Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Thanksgiving Prayer: Breaching the Berlin Wall in My Life

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I’m holding a jagged piece of concrete, about the size of hand. One side Is flat, and covered with brilliant blue paint, the other porous and broken. 20 years ago today someone, among tens of thousands of jubilant Germans took a sledge hammer to the Berlin Wall and this particular piece broke free. A few months later it arrived in the mail sent to me by a friend living in Berlin at the time. Today, along with the rest of the free world, I’m remembering the miracle.

The blue paint indicates that this particular section of the Berlin Wall faced the west side. West Berliners had made the Wall a kind of shrine to the hope of freedom and reconciliation. They covered their side of the barrier with graffiti, some political, some deeply personal. Rally cries of liberation had been etched beside the names of friends and family who, though no more than ten feet away in real space remained a world apart. Did this small smudge of blue paint once represent the name of someone’s sister? Did it once serve as part of a spray painted word, “Freedom!”? Was it a sliver of a prayer, “God, save us!”?


I don’t know the specific story behind this real “piece” of history, but I cherish it as a reminder that impossible walls can come down, that God does do miracles, that barriers to destiny, though they stand for decades, can, in a moment, the right moment, fall to dust without a gunshot. The breach can and will be spanned.

I’ve had Berlin Walls in my own life, spans of rocky barriers that have divided me from people I love, from God’s destiny for me, from a full and complete relationship with God himself. But that’s now past. At one specific point in my life, one miracle-day when it seemed most improbable, God lifted the oppression and I had courage and capacity to take a hammer to the wall. When I did, down it came. I can say it straight: I have been reconciled by God’s grace in the power of Jesus Christ. I no longer have any excuse for any fragment of slavery! As Paul the Apostle put it, “The one who Jesus has set free is free indeed!” Sure, at times I still retreat behind lines of separation. I hide from love and accountability and intimacy. But the truth of the matter is that I now live in a post-wall era. Any wall in my life is one I imagine and choose. I’m a free agent.


There’s a great ancient song in the Old Testament that relays this message and articulates my thanks for The freedom I’ve been granted. It’s Psalm 103. It begins: “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” And one of the benefits mentioned… “He redeems my life from the pit.” There it is. Said and done. Sealed and delivered. God has lifted me out of the prison of the pit of emptiness. He’s broken down the walls robbing me from opportunity and freedom. Liberty is a done deal. And my role now is simply, “Don’t forget it!” When I remember to say “Thank you, God, for setting me free,” I’m remembering that freedom is my present state.


“God, thank you that 20 years ago you delivered a miracle and empowered freedom-loving people to break down the Berlin Wall. Thank you for the courage this gives us to believe that walls in our lives can come down. Thank you too you have already accomplished the ‘blows’ to the biggest barrier – the span of hard rock that has separated us from you. Thank you that in Jesus you have already ‘redeemed our lives from the pit.’ Help us to remember what this cost you, and the benefits you deliver to us in the process. Help us now to appropriate the gift of freedom we have been given. Help us to nurture the relationships we’ve been granted and the tasks that give us meaning and advance your purposes in the world. God, we’re free! In Jesus was say ‘Thank you!’

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Lincoln’s “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” – No Separation of Faith and State

posted by Mark Herringshaw

I wonder how the ACLU would have responded to Abraham Lincoln’s “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” issued in Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863. He sure was no advocate of the “separation of faith and state.”

During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders. While perhaps not as immediately strategic as his war room decisions or as revolutionary as his Emaciation Proclamation, Lincoln’s America’s National Day of Thanksgiving declaration has proven one of the most enduring and unifying gifts ever given by an American president to his people.


It began with a simple citizen request. Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, wrote Lincoln urging him to declare “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She made her case, saying, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.” The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

Lincoln, who’s religious faith underwent a profound transformation while in office, moving from Deism back to the Calvinism of his youth (See his great “Second Inaugural” to glimpse Lincoln’s spiritual conversion.


On April 1, 1864, Secretary of State William Seward, under direction of Lincoln crafted the following declaration in Lincoln’s name.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.


In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

While we do and should maintain a clear separation of “Church and State” – that is protect both religious institutions from governmental power and governmental policy from any specific religious institutional control, we most certainly shall not have separation of “Faith and State.” Lincoln sure didn’t advocate divorcing prayer from policy!




Thanksgiving Prayer: Simple Reminders

posted by Mark Herringshaw

They’re playing Christmas music in my coffee shop this morning. By now we understand the marketing strategy: push the boundaries of Yule back one or two days a year. Do we actually spend more this way?

Thanksgiving used to be the threshold, with the Friday after “The Big Eat” being traditionally the biggest Christmas  shopping day of the year. We blew through that boundary a decade ago. Now, on November 6th, some eight weeks out, we’re already hanging lights and wreaths. What’s lost, I fear is Thanksgiving. We’ve crunched it down to a kind of overture shoehorned in between the commercial frenzy.


I don’t suppose there’s any fighting this on the macro level. Forces larger then you and me are stampeding this herd. But on the micro level I think we can respond and counter the loss of the significance of Thanksgiving. We can do this by… well, being intentionally, individually, specifically, consistently, thankful. And the best way to be thankful is to aim our thanks in the direction that really matters – toward God.

Thanksgiving began as a prayer. The first tradition traces the holiday back to the Pilgrim settlements in New England and specifically to one harvest feast the colonists held with Native Americans who had helped them learn survival skills in the new land. Later Abraham Lincoln, during the dark and dire days of the Civil War declared “Thanksgiving” an official holiday. Prayer to God not football or stuffing the turkey and then stuffing ourselves was the centerpiece.


In an effort to help us individually recover the heart of true Thanksgiving, we’re posting some suggested Thanksgiving Prayers this month. Each day if each of us will simply pause in the middle of our hectic moments to aim two simple words toward God, what a change would follow! There are so many things that God has secured in our lives, so many blessings even in the middle of trial and challenge and stress and fears, all of which are real and present. But above and beyond, God is good and present and real as well. Today, for a moment, say those two words.

Set the alarm on your watch to ring every hour to remind you to say, “Thank you.”


Put up a Post It on your bathroom mirror, “Thank you God for…”

Ask a friend to call you and remind you to pray at least once today…

Tie a string around your finger…

Be creative… But by all means say the two words. It’s not yet the 4th Thursday of November. But if they can play “Jingle Bells before Halloween, we can say “Thank You, God” before we buy our turkey and stuffing…

“God, Thank you!”

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Prayer for the Unemployment Rate

posted by nsymmonds

Today it was announced that the unemployment rate hit 10.2%, the highest it has been since April 1983. This is startling news since it would seem that if we are crawling out of the recession less jobs would be lost. Unfortunately that is not the case as 190,000 jobs have been lost in October. Today we pray for everyone affect by the unemployment rate.

Heavenly Father,

Today we put our trust not in the economic system of the world, and not in soaring unemployment rates, but in God. Though these times bring forth uncertainty we trust in the certainty that God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory. Help us not fear but instead cleave to you and believe that all things work for the good of those who love you. Your word in Jeremiah 29:11 said, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” So we affirm that verse in our lives and walk forward believing that you want us to be prosperous in every dimension that prosperity can exist. We affirm that you have come to give us a hope and a future knowing that the future you have in store for us far exceeds anything we can conceive. Let us, according to Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” We know that this too shall pass us and we will be restored to better than we were before this recession hit us. So we ask for the capacity to put all our trust into you and your plan at this time. Be Jehovah Jireh, a provider for those who are unemployed and be a comforter for those who are concerned about their job stability. Be who you need to be in the lives of all who need you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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