Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Praying again, “God Bless America!”

posted by Mark Herringshaw

“Oh, my God!”… We each remember where we were that horrible morning eight years ago today. We remember the sick pit in the stomach, the rancid taste of fear in our mouth gaping in disbelief as we stared at our television screens listening for commentators to make sense of the senseless. I remember watching a shot of a group of New Yorkers staring up at the inferno and reading their lips, all of them. In near unison they mouthed, “Oh, my God!”


That’s what we say when there is nothing more or nothing else to say. And “OMG” is a prayer at the primal level! We reach up and out to God. We pray when we’re pushed to the edge. We prayed that morning, all of us. Whether or not we knew it, or even believed in the process; we all prayed. It’s a good day to remember that. Today we remember many things: the terror, the heroic courage of many, the anger, and the prayer of that darkest of days.  


In our book “Six Prayers God Always Answers,” Jennifer Schuchmann and I included the following about 9/11 and its aftermath. I offer it here as another way to remember…

It is hardly an exaggeration to call prayer an instinct. Before we think, consider the implications, weigh the probabilities, or balance our philosophic algebra, we pray.


Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 many New Yorkers found themselves in the throes of two indulgences most would have resisted in less complicated times. Hundreds threw themselves into sexual encounters with total strangers and thousands lost themselves in public displays of prayer Peggy Noonan described the latter this way in her Wall Street Journal column on September 28, 2001.


In the past 17 days, since the big terrible thing, our country has, unconsciously but quite clearly, chosen a new national anthem. It is “God Bless America,” the song everyone sang in the days after the blasts to show they loved their country. It’s what they sang on television, it’s what kids sang in school, it’s what families sang in New York at 7 p.m. the Friday after the atrocity when we all went outside with our candles and stood together in little groups in front of big apartment buildings. A friend of mine told me you could hear it on Park Avenue from uptown to downtown, the soft choruses wafting from block to block.

We prayed it then; may we do so again, fully intentional and again desperate: “God, bless, comfort, heal, encourage, challenge, restore America.”



Prayer for Schools to be Havens of Truth

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Our schools teach knowledge. But learning wisdom and learning truth means more than mastering facts and information. Here’s a prayer that our schools would be havens of true knowledge, the knowledge of God. Even in public schools which can not promote overt religious messages we can pray for an atmosphere of receptivity to the things of God.

God, you love truth, open the eyes of each person who walks through the school doors today to see that you are Truth.

When I’ve screwed up my kids… it’s time to pray

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Well, it’s official: we are a dysfunctional family. One of my kids is taking a college course called “Family Relationships,” and according to a standardized metric this family of origin is wacked out, screwed up, messed over, and unhealthy inside and out.  She stoically notified us of the results yesterday, without fanfare or condemnation. Just the facts if…

I’m not surprised. Our particular brand of life trends toward obsessive compulsive. We’re driven by some invisible urge to succeed leading us to over-commit our budgeted time, energy, and resources. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and our passions wider than our capacity to remain faithful. This breeds tenseness in our household. I have passed along not only my DNA of eye color and a predisposition for a love for ice cream, but my urge overwork and fear rest.

Result: there’s an atmosphere of perfectionism in my family. I’m to blame and my children have caught the bug. We’re a dysfunctional bunch, and we know it.

You might not know this if you came over for dinner. We’re mostly smiles and politeness and we don’t raise our voices often and we do honestly and sincerely trust God for many aspects of our lives. But this unhealthy undercurrent exists and now my kids are now old enough to rightly assign the blame.

So now what? Certainly there are things I can do to help. I’m establishing a day of rest for myself, a time set aside for relationships not work. It’s a hard discipline, but necessary. I’m learning to listen and not “correct” the critiques my children point out to me. Finally, I learning, again to pray.

When my children where small I learned to pray… hard. Then the problems were mostly tangible, geared around the physical demands of parenting toddlers. With teens and young adults under my roof my parenting challenges are elusive. I’m learning again my utter dependence on God’s strength, wisdom, and courage.

I’m praying to God to heal the dysfunctions in our family, specifically those warped parts of my character that have reproduced in my children and in our family dynamics. I’m praying for peace. I’m praying for joy, and rest, and a natural sense of optimism, not at all natural to me. I’m praying for the miraculous capacity to encourage and not to criticize. I’m praying for a true belief that faith in Jesus, not my own works produces the perfection God requires.

In the face of my screwed up family… I’m praying. What else is there?

The up side: I’m beginning to see flickers of hope in my own soul and in my kids… The very fact that the child who delivered the grim news of our dysfunction could smile at me and give me a hug at breakfast this morning is a miracle! That is the hope that prayer brings, the reality of miracles we don’t deserve!

Challenge: Who can the dysfunction in your family bring you to your knees? Are you dissillusioned with your own parenting? If so, GREAT. Illusions need to be “dissed.” How can this lead you to prayer? How can we pray with you? Share it…

A Prayer for the Financial Resources to Educate our Kids

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Each day this month we are offering one prayer for one aspect of our children’s education.  Here’s a prayer for school finances. Nothing happens in this world without resources, but God is the source of everything. Let’s ask! 


Lord, you invite us to ask for anything, so this school year we ask that you bless the school with needed funds for those projects that are desired but not in the budget.

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