A Way to Pray for the World

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Every news publication posts pictures daily that capture the horror (and beauty) of the human experience in this world. The temptation for me is to scroll through these pictures for information alone—to know what is happening in the world, to see it with my own eyes. But I’ve started to wonder what good it is to know these things. Is it so I can speak intelligently at dinner parties or with colleagues at work? So I can debate what governments should and shouldn’t be doing? So I can feel sadness or compassion or anger? So I will grow in fear about the evil and brokenness I see? Of course, some pictures move me to action—to protest, spend my money differently, donate to a particular organization that is doing good. There is only so much I can do, though, and I am inclined to withdraw instead and ignore the world.

Withdrawing from the world is not Jesus’ invitation to those who follow him. We are to engage the world, be light, offer hope, and pray—without ceasing, on all occasions, with all types of requests. What good is it to be inundated with pictures of the pain and horror in the world? To pray. To pray for the men and women and children who bear God’s image and who are loved deeply not only by God, but also by mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, siblings, husbands and wives, and friends.

We can pray without pictures. But with pictures, something changes. The Syrian refugees are not just a mass of people without names. In pictures, we see their faces and their eyes. Peace in the Middle East is not something that would be nice one day so we can stop hearing about it on the news. In pictures, we can see the urgency because of the faces terrorized by constant threat and the lack of stability and freedom. Black men killed by gunshots are not statistics. In pictures, we see they are bodies and souls made in God’s image, carefully crafted, formed for a purpose. The victims of natural disasters are not just numbers. In pictures, we can see their faces, their eyes, their hands, their feet. Our political candidates are not just platforms, ideas, and caricatures. They are people, made in God’s image, loved deeply. Concepts, numbers, and statistics are easy to ignore. Faces and eyes are not.

Here’s a way I’ve been praying for the world.

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Father in heaven, I hold every face and soul in this picture in the light of your love and grace and hope. I pray for the mother and son in the foreground. May they feel your presence and love today. Have mercy on them. I pray for all the families and souls that are not shown in this picture, but who are experiencing something similar. May your kingdom break through in the midst of such pain, displacement, and violence. Guide the hearts and minds of government leaders who are making decisions about the broken systems that stand behind what is happening in this picture. May your peace be known.

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Lord, it’s hard to know what to say. There is so much pain represented in this picture. I pray for Laquan McDonald’s family who are mourning the loss of their son, brother, cousin, nephew. Bring them your peace and comfort. Have mercy on them. I hold them in the light of your presence and love. I pray for Jason Van Dyke. Have mercy on him. Forgive him. In your grace, illuminate and heal whatever caused him to act the way he did. I pray for his family and all they are experiencing as a result of his actions. May your kingdom break through in the midst of the pain, the broken systems, the racism and hatred that is triggered or lies under the surface. Guide the hearts and minds of government and community leaders who are making decisions related to this incident and the systems that allow these shootings to keep happening. May your peace be known.

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(Clinton Photo; Trump Photo)

Father, I pray for this woman and this man, made in your very image, and so loved by you that you gave your one and only Son to give them eternal life. I hold them in the light of your presence and love. May you guide their thoughts and words. I pray for every political candidate in the upcoming 2016 elections. May your kingdom break through in the midst of the divisive, vitriolic atmosphere that characterizes politics in our country. Let me be an example of love and kindness so that all will know I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Father in heaven, thank you for your transforming presence in my life and in the world. Without you, I could never live in the ways you are calling me to live. My own instincts lead me to hold grudges, seek vengeance, complain, criticize, and yield to fear. My heart, left alone, wants to pick fights, build walls, and be right instead of loving. Help me, by your power and grace, to see my family, friends, community, and the world with your eyes and perspective. Give me the courage to love, build up, forgive, rejoice, pray, give thanks, and hold on to what is good.

May it be so.

Daily December Devotional — Day 8

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:34-38

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Today’s Questions:

Compare Gabriel’s response to Mary’s question and his response to Zechariah’s question in Luke 1:18-20. Why and how do you think Gabriel concluded from Zechariah’s question that Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s words, but Mary did believe Gabriel’s words to her?

Why do you think Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy?

Can you identify any words in Scripture that you need to write down or memorize so that you remember “no word from God will ever fail”? What words?

How do you think you would have responded if you were Mary to Gabriel’s description of what was going to happen to her? What does her response reveal about her?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, help me to believe your words, those you speak in Scripture and those you whisper into my heart. When I doubt you, your goodness, your love, your presence, remind me of the ways you have blessed me, loved me, and revealed yourself to me in the past. Help me to respond to you the way Mary did. After all, I too am your servant, and I pray that the words you speak to me are fulfilled, whether they seem impossible, difficult to believe, or contrary to my desires.

Daily December Devotional — Day 7

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:29-33

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Mary was “greatly troubled” by the angel’s words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”?

Have you ever been fearful about hearing the Lord’s voice or receiving a calling from him? What do you think caused that fear?

What emotion is stirred when you read the words: “he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end”? If it doesn’t stir any emotion, why do you think that is?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for Jesus, the king whose reign will never end. Thank you that I can place my hope in you and that although everything around me changes, shifts, and fades, you stay the same and your kingdom will never end. Give me courage, Father, when you call me to action. I want to be a person who says yes to you without delay, without hesitation, and without fear.

Daily December Devotional — Day 3

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:11-17

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to [Zechariah], standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Today’s Questions:

What would it have been like for Zechariah to walk into the Most Holy Place for the first and only time in his life and be greeted by an angel of the Lord with the news that he would have a son?

If I had the opportunity, like Zechariah, to enter into the Most Holy Place, would I have prayed as I replaced the incense? What would I have prayed for?

Is there any area in my life in which I am responding with fear? Is it possible that God would say to me, as he did to Zechariah, “Do not be afraid”?

According to the angel, what characteristics would make people prepared for the coming of the Lord?

Today’s Prayer

Father, open my ears to hear you when you speak to me. Dispel all fear from my heart. I trust you. I trust you to do what I believe to be impossible. I trust that you hear every prayer I pray and have ever prayed. The desire of my heart is to be prepared for the day Jesus comes again. Remind me of the wisdom of righteousness and give me the strength to walk according to your ways.