Build a Prayer Wall

Is anyone else tired of it?  Tired of the fighting?  Tired of the politicians (on both sides)?  Tired of the interior walls that bind all of us?  Tired of the media creating controversy because it “sells”?

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.

You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:1-3

All of our fighting, all of our conflict arises when we put our own passions, our own desires, above those of God.  We fight over everything, it seems.  We become so impassioned that we believe we are right, even when we do not understand all of the facts.  We judge those who are against us, without ever considering their side.  They are wrong because of the color of their skin, the political party that they support, the country that they come from, or even the hat that they wear.  They are wrong because they dare to disagree with us.  What is it we are fighting for?

Do we ever stop to ask God’s will?  Do we ever stop to ask God for whatever it is that we believe is so worth fighting over?  As the above passage states: “You do not possess because you do not ask.” We cannot win, we cannot gain, anything worth winning from someone else on earth.  The only things worth “winning” come from God.  Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7.  But do we ask?  And if we ask, do we do it for the right reasons?  “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”  Do we ask so that we can do God’s will or so that we can throw it in the face of our opponent?

I am saddened this weekend by the news out of Washington.  A group of high school students from a Catholic high school were confronted by adults near the Lincoln Memorial, likely because they wore the red campaign hats from President Trump saying Make America Great Again.  The media immediately accused the boys, who were there for an anti-abortion March for Life, of creating the controversy.  And very quickly the entire social media universe was against them.  I was not there.  I did not see what happened, but then neither did the media or the many accusers now lining up against them.  What I did see on a video was a teenage boy standing still and not saying a word despite an adult male coming very close to him while banging a drum.  The media called it a stare down.  I saw a boy not knowing what to do, and so not doing anything.  His so called smirk, looked to me to be the same uncomfortable look that I get on my face when I am placed in an uncomfortable situation.  I understand the man with the drum was trying to diffuse a situation.  I understand some of the boys began to fear a confrontation from a group of people with whom they probably did not have prior experience.  As in most human situations, there was probably errors made on all sides of the equation.  How quickly we spin things out of control.  How quickly we jump to conclusions on either side of the controversy.    To what gain?

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

We fight over issues without knowing the facts.  We judge others based on the word of others or based on what the media reports.  We create controversy out of misunderstandings and mistakes and make no effort to understand or forgive.   (Oh how I pray that God does not do the same to us.)  We equate a wall with hatred instead of protection.  I am all for a wall if it will give us protection, but I am not sure it will.  There is too much evil on the inside of the wall as well — from all sides.  We need help.  As America, as individuals, we need help.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

James 4:6-10

We know we need to ask and it will be given.  But we need to ask for the right reasons.  We need, as a country, to humble ourselves to God.  We need to ask for God’s help and ask that His will be done.  We need to surround ourselves with a wall of protection — a prayer wall.  A wall impenetrable by evil, whether inside or outside the country’s borders.  A wall that unites us, all of us, in Jesus’ name.  A wall that cloaks us in God’s goodness.  I beg, each of you, to help me build this prayer wall.  Prayer by prayer.  Let’s cover our nation  with prayer.  Let’s provide this country the protection it needs — God’s protection.

Lord,

We need help.  This country needs help and I need help.  We all struggle.  We all think we are right.  We are all steeped in pride and need help with understanding, patience and forgiveness.  We need your help!  Help us and all of our country’s leaders and individuals on the street, both democratic and republican, to be humble and to seek your will rather than any human agenda.  Help us to teach our children peace and understanding rather than rash judgments as harsh and hateful as any words exchanged.  Help us to lead others to you, rather than pushing them away.  Help us to build a prayer wall.  Connecting prayer by prayer across the country.  Connecting person by person to each other and to you.  Lord, you are the only one who can protect and save any of us.  Help us, Lord.  We need more of you in our lives.

 

Its a Rocky Road to Heaven

The news is horrible for anyone to hear: a 16 year old dead in a horrible freak accident.  And of course the questions immediately follow: why?  how could God let this happen?

It is another painful reminder that we all deal with tragedies. We all deal with pain and suffering.  We all face the devil.

Today two verses overtake me:

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God loves us.  He does not set trials in our path.  He does not want us to be hurt.  But the trade off with allowing us to have free will is — He has to allow us to use it.  He does not control us or the people around us.  What kind of life would that be?  We would be no different than robots.  We are God’s children and as His children we grow in strength and maturity.  The way we grow is by facing trials big and small.  Think about your own children: if we do everything for them, how will they grow?  If we never let them make mistakes, how will they learn?  It is terribly hard sometimes because we want to protect them, we don’t want them to be hurt, but at the same time, we have to let them go to discover things on their own, to make their own choices and sometimes suffer the consequences.  Imagine how God must feel with all of us.  Yes, He could put us in a bubble, but how would that be for any of us?  How would we grow?  How would we truly know what joy and love are if we never experience the pain?  We appreciate the sun, when we experience the rain.  (and we appreciate the Son, when we experience the pain.)

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

James 1:2–6

God may not fix every situation for us, but He is there with us, and if we are open to it, if we ask, He guides us with a way out.  Some trials may take a lot of perseverance.  Some may feel devastating and it may seem like the pain will never end, but God is there.

I have often wondered, if He loves us how can he allow us to suffer so much pain.  The idea of us allowing our own child to die seems unfathomable.  So how can God?  As I read Corinthians this morning this thought came to me:  our trials, our pain, our suffering is human.  They are not eternal.  Our life on earth is meant to be temporary (indeed we all must die to experience eternal life).  It is like when we watch our own child play a board game or video game.  They may make mistakes.  They may lose or their player may “die”.  They may even be heartbroken (I remember throwing a board game because I was so upset).  But as parents we know that these challenges are little ones.  As they get older, we watch them with their first girlfriend or boyfriend, we see them make mistakes, we see the heart break — they may feel devastated.  They may feel like they can never move on.  Although it is sometimes painful to watch, as parents we expect it and we know it will be ok because they are still young and there are bigger things in store for them.  Similarly, God knows that our entire life on earth whether it is 2 minutes or 102 years, is just a small blip in our eternity.  We are all still young.  We are all still children.  He knows we will be ok.  Because, if we let Him, He has bigger things in store for us.

God,

Thank you for giving us free will.  Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if you would take it away and control the world around us.  Sometimes it feels like the world is more than we can take.  Help us to always see the light and the hope no matter how dark or painful the things on earth may seem.  Help us to share the light and hope with others.  Help us to persevere through any trial and to know that this world is temporary and so is every struggle.  Help us to know that you never leave our side.

 

May Blessings Last Longer Than The Leftover Turkey

Thanksgiving Day is over.  A day when many of us took time to give thanks.  To share blessings among our family and friends.  To speak in loving words.  Today is Black Friday.  Many of us have moved from giving blessings and thanks to pushing and shoving in long lines or fighting to get the last open parking spot.  How long do we stay in thankful mode?  The verbal blessings and thanks that we shower everyone with on Thanksgiving — do they continue past the leftover turkey?

This morning the Bible opened to James:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies.  It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes.  In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.  The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.  Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.

James 3: 1-12

Our tongue, our words, are so powerful.

Consider this.  Is Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday because of the Macy’s parade, the football games, the turkey and pumpkin pie?  Or is it wonderful because of the kind words that we share?  The blessings that we give? The grateful heart that we share?  The prayers that we offer up for each other?

So why do we save it for one day a year?  Our words can set the world afire.  Let’s extend Thanksgiving words all year long.  Let’s make this a Thanksgiving year.

Lord,

Forgive me for the times when I fall short, when my words fall short, when my words show evil instead of the love and mercy that you show to me.  Help me to use my words for good.  Help me to be kind, grateful and offer words of prayer and blessing all year long instead of just on Thanksgiving day.

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save.  This is what the Bible tells me tonight.

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.   Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.  Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.

 My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:13-20

When we are suffering, we need to pray.  When others are suffering, we need to pray with and for them.  (Someone is always suffering — so we should always be praying.)  When things are good, we should praise.  There is so much to be thankful for (even during our suffering).  When we sin (which is daily) we need to confess — to each other and to God.  Confess to each other, so we can pray for each other.  And when someone strays, we need to help bring them back.  We can help save.

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save: four things we can do every day.

Lord,

You are truly almighty and know all things.  You know what we need and what our hearts truly desire.  You continue to amaze me.  Thank you for another beautiful day.  Thank you for my family and friends.  I am truly blessed.  Please take care of all those who are suffering tonight.  Bless them with the knowledge of your love.  Forgive me for my sins.  Forgive me for not being patient and kind.  Forgive me for not always following the straight path to you.  Help me to help others who stray from your path.  Help me to model your love.  Help me to share my faith with others.