Sunday, September 30, 2012

Forty Days of Prayer: Day 3


Sunday, 9/30:

Pray for leaders at the state level: the governor, lieutenant governor, and cabinet; your senator, representative,  and all members of the state legislature, the justices of the state supreme court, the attorney general, circuit and district judges, and other state officials and leaders. Pray that they will hear and follow God as they make decisions and carry out policies.

Morning Prayer Guide -- Sunday

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 30, 2012 (Proper 21)
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; and Mark 9:38-50

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Forty Days of Prayer: Day 2

Saturday, 9/29:


Pray for leaders at the local level: School officials and members of the county board of education, the sheriff and law enforcement, members of the county commission (or similar county government), the mayors and city councils of your municipality or nearby cities and towns, judges and magistrates, and other local leaders. Pray that they will hear and follow God as they make decisions and carry out policies.

Morning Prayer Guide -- Saturday

Saturday, September 29, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 19:7-14, Deuteronomy 27:1-10, and Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus tells us that we are salt and light.  While those might seem like odd comparisons to make, they actually make sense.

Salt is an element that we need to live; it helps regulate the fluids in our bodies.  It also helps ours food taste better.  Salt was used as money in Roman times, and saying that someone is “worth his salt” comes from this.  Salt is easy to find nowadays, although in times past it was expensive.

Since the invention of the electric light bulb, we’ve had more than enough light.  In fact, many scientists say that our sleep schedules and other natural rhythms are out of sync because we have so much light.  Light, in Jesus’ time, was a precious commodity, because the oil lamps and candles of that time were smoky and put out little light.  Light is seen as a symbol of purity and holiness, and God is described as being pure, perfect light.

Jesus is telling us several things.  We’re hard to do without, we’re valuable, and we reflect God’s holiness.  We are to be as common as salt, and we are to reflect God’s light into the world around us.

Just like we read about Thursday, we are supposed to be living out our faith, not hiding it.  Take some time to ask God to help you shine his light into the world.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Forty Days of Prayer: Day 1

Friday, 9/28:


Pray for the nation as a whole, that God will guide the his followers to stand up and make the changes needed. Pray that God will show his followers what the needed changes are. Most importantly, pray that God will give you grace and strength to carry out this forty days of prayer.

Morning Prayer Guide -- Friday

Friday, September 28, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 19:7-14, Deuteronomy 1:1-18, and Acts 12:20-25

Today’s Old Testament reading is the beginning of Moses’ final sermon to the Israelites before he died.  The Bible says that he was still going strong at 120 years of age; his eyesight was good enough that he could see all the land that God had promised.  But he had struck the rock in anger instead of touching it, as God had commanded him, and therefore was barred from going into the promised land.

Moses called the people to him and gave them the law.  He warned them to remain faithful to God.  He told them that if they would follow God, then God would care for them, but if they turned away from God, then they would have trouble.

God wants us to follow him.  He has so many good things for us, if only we’ll put aside our own wants and follow him.  But we’re often like the Israelites: only interested in our own wants and needs, and not in doing what God wants.

Take some time to pray about this.  What things do you need to do better?  Ask God to help you to remain faithful to him.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Forty Day Challenge: Pray for the Election

We find ourselves at an important juncture. We all seem to recognize that something is wrong, that things need fixing, but we are at odds about what exactly those things are, or how to go about fixing them, or whom should lead us.  We are at a point where we need to work together to make lasting change.

I'm talking about our nation, of course.  We are now about to enter the final forty days of the campaign for the Presidency and for many other offices.  Mudslinging between opponents is reaching sickening new heights.  Friends, relatives, and neighbors find themselves at odds with each other on which candidates are the best choices, and whether this party or that party will destroy America.  Something's got to give.

I want to issue a challenge.  I challenge you to put aside the politics and pray.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for the candidates.  Pray for our nation.  Pray like you've never prayed before.  Forty days of committed, guided, effective prayer.

The climax comes on the evening of Election Day: Tuesday, November 6th at 6:30PM at Houston Memorial UMC.  We will all have chosen different candidates for different offices, but at that time we're all going to choose differently again.  We're going to choose to gather around Jesus instead of the television, and we're going to choose to celebrate Jesus' life, death, and resurrection instead of bemoaning the fate of the nation.  We're going to listen to words of life and peace instead of news reports that fill us with dread and anger.

We're going to be the body of Christ, gathered around his table.

As we build up to that day, I encourage you to join us in daily prayer for our nation.  Every day we will pray for something slightly different.  I have not scripted the prayers.  Instead, I've given specific people or situations for which to pray.  Each day the focus is on something different.  And of course you may choose to pray for things not on the list.

I will be posting each day's guide on here at 7AM.  If you want the entire forty days, contact me with an email address and I'll be happy to send it to you.

Take a look at Max Lucado's site.  While I don't always agree with his theology, I cannot at all argue with the idea of praying for our government.  Another site you should probably check out is Election Day Communion.  That's what sparked my whole chain of thought.

Forty days of prayer followed by time around the Lord's table.  What could be better?

Morning Prayer Guide -- Thursday

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Read: Psalm 19:7-14, Exodus 18:13-27, and Acts 4:13-31

If you were hauled into court and warned to never talk about Jesus again, would you do it anyway?  Would you disregard what the authorities told you and talk about Jesus?
Jesus doesn’t want us to be intimidated by what others’ might think.  He wants us to speak up and tell what we’ve seen and heard.

What have you seen Jesus do?  Have you told anyone?  More importantly, have you told anyone who isn’t already a regular church-goer?  Today is a great day to start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide -- Wednesday

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 139:1-18, Jeremiah 1:4-10, and John 8:21-38

Jesus had just released the woman who had been caught in adultery, telling her accusers that the one who had not sinned could throw the first rock.  Since he was the only one who had not sinned, and since he threw no rocks, the woman was released.  “Go, and sin no more,” were Jesus’ words.  He then went back to what he had been doing, which was teaching in the temple.  The Pharisees and scribes were having a hard time understanding his message.

“I’m going somewhere that you cannot come.  You’re of this world, but I’m not.  You will die here, in your sins, if you do not believe in me.  You will lift me up.”
We do lift Jesus up, all the time.  Sometimes we lift him up by our praises and obedience.

Sometimes we lift him up on the cross, to crucify him again.

We’re supposed to be crucifying our old selves, not our Savior.  We’re supposed to be putting our sin to death, not our Lord.  But sometimes we just cannot take him any longer, so we throw him down on the cross, nail him to it, and then lift him up.  And all the while he is trying to help us, to make us better, to give us life in exchange for our nothingness.

You have a choice to make: Will you lift him up on the cross again, or will you lift him up with your prayers, your praise, and (most importantly) your obedience?

Choose life.  Choose Jesus.

Sing a song of praise to him this morning.  It can be an old favorite, or a new one you make up as you go along.  Let it be your prayer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide -- Tuesday

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 139:1-18, 2 Kings 11:21-12:16, and James 5:1-6

Our Old Testament reading is about corrupt practices in the temple.  Although the king had instructed the priests to use certain money to repair the temple, they decided instead to just keep the money.  Finally the king’s men had to step in and set up a system where money was collected and then used on repairs.

Our Epistle reading is a continuation from yesterday.  St. James calls for repentance and lets us know that all the stuff we accumulate and all the greed we use to get it needs to be put aside, for if we are going to follow Jesus we have to deny ourselves.

Jesus calls to us, telling us to put aside the things that weigh us down, to crucify the things that are more important to us than he is, and to follow him.
What do you need to put away?  Write your own prayer.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide -- Monday


Monday, September 24, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Naaman, a Syrian army officer, had leprosy. In those days, leprosy was a death sentence. Even today there are still parts of the world where treatments are expensive or unavailable, and people who have leprosy cannot live with everyone else. Instead, they are sent to live with other lepers, and since they cannot have jobs they soon resort to begging or stealing. Naaman was such a strong leader that he was able to keep his position, although in time even he would have found himself an outcast.
When Elisha told him what he would have to do, Naaman got upset. He thought that Elisha should meet him face to face, and he was certain that the prophet should do something that looked and sounded impressive to heal him. But Elisha sent a messenger to tell Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan, which was known to be quite a nasty river. At first Naaman would have gone away, angry and still leprous, but his servant managed to talk him into washing in the river.
Sometimes God tells us to do things that seem beneath us or that seem foolish. Sometimes God chooses to go about things in a way that aren’t nearly as impressive as we’d like. Sometimes we get ready for a big flash and boom, and he’s working in a way that’s barely noticeable. But instead of taking our toys and going home, we need to embrace the fact that God is working, that he knows what is best, and that he will not steer us wrong.
God tells us to do things that may seem senseless. But when we respond in obedience, he does something great. How has God blessed your faith? Pray about this. Ask God to help you be obedient to his will. Write your own prayer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Jeremiah 11:18-20; Psalm 54; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; and Mark 9:30-37

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 54, 2 Kings 17:5-18, and Matthew 23:29-39

Jesus, filled with anger at the haughtiness and hypocrisy of the religious authorities, is preaching a very difficult sermon.  One can imagine how hard it must have been for them to listen to it.  But Jesus’ anger at their sinfulness was a direct result of his great love for them.  He deeply wanted them to see the light, to follow him.  Yet they were blind because of their selfishness and hypocrisy.

Jesus loves you enough that he gave his life for you.  Shouldn’t you give your life to him?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Proverbs 3:1-6, Psalm 119:33-40, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, and Matthew 9:9-13

Tax collectors were the lowest of the low.  Lower even than people who took care of hogs.  Lower than Roman soldiers.  Tax collectors were traitors, people who had contracted with the hated Romans to collect taxes from their own people.  The ability to charge whatever they wanted was soon abused.

Jesus called Matthew (also known as Levi) away from his lucrative racket.  He followed Jesus throughout his ministry, to the cross, and was present in the upper room on Pentecost.  From there, tradition holds that he preached in Judea for about fifteen years before going to Ethiopia.  At some point in his ministry he wrote the Gospel, speaking as a Jew to other Jews, and presenting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.  We are not sure where or how he died, but tradition holds that he was martyred for his faith.

Take a few moments to pray about St. Matthew.  How can his life be an example to yours?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 54, Judges 6:1-10, and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

St. Paul writes that he came to Corinth, not as a great person in human terms, but as one who was weak and foolish.  He did this so that everything that God did could not be attributed to Paul and Paul’s greatness.  Whatever happened was completely because of God’s work.

Have you put yourself aside so that God can have his way?  Have you stepped aside so that when good things happen it is obvious that God did it and not you?  Ask God to help you put yourself aside.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 119:169-176, Isaiah 10:12-20, and John 7:25-36

Jesus was in the temple during his last week before the crucifixion.  He was saying some tough things to the Pharisees and their followers, and they weren’t reacting all that well.  Every metaphor he used seemed to go over their heads.  They were getting angrier and angrier.

Jesus is a really hard pill to swallow sometimes.  He challenges all of our preconceived notions.  He challenges what we’ve always heard in church.  He challenges our complacency, our lack of urgency, and our hypocrisy.  Jesus is difficult to stomach.

Jesus makes us angry sometimes.  He comes along and says things at the most inopportune times.  He shines a light on us, forcing us to look at our imperfections.  He tells us that we can’t be selfish anymore, that we can’t do it our own way, and that we have to die to self in order to live for him.  And then he goes and changes the familiar, making us uncomfortable yet again.

Jesus and his trouble-making go merrily on.

Being a follower of Jesus is really hard sometimes.  Just when we think we’ve gotten the hang of it, he challenges something else within us.  Just when we start to get comfortable, used to the new things he’s brought about, he goes and jerks the rug out from under us, changing something else and challenging us to keep up.

Jesus and his trouble-making go merrily on.

But Jesus’ trouble-making is the way of life and peace.  Follow him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday


Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read: Psalm 119:169-176, 1 Kings 13:11-25, and Colossians 3:1-11

St. Paul writes that we must set our minds on Christ and his things, and not on ourselves and our things.

Sometimes we have to put our own wants to death. We often have a certain way in mind that we want things to go. We often have a list of things we want to do or get. We often fall into the trap of thinking that life is all about us. We then transfer that thinking to other things, like church. There’s just one small problem with this line of thinking.

It’s not about you.

It’s about what God can do in you and through you.

God wants you to put yourself aside and choose him. This is expressed in several different ways throughout the Bible, but Jesus puts it best: “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mk. 8:34)

What do you need to deny? Put it aside. Follow Jesus. Write your own prayer.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 16, 2012 (Proper 19)
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 116:1-9, James 3:1-12, and Mark 8:27-38

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, September 15, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 116:1-9, Joshua 6:22-27, and Matthew 21:23-32

Jesus, who was teaching in the temple, was approached by the Pharisees.  “Who gave you the authority to teach here?” they asked.  Jesus knew what they were after, and his response confounded them.  He then let them know that while the tax collectors and prostitutes (the two most unholy groups of  people in Israel at the time, according to the Pharisees) responded with faith to John’s ministry, the religious authorities had not.  Jesus let them know that they were in error.

Have you responded in faith to Jesus?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, September 14, 2012 – Holy Cross Day
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 45:21-25, Psalm 98, Philippians 2:5-11, and John 12:31-36a

Holy Cross Day is one of several celebrations throughout the year which focus on the cross itself.  This is the oldest one, dating back to ad335.  Legend has it that St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered pieces of the true cross in Jerusalem while she was on a pilgrimage there.  A church was built on the spot, and nine years later it was dedicated on September 13th, 335.  The next day, the relics were brought out of the church so people could pray before the true cross. This is the basis for the holiday.

While it is doubtful that the legend is true, Holy Cross Day does give us an opportunity to consider Christ’s work on the cross as a part of our salvation.  Without the cross, the resurrection is meaningless, and without the resurrection, the cross is just another tool of torture.  Further, when we allow life with all its sickness, suffering, and excuses to interfere with our walk with Jesus, we crucify Him all over again.

Jesus calls to us from the cross, “Follow me.”  Will you?

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 116:1-9, Joshua 2:1-14, and Hebrews 11:17-22

Rahab hid the spies Joshua had sent to look over the city.  And even though she was from Jericho, her life was spared when the city was taken.  Even though she was a Gentile and a prostitute, she was King David’s great-great-grandmother, and Ruth’s mother-in-law (Mt. 1:5).

How did she know that God wanted her to take care of the two men?  How did she know that they would spare her life, and the lives of her family?  She was a pagan, not a God-follower.  How did she know?  And yet God counted it to her as faith, and he took care of her, and gave her a place in the lineage of Jesus.

Ask God to help you make the right decisions.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 38:10-20, Judges 15:9-20, and Matthew 17:14-21

Jesus’ disciples can’t figure out why they cannot cast out the demon in the boy.  One can see the exasperation in Jesus’ response.  Then he goes on to tell them that they need faith.  Just a little bit will go a long, long way, he says.

Using Monday’s definition of faith, this begins to make more sense.  For one thing, he was telling the disciples that they couldn’t coast along on his coattails anymore; they would have to begin to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer.  Some say the age of miracles is over, but the obvious answer is that the power has been given, we just need to be spending more time searching for God.  “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting,” Jesus said.  Prayer is like practicing an instrument: It takes long hours of dedicated, hard work.  It takes repeating the same thing over and over again until it becomes a part of you.

For another thing, Jesus drew a comparison between the faith needed to “move a mountain” and a mustard seed – at that time, one of the smallest known seeds.  A little goes a long, long way.  That’s not an excuse to be lazy, by the way.  God doesn’t want us going for the bare minimum, just to slip by.

God wants us to be in a relationship with him, and he wants us to listen to him and obey him.  When we do, great things happen.  It doesn’t take much.
Ask God to help you to listen and obey him.  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 38:10-20, Joshua 8:1-23, and Hebrews 12:3-13

Face it: We all mess up from time to time.  God wants us to learn and grow, becoming more like him, and sometimes it takes a bit to get our attention.  So sometimes God has to shake things up.  Rattle the cage a bit, so to speak.

God does it because he loves us.  He wants us to mature and grow, not be stagnant and selfish.  We should be changing and becoming more like him all the time.  “Getting saved” doesn’t mean we’ve arrived or that we have no more work to do.  Instead, what we usually think of as “getting saved” is just one step of many.  Salvation isn’t an event.  It’s a process, a lifestyle.  Saying the trite little prayer isn’t what gets us into heaven.  Besides, it’s not terribly Biblical (it was invented by an American in the 19th century).  Salvation is a journey, along which there are many mile-markers.  And God knows that we need to keep moving along, not simply setting up camp and dwelling in a single spot.

Has God had to get your attention over something before?  What was it?  Are you a better disciple now because of it?  Write your own prayer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, September 10, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 38:10-20, Joshua 6:1-21, and Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Why did Jericho’s walls fall down?  Was it because the marching caused vibrations at a certain frequency, which in turn caused the walls to crack and crumble?  Or was it simpler?  Why did God tell the Israelites to march around the city for a week, and then seven times on the seventh day?  What good would that do?

God wanted the Israelites to show their obedience to his commands.  He could have simply squashed the walls on the first day.  He could have commanded them to build a battering ram and breach the wall themselves.  But God had a certain way he wanted to accomplish this, and part of it involved the Israelites’ obedience.

The writer of Hebrews credits the Israelites’ victory at Jericho to faith.  So then, what is faith?  Faith isn’t simply a synonym for strong belief.  Faith is more than that.  Faith is listening to God and then being obedient.  The Israelites listened to God, and then did what God wanted.  As a result, God destroyed the walls.

But the battle wasn’t over yet.  The Israelites still had to be obedient to the next part of the plan, which was to go into the city and kill the inhabitants and their livestock and then destroy everything they found.  We wrinkle our noses at all the killing, but God had a reason for telling them to do it that way.

God tells us to do things that seem senseless.  But when we respond in obedience, he does something great.  How has God blessed your faith?  Pray about this.  Ask God to help you be obedient to his will.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 9, 2012 (Proper 18)
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146; James 2:1-10, 14-17; and Mark 7:24-37

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, September 8, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 146, Isaiah 33:1-9, and Matthew 15:21-31

Jesus was approached by this woman, who was apparently making a scene, because her son was sick and she wanted Jesus to heal him.  “Sorry, can’t do it.”  was Jesus’ first reply.  He made a reference to her being a dog – an insulting comment – and that he wasn’t going to help her.  But she recognized that Jesus had something that she needed, and she responded that all she wanted was a crumb of his mercy and power.  Jesus, impressed by her faith, healed her son.

Sometimes God just wants us to ask.  Sometimes God wants us to exercise the faith he has given us.  Sometimes he want us to put it into his hands.  We may not be worthy of receiving his gifts, but God forgives and sanctifies us.

Ask God for the things you need, even if you’re not worthy to receive them.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, September 7, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 146, Isaiah 32:1-8, and Romans 2:12-16

The theme from the first part of the week is repeated, with St. Paul telling us to be doers of what we’ve heard, not just hearers only.  It can be hard work, but Jesus asks us to deny ourselves and follow him.

It’s pretty easy to be a passive Christian.  Just show up at church every week or two and sit through an hour service.  If you time it right, you can even have a nap.  We do get a bit upset if the preacher is holding us accountable for something – we’d rather hear that we’re going to go to heaven when we die.  We don’t have time for any of this “repent and sin no more” stuff.

But Jesus is a whole lot less interested in the sweet bye and bye than we are.   Jesus expects us to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow him.  Jesus expects growth.

Take time to pray about this.  Are you a passive listener, or an active follower?  What do you need to do differently?  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, September 6, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 146, Isaiah 30:27-33, and Romans 2:1-11

St. Paul writes about judging others for things of which we ourselves are guilty.  Sometimes we have a problem with that.  Judging others is a whole lot easier than facing our own problems.

God doesn’t like our self-righteousness and judgmentalism.  He wants us to live pure and holy lives, putting aside sin and focusing on following him, not  the other way around.  And he wants us to reflect his love toward others, not merely condemn them because they are imperfect, too.

How does this speak to you?  What changes do you need to make?  Ask God to help you.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48; Deut. 4:21-40; and Mark 7:9-23

Jesus is having another run-in with the Pharisees, this time over traditions.  It is part of the episode we read about on Sunday.  Jesus is trying to tell them that people are more important than their traditions.

Jesus cares deeply about the heart.  In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, Jesus keeps telling his listeners that although they’ve heard some legalistic way before, he is telling them a new way.  Over and over he demonstrates that we are to have pure hearts, not just follow the letter of the law while going against the spirit.

Jesus challenges us to put aside our traditions in order to follow him.  Traditions are comfy.  They’re predictable.  They are a lot less scary than the alternative.  But “the way we’ve always done it” is a bad way to make decisions.  Sacrificing people at the altar of our tradition  is a bad way to treat them.

Take the film and play “Fiddler on the Roof” as an example.  Tevye and his family are Jews who live in Russia in the days before the Revolution.  They are very poor, but their whole world is made up of, and governed by, traditions.  Tevye makes a deal with the butcher to give his oldest daughter’s hand in marriage, but she begs him to let her marry the poor tailor instead.  Tevye isn’t sure what to do about this.  It goes against tradition!  But he looks in his daughter’s eyes and sees that she loves him, so he allows it.  The next daughter also wishes to break the tradition, marrying a stranger, a student from Kiev.  This time they don’t ask Tevye’s permission, just his blessing.  Again Tevye is conflicted, torn between what his daughter wants and what their tradition demands.  But in the end, Tevye looks in his daughter’s eyes and sees that she loves him, so he allows it.

Finally, his third daughter, Chava, wishes to marry a Gentile, a soldier.  This is too much for Tevye.  He cannot bend any further.  He tells her that she is never to see nor speak to the man again.  Instead, she goes and marries him.  Tevye tells his wife that she is dead to them, that they are never to speak to her again.  Tradition was more important than his daughter.  In the final scene, as the townspeople are leaving Anatevka, Chava and her husband come to say goodbye and perhaps find forgiveness and blessing from her beloved Papa.  But he refuses to speak to them, to acknowledge they are there.

Sometimes our traditions get in the way of loving people.  Traditions are comfy.  They’re predictable.  But “the way we’ve always done it” is a bad way to make decisions.  Maybe it’s time to set aside the traditions and follow Jesus.  Maybe it’s time to show love to someone that we ordinarily wouldn’t acknowledge.  Maybe we need to forgive that old feud and move on.  Maybe Jesus is calling to us from the cross, telling us to reach out our hands in love.

Ask God to help you to put aside your traditions and follow him.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48; Deut. 4:15-20; and 1 Peter 2:19-25

St. Peter admonishes his readers to accept persecution and bad treatment with patience, taking the example of Jesus.  To do so, he writes, “is commendable before God.”

In our Old Testament passage, God is telling the Israelites to be certain they don’t form idols of natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, and stars.  God wants primacy in our lives, not just the leftovers.

Put God first.  Take time today to put God’s will before yours.  Write your own prayer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, September 3, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48; Deuteronomy 4:9-14; and 1 Tim. 4:6-16

The message of both of today’s readings is remembering God’s commands.  God wants us to listen to him.  Yesterday’s Epistle was from the book of James, where he talks about being doers of the word, and not listeners only.  Today we read where St. Paul encourages St. Timothy to remember the things that he has learned.

Being a doer can be hard.  Sometimes we are unsure of how to do what God wants.  Other times we’re not even sure what God wants.  And sometimes we know what God wants, but we don’t really want to do it.  Being a disciple means that sometimes we find ourselves doing things that we ordinarily wouldn’t do.  But God only asks us to do the things that really are in our best interest.

Has God asked you to do something that you are reluctant to do?  Pray about it.  Ask God to help you put aside your own desires and follow him.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Line Upon Line - Sunday, September 2


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Jesus was after the Pharisees because of their traditions – something that he seemed to do regularly. They had, over the years, built up many traditions. While they had great intentions, they had managed over the years to become more attached to the letter of their traditions than the spirit of the Law. They had come up with some pretty ridiculous things for people to do, and Jesus was quick to challenge them.
Jesus’ disciples began to eat without first washing their hands. This horrified the Pharisees, who were less interested in feeding hungry people than making sure all the boxes on the list had been checked. They approached Jesus reprovingly. But Jesus’ answer was different from what they expected.
Sometimes we let our traditions get in the way of loving and ministering to people. Sometimes we forget that God sees the heart, not the outward appearance. Sometimes we’ve built up traditions to shield us from things we don’t like, and to release them would be to open ourselves up to new, uncomfortable things.
Jesus challenges us to rethink what we do. Instead of automatically saying “but we’ve always done it this way,” Jesus wants us to stop and consider the big picture. By doing it the way it has always been done, are we missing out on something big that God wants to do? By not doing something simply because we’ve never done it that way before, are we limiting God and telling him he cannot move in new ways?
This doesn’t mean we go to the opposite extreme and have no tradition at all. It doesn’t mean we reject all rules. There is a definite tension between being faithful to God’s commands, on the one hand, and being free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, on the other. But the good news is that God will never ask us to do something that is contrary to what he’s previously told us to do. He will not tell us to go against his own commandments.
Tradition is good. It helps us pass culture on to the next generation. It helps us have stability and direction. We simply cannot take it too far, allowing it to get in the way of our walk with God, or allowing it to become more important than God. And sometimes we have to put aside what we’ve always done in order to follow God into new things.
Jesus wants us to love our neighbors more than we love our traditions. Are you prepared to set things aside to follow his command?