats are independent. I don’t think God is either a cat or a dog person. He made both and values both bounding enthusiasm and calm, staid self assurance. There’s a bit of “dog” and a bit of “cat” in us all, in our relationship with God.

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Having a pet of any kind can teach us a great deal about our relationship with God. In fact our connection with our creatures is a relative parallel to our connection with God. Relative to us, a domesticated animal is dependent and must trust us for shelter and protection and provision. In a way, we are “as God” to them, and the love and commitment we feel toward them mirrors ever so slightly how God feels about us.

Reflecting on our relationship with our pets is a great starting place for connecting with God. Holding our dog or our cat can even be a platform for prayer. Try it. Pull them up on your lap – if they’re small enough – or kneel beside them and scratch their ears. As you do ponder the connection, and as you talk with your friend and let them communicate with you, turn your focus up toward God and continue the dialog.

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Prayer can be rich when it’s simple and spontaneous. In fact, we can pray anywhere, at any time. It doesn’t require lofty language in a sacred space. All we need to do is see our ordinary moments as the perfect occasions for communicating with God, then speak from our heart.

Try praying holding your dog or cat. God loves animals even more than we do. In fact, our relationship with them in many ways mirrors our relationship with God. As we are with the creatures under our care, so God is with us. Thank him for your pet, and that you can trust God as they trust you.  Here’s a simple model prayer for this theme:

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“God, thank you for the such an amazing world and the gift of letting us share our lives with our pets. You made animals and love them dearly. Even heaven will have animals – the Bible tells us this. The way we treat our animals and care for them can be a great bridge for us to understand how you care for us. And the way the our animals respond to our love should be a great example to us – a picture of how we can respond to your love. Bless our animals and our friendship with them. Help us to honor them as you honor us. Help us to trust you as they trust us. We pray this in Jesus…”

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 10: Prepare Us for Greater Works

posted by nsymmonds

By Claudia Mair Burney

Tuesday, the second week of Advent

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1-2 NRSV

If I had to guess, I’d have said that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, straight way hit the road, preaching, healing, casting out demons, and restoring lives. But the Spirit led Him into the wilderness instead, where He hungers; is tempted; and challenged again and again. If you look at the word “wild”, one definition is: untamed. His enemy wasn’t the only one talking to Jesus there; the Lord had access to his God free from the distractions of the world. So often we think of our personal wildernesses as painful, unproductive places full of temptations, and a formidable enemy. But the Spirit leads us there to grow us, and prepare us for a greater work.

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Father of mercy,

I began Advent, aflame with zeal, but suddenly I’ve been buffeted with unusual trials. I didn’t understand that this could be from you. Help me to see my wildernesses as the places where my faith, hope, love, and joy muscles are stretched, to prepare me for the glorious destiny you have prepared for me. Draw close to me, and help me to remember how Jesus relied on you in his wilderness experience. Without his example and grace, I will only fail.

“Come, Lord Jesus.”

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