We Can’t Quench God’s Love

(Note: Robbie and I are in Canada this week. We’re enjoying some good “unplugged” time, but here’s a quick post–along with a pic of the evening view from our dock. This place isn’t fancy, but if you don’t mind a few snakes, mosquitos, and a composting toilet, it’s pretty much paradise.)

“Here is a theologian who puts the hay where the sheep can reach it.”

That’s how Elisabeth Elliot describes J. I. Packer in his timeless book, Knowing GodAnd I have to say that one of of Packer’s most encouraging messages (at least for bottom-shelf sheep like myself) is that nothing we do–and nothing we have ever done–comes as a shocker to God. And none of it can keep him from loving us.

Here’s how Packer puts it:

There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

We can’t quench God’s love. Or (and I love this part) his determination to bless us.

That’s good stuff. But Packer didn’t make it up, of course. I suspect he got it from places like Romans 8:38, which is where Paul says that nothing–neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell–can separate us from God’s love.

Maybe just take a moment right now and let those words settle over your soul.

And if you, or someone you love, needs a little help when it comes to receiving the reality of God’s limitless love, here’s one way we can pray:

Heavenly Father,

I pray that _____, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _____ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Amen

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Forget the iPotty; Add Prayer to Your Baby Wish List

I’ve been to a few baby showers in recent months, and I’m amazed at all the stuff you can buy. Today’s registries include everything from traditional onesies and blankets to what-the-heck items like the Baby Butt Fan (“experts agree” that air drying prevents diaper rash), the iPotty (because apparently today’s toddlers don’t want to miss a minute of screen time), and the Kickbee (a thing pregnant moms wrap on their bellies to digitally detect baby’s kicks–and then tweet them out to the world).

(I know. How did my generation make it through nine months without that?)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in addition to burp cloths and bottles, we could add character traits to our cart? Think about it. Expectant mothers could add things like wisdom, kindness, and self-control for their kids. I might register for gentleness and patience, and an others-centered outlook on life. And wouldn’t we all want gifts like perseverance, integrity, a joyful spirit, and a thankful heart?

The list, of course, could go on. And how cool would it be if all we had to do was throw a shower and have our friends bring us these blessings?

Happily, God’s got another–better–way to give these good gifts to our kids. He invites us to ask him for them.

In his book, How to PrayR.A. Torrey says that prayer is “God’s appointed way for obtaining things, and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer.”

Torrey’s not the one who came up with the link between asking and receiving; we see that played out in the Bible (see, for instance, Matthew 7:7 and John 16:24). For a lot of folks, though, Torrey’s words can feel daunting. We know we should pray, but sometimes we don’t–and we can beat ourselves up over that lack.

And perhaps no one beats themselves up more than young moms. This comment, shared last week on a friend’s Instagram post, pierced my heart:

I was such a good pray-er until God blessed me with a second boy. I have three energetic sons, ages 3, 5 and 1. Between teething and nighttime breastfeeding and everything else, I feel so bad in all spheres. And I feel guilty.

Boy, can I ever relate. Robbie and I had four kids in six years, and honestly? I don’t know how today’s mothers do it. I see them making their own baby food and checking labels for all things organic; I remember dumping Trix cereal out on the high chair and hoping that counted as fruit.

And prayer time? That was reserved for people who had fewer kids and less laundry than I did. Any time I heard about some Varsity Christian who spent hours in prayer (like the persecuted people on the other side of the world all seemed to be doing) I’d want to throw in the prayer towel and quit. “I’m just not that holy,” I’d think to myself. “I’m just not that good.”

And I’d feel bad for my kids, cuz I knew they had a lame-Christian mom.

But then I met Cynthia Heald, a best-selling author whose books include Becoming a Woman of Prayer“I’d like to be a woman of prayer,” I told her, “but I’m not. I almost never have time to sit down with my notebook and a Bible to pray–and I feel like my prayers don’t really count.”

Cynthia set me straight. “You can pray in the carpool line,” she said, “or while you’re washing dishes. Pray while you walk through your neighborhood, or while you clean the bathroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time or preparation to meet God. Just go to him, and you’re there.”

Now, I am sure that Cynthia Heald would encourage all of us to make time in our schedules for some concentrated, uninterrupted prayer, but her gentle advice to “just do it” got me started. I began to pray while I drove, while I made lunches, and even while I scrubbed toilets, using (and I realize this sounds kind of pathetic) the smell of Lysol, in place of biblical incense, to remind me to pray.

All of which is to say (especially to the new mamas out there):  Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t believe the lie that your prayers have to be perfect, or long, or written down in a beautiful faux-leather journal to count.

That season will come.

For now, take your parenting cue from the disciples. Granted, they never had to make a Pilgrim costume out of a grocery bag and brown packing tape, but they did need to know how to pray–and so they asked Jesus for help. They asked him to teach them, and we can do the same thing. We can ask God to show us how to pray, and to help us make the most of our minutes.

God knows what it’s like to have kids and to want good things for their lives. Prayer is the vehicle he invented for us to ask him to provide.

And all we have to do is…just do it.

Heavenly Father,

Teach us to live wisely and well. (Psalm 90:12 MSG)

Prompt us to lift up our hands to you and plead for the lives of our children. (Lamentations 2:19 NLT)

And remind us, when we are weary and worn, that we can come boldly before your throne, knowing that your grace is always there to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

Amen

(Note to moms eyeing the iPotty: We used that book, Toilet Training in Less than a Daywhich, if I remember right, worked really well and only required salty chips, candy rewards, and like 17 gallons of apple juice.)

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Duct-taping Your Kids (and other Mom Fails)

“Wait. Mom. Are you reading your own book? That is just so…sad.”

That was Virginia, more than 10 years ago, when she burst into my bedroom and discovered me sitting up in bed, reading my copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. What Virginia didn’t know was that I was using the book to help shape my prayers for her life. All she could see was her mother doing something that looked, to her teenaged eye, pretty pathetic.

Happily, Virginia is all grown up now, and she doesn’t think it’s strange when I pray. Or when I read my own books. Which is a good thing, since I was at it again yesterday. I was thinking about a friend who is going through a rough patch in her parenting, and I turned to the chapter about parent-child relationships to find some good scripture-prayers. And I came upon this:

I wrote those words nearly 20 years ago, but honestly? They mean so much more to me now. Because the older I get, the more aware I am of how far I fall short. Of how often I’ve let my kids down. Of how my weaknesses (especially in parenting) don’t seem to be going away.

I remember being a young mom, and wanting so badly to set a good example for my kids. I wanted to be able to change diapers, run carpools, and help with science projects–all while being wise, resourceful, hospitable, encouraging, diligent, creative, generous, faithful, watchful, vigorous, strong, and cheerful. That’s not a list I made up; I read it in Proverbs 31. And if that was God’s standard for an excellent woman, then that’s the mark I wanted to hit.

Hold on, all you Bible scholars out there. I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me that the Proverbs 31 woman was not a real woman, but rather a type of woman. Or that she was really a conglomeration of admirable attributes manifested in the lives of several different women. Or that she was nothing human at all; rather, she was the personification of wisdom, showing us what wisdom might look like, if we could see it in action.

Blah blah blah.

I know all of that. And I knew it, back then. But I’ve always liked clear objectives–targets to shoot for–and the attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman are nothing if not well-defined.

(Literally. Proverbs 31:17 even talks about her fabulous biceps.)

And so I tried. I started by checking off the verses I had covered. Things like sewing clothing and curtains (which I actually did, back then), working late into the night (which seemed both noble and necessary, at the time), and getting up while it was still dark (which was the only time my mom friends could meet up for a run). Verses 19, 18, and 15. Done.

At first, I felt good. I was on a Proverbs 31 roll. How hard could it be, to buckle down and check off the rest?

Ha.

You know what happened.

I couldn’t do it. Forget about planting a vineyard or bringing food from afar (v. 16 and 14); there were days when I could barely get to the store (and even then it was not anything to be proud of, as I jammed all four kids into one grocery cart and piled boxes of Kraft mac-n-cheese on their heads). And that part about “faithful instruction” (v. 26)? Unless you count that time I got so tired of listening to Hillary and Annesley bicker that I duct-taped them together and made them clean all the toilets one-handed, I’m not sure they learned all that much.

(Simmer down, people. It was only their wrists. And only one arm per girl. I am pretty sure they were…fine.)

Anyhow.

The more I tried to be an exemplary mom, the more I became, as my friend Kenzie put it, “the Proverbs 32 woman.” Who is not, as we all know, someone who shows up in the Bible.

If you want to read more (like, if epic mom-fails are your thing), you can pick up the book, but for now I’ll just get to the point and say this:  My weakness was where Jesus came in.

Truly.

And that’s where he still does.

Because no matter how hard I tried–or how hard I still try–to do everything “right,” there will always be days when I blow it. I will do and say things I regret. And, unlike the Proverbs 31 mother, I will never know what it’s like to have my kids get out of bed in the morning and call me Blessed. (But don’t think that I haven’t thought about picking that as my grandmother name, if and when that time comes.)

But you know what I’ve learned, after 30 years of mom-fails? I’ve learned that the less I rely on my own abilities and the more I rely on Christ–and the more I let my children (even now, as adults) see me depending on him for wisdom, guidance, and strength–the more I will be able to set the only example that’s worth following.

Instead of saying, “Look at me,” I can say, “Look at Jesus.”

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that we don’t have to be perfect parents–that we don’t even have to be close. Help us, and our children, to rely on your wisdom and grace. And instead of trying to “do good” or “be good” by ourselves, may we look to you and your strength; may we seek your face always. (Psalm 105:4)

Amen

 

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Grad Tip for Parents: Let God Pick Your Kid’s Career

 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.

It’s graduation season, and I can’t think of a more encouraging verse than Psalm 32:8. Whether our kids are headed to college, to new jobs, or into the great unknown, the whole “What’s next?” thing can be daunting! And as parents, our hearts can feel like a tangled mess of emotions:  pride of accomplishment, sadness over the chapter that’s closing, or even (particularly when we don’t know what the future holds) uncertainty, with maybe a little worry mixed in.

The pride and the sadness are both beautiful things; why else would 97% of all high school yearbooks and 29% of commencement speeches give the nod to Dr. Suess:  Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened?

The uncertainty thing, though, is not so much fun. And if that’s where you are (like, if your child needs a job), I’ve got three things that might help.

The first is something Virginia (who was a college senior at the time) told me, as we discussed her (still hazy) future. “Mom,” she said, “Research shows that 72% of college students don’t have a job lined up before graduation.”

I don’t know whether Virginia was right or not. A point in her favor is that she actually worked in U.Va.’s Career Services office, where she would have had access to numbers like that, but you have to stack that against the fact that she is her mother’s daughter, and statistics (like that bit about yearbooks and speeches) sometimes get made up on the spot. Either way, though, the data made me feel better. And if it helps you to repeat this 72% claim, you can say that you read it in a blog.

The second thing that can help is prayer. It’s not just that you get a “peaceful, easy feeling” when you pray for your child; it’s more that when we bring our sons and daughters before God, we really are making a difference. As Paul told the Corinthians“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (Paul and his pals weren’t looking for work; they were more concerned with facing “deadly peril,” but the principle is the same. Our prayers matter.)

And finally, it can be good to remember the plan. We might not know what it is, but after praying (and yes, worrying) three kids through the job-hunting process, I’m finally coming to realize that God does. He knows exactly how our children are wired (Psalm 139:13-16); he’s already lined up good work for them to do (Ephesians 2:10); and he promises to instruct and counsel them in the way they should go (Psalm 32:8). Our job isn’t to worry or nag; our job–if we want to get on board with God’s plan–is simply to trust him.

So there you go: Repeat iffy statistics, pray for your kids, and trust God. And if you want help with tip #2, the folks at FaithGateway surprised me a few weeks ago when they sent word that they’d pulled a collection of prayers from the Adult Children book and created a beautiful “Praying for Your Graduate” resource for parents (click here to download):The guide includes 21 prayers, all neatly divided by seven so that you can pray one every day for three weeks.

Which, research shows, is about how long it takes for the average college grad to land his first job. 🙂

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The Life-Giving Power of Blessing

When George Washington was elected president, he rode to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to tell his ailing mother the news. The conversation reportedly went something like this:

George: Guess what? They want me to be president.

Mom: I’m dying.

George, flustered: Well, as soon as I get settled in New York, I’ll come back and …

Mom: This is the last time you’ll ever see me. But go, do your job. That’s more important.

Can’t you just hear her? As a mom, I know I can.

And I can relate to some of the crazy things that Mary Washington asked of her son. For instance, when George was in the Pennsylvania wilderness, fighting a losing battle against the French (and facing dire shortages in everything from tents and ammunition to clothing and food), Mom wrote a letter requesting that he send her a servant and “some butter.”

I’m sure my kids would say I’ve done worse.

But here’s the thing about Mary. Even though she really was dying (she had breast cancer) and could do nothing, tangibly, to help her boy do his job, she understood the power of words. And as they wrapped up what turned out to be their very last convo, she sent her son off with this charge:

“Go George, fulfil the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended for you; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing be with you always.”

Our words carry blessings and curses. Or, as Proverbs 18:21 puts it, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Which kind we speak–words that breathe life, or words that can cripple–is up to us.

And, strange as it sounds, the person our words target doesn’t have to be doing something we like or approve of in order for us to give them a blessing. Grumpy neighbors, irascible co-workers, wayward children—these folks are all candidates for favor. Ma Washington certainly didn’t agree with all of George’s plans and decisions (she told him that joining the Royal Navy was “too dangerous”), and yet she covered her son with life-giving words.

If it seems awkward to bless a child (or anyone else) who does something we don’t like, or who has made a choice that we believe runs counter to God’s commands, consider this: a blessing is not the same thing as an endorsement. Rather, when we bless our children, we do the same thing God does when he blesses us: He speaks favor over our lives and points us toward the abundant life he wants us to enjoy.

In blessing someone, we turn them over to God, trusting him to give them a vision for using their talents and abilities, as well as a sense of purpose in life. It’s never too early to do this for our children; consider Hannah’s words when she brought her young son Samuel to the temple: “For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:28).

Nor is it ever too late.

Mary Washington was 80 years old when George was elected, and she died five months later. I’m sure, though, that her final words stayed with him forever. And I pray that as I parent my own adult children (and call them at work to ask them to help me with Facebook—or at least send me some butter), I would give them the very same gift: The knowledge that “Heaven’s and a mother’s blessing would be with them always.”

Is there someone who could use an encouraging word from you today–maybe a co-worker, a child, or a friend over whom you might speak God’s favor?

Numbers 6:24-26 is one of our family’s favorite blessings (and if you like it too, see below for ordering info). It’s one that Robbie and I prayed with, and for, our children as they were growing up:

Monday is Presidents’ Day. Let’s make these life-giving words our prayer this week, using them to forecast God’s favor over our family, our friends, our co-workers, and–whether you like what he’s doing, or not–the guy who got Washington’s job.

Heavenly Father,

Bless ______ and keep them. Make your face shine on ______ and be gracious to them. Turn your face toward ______ and give them peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Amen.

(The image in this post is of a beautifully crafted 5 x 7 print that I purchased in December as a stocking stuffer for our girls. It’s still available from @snowandcompany, and if you’d like to order your own copy, click here. And if you want to read more about blessing and releasing our kids, check out chapter two in Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenIt’s available as a free download at jodieberndt.com.)

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Praying for Your Child’s Gifts

When Annesley was three years old, she loved puzzles. But rather than fitting the edge pieces together or tackling certain sections of the picture, she would methodically work from left to right, trying each of the two or three hundred tiny pieces in sequence like some sort of towheaded computer.

Later, when she learned to write, Annesley became a list maker. At night, she would pick out clothes to wear to school the next day, and then make a list of the clothes and how they were to be worn (“Pull socks up to knees”), just in case she forgot. When she babysat for her younger siblings, we always came home to a written report (“Virginia fell on my homework and pulled my pants down”). And one New Year’s Eve I found Annesley working away on her top ten resolutions, recorded in capital letters for added significance:

EXERCISE EVERY SATURDAY.

GO TO BED AT 8:30.

TALK TO GOD EVERY MORNING. (A noble goal, to be sure, but clearly less important than Annesley’s desire to HAVE A GOOD BIRTHDAY).

In addition to making lists, Annesley liked to clean out her drawers, label sections of her closet according to season, and keep track of things like assignments, appointments, and family vacations on the calendar she got from the dentist. None of my other kids were so compulsive, and I didn’t know any other seven-year-olds who begged to make chore charts for the family. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take Annesley. I thought she was quirky. In a good sort of way.

It was not until years later – as I watched my girl make hard jobs look easy, pay attention to small details, and visualize goals and the steps needed to get there – that I realized she was not quirky. Annesley has a God-given gift of organization.

My friend Susan Alexander Yates, who wrote a book called Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last, advises parents to pay attention to the gifts that God gives their children, and clue them in on the fact that God has given them these talents or abilities for a purpose. “A sense of destiny,” Susan says, “will encourage our children. Learning to recognize their gifts will enable them to discern more quickly the ways in which God might use them.”

By the same token, learning to recognize our gifts can help us (or our children) avoid misusing them. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” That’s true. But perfect gifts in the hands of imperfect people can sometimes be tricky.

Organizers, for instance, may be really good delegators, but they can also be bossy. They can become easily frustrated when others are slow to grasp their vision. And they can put projects ahead of people, neglecting the Colossians 3:14 command to cover all of our virtues with love.

How do I know these things? Because I am an organizer. And as Annesley grew, I prayed that in sharing my gifts, she would be spared my tendencies to misuse them.

Today, Annesley works at an architecture firm, designing buildings and managing construction projects for big universities where inches and dollars both matter. (She actually likes to keep track of that stuff.) And God continues to use her organizational abilities and her Be Prepared personality to bless our family; she’s the one we can always count on to have Advil, a notepad, and money.

(And Annes, if you are reading this, thank you.)

But here’s the thing. Maybe your child’s not an organizer. Maybe she is an accomplished musician, or a technological whiz. Maybe his heart beats with compassion, and you already see him caring for people who hurt. Maybe your child is a leader. Or maybe he or she delights in encouraging others who lead.

If you want to discover (and celebrate) the way that God created your children, I’ve got some good news.

First, this post was excerpted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, which Amazon is offering right now in the Kindle version for just $2.99. Click here to get a copy (or, if you already have the book, consider passing this news along to a friend).

And, even better, the fact that God gives our kids gifts – and that he equips them to use them – is actually an invitation to pray. There are so many good verses that speak to this topic (check out Exodus 31:1-5Romans 12:6-8, or Proverbs 22:29 for just some of the gifts God provides), but here’s an all-purpose prayer we can use. Because it doesn’t matter how old our kids are, how organized (or not) they might be, or even how totally committed they are to getting exercise EVERY SATURDAY: God loves them just the way they are, and he has a wonderful plan for their lives!

Heavenly Father,

Equip ______ to use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering your grace in all its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen

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I love Charlottesville. A lot.

I love Charlottesville. A lot.

And, like a jillion other people in our country, my heart hurts over the images of violence and hatred we saw descending upon that city last weekend.

And, like probably every other U.Va. alum and parent, I have received dozens of emails and text messages from school administrators, fellow alumni, and friends – some of whom have no personal connection to the school, but all of whom want to uncover and share a deeper message of reconciliation, understanding, and love.

On the wider message board of national media, there seems to be a fixation with pointing fingers and assigning blame. While I’m all for confronting (and learning from) our mistakes, I would rather focus on that which is good, noble, and lovely – like the marchers in Wednesday night’s vigil, where songs like “Amazing Grace” and chants of “Love wins!” served to scatter the darkness – than on setting our hearts and minds on what’s wrong. As John MacArthur put it in his book, Reckless Faith, “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing.”

The “real thing” in Charlottesville – and in any place where we want love to win – is Jesus. I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even a couple of them) to society’s ills, but I am pretty sure that he does.

“Love one another,” he says. “As I have loved you [as in, being willing to give up his position and even his life], so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Whether we are working for love and reconciliation on a national scale, or trying to find a way forward in the face of hurts on a more intimate stage (like in a marriage, or a friendship), these are the sorts of wisdom nuggets that make for lasting and positive change. These are the marks of the real thing.

Our son Robbie starts classes at U.Va. on Tuesday, along with more than 16,000 other undergraduate students. Am I worried about his safety, or about the perspectives he might encounter?

No. Not at all. The University of Virginia represents one of the warmest, most welcoming and inclusive, places I know.

I am, however, praying.

I am praying that Robbie will be devoted to his classmates and teachers, honoring their lives and their needs above his. I am praying for things like wisdom, joy, protection, and peace (to download four of those specific prayers, click here). And I am praying for him – and for myself – in agreement with one of the most beautiful emails I received this week, a forward from my U.Va. classmate, Alexis.

Alexis shared a prayer written by pastor and author, Scotty Smith. To read the whole prayer (in which Smith looks forward to the day when “honoring one another above ourselves will be our delight, not our discipline”), click here. It’s a raw and honest petition, and well worth the read…but if you only have a minute or two, here’s how Smith sums up his plea. Let’s pray this one together:

Jesus, bring the power of the gospel to bear in extraordinary ways in our relationships, churches, and communities. Grant us greater grief and repentance over the ways we love poorly. Stun us, humble us, and gladden us… again and again and again… with glory and grace. There is no other way we’ll change. So very Amen, we pray, with conviction and hope, in your grace-full name.

#Charl♥ttesville

 

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Your Kids are Never Out of God’s Reach

It’s August.

Which, by force of habit as much as anything else, has me thinking about back-to-school prayers for my kids.

Which would be a little bit odd (my children are grown-ups), except for one thing: It doesn’t matter whether our kids are headed off to kindergarten, college, or to a new job on the other side of the country, they are never out of God’s reach. And to me, the back-to-school season represents as good a time as any to ask God to hold them!

Here are four of the prayers I am praying:

Make Robbie glad by your deeds; may he sing for joy at the works of your hands. (Psalm 92:4)

Keep Virginia from all harm; watch over her coming and going, now and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)

May Hillary and Charlie grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and others [co-workers, bosses, friends, and even each other]. (Luke 2:52)

Keep Annesley and Geoff in perfect peace. Give them a steadfast mind [one that stays focused on you, instead of on “what ifs” or worries] and the ability to trust you. (Isaiah 26:3)

If you want to borrow these prayers and personalize them for your own family, click here to download a letter-sized PDF:

If your children are little, consider writing their names in the blanks and tucking one of the cards into a lunchbox or book bag. If they are far-away grown-ups, you might slip a prayer card into a letter (maybe with a Starbucks gift card, right Virginia?). And if you’ve got teenagers, just stick the prayer on your fridge or your dashboard. Your kids might roll their eyes but trust me:  Deep down, they’ll be glad you are praying.

Or maybe don’t share the prayer cards with anyone. Instead, just do like I do, and keep ’em for yourself. I have mine in my prayer journal. Because even though I might THINK it’s my kids who need God, the truth is that I do, too. I need the reminder (as my crew heads off to new people, new places, new things) that, even though I can’t protect them or give them things like wisdom, peace, and joy, God can.

And in fact, that’s exactly what his heart longs to do.

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When You Walk through Life’s Darkest Valley

Blog update: Many thanks for reading these posts, and for all the times you’ve reached out to share your own insights and stories with me.

Starting next week, I’ll only be posting on Fridays. I am experimenting with videos and what I hope will be some fun and encouraging posts on other platforms (like I even know what that means). You can find me on Instagram @jodie_berndt and (Lord willing, at some point in August) on Facebook @JodieBerndtWrites.

I am so grateful for you…and for your partnership in parenting, prayer, and celebrating all the ups and downs of this wonderful, abundant life that we share!

Yesterday, I recapped one of the highlights from a sermon on Psalm 23. Today, I want to turn part of that message into a prayer. God is our shepherd, sure, and he does lead and guide us…but sometimes the paths he ordains can look scary or hard. Even painful.

And yet we can walk in confidence and freedom, even in the darkest valley. God is with us. We have no reason to fear.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being my shepherd, for leading and guiding me, and for refreshing my soul. As I walk through _________ (whatever situation you’re facing today), may I feel your comforting presence and know that I have nothing to fear.

Amen.

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“If You Remain in Me…”

Based on the feedback I got from Tuesday’s post, plenty of you are dealing with transition. Impending empty nests, new jobs, kids headed to college (or kindergarten!), and family moves to far-away places that don’t feel like “home” can create a sense of sadness, uncertainty, and even fear.

Which is where the Bible comes in.

“If you remain in me,” Jesus says, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” That’s his promise in John 15:7. And it’s not some sort of gimmick or “name it-claim it” trick; rather, what the Lord is saying is that the more we read the Bible – the more we allow his Word to soak into our lives and transform our perspective – the more our thoughts and our prayers will begin to line up with the good things that God already wants to do.

And the more those good things will start happening.

This is something I explore more in my new book Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (which comes out in December). Like almost all of life’s changes, the transition to adulthood is rarely easy, and in the coming months I’ll be posting more blogs and videos about how we can pray God’s best for our grown-up kids (and for the little ones, too)…but for now, let’s take hold of this beautiful promise and make it our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me remain in you, and let your words remain in me. Create in me a hunger to read the Bible and a willingness to trust your promises. May my prayers line up with your good plans; use your word to accomplish your purposes in my family’s life. (John 15:7 and Isaiah 55:11)

Amen

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When God Says “Good Morning!”

Robbie and I spent the past week at a lake in Canada. I’ll tell you more next week (including why our northern escape from the mid-summer heat was not, actually, pure joy), but for now I will just share this one pic:

(That, in case you can’t tell, is a Canadian sunrise.)

I had to share the photo with our children. First, though, I did some editing:

I thought I was so clever! And that my kids would wake up and be so encouraged and happy!

Two hours later, I got this reply:

Okay. So am I the only one who thought the sunrise looked like an upside down exclamation mark? I mean, did you not notice that?

Sigh. All my best stuff is wasted on my kids. Maybe I should have just texted them a Bible verse. There are plenty of good ones that have to do with the morning. Consider, for instance, Proverbs 27:14: If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. 

(As in, say hello if you must…but not before coffee. And not, if you please, with too much enthusiasm.)

Or Genesis 29:25, which details Jacob’s surprise after being tricked into sleeping with the wrong sister:  When morning came, there was Leah! 

(As in…oops.)

Honestly, though, if I were to pick just one Bible verse to wake up to, I think it would have to be Lamentations 3:22-23:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Is that not just the best? What these words mean is that yesterday’s mistakes are over. God’s love has them covered. And he’s got a fresh helping of grace for today.

I love that. And I think it’s got the makings of a great Friday prayer, either for yourself or for someone else who needs to know this good news:

Heavenly Father,

Your love never ends.

Your mercies never cease.

Your faithfulness is great.

Help _____ remember these powerful truths. May _____ know that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for giving us a brand new start in your love, every day.

Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rest for the Overly Festive

It’s been a big week.

If you’re like me and you tend to over-do it on the whole Celebrate Freedom thing, you might be feeling a little worn out or weary. Happily for people like us, Jesus knows just what we need.

“Come to me,” he says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

That’s his promise in Matthew 11:28, and it’s the basis for this week’s Friday Prayer. I hope you’ll join me in praying it for yourself or your loved ones today – and that you’ll give yourself the freedom to sit for a spell!

Heavenly Father,

You don’t want us to live weary, weak, or worn out lives. Thank you that we can come to you and find the rest and refreshment we need. Help ____ to find rest in your presence today. (Matthew 11:28)

Amen.

And P.S., if your weariness isn’t from over-celebrating but from over-working, you might love this post from the folks at Proverbs 31. We really can do “busy” better!

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Friday Prayer with Pleonasm

Okay y’all. I promise this is the last one. No more of Mark Forsyth‘s literary tricks, after today. But when I saw pleonasm used in one of the Psalms of Ascent, I just had to give it to you in the form of a Friday Prayer.

Pleonasm, Forsyth explains, is “the use of unneeded words that are superfluous and unnecessary in a sentence that doesn’t require them.” Familiar phrases such as added bonus, personal friend, and safe haven are all examples of this belt-and-suspenders technique. They are linguistic time wasters. Why would anyone bother to fall down when a simple fall would have the same effect?

Anyhow.

Psalm 121 opens with a couple of back-to-back (see what I did there?) pleonasms:  I lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Not only do we not need the word “up,” Forsyth says, but since “whence” literally means from where, throwing in the extra “from” is enough to make some people fly into a furious rage. (Because I guess a regular rage, minus the pleonasm, just doesn’t sound angry enough.)

I’ll give you the whence (and so will most modern Bible translators, who have swapped it for where), but I actually think we need the word up. Pleonasm is not always a bad thing and, when it serves to emphasize a point (“I saw it with my own two eyes!”), I think it works. And in this case, I love the fact that the psalmist doesn’t just want to level our downcast gaze, he wants to make sure we look up.

In the end, though, none of that really matters. What matters is that God stands ready to guard, protect, keep, and watch over us. If you want to read the whole psalm, click here. But if all you have time for today is an abbreviated version in the form of a prayer (and you don’t mind little pleonasm thrown in), here you go:

Heavenly Father,

Lift up my eyes today. Let me see you as the source of my help…watch over my coming and going, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121)

Amen

 

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A Friday Prayer to Smile About

My friend Nigel (a former Royal Marine Commando who now heads up By His Wounds, a ministry dedicated to helping veterans and others who need physical and emotional healing) says that he wakes up every morning and smiles. Even if he doesn’t feel all that cheerful or happy, he wills his face into a grin – even before he gets out of bed.

I love that. And not just because it reminds me of Buddy the Elf (“Smiling’s my favorite!”). I like Nigel’s habit because it reminds me of one of the Bible’s most encouraging verses. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Some Bible brainiacs will tell you that “the day” this verse talks about is the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. Others say it is about the Sabbath. And still others (including those in the first two camps) maintain that, in the big picture, this verse calls us to rejoice because – thanks to God’s work at the resurrection – we have a Redeemer and a forever King who has beaten death and forgiven us, once and for all.

I agree with all of these people. And, at the risk of sounding theologically shallow, I also agree with Buddy the Elf. In a world where there are plenty of things not to smile about, I want to start my days the way Nigel does. I want to choose joy, knowing that today’s difficult circumstances and challenging relationships are not the big-picture story.

The big-picture story is that we have a good King who has saved us, who loves us, and who is still active and at work in our lives.

(Which is totally worth thinking about, even before we get out of bed.)

Heavenly Father,

This is the day that you have made. No matter what hardships or struggles I may face, help me rejoice and be glad because of what you have already done. (Psalm 118:24)

Amen.

 

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A Prayer for The Dad

A sweet friend lost her father last week. He was 94 and had lived a great life, but that didn’t diminish the ache she felt at his passing. I told her I get it. It’s been 16 years and, as we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, I miss my dad as much now as ever.

My dad “graduated” (as we like to say, in our family) in 2001. Click here if you want to read about him, or meet the guy who introduced me to Jesus. He had the most twinkly blue eyes, and when my college friends came to visit, he would smile and ask awkward questions like, “How’s your love life?” (My pals never seemed to mind; in fact, they usually laughed – and then confided in him.)

I’m grateful for my father – and, in fact, for every dad out there who is doing Dad Stuff. It can’t be easy to always have to carry the heaviest suitcases, get the wasps out of the attic, and keep it together when your wife makes you late. Again.

(I love you, Robbie.)

And so Dads, whatever it is that you’re doing – teaching a child to ride a bike, drive a car, or trust Jesus – can I just say thank you? Half the stuff you do may go unnoticed or unappreciated, but God sees. He knows how hard you work, and how much you love your family. And my prayer for you, this Father’s Day, is that he will strengthen you and give you everything you need to keep on being The Dad:

May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, working in you what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Note on the family pic, circa 1985: My family of origin was never known for its athleticism. This pic was snapped shortly after Robbie (my brand new husband, who is hiding his face for good reason) tackled my dad. He still says he “didn’t mean to hit him that hard” but hey. He prevented a touchdown.

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The Window of God’s Purpose

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

That’s not in the Bible; it’s from Robbie’s all-time favorite movie, The Sound of Music. But it’s a good line, particularly when you consider that God’s windows are not consolation prizes. They are never his “Plan B” for when you don’t get to walk through the door (to the house, the job, the relationship, the whatever) you want. Instead, when God shuts a door and leads us out through a window, it’s because he has a much better destination in mind.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” You might be struggling with disappointment or sense of defeat today, but know this: Whatever it is that has happened (or hasn’t happened) has not taken God by surprise. He is in control and he loves you. The door might be shut (and you might not yet see any window), but God’s purposes will be accomplished.

Heavenly Father,

When things don’t turn out like I thought that they would, or when I face the disappointment of a closed door or the death of a dream, remind me of this truth: I may have many plans, but your purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)

Amen

 

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“Shocking” New Findings on Friendship

News Flash:  Friendship is good for you.

Researchers at U.Va. recently revealed evidence that backs up the idea that the stronger your relationships are, the better your health will be. I won’t go into all the details (they use words like “hypothalamus” and “epinephrine”), but the gist of the report is that if you are under “the threat of electrical shock,” your brain will be a whole lot happier if “a trusted loved one” is near.

And, if you are holding that person’s hand, all the better.

“Having that hand to hold,” notes the lead scientist, “signals that you have resources – you have safety – so any particular stressor is just not as stressful as it might have been.”

But – and this is my favorite line in the whole article – “Nothing similar was found during stranger handholding.”

(How awesome is it that they actually studied that? I mean, if you took my husband and put him outside in a thunderstorm and asked him to hold hands with a stranger, the threat of electrical shock would NOT be his foremost concern.)

Anyhow…

I love it when science catches up with what Christians have known all along: We are created for connection. We thrive in community. When Jesus told us to “Love one another,” he obviously knew that we’d need an uninhibited hypothalamus in order to effectively respond to stress and other unfortunate circumstances.

In celebration of U.Va.’s findings, I’ve pulled together nine of my favorite “friendship” prayers and created a free printable for you:

To download these prayer cards as a letter-sized PDF (you’ll have to cut them up by yourself), click here. Pray the verses for yourself, for your kids, or for anyone who might feel a little James Taylor coming on (like maybe they are down and troubled, or they need a helping hand).

And remember, next time you get caught in a lightning storm (or if you find yourself in one of U.Va.’s brain imaging scanners while a red indicator “X” hints that you are about to be shocked), God has you.

He is with you, wherever you go.

And, as the psalmist says, he is always holding your hand:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:9-10)

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No Glory Stealing

One of my favorite things about writing books is getting to interview people.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children comes out later this year (I’ll keep you posted!), and as I was working on a chapter about the different ways our kids come to faith, I talked to one mom who is convinced that God sometimes takes them down paths we would not have chosen to keep us from patting ourselves on the back.

“We cannot glory-steal from God,” this gal said. “When our kids come to Christ in a way that only he could have arranged because it looks nothing like we would have hoped for or envisioned, we are much more inclined to give him the credit.”

What a wise mama! And I couldn’t help but think about her counsel when I read Psalm 115:1 this week:  Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but I like it when people appreciate or admire something I’ve done. I like getting credit. And while there’s nothing wrong with accepting a sincere compliment (or giving one!), I know I need to post a guard against glory-stealing. When something good comes my way, or when I find myself in a position to do something noble or noteworthy, I want to have the same attitude that King David had, when he looked at the mountain of silver and gold and precious stones he and his people had donated for building the temple. “Who am I,” David prayed, “and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

Everything comes from you, Lord.

If you want that to be your first response when good things happen – if you want to shine the spotlight on God’s faithfulness and guard your heart against glory-stealing – then why not tuck Psalm 115:1 into your Friday Prayer? Here’s what I’m praying today:

Heavenly Father,

When I am tempted to be a glory-stealer or take credit for something you’ve provided or done, help me remember that EVERYTHING comes from you. Bring your truth to my mind so that I will gratefully join my voice with the psalmist’s and say: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)

Amen.

 

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Memorial Day: Refuge and Remembrance

Every year when Memorial Day rolls around, I find myself drawn to Psalm 91. With military imagery (things like shields and ramparts, arrows and tents) and promises of angelic protection, this psalm has often been called “The Soldiers’ Psalm.” It’s a great one to pray for our service men and women; to read the full psalm and discover some of the promises you can claim, click here.

This week, though, the psalm took on fresh meaning after a dear friend’s mother went to be with the Lord. She was a gal who simply radiated joy – whether she was hosting a dinner party or fighting a prayer battle on behalf of her loved ones – and her daily presence will be missed. And as I have prayed for my friend’s family, the words of Psalm 91:4 keep coming to mind:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Maybe you’re grieving a loss today. Maybe you are one of our nation’s beloved Gold Star families, and you know the pain of a loved one’s sacrifice. Or maybe you find yourself mourning a friend or a family member who “fought the good fight” on the battlefield of life, someone who – like my friend’s mom – stood in the gap on your behalf with prayer, wisdom, and love.

If that’s where you are (or if you know someone else who could use the covering, the refuge, or the shield of God’s comforting presence), join me in making this your Memorial Day prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Cover _____ with your feathers. May _____ find refuge under your wings and be shielded and strengthened by your faithfulness. (Psalm 91:4)

Amen

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(And thank you, Susan Harrison, for sharing your beautiful pic for this post. You are the best ornithological photographer I know!)

 

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Answer Me When I Call

When Captain Robbie pulled up to this dock for re-fueling during our January vacay, I scampered (okay, sort of fell) off the boat. I couldn’t wait to open the door to the old phone booth and see what was inside!

Nothing.

It was just an empty shell, attractive but useless. No lines, no connection, no power.

Aren’t we so glad it’s not like that with God? When we call, he promises to answer! And no topic is too big (or too small) to discuss.

Whatever is on your heart today, take it to him. Let’s start by joining our voices with David’s, and make this request our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 17:6)

Amen

 

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Friday Prayer for Imperfect Moms

There is no perfect family. And there is no perfect mom.

We know this, of course. But it can be easy to forget, particularly in an age of professionally produced Christmas cards and Instagram posts that showcase trophies, vacations, and siblings who appear to genuinely like each other.

And it can be easy to feel like you are the only one who is seriously blowing it. Like when you go to the parent-teacher conference and she asks you, in the nicest possible way, if your son is going to get “any pants” for Christmas.

(As if you are the only fourth-grade parent who doesn’t think wearing shorts in 37-degree weather is that bad.)

Lately, I’ve been reviewing some of my parenting failures. (Which, given the fact that Mother’s Day is on Sunday, seems only natural.) And so it was with no small amount of gratitude that I heard my good friend, Susan Yates, say the following:

Your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him.

Isn’t that awesome? (You can stop reading right there, if you want, and go have yourself a Happy Mother’s Day.)

Susan was in Virginia Beach this week to talk about her new book, Risky Faith, as well as her One Word Cards. She wasn’t here to talk about parenting. But as she cataloged God’s attributes (including his love for us, and his power to provide for our needs and cover our mistakes), I found myself thanking God (not for the first time) for putting this wise woman in my life.

And, listening to Susan speak, I found myself thankful for another wise mentor. My mother. Here she is, on the far left (with Susan and my daughters, Hillary and Annesley, between us):

I’m thankful for my mom for a variety of reasons. Partly for the sappy ones, the sentiments that show up on Mother’s Day cards (You are an amazing mom…I’m so proud to be your child…Thanks for hanging in there with me), but even more for the less-sappy/more-real reasons that don’t. Like the fact that my mom made about a zillion parenting mistakes.

Seriously. My mom consistently modeled imperfect parenting. She was great at that. And now that I am making the exact same mistakes with my kids, I could not be more grateful.

I am grateful to a mother who taught me that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

That it is God’s job (not mine) to work in my kids’ lives so that they will think and behave in ways that line up with his plans. (Philippians 2:13)

And that I really can rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), even when my kids choose to wear shorts in the snow or make other, more impressive, mistakes of their own. God is, as Susan Yates said, all about redeeming that stuff.

So thank you, Mom. Maybe you aren’t exactly the Proverbs 31 woman, but you’re mighty close. Especially when you get to the second part of verse 25, which you pretty much nail every day: You can laugh at the days to come. You do that well.

And if you’re not my mom – if you’re more uptight like me, and your heart gets in knots over all the things that you didn’t do right, or the things that you could have done better – can I just offer this Mother’s Day prayer? Most of my Friday Prayers can be prayed for your loved ones, but maybe keep this one just for yourself:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that your grace is all that I need. Help me remember that your power works best in weakness. Let me be glad about my own weaknesses, because that’s what unleashes your strength and releases the power of Christ to work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Thank you that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing – NOTHING – can separate me from your love. (Romans 8:1 & 39)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer to Pay It Forward

What a treat it was to come home from a weekend away and find this on my doorstep:

Who left this lovely bouquet? I have no idea. But the flowers came with a tag: Hope this blesses you & that you pay it forward!

Reading that little note, I was reminded of the power that all of us have to make a difference. To share God’s love. To brighten someone’s day.

Maybe that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words in a letter to some people he loved:  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

Isn’t that a great prayer? Let’s borrow it today. Let’s ask God to make us fit for whatever he has called us to do, to infuse our good ideas with his power, and to help us “pay it forward” in the lives of the people we love:

Heavenly Father,

Enable _____ to live a life worthy of your call. Give _____ the power to accomplish all the good things that faith inspires. (2 Thessalonians 1:11, NLT)

Amen.

(And if you’re the secret friend who delivered this sweet blessing…thank you. I can’t wait to get out in the garden, refresh the bouquet, and pass it on!)

 

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The Display of His Splendor

I need a 12-step plan.

For my addiction.

To gardening.

It’s not something that plagues me all year long, but right now, in the springtime, I cannot pass a nursery or a garden center without stopping. There might be a plant that I missed! A climbing vine I’ve not tried! And I don’t care if it is raining and 57 degrees outside; I can’t wait to start digging! The garden newbies may be small and unremarkable right now, but just wait. In a few weeks, they’ll be spectacular.

I can’t help but think that’s how God looks at us. We’re all works in progress, but he has a vision. He knows what we’ll look like, in time. We may appear small or weak or even broken right now, but in his capable hands all that will change. We’ll become “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

So let’s make that our Friday prayer, trusting the Master Gardener to come in and shape something beautiful in our life, or in the life of someone we love:

Heavenly Father,

Work in _____’s life. May _____ become like a mighty oak, a planting for the display of your splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

Amen.

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The Grasp of God’s Love

We missed having our daughter, Virginia, home for Easter. She lives in New York City and couldn’t make the trip, but we did get to enjoy some FaceTime with her on Sunday. She called us during an afternoon walk.

As I looked beyond her face and saw the bustling city, with all of its people and traffic and noise, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did anyone know it was Easter? Were people thinking about the Big News of the day? Did they care that He is Risen?

“I don’t know,” Virginia said. “But I kind of doubt it. Like, it looks pretty much like any other day in New York.”

I don’t know why, but that hit me. All of these people, walking around, going about their business, seemingly oblivious to the depth of God’s sacrifice…the height of his resurrection power…and the immeasurable breadth of his love. How could they not know?

And then I felt God whisper something gentle to my heart. “Jodie,” he said, “You don’t really know, either. You have not even begun to grasp the full extent of my love.”

Okay then. That was kind of an eye-opener, and it’s really stuck with me this week. I want to know more of God’s love. I want to take hold of it. And I want my children, my husband, and my friends to grasp it, too.

Which is why I am borrowing some words first written by the Apostle Paul as the basis for today’s Friday Prayer. And if that’s where your heart is today – if you are longing for more of God’s love – I invite you to join me. Pray this one for yourself, for someone you love, or (if you’re feeling like you want to go big) for every single person in New York City.

Heavenly Father…

I pray that _____, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _____ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Amen

 

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A Good Friday Prayer

For God so loved

You know the verse. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But here’s another nugget, one that brings John 3:16 into a little sharper focus: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

I’m letting these verses – the one so familiar, the other so sobering – make camp in my heart. Taken together, they’re giving shape to our Good Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you.

Amen

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Refresh and Be Refreshed

A generous person will prosper;whoever refreshes others will be refreshed

Well, hello there Spring! It’s refreshing to have you back!

And speaking of…

I love what the Bible says about refreshment: In a nutshell, we get what we give. So let’s look for ways to pour our time and talents into other people’s lives, sharing our resources to revive even the weariest heart. Let’s make this our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me be alert to opportunities to exercise generosity. Let me refresh other people and, in turn, may I be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Amen

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An Easter Basket Giveaway…for Mama Bunny!

I love Easter.

I love the joyful songs (Christ the Lord is Risen To-Day-ay…Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-lay-ay-loo-oo-yah!), the fragrant lilies, and the occasional bonnet that shows up in church (particularly when the ‘Hoos are still in the hunt, like they were on Easter Sunday last year):

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I love dragging our big plywood egg out to the street late Saturday night (under the cover of darkness), and then waking up to the Good News Sunday morning:

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And I love stuffing Easter baskets. One year, we had 23 college kids stay with us for the weekend. Never have I been so grateful for the Dollar Tree and its affordable stash of plastic eggs, candy, and gifts. Because nothing says “Happy Easter” like a chocolate bunny, a new toothbrush, and a tattoo sleeve:

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This year, we won’t be welcoming any college students (other than Robbie, who says he mostly just wants to come home and sleep). Which is kind of a shame, cuz I have some basket upgrades in mind – upgrades that, truth be told, Mama Bunny will like even more than the kids:

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a free giveaway, so how about this? Post a comment on this blog – share a favorite Easter tradition, a prayer verse you like, or anything you want to wish others a Happy Easter – and you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of the treats in this basket (which, incidentally, would also make a great Mother’s Day gift). Here’s what we have:

Unshaken. This new book from Sally Burke and Cyndie Claypool de Neve (order your copy or download a free chapter here) outlines a four-step prayer process to help us keep our eyes on the Lord and pray with confidence, even when everything around us seems to be shaking.

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I love the real-life stories these gals use to illustrate their prayer principles. And, as a bonus, they offer cleverly designed pages that are meant to be copied and shared:

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One Word Cards. These beautiful 5×7″ cards pair the devotional musings of author Susan Alexander Yates with the stunning artwork of her daughter-in-law, Christy.

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The cards – which feature one key word, a relevant Bible verse, and a simple prayer – come in four different sets (click here to see the collection), along with a wooden easel you can use to display them:

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Scripture Prayers and Blessings. I created these little cards with help from the talented gals at Sisters Ink; they represent twelve of the best-loved Scripture prayers from my books. The marbled stock is scrumptiously thick and perfect for tucking into a child’s backpack, slipping into a note to a friend, or just keeping in your purse or car as a reminder to pray.

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So how about it? Post a comment, share a story, offer up one of your favorite prayers…and you’ll automatically be entered to win. And since there are three prizes in the basket, we’ll have three winners…so hop to it, friends! Get a little something for Mama Bunny this Easter!

And for those who think that what Mama Bunny might really want is a new tattoo, try these. I can’t vouch for the design or the quality, but hey. They’re removable.

You’re welcome.

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Bible Xanax for the Anxious Heart

Cast all your anxiety

What are you worried about?

Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us that we shouldn’t be anxious. Instead, he says, we should come to him with our concerns and requests. Because whatever it is – your job, your relationships, your finances, your kids, your health – God already knows. And he cares.

Let’s take a little Bible Xanax today, casting our cares on God and exchanging our fear and worry for his peace:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you are a God who cares. I am worried about ______today. Help me cast my anxiety on you, knowing that I can trust you to care for me and for the people I love. (1 Peter 5:7)

Amen.

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Let’s Meet at the Rock

So when I saw these turtles climbing all over themselves in their effort to get to the rock, I had just one thought: Wouldn’t it be awesome if every believer was like these guys, determined and eager to get to the Rock?

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And what if, instead of telling ourselves that we don’t need the fellowship of other Christians, or that we don’t have to be engaged in a church community in order to experience all that God has for us, we took God at his word and showed up on Sunday? What if we saw verses like Hebrews 10:25 not as a suggestion, but as a command – one that was written for our benefit, rather than God’s?

The Bible says that God is our Rock, and that all his ways are perfect. Let’s do all that we can to draw close to him, and to bring other people along. Let’s make these words our Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of your return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)

Amen.

 

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Let God Quiet You

He will quiet you by his love.

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

It’s a question that many of us have considered, or at least heard, at some point during the last two weeks. Some Christians choose to fast (from desserts, say, or maybe from a habit like smoking or drinking or Netflix); others mark the weeks leading up to Easter by adding something to their daily routine (a new devotional, morning Bible reading, extra time for prayer). Either way – giving up or adding on – the idea is to do something that reorients your perspective and draws you closer to God.

For me, neither option works too well. Giving up chocolate doesn’t seem all that hard. Until I try it, and then all I want for breakfast is a brownie. I tell myself that I should channel that craving into a hunger for Jesus, but it’s like there’s a Doppelganger in my head saying, “Yeah. Jesus and a brownie. That’d be sweet.”

And when I try to add something (like a few extra minutes in prayer as a start to my morning) I don’t fair any better. Just opening my prayer journal seems to unleash a Kraken of cares, and they all start shouting at once: “Worry about this! Don’t forget to do that! Hurry up; you’re going to be late!”

I want to quiet my heart and get ready for Easter, but I can’t.

Which is why, when I read Zephaniah 3:17 this week, it brought me up short:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. 

I’ve always loved the image of God as a mighty warrior, one who takes delight in his people and rejoices over them with singing. But the other day, as I struggled to get my distracted mind to behave, the phrase “he will quiet you by his love” fairly jumped off the page.

He will quiet you.

You know what that means, right? That means it’s not up to us. We don’t have to calm our own fears, or work really hard to shut out the worries and concerns of the day. We can come before God – during Lent, or at any other time of the year – and ask him to do that for us. We can relax, knowing that even as he “exults over us with loud singing,” his love will speak peace to our souls.

I don’t know what you’ve give up (or taken on) for Lent, or whether the change is helping you draw close to God. But if you’re like me and you find your mind wandering or your worries mounting or you wish you had just a little more diligence and self-control, why not ask God to help? Tell him you can’t do it on your own (which he already knows, anyway), and that you’d like him to step in. Make Zephaniah 3:17 your prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for showing up as the mighty one who will save. Thank you for taking delight in me, for rejoicing over me with gladness and singing.

I am worried/distracted/fearful; please quiet me by your love.

Amen.

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Get a Garland of Grace

So I was looking through Hillary’s wedding pix the other day. I came upon this shot of the bride with her young cousins (who did a stellar job as her flower girls):

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Looking at this photo, I was reminded of what the book of Proverbs says about wisdom. Wisdom protects us, the writer says, and when we get it – when we “cherish her” – here’s what happens:

She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown… When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. (Proverbs 4:9-12)

A garland of grace. A glorious crown. And the ability to navigate life without tripping. I thought all of these things sounded great. But you know who didn’t?

The dog.

Come wedding day, the florist spent ages working on a spectacular wreath for Khaki to sport – a creation that looked every bit as glorious as the bride’s bouquet – but that mule of a lab wasn’t having it. She refused to be garlanded:

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And all I could think, as Khaki wandered around naked, was that she had missed out. She could have looked really good at the reception, but she blew it.

How many times have I done the same thing? How many times has God held out a crown – a garland of grace, woven by wisdom – only to have me walk right on by? And how many times have I gone my own way, ignoring his counsel, and then stumbled straight into a ditch?

Oh, Lord, don’t let me be Khaki. Or Max. I love our dogs but, IQ-wise, I wouldn’t want to be them. (Remember when Max ate the driveway? Yeah. Me, too.)

Instead, I want to get wisdom. I want to take hold of God’s words – his garland of grace – so that I know how to live. When God’s offers a crown, I want to say thank you. And I want to wear it.

If you do, too (or if someone you love would look good in a garland), why not turn Proverbs 4 into a prayer? Click here to get the big picture, or (if all you’ve got time for is the condensed version) try this:

Heavenly Father,

Show _____ how to pay attention, gain understanding, and take hold of your words. Lead _____ along straight paths. Crown  _____ with a garland of wisdom and grace. (Proverbs 4:1-11)

Amen.

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Painting with a Purpose

I love the inspirational, open-ended beauty of 1 Peter 4:10. “Each one of you,” Peter writes, “should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Each one of you should usewhatever gift you have received to serve others

Last month, I got an insider’s look at a woman who is living out this verse in a big way. Anne Neilson (anneneilsonhome.com) is a talented and visionary artist whose paintings have garnered attention from some of the art world’s most discerning collectors. What makes her work particularly distinctive, though, is not just how good it is. Rather, it’s the fact that Anne paints with a purpose, using her platform to help eradicate homelessness, fund cancer research, and help other artists find their place.

In all of these efforts and more, Anne shines the spotlight on Jesus.

I’m no artist, but as I looked around Anne’s studio, I was reminded that all of us have unique talents and abilities. So do our children. And God knows exactly how each one of us is wired; butcher, baker, or candlestick-maker, we are all his handiwork, and he has good stuff for us to do.

Take a few moments today to thank God for the way he created you (or your kids), and then ask him to help you use what you’ve been given to serve other people and point them toward his amazing, life-changing grace.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the way you made _____. Show _____ how to use the gifts he/she has received to serve others, faithfully administering your grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen.

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Show Me Your Ways

I love David’s prayer in Psalm 25. “Show me your ways,” he says, “Teach me. Guide me.”

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.5 Guide me in your truth and teach me.

I love what David is asking for. And I love what he’s not. He’s not asking God to show him the way or the path or the truth. He’s asking God to show him his ways.

Because there’s a difference.

A lot of ways might appeal, a lot of paths might look good, a lot of what we see and hear might be convincing. But if we want to be confident that we’re on the right road or making the best decision, we need to let God direct our steps. Let’s make this psalm our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Show ____ your ways. Teach ____ your paths. Guide ____ in your truth. (Psalm 25:4-5)

Amen.

 

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Righteousness, Peace, and Confidence. Forever.

To a lot of people, “righteousness” is a dirty word. It smacks of finger-pointing, judgment, and pride.

But it’s not, at least not in God’s lexicon. When he uses the word, it brims with refreshment – with things like honesty, justice, and grace. And when he calls us to pursue righteousness as a lifestyle, it is his invitation to let our lives line up with his commands – not so much for his sake, but for ours.

Because living like that – letting God’s righteousness shape our actions, as well as our attitudes – leads to good things! As the Bible puts it, “The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.” (HCSB)

The result of righteousness will be peace;the effect of righteousnesswill be quiet confidence forever. (1)

If a life marked by peace and quiet confidence sounds good to you (and it sure does, to me), make this verse your Friday prayer. Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Make your righteousness real in _____’s life; may it result in peace and quiet confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17)

Amen.

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The Words We Speak

So Robbie and I have been working our way through the books, Lists to Love Byand guess what? I’m realizing afresh that what the Bible says about the words we speak (“The tongue has the power of life and death”) is really true!

And I need help.

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I want my words to be helpful and encouraging. I want them to build people up. I want to be someone who gives life – not death – in the things that I say, whether I’m talking to Robbie, my kids, or anyone else.

If you want that too, why not join me in making Ephesians 4:29 your Friday prayer? Here it is. You can pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Let no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up, that it might benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Amen.

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Reach Down from On High

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.”

If you’re using the Bible in One Year (a free reading app that comes with commentary; click here to get it), you read about David’s distress – and God’s incredible deliverance – in Psalm 18 this week. God hears David’s cry and, after an earth-shaking display of majesty and power, he reaches down – “all the way from sky to sea.”(MSG)

he reached down from on high and took hold of me...

If you find yourself in David’s place (pursued by foes, feeling overwhelmed and entangled, or just needing to know that your Daddy is there, and that he hears you), take heart. “He rescued me,” David says, “because he delighted in me.” I like how the Message translation puts that line:  “I stood there saved – surprised to be loved!”

God delights in you.

God delights in you! And he is ready to save.

So…ask for his help. Call on him. Make Psalm 18:16 your prayer, knowing that you (and your children, if you’re praying this prayer for them) are never out of God’s reach:

Heavenly Father,

Reach down from on high and take hold of me; draw me out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16)

Amen.

 

 

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Friday Prayer for a Fresh Start and New Mercies

It’s January 27. How’s that New Year’s Resolution working out?

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According to a couple of brainiac professors at U.Va. and the University of Zurich, most of us have higher expectations that we can successfully take on a new goal when it syncs with a new time period. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether we want to drink less, hit the gym more, or stop gossiping, we figure that our chances for an effective launch are better if we start on the first of the year. Or the month. Or even, actually, on a Monday.

Trouble is, just having a fresh start doesn’t mean that the same old temptations and obstacles won’t pop up. You can read the U.Va. findings by clicking here, but if what you really want is some Divine help, why not ask for it? The Bible says that God’s mercies are new every morning (talk about a fresh start!), and that it is his grace that teaches us how to live wisely and well.

Here’s a prayer you can pray for yourself, or for someone else who might need God’s grace in 2017 (and beyond!):

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Show _____ how to turn his/her back on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life…one that is starting right now! (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV and Titus 2:11-12, MSG)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Better Relationships

Earlier this month, I told you how much I like Mark and Susan Merrill’s books, Lists to Love By for Busy Wives and Lists to Love By for Busy HusbandsThose are great for strengthening marriage, but what about all the other relationships in our lives?

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What about our other family members? Or our friends? How can we improve connections and strengthen ties with our parents, siblings, and in-laws? What about teammates and coaches…or that tricky roommate…or the co-worker who always seems to find a way to pinch our last nerve?

Philippians 2:1-18 offers some guaranteed-to-work tips for every relationship. (They work because, basically, they compel us to think and act more like Christ.) Read the whole passage by clicking here, or start with just two little power-packed verses and turn them into a Friday prayer for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Help _____ to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, cause _____ to value others above him/herself, not looking to their own interests but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Our Work

establish-the-work-of-our-hands

January is a often a time for reflection. For evaluation. For looking back…and, even more, for looking forward.

For me, it’s a time when I think about things like work and purpose. I want to be sure I am investing time and talent the way God wants in the year ahead, and I want him to help me get the job done.

One of my favorite “work” prayers comes from Psalm 90, which is a prayer that Moses prayed. Here’s what he asked God to do; feel free to borrow this one for yourself, for someone you love, or maybe even for your church, organization, or business:

Heavenly Father,

May your favor rest on ______. Establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)

Amen

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Friday Prayer for the Laundry Pile

(Note: I first posted this prayer two years ago, but as I stare down the pile of bedsheets, tablecloths, and dirty socks and towels that represent Christmas Past, I feel like I need it today. Maybe you do, too. Because some prayers are like laundry:  You just gotta do them again.)

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Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the full house and the empty nest is the amount of laundry that needs doing. For years, particularly when we had four children all playing different sports, my life had a rhythm all its own:

Wash. Dry. Fold. Repeat.

Partly to break up the monotony, and partly to attach some sort of meaning to an existence that seemed to be measured in soccer games and grass stains, I started using the laundry cycle as a prayer prompt. I looked up a few verses about clothing and pressed them (a-hem) into service.

Here’s one of my favorites. This year, instead of groaning over the laundry pile, why not try this prayer when you pull a load out of the dryer? It might not help you find that missing sock, but at least you’ll be investing in something that lasts beyond tomorrow:

Heavenly Father, let _____ know that he/she is holy and dearly loved.  Help _____ to clothe himself/herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  (Colossians 3:12)

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What Will the New Year Bring?

We’re on the cusp of a New Year! What will it bring?

A quick spin through Google reveals all sorts of prognostications – some funny, some serious, some terrifying. But here’s one thing we can know for sure: When our trust is in the Lord, we can live lives marked by confidence and joy rather than worry and fear, no matter what the future holds!

Consider what the prophet Jeremiah had to say:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.

Let’s take this promise and make it our Friday prayer…or maybe just use it to cover all of 2017. You can pray this one for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ trust in you. Let his/her confidence be in you. Keep _____ free from fear and worry, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable the world gets. Bless _____ with a fresh and fruitful life! (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Amen.

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A Reason to Rejoice!

String the lights, sing the songs, wrap the gifts…we have a REASON to rejoice!

One of my kids made this ornament nearly 20 years ago, and it’s always been my favorite:

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Today, as we prepare our hearts and our homes to welcome the Savior, let’s borrow a few words from Mary’s song and make them our prayer: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)

Heavenly Father,

May we glorify you as our Lord and rejoice in you as our Savior this Christmas!

Amen

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A Stump, a Branch, and a Prayer

a-shoot-will-come-up-from-the-stump-of-jesse-from-his-roots-a-branch-will-bear-fruitA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

That’s Isaiah 11:1, and it’s a verse our minister, Andy Buchanan, covered in his sermon a couple of weeks ago. The gist of the message was not so much about the stump, or even the branch, as it was about the question: “Will God really dwell among us?”

Happily, the answer is yes. And for us, the promise is this:  God brings life out of things (like stumps) that appear to be dead.

If you’ve got 15 minutes and you want to listen to Father Andy’s sermon, click here and scroll down to the 12/4/16 message. If you’ve only got time for a prayer, why not do like the Apostle Paul did when he wrote his letter to the Romans, and partner the Isaiah promise with a prayer? Paul quoted Isaiah:

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Romans 15:12)

And then he prayed this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

The Root of Jesse is Jesus, the one who offers us joy, peace, and hope. Can there be any better Christmas prayer? I’m praying Romans 15:13 for you, and for your families, today!

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Friday Prayer for a Crown of Beauty

may-they-be-brought-into-complete-unity-toI love the book of Isaiah. Especially now, at Christmastime, when so many of the prophet’s words point to the hope that Jesus brings. He is the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace. He’s the one who binds up the brokenhearted and sets the prisoner free. He is the one whose coming is the glad tidings – the good news – our hearts are yearning to hear.

And he’s the God who changes things.

If you long to experience this hope, or if you know somebody who does, here’s a prayer from one of my favorite chapters in Isaiah:

Heavenly Father,

Bestow on _____ a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

Amen.

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Peace in Every Circumstance

may-the-lord-of-peace-himself-continually-grant-you-peace-in-every-circumstanceChristmas is upon us…which means we are stacking our desire for “peace on earth” against the chaos of too-busy schedules, relationship challenges, and a barrage of advertisements and emails that seem anything but peaceful (23 shopping days left!!).

If you find yourself taking deep breaths and longing for the peace that Jesus brings, you’re not alone. In fact, Paul closed one of his letters with that very prayer, one where he asked God for continual peace in every circumstance.

Continual peace? In every circumstance? Yes. Yes, please!

If that’s what you want (for yourself, or for someone you love), join me in this Friday Prayer:

May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant _____ peace in every circumstance. (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NKJV)

Amen.

 

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Praying the Scriptures for Your Football Team

img_8445Okay so it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Which means football.  Which means U.Va. plays Virginia Tech.

Which means I’m devoting this Friday Prayer space to my team.

Virginia fans will tell you that our beloved Wahoos have not won the annual contest in the last twelve years, and that our record this year (2-9) has not exactly positioned our team as a threat. Alert fans, though, will point to that heady season between 1895 and 1904 (a glorious stretch where we beat the Hokies every single year) as proof that we have winning in our genes.

If you’re not the type to pray about what coaching legend Vince Dooley’s wife Barbara calls “bawl games,” feel free to quit reading now. No hard feelings. Seriously.

But if you like the idea of doing all you can for your team, feel free to join me:

Heavenly Father,

U.Va. Football has suffered for more than a little while; may this be the year that you restore us and make our team strong, firm, and steadfast. Put your law in our players’ hearts so that their feet will not slip, and command your angels to guard them in all their ways. May they be on their guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, and be strong. (1 Peter 5:10, Psalm 37:31, Psalm 91:11, and 1 Corinthians 16:13).

I know, I know.

Some of you are saying it’s not fair to pray for one team over another. I get that. Plus, I have two Hokie sons-in-law, and I really should show them some love. And so, in the interest of keeping things on the level, here’s a Friday Prayer for the other guys:

Heavenly Father,

You are the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. If the Tech folks feel sad, or even devastated, after tomorrow’s game, may your unfailing love be their comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3, Psalm 119:76)

Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all! (And #GoHoos!)

 

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Give Thanks in All Circumstances

give-thanksThanksgiving is next week! And whether your heart is in a grateful place or you feel like you  need a little Holy Spirit help to get there, here’s a Friday Prayer for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Help _____ to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is your will for us in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer to Be Satisfied

satisfy-us-in-the-morning-with-your-unfailing-love-that-we-may-sing-for-joy-and-be-glad-all-our-daysThis month, we’re exploring what it means to discover the blessedness of waiting on God, of learning to put our trust in him instead of in the outcomes or answers we expect.

I love the promise Psalm 90 offers: That we can be satisfied not with God’s gifts or the things he provides, but simply with the warmth of his love. Let’s make this one our Friday prayer, either for ourselves or for someone whose heart longs to be filled:

Heavenly Father,

Satisfy _____ in the morning with your unfailing love; let _____ sing for joy and be glad all his/her days. (Psalm 90:14)

Amen

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Lord, Hear Our Cry

i-waited-patiently-forthe-lordThis month’s posts and Friday prayers are designed to help us discover the “unbroken enjoyment” of waiting on God as we learn to trust him in the sometimes unexpected (or unwanted) circumstances of our lives.

Psalm 40 offers a beautiful picture of how God hears us, rescues us, and gives us a firm place to stand. Here’s how the first few verses in this psalm can be used as a prayer for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

I am waiting patiently for your help. Turn to me and hear my cry.

Lift me out of the pit of despair, the mud and mire of life. Set my feet on solid ground and steady me as I walk.

Give me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise – and may all who see what you have done be amazed and put their trust in you. (Psalm 40:1-3, NLT)

Amen.

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Early Voting; Early Praying

fullsizerenderEarly voting has begun. I’m doing laundry to be sure my Election Day Outfit is clean, and I’m also tapping into the Book of Common Prayer, which offers a pretty fab petition we can use in the days ahead.

Here it is, if you want to turn it into your own Friday Prayer:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our power and privileges:

Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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I can’t be responsible. Seriously?

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You know how it is when you learn a new vocabulary word and then you suddenly start start hearing it all the time? It’s that way for me with songs. I don’t listen to a whole lot of music, and so when I hear the same song twice in two days, I notice.

Which is what happened to me this week with the new (I guess it’s new?) single, Ain’t My Fault. I first heard it performed live by a group of adorable, fresh-faced college students at a concert last weekend. And then, yesterday, I heard the recorded version by the actual artist (a Swedish gal named Zara Larsson) during my workout class.

Here are the lyrics (in case you are like me and you are a “Billboard Hot 100” ignoramus):

It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on
It ain’t my fault you got, got me so gone
It ain’t my fault I’m not leaving alone
It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on…

No I can’t be responsible
If I get you in trouble now
See you’re too irresistible
Yeah that’s for sure

There’s more, but you get the idea. And when I heard the song for the second time (and yes, I was trying to figure out the lyrics while everyone else was perfecting their squats), I thought to myself, “What the heck?”

What the heck is wrong with us? We can’t be responsible?

Can you imagine what a prosecutor would do with that line of defense in, say, a sexual assault case? Or even a theft? “That diamond necklace was just too irresistible…”

Even more than that, though, I feel like this song (which is of course very upbeat and catchy and actually a little bit irresistible) typifies so much of what is upside down in our culture. A friend of mine, who is mom to three young adult men, tells her sons that a woman should be able to walk, stark naked, through a fraternity or a bar, and be safe. She wants her boys to have enough self-control to respect every woman, no matter how she acts or looks.

As a mom to three young adult daughters, I take a similar-but-opposite tack:  “Don’t you dare walk through a fraternity or a bar lookin’ like that.” I want my girls to demonstrate the exact same measure of self-control and not disrespect the young men in their world by trying to attract their attention in an inappropriate way.

In both cases, for our sons and our daughters (and for that matter, for us), it comes down a willingness to be responsible. To exercise self-control. Because words like “It ain’t my fault you keep turning me on” are baloney. We all have eyes; we can look away. We all have feet; we can walk out.

Back when I wrote Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, I devoted an entire chapter to stories and prayers about self-control, diligence, and self-discipline in our kids. Back then, the need for self-control centered around things like swiping erasers from the first-grade supply closet, or even falling out of your chair at the dinner table (something our kids managed to do with astonishing regularity). Now (and I am not telling you anything you don’t already know) the need – in my kids’ lives, and in mine – is much more serious. Like, I wish my biggest self-control issue was needing to stay in my chair.

If you, your child, or someone you love struggles with personal responsibility (or if you’ve maybe heard “It’s not my fault” one too many times), here are three of my favorite prayer verses from that long-ago chapter. They worked for the stolen erasers and, thanks be to God, they are just as powerful for our lives today:

May _____ make every effort to add to faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Do not give ______ a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

May your grace, which offers salvation, also teach _____ to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life. (Titus 2:11-12)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Walking in the Light

blessed-are-those-who-have-learnedWhat’s the secret to a happy life?

Psalm 89:15 offers a good answer:  “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” That’s the  NIV; other translations (like the Amplified Version) tap into the original Hebrew and call these folks “blessed and happy.”

Whichever word you choose – blessed or happy – this verse is a beautiful way to pray for the people you love:

Heavenly Father,

May ______ be blessed because he/she has learned to acclaim you; let _____ walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. (Psalm 89:15)

Amen.

(And P.S., that’s a picture of Robbie, walking in the light in Iceland, where he says it never really got dark. I wanna go there.)

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Friday Prayer to Enter His Gates

psalm-100-4Yesterday, I wrote about the power of praise in our lives. We shouldn’t be surprised to see how things change for the better when we praise the Lord; after all, the Bible says that God inhabits, or is enthroned on, the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). It also says that praise and thanksgiving are the ways that we enter into his presence.

Let’s draw near to God today as we make Psalm 100 our Friday Prayer. You can pray these verses for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ enter your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise. Let _____ know that you are good, that your love endures forever, and that you are faithful through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Debate Prep

gty_donald_trump_hillary_clinton_sk_150619_16x9_992The first presidential debate is just a few days away and the candidates have a dicey job to do, particularly when you consider the advice couched in this debate-prep nugget:  Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Proverbs 10:19, NLT)

Knowing that Hillz and The Donald are going to have to open their mouths at some point, I went looking for a verse we could borrow for this week’s Friday prayer. The Bible has about a jillion things to say about the power of words, but given where we are as a nation, I think Proverbs 12:18 is the one I want. Feel free to join me in praying it for “your” candidate…or for both candidates…or even for yourself:

Heavenly Father,

Keep ______from speaking reckless words, which pierce like swords. Instead, may _____have the tongue of the wise, and so bring healing. (Proverbs 12:18) 

Amen

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Should You Pray about Fantasy Football?

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Virginia and her friend Chris came home over Labor Day weekend, which I guess must be the kickoff to Fantasy Football season, because at one point Chris excused himself to go “draft” his team. I have no idea how the Fantasy draft works, but I wanted to be supportive, so I told Chris I’d pray for his picks.

If Chris thought that was strange, he didn’t say so. But when another mom (whose son was drafting his team at the same time) heard what I’d done, she lodged a protest. “Does that mean that all of the other guys are gonna get jammed, cuz you prayed for Chris to get the best players?”

I started to say that the other guys were welcome to pray about their draft picks too (or to get their friend’s mothers to pray), but my pal wasn’t finished.

Didn’t I, she wanted to know, think it was a little self-absorbed or shallow to be praying about something like football (and not even real football) when there were people with cancer out there? Wouldn’t my time be better spent praying for them? And was it even right, spiritually, to pray for a sports victory?

I’ve heard those questions (and plenty more, just like them) before.  I remember speaking to a group of young moms and, afterwards, one of them came up and told me what she’d thought of my talk:

“I don’t think it’s right to pray for my kid’s spelling test when there are people who need jobs, or when ISIS is on the loose. I don’t want to be clogging up the lines if somebody with something really important is trying to get through. And if I start praying about stuff like spelling tests, won’t God just think I am bugging him?”

I understand where questions like these come from. It can be easy to think that God is wired like we are, and that he can only handle a certain amount of stuff on his plate at any given time, so he needs to prioritize. But that’s not true, of course. And when we pray, we never bug God. He actually likes to hear from us. When we come to him with our concerns, we demonstrate both obedience (since he tells us to pray) and honor (since what we are essentially doing is acknowledging his lordship over our lives).

As to whether or not it’s okay to pray for life’s little things – fantasy football, spelling tests, and even hair appointments (which one of my friends regularly asks me to pray about, on her behalf) – I don’t know. I think if something matters to us, it matters to God, and if he knows how many hairs are on our heads, you gotta believe he knows whether we’re eyeing Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown at wide receiver. And, just like we don’t mind it when our kids ask us for a puppy, I think God doesn’t mind if we ask him for a win – as long as we leave room for the fact that he might have an even better plan in mind, and that maybe not getting a puppy right now is actually the best way to accomplish his purposes for the people and the teams that we love. (For more on this “pray-and-trust” approach, click here.)

And maybe I take things too literally, but when the Bible says that we can (and even should) pray about anything, at any time, I feel like it’s okay to jump in. Consider just a few invitations:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6, NLT)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18)

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sings songs of praise. (James 5:13)

There are all sorts of theological reasons for prayer, but at the end of the day, I think the reason why God wants us to pray comes down to this:  God wants us to pray because he loves us. He wants that sense of connection, that fellowship, that relationship that happens when we communicate with him. And as a mom, I get that. I love it when my kids text or call. It’s almost pathetic, actually, how quickly I scramble for the phone. And it doesn’t matter how boring or insignificant the topic is (a recent call involved a discussion on the merits of commando hooks as necklace holders); I love to hear my kids’ voices.

Speaking of…  God doesn’t give a rip how we sound (he’s already heard it all, anyway), so don’t worry if your thoughts come out in a jumble, or you don’t think that you sound “holy” enough to approach him, or that you somehow have to suggest your idea or present your case in a way that will capture his interest. Just jump in and do it…whether it’s for your next draft pick, or for something really important. He is big enough to care about it all.

“Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Prayer to Rise and Shine

isaiah-60-1Prayer prompts show up in all sorts of places. Like yesterday, I found one on my Vitamin Water:  Rise and Shine.

Not sure if the water people knew they were putting a Bible verse on their bottle, but either way, it makes a good Friday prayer for yourself or for someone you love. Or maybe just for anybody who doesn’t love getting out of bed in the morning. Here you go:

Heavenly Father,

May ______ arise and shine, knowing that Your light has come and that Your glory is rising upon him today! (Isaiah 60:1)

Amen.

 

 

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God Won’t Forget You

hebrews-6-10A friend recently shared this verse with me. I want to pass it on to you today, along with a prayer that you will know how much God loves you, and that he will never forget the beautiful things that you do:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10)

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Friday Prayer for Perseverance

James 1-2-4Several of the folks on my prayer radar are walking a rough road right now. Some are facing obstacles that make it tough to see a way forward. Others are grappling with rejection and disappointment in jobs and relationships. And still others have come face to face with failure, whether it’s a short-term setback or the total death of a vision.

I’ve been praying for these loved ones, asking God to help them find joy. I know what the Bible says:  It says that the trials we go through produce perseverance, and that ultimately leads to good things. And this week I read an article that offers scientific evidence to confirm this truth.

U.Va.’s Jennifer Chiu wrote the piece, which you can read here. She maintains that reaching your goals “often involves persevering through failure, learning from mistakes, and the motivation to keep trying to find solutions or address problems.” Success, she says, isn’t always about getting it right. Sometimes, it’s about “daring to make mistakes and learning from failure.”

If you, your child, or anybody else on your “love list” is struggling with a setback, why not ask God to put that trial to good use so that it will produce long-term benefits?

That’s the motivation behind this week’s Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help _____ to consider it pure joy when he faces trials of many kinds, since the testing of his faith develops perseverance, and perseverance is what works in us to make us mature and complete, not lacking anything. Make _____ mature and complete, Lord. (James 1:2-4)

Amen.

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A Firm Foundation

Luke 6-47-48One of the things that first drew me to our home was it’s “old house” feel. It came with leaded-glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and hardwood floors that buckled and swayed.

I thought it was charming; the builder we hired to do renovations, not so much. He said the house had not been built on any foundation. It had a basement, so I didn’t understand what he meant – until I descended the steps and found myself in what was basically a very big hole, with all sorts of wedges and carpentry shims stuck into the walls and the dirt at various angles, propping the place up.

To the builder, this was not an insurmountable problem. He hired a foundation contractor to come in and re-do the thing, and before we knew it, the floors had leveled out. I was kind of sad, because I liked the wavy feel, but Robbie was happy and, since he had let us buy the house without him ever seeing it (#BestHusband), I didn’t complain.

We were able to use some of the original bricks in the re-do, and when all was said and done, we had a few left over. Most homeowners would have disposed of the pile, but not me. I like old bricks, and you never know when you might need ’em for some sort of project. Plus, they remind me of the value of having a firm foundation in life, which is the request in today’s Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ hear your words and put them into practice so that the “house” of his life will have a firm foundation that cannot be shaken by floods, torrents, or any other storms of life. (Luke 6:47-48)

Amen.

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Your College Student

Proverbs 2-2-4I love old books and libraries. Like old friends and old wine, they just get better with age. I know the trend is toward digital readers and LEED certified spaces that come with recycled desks and energy efficient lighting, but give me a cramped linoleum workspace hidden behind rows of stacks, and call me happy.

The pic in today’s post is from Alderman Library at the University of Virginia. To me, it’s the perfect backdrop for today’s Friday prayer, which comes from the Bible’s best known “wisdom” book. It’s one I am praying for Robbie as he heads back to college this weekend; join me in praying it for your own kids, whether they are four years old or 40!

Heavenly Father,

Turn _______’s ear toward wisdom and his heart toward understanding. Give him a teachable spirit, one that looks for insight and understanding the way he would hunt for a hidden treasure. (Proverbs 2:2-4)

Amen.

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Back-to-School Prayer

Daniel 1-4I know there are mothers out there who look forward to the end of summer and getting the kids back into a routine, but I’m not one of them. I love everything about summer:  the long days, the starry nights, the cool popsicles, the relentless heat. (I really love the heat.)

But everyone has to hang up their flip flops at some point. And when we do, here’s a good back-to-school (or, for some of us, back-to-work) prayer:

Heavenly Father,

May _____show aptitude for every kind of learning and be well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve. (Daniel 1:4)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for a Dwelling Place

So you already know that Virginia moved to New York City this week. The first item on our agenda was to find her a place to live. Here’s how we looked, starting out:

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By the end of the next day, we weren’t smiling quite so much. Apartment-hunting is hard, and I am sure I speak for every mother when I say we want our kids to land in a place that is safe and secure. A place like the one God promises in Isaiah 32:

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
    in secure homes,
    in undisturbed places of rest.”

If your children are on the move (whether they are looking for an apartment, heading off to college, buying a home, or in the midst of some other transition), why not join me in turning this verse into your own prayer? Here it is:

May ______ live in a peaceful dwelling place. Keep _____ secure, and may he/she enjoy undisturbed places of rest. (Isaiah 32:18)

Amen.

Isaiah 32-18

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A Mildew-Free Life

Deuteronomy 28Yeah. That’s my plant. It is (was?) an impatiens, but a garden guru pal said it was a goner, a victim of “mildew and blight.”

Which is, according to Deuteronomy 28, what happens to us when we don’t follow God. Along with a nightmarish catalog of other unfortunate circumstances, disobedience can leave us with “wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew.”

But that’s just the bad news.

The good news is that obedience to God opens the door to all sorts of blessings. We get blessed in the city and in the country, blessed in our families and in our work, blessed when we come in and when we go out. And everyone will know that we belong to God.

I’m afraid I can’t do much for my garden, but I’m going to dig into Deuteronomy for today’s Friday prayer. If you want God’s blessing in your life and in the lives of those you love, feel free to pray this one with me:

May _____ faithfully obey your voice and be careful to do what your command; may your blessings come upon him and overtake him. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, ESV)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for a Family Blessing

Isaiah 61-9

I’ve just finished a chapter for the new book about praying blessings over your children. Here’s a sneak peek with one of my favorites; pray it for your family or others you love today:

May _______ and his/her descendants be known among the nations, and may all who see them acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed. (Isaiah 61:9)

Amen

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A Prayer for Guidance

Isaiah 30-21

There are plenty of times in life when we don’t know which road to take, or even where the road we are on is going. If you feel like you could use a little divine guidance today, try these words from Isaiah as your Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Whether I turn to the right or to the left, may my ears hear a voice behind me, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Amen.

 

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The Psalms of Ascent

Psalm 126-2-3I love the Psalms of Ascent, the Bible’s catalog of worship songs that Jewish pilgrims sang as they went up to Jerusalem for the festivals each year. Psalm 126 is probably my favorite, since it highlights God’s power to turn our lives around, restore our fortunes, and bring joy out of tears.

Here are a couple of verses from this psalm, rewritten as our Friday Prayer. Pray it for yourself today, or for someone you love:

May your mouth be filled with laughter and your tongue with songs of joy. May it be said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for you.”

The Lord has done great things for you. May you be filled with joy. (Psalm 126:2-3)

Amen.

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God Shed Your Grace

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a year, you’ve probably seen this flag:

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It’s a piece of plywood that we painted nearly 15 years ago, with the help of a bunch of neighborhood kids. Part proclamation, part prayer, we pull it out every Fourth of July: God Bless America.

This year, though, I kind of want something different.

Maybe it’s the presidential campaign, maybe it’s the Supreme Court, or maybe it’s just Orlando and Isis and Brexit and Zika all rolled into one. I don’t know what it is, but instead of asking God for his blessing, I mostly just want to ask for his grace.

That line from America the Beautiful – the one that says, “God shed His grace on thee” – keeps running through my mind. I’m including the lyrics to the whole song so that you can sing it (and get it stuck in your head, too) this holiday weekend. Because even though it was first published as a poem in 1895 (bonus trivia to pump up your cookout), it’s still a terrific prayer for our nation.

First, though, here’s a Friday prayer for grace. Pray it for our country, our friends, and maybe even (if you’re feeling like a particularly faith-filled patriot) for the folks out there who don’t seem to like us that much:

May we conduct ourselves in the world with integrity and godly sincerity, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12)

Amen.

 

Click here to a download a free printable version of America the Beautiful, or just sing it to yourself right now:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 

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Strength and Joy

Back when Robbie Jr. turned ten, he wanted a family wrestling tournament for his birthday. Big Robbie was delighted with that idea and immediately set about making a bracket (which he literally put on a poster, with a title and everything). It didn’t really surprise me when I didn’t make it past the play-in round, but I was surprised by the scoring. I had no idea you could win (or lose) a wrestling match by so many points; I thought it was just pin or be pinned. But every time one of the children twisted me in a different direction, Robbie gave ’em more points, and I lost big.

I should have known better than to try to compete in the push-up competition we had a couple of weeks ago, during our family vacay. I’ll spare you the details, other than to say that my new favorite person is son-in-law Geoff, who was, I think, the only relative who did not criticize my form (and who, I am sure, spent the entire morning wondering why God couldn’t have hooked him up with a normal family, like maybe golfers).

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Suffice it to say, I am not a strong person. And during the past few months, as I have been working on the manuscript for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (more info on that one in a future post), I have not had all that much time to work out. You can imagine my dismay when I opened my Bible to Isaiah 10 this week and saw this:  “The yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat.”

I was like, seriously God?

Maybe you’re a fitness guru, the kind of person who wins wrestling tourneys and push-up competitions. Or maybe you’re not. Either way, the good news is that God has given us a secret source of strength that has nothing to do with muscle tone. It’s joy – and it comes from believing what God says in his word, and acting like you know it’s true. Because it is.

So here’s our Friday prayer. It’s one of my favorite verses in the Old Testament, partly because it pops up in a section where God’s people get to hear and understand his word, some of them for the very first time. May it encourage you as much as it encourages me:

May the joy of the Lord be your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Amen.

 

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A Prayer for Fathers

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That’s Robbie’s dad (“Pop Pop”) about to tackle a lobster at Coop deVille in Martha’s Vineyard.

Robbie’s cousin, Petey, launched the wharf-front restaurant 30 years ago, and all manner of Berndt relations were on hand last weekend to help him celebrate three decades of serving up wings, seafood, and 70 different kinds of beer that Petey says “pair well” with things like lobster. (I sampled a grapefruit beer that was probably less healthy than it sounded, but it did bring out the best in my onion rings.)

Anyhow, watching Pop Pop’s happiness at being surrounded by his brood, I was reminded of one of my favorite “man psalms.” The newer, gender-neutral Bibles have tweaked the pronouns so that passages like this one apply to everyone (which they do), but I’m kind of partial to my old 1984 version, where Psalm 112 is distinctly masculine, chock-full of good things for guys. And since Father’s Day is on Sunday, I invite you to pick a few verses and pray them for your dad, your grandfather, your husband, or any fella who could use God’s blessing on his life today:

Heavenly Father…

May _____ find great delight in your commands and be blessed. (v. 1)

May his children be mighty in the land; may each new generation be blessed. (v. 2)

May his household be marked by wealth, riches, and a righteousness that endures. (v. 3)

Even in darkness, may light dawn for ______; may he be gracious and compassionate. (v. 4)

Bring good to ______. Cause him to be generous, and to conduct his affairs with justice. (v. 5)

Let him never be shaken; may he be remembered forever. (v. 6)

May _____ have no fear of bad news; give him a steadfast heart that trusts in you. (v. 7)

Give him confidence, security, and victory over his foes. (v. 8)

May ____’s legacy be one of generosity and good deeds, a life marked by influence, dignity, and honor. (v. 9)

Amen.

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A Prayer for the Graduate

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Virginia graduates tomorrow (from Virginia, the school for which, yes, she was actually named). I’m not sure what the future holds for my girl or any of her friends, but I am praying Joshua 1:9 over their lives today, and I invite you to join me in praying it for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ live according to your command:  May she be strong and courageous. Don’t let her grow fearful or discouraged; rather, let her rest secure in your promise to be with her, wherever she goes. (Joshua 1:9)

Amen.
Joshua 1-9

 

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The Month of May-hem

Psalm 23-2-3 (2)It’s May.

Exams. Class parties. Athletic tournaments. Graduations. Weddings. Mother’s Day. Packing up a year’s worth of college (and dragging it all back home)…

And that’s just the first part of the month. There’s a reason we call it May-hem.

If you’re like me, you may need a deep breath, and the reminder that God offers peace in the midst of the chaos. I’m praying a couple of verses from Psalm 23 this week, and I invite you to make them your own Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Lead me beside quiet waters, today. Restore my soul. (Psalm 23:2-3)

Amen.

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A Prayer for Mother’s Day

3 John 4“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

That little line is one of my favorite sentences in the entire Bible. It’s from a letter that John wrote as he was nearing the end of his life. He was talking about his spiritual children (the folks he’d invested his life in, the ones who had chosen to accept and live out the gospel message), but whenever I read this verse, I can’t help but think about my own kids.

I’ve heard a lot of things about my children over the years – some good, some not so good – but nothing warms my mama’s heart more than to find out that that one of them has said or done something that shows that they are living for God and walking in the light of his love. Truly, there is no greater joy.

So that’s my prayer for all of us mamas (fathers, too!) this Mother’s Day. As we love our children (our actual kids, as well as the people we’ve poured ourselves into and influenced over the years), may God be gracious to us by drawing these precious ones into his truth. May they take delight in his word and be eager to put it into practice in their daily lives. May the Holy Spirit speak God’s truth into our children’s hearts, making them wise, compassionate, honest, loving, and free.

May we have no greater joy than to hear that our children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Wisdom from the Garden

It’s Historic Garden Week in Virginia, an annual event billed as “America’s Largest Open House.” I got to wander through a few of the gardens and tour some of the homes, which were stunning. Exquisite chandeliers, open-air breezeways, lively artwork, and scores of breathtaking floral designs gave light to the eyes and joy to the soul.

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Pretty much everything was perfection.

But it didn’t just happen; getting these homes and gardens ready took more woman-hours (and quite a few man-hours) than anyone would care to count. Which is kind of ironic, given how the flowers themselves got dressed for the big event: See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

That’s from Matthew 6, a passage that’s all about not trying too hard, and not worrying. Instead, Jesus says, we are supposed to seek God before everything else and, like the flowers in the fields, trust him to take care of our needs.

Of course, that’s a whole lot easier said than done (particularly if you’re like me, with a life that seems set on the “spin” cycle). Let’s start by asking God to adjust our perspective and help us focus on what really matters. Let’s turn Matthew 6:34 into our Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me give my entire attention to what you are doing right now, without getting worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Thank you for your promise to help me deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, MSG)

Amen.

 

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People Vary

I have a friend whose grandmother, upon being told that one of her grandsons was going to take his honeymoon before he got married, summed up her analysis with this:  “People vary.”

Over the years, I’ve used that phrase to account for any number of differences in taste and style. I was reminded of the maxim this week when a pal who raises chickens graced me with a sample of her harvest. Chicken-cooping does not appeal to me, but…people vary. And for that, I am grateful.

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The Apostle Paul certainly knew that we’d vary – and he encouraged us to recognize and affirm those differences. “The body,” he wrote, “is not made up of one part but of many.” Paul said that the foot shouldn’t feel inferior or excluded because it is not a hand, and that the ear shouldn’t be bummed because it isn’t an eye. “God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:18)

As you consider the way God has made you today, don’t be jealous of someone else’s attributes or abilities. Instead, stop and think about the unique gifts he has given to you, and how you might use those things to strengthen, equip, and encourage other people. Not everyone has what it takes to raise chickens, but for those who do, it’s gotta make God happy when they share their eggs.

Which brings us to our Friday prayer (which you can pray for yourself, or for someone you love):

Heavenly Father,

Help me to use whatever gift I have received to serve others. Let me be a faithful steward of your grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen.

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Directing the Heart

So my boy, Robbie, tells me he’s majoring in “Natural Resources.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but he seems to be learning a lot about stuff like trees and caves and rocks.

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And waterfalls. I’m visiting Robbie at Sewanee this week, and he took me to a place called Bridal Veil Falls:

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He said that the geologists wanted to know where the water from this particular fall would wind up, since it disappears into a cave in the ground. To figure it out, they put cotton balls in all sorts of places where water tends to pool on The Mountain, and then added dye to the top of the waterfall. Et voila! All of the cotton balls in all of the little pools stayed white…except for one colored bunch. I guess, for scientific people, that’s a good day.

Anyhow, standing there in the spray (and looking down into the dark cave below, where the water disappeared), I was reminded of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” I went home and looked it up in my Bible. There, in the margin, I had written all sorts of dates and prayer requests about everything from college admissions to job promotions to anything where somebody I love was dependent on some “king” to make a decision in their favor.

Are you needing that sort of favor today – maybe from a boss, a teacher, a coach, or even a friend? If so, turn Proverbs 21:1 into your own Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

You hold ______’s heart in your hand. Please direct it in a way that will bring blessing and favor to ______. (Proverbs 21:1)

Amen.

 

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Joy in the Morning

Whelp, my beloved Wahoos lost to Syracuse last Sunday night. Every U.Va. fan I know has been in mourning this week, except for maybe our dogs, who are high-fiving (pawing?) themselves over the fact that I won’t make them dress up to play Carolina tomorrow.

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The loss was a blow, but it was Easter Sunday, and I can’t think of a more fitting day for Coach Tony Bennett to make the comment that he did, after the game. When reporters asked what he’d told the team, Bennett said:

“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Bennett said the words came from an old church hymn. They’re also in the title of a book by one of my favorite authors, P.G. Wodehouse:photo-1

But, really, the promise of joy after sorrow is older than both the hymn and the book. It comes from Psalm 30:5.

Like so many of God’s promises, this one might be hard to believe, particularly when you are in the midst of suffering and you can’t see any way out. But, to quote Coach Bennett, “Joy is coming…I know it doesn’t feel that way, but I know it will be true.”

If you find yourself suffering today, or if someone you love is walking through a season of sorrow, take hold of this promise. Make it your prayer. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we know that God is faithful.
Heavenly Father,
 
When _____ feels overwhelmed with pain or sadness, may she/he find hope in and strength in your promise: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
 
Amen.

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Jellyfish and You

1 Peter 2-9So we visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore this week. Being from Virginia Beach, I didn’t particularly need to see the jellyfish exhibit. (We get plenty of those every summer, and it’s not like anybody likes them.) But the Robbies were curious, and so we checked ’em out.

And oh my. Floating there in the light, they were…captivating. Beautiful. Exquisite, even.

Which is exactly how God sees us.

We may think we are nothing more than a drifter, a nasty blob that nobody could ever like (okay so maybe you’ve never thought that, but I have). But that’s not what God says. He calls us into his light and says we are chosen, that we belong to him, and that we have a purpose.

Maybe you or someone you know needs to be reminded of that today. If so, here’s how you can pray:

Heavenly Father,

May ______ know that she has been chosen by you, that she is beautiful and holy in your sight. Remind _____ that she is your very own possession. Prompt _____ to show others your goodness, since you called her out of darkness and into your wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, NLT)

Amen.

 

 

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Spring Forward!

Psalm 84-11Ahhhh.

Tomorrow’s the night we get to set our clocks forward…which means an extra hour of daylight…which means more sun…which means…happiness.

To celebrate, I’m picking Psalm 84:11 for our Friday prayer. It’s the verse that Robbie and I put on our wedding program 30 years ago, and it’s every bit as good today (maybe even better, if you factor in all those years of Seasonal Affective Disorder) as it was back then. Turn this promise into a prayer for yourself or for someone you love:

Lord God,

Be _____’s sun and shield. Bestow on him grace and favor and honor. Do not withhold any good thing from ______, but help him to walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11, AMP)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Time Management

Psalm 90-12I got a text this week from our daughter, Virginia, who is in her final semester at U.Va.  You’d think a college senior could relax a little in the spring, but her day was jammed from dawn until…well, nearly dawn again.

If you or someone you love is wrestling with a too-full schedule or the need for good time management, feel free to borrow the prayer I am praying for Virginia today. It’s one that Moses prayed in his old age, but I think it works pretty well for a college kid:

Heavenly Father,

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12, TLB)

Amen.

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Love and Good Deeds

This month, about 250 folks in our church have lumped themselves into informal “Lent Groups,” small gatherings of a dozen or so people who meet weekly to discuss various passages from the gospels. Robbie and I host a group where we don’t know all of the participants very well, and this week, our new friend Nicole brought me these flowers, which she said were “just a little something from the garden.”

Hebrews 10-24

To Nicole, the bouquet was a simple hostess gift. To me, it was a huge blessing. And it brought to mind the words from Hebrews 10:24-25:  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What a wonderful charge, particularly as we move toward Easter! Let’s use these verses to heighten our awareness of how we can encourage others, turning them into today’s Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me consider how you might be nudging me to spur others on toward love and good deeds. Renew in me a desire and a commitment to get together with other believers, and let me be a source of encouragement and strength to those who need to know more of your love.

Amen.

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The Skies Proclaim

Psalm 19 opens with an account of how the whole earth hears God’s voice. Day after day, night after night, “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Psalm 19

Nature speaks volumes about God’s majesty and power, but it’s the Bible – God’s written word – that brings the full message of redemption and grace. As we marvel at God’s creative beauty (and we’ve had some glorious sunsets on these winter days!), let’s take King David’s prayer from the very end of Psalm 19 and make it our own today:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.

(And Katie C., thanks for the pic from Coronado Beach!)

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Friday Prayer for Someone You Love

2 Thess. 2-16-17

You can’t really go wrong with flowers or chocolate, but this Valentine’s Day, consider giving a prayer to someone you love. Here’s what I’m praying for you today:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

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“Don’t be afraid.”

Jonas may have dumped 42 inches of the white stuff on West Virginia and 30 in New York, but here in Virginia Beach (where we had accumulations of “up to an inch!”) we had our own problems. Roads turned icy, schools shut down, and the birds outside my window huddled on the rooftop, daring each other to jump.

Matthew 10-29 (2)

Seriously. They would hop to the edge, look down, and then egg each other on, like a flock of middle school boys. “You first.”

Not being all that up on my ornithology, I don’t know how much sleet hampers a bird’s ability to fly, but from the looks of these guys, it must be a lot. Either that, or they just forgot who they were in the storm.

I get that. And maybe you do, too. When life turns cold and nasty, it can be easy to forget who we are, or how much we are loved. Which is maybe why God put in that part about the birds, when he sent his disciples out into a world that would hate them. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Jesus asked. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

If you feel snowed under by problems or persecution today (whether it’s one inch of them or 42!), why not use this passage as a springboard for prayer? Just put your name (or the name of someone you love) in the blanks, and remember that no matter how gloomy the forecast is, God is still in control.

Heavenly Father,

When ____ feels burdened by hatred, rejection, or some other hardship, remind him/her that you are in charge. Let ____ know how much he/she is worth in your eyes, and help ____ not to be afraid. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer to Know God Better

Ephesians 1-17

There are plenty of things that set Christianity apart from other world religions, but my favorite distinction might be the fact that we serve a God who knows us, and who invites us to know him back. He doesn’t want us to just know about him; he wants us to know him on an intimate, personal level – as a savior, redeemer, Father, and friend.

There are all sorts of ways this relationship can flourish. We can get to know God through reading Scripture. We can pray. We can hang out with people who reflect his love and his character. And we can open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, the one whose job it is to leave God’s imprint on our hearts and minds.

If you or someone you love wants to get to know God better this year, this simple prayer from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a great place to start:

Heavenly Father,

Give ______ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that he/she/I may know you better. (Ephesians 1:17)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Patience

GalatiansIf you saw yesterday’s post (well, if you managed to hang in there all the way to the end), you know that patience is more than the ability to wait for something. It is the ability to wait well.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote that patience involves things like deferring anger and being content to bear injuries. Warren Weirsbe (another Bible brainiac) likens patience to “courageous endurance without quitting.” Taken together, these definitions encompass pretty much everything from not being easily offended, to trusting God’s timing and his purposes, to hanging in there on something as seemingly unspiritual as learning to play the piano or pilot a plane.

Clearly, patience is a virtue worth having. So are all of the other traits outlined in Galatians 5:22-23. Why not pick one of these attributes (or all nine!) and pray it into your life this year, or into the character of someone you love?

Here’s how the Amplified version of these verses might look, written out as a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the Holy Spirit who lives in _____. May the fruit [result] of the Spirit’s presence in _____’s life be love [an unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how ____ acts while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Amen.

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Your Athlete

1 Corinthians 16-13-14

Whether you’re praying for a seven-year-old soccer star, a high school varsity point guard, a collegiate lacrosse player, or a grown-up weekend golfer, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 pretty much has ’em covered!

Turn this power-packed verse into a prayer for your athlete, or pray it for yourself today (even if the biggest thing you’ve got to tackle is a pile of dirty laundry).

Heavenly Father,

Help ______ be on guard, to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous, and to be strong. Prompt ______ to do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Amen.

 

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New Year; New You!

2 Corinthians 5-17

I was looking for a verse about “newness” to kick off 2016, and I came upon 2 Corinthians 5:17. Look at how this verse is written in the New Living Translation:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

What a terrific promise! Let’s use this verse as the basis for our Friday Prayer today, praying these words for ourselves or for someone we love as we look expectantly toward the year ahead!

Heavenly Father,

Remind ____ that she belongs to you. Don’t let her dwell on past mistakes or failures; rather, help her put her confidence in you, knowing that the old life is gone and the new has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Prayers for 2016

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know that I like to pray the scriptures, taking the actual words in the Bible and turning them into prayers. It doesn’t matter what the need is (wisdom, physical health and safety, diligence or self-control, favor at school or work, endurance in times of trial, healing for broken relationships…anything, really), God’s Word has got you covered.

For instance, if Robbie has a lacrosse game (and if you know anything about men’s lacrosse, you know that the main point is to get the ball in the goal, but the other main point is to use a long metal stick to hit the guy who has the ball), I might lift a prayer for his protection out of Psalm 91: Don’t let any harm befall Robbie; command your angels to guard him in all his ways. (Psalm 91:10-11)

Likewise, when Hillary is facing a tricky problem at work, or if she has a big presentation to do, I might borrow from Psalm 90: May the Lord’s show his approval to Hillary and make her efforts successful. (Psalm 90:17, NLT)

If I find myself facing uncertainty about one decision or another, I like to draw on verses that showcase God’s promised guidance, like this one: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8).

Using the Bible this way – letting God’s words shape your prayers –  infuses them with meaning, creativity, and power. It also helps shape your perspective, as words filled with faith and hope and encouragement take up the battle against things like sickness, worry, or fear.

Untitled design (2)Last year, I told you how I spend a little time every December thinking about Robbie and each of our kids. I ask God to show me how he wants to bless or provide for them in the coming year, or to alert me to any particular needs they might have. Usually, one or more specific concerns or opportunities makes its way to the forefront of my mind: Maybe I sense that someone needs perseverance to make it through a particularly challenging circumstance or relationship. Maybe someone needs divine wisdom for an impending change, like choosing a college or making a career move. Maybe someone else has a tendency to grow fearful or anxious, and they need help trusting God. Or maybe someone is just not being very nice to their siblings, and they could use a little more kindness or compassion in the coming year.

I let these thoughts gel, and then I find a verse that “fits” and turn it into a prayer, one that I will return to over and over again during the coming year. (I wrote about these “annual prayers” in a post last December; click here if you want to read that one, or if you want to see a photo of the “prayer hands” we make.)

Want to find your own prayer verse(s) for 2016?

You’ll find a whole catalog of them, arranged topically, at the end of each chapter in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children and Praying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers. Or, just open your Bible and ask God to pick a verse or two for you; the Psalms are a great place to start hunting.

Write your prayer on an index card (or a paper hand!) and date it. Keep it someplace where you’ll see it often…and then pray with confidence and joy, knowing that God hears you (1 John 5:14) and that his word will never return empty, but will always accomplish his desires and purposes. (Isaiah 55:11)

Happy praying – and all God’s best to you and yours in 2016!

And P.S., If you’re pressed for time (God doesn’t care, but if you’re as uptight as I am, you might want to have your prayer verse at the ready by midnight tomorrow), help yourself to one of my current “one-size-fits-all” favorites:

Make ____ glad by your deeds, O Lord; let ____ sing for joy at the works of your hands. (Psalm 92:8)

Fill ____ with the knowledge of your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that ____ may live a life worthy of you, Lord, and please you in every way. (Colossians 1:9-10)

Don’t let ____ be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, may ____ present his/her requests to you. And may your peace, which transcends all understanding, guard his/her heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

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Merry Christmas!

Luke 2-14

Let’s join our voices with angels and generations today, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14)

Merry Christmas!

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Friday Prayer for Your Lambs

Isaiah 40-11

When our children were little, Isaiah 40:11 was one of my favorite verses:  “He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Today, my lambs are all grown up (Robbie turned 20 this week!), but I still love this promise. And honestly, it doesn’t matter how old our children are – we all need a shepherd. Let’s borrow Isaiah’s words for our Friday prayer. We can pray it for our own kids, or for some little (or big!) ones we love:

Heavenly Father,

Watch over ____’s life like a shepherd. Gather ____ in your arms and carry him/her close to your heart. (Isaiah 40:11)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Spiritual Gifts

1 Peter 4-10‘Tis the season!

As you think about gift-giving this year, consider the spiritual gifts that God has given to you and your family. Have you or your spouse been blessed with leadership skills, a heart for service, or material wealth? Do your children seem particularly merciful, organized, or discerning? Do you know someone who is an excellent teacher, or who is especially good at explaining the gospel and pointing people toward Christ?

The Bible offers a whole catalog of these attributes, which are sometimes called “supernatural graces.” They’re the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit, and they’re all designed to bring glory to God and strengthen his people.

Check out Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, or Ephesians 4:11-13 to learn more, and as you wrap presents for your family and friends this Christmas, ask God to help them use their Spirit-given gifts to share his goodness and grace with a world in need.

Heavenly Father,

May ____ use whatever gift he/she has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of your grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Glorious Joy

1 Peter 1-8 (1)We snapped this pic on Thanksgiving Day, during our family’s annual “Trail of Tears” hike through Virginia’s First Landing State Park. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 33 degrees and icy or 68 and (to some people) bathing-suit weather. We always go…and somebody always cries.

Not this year, though. This year the crew was all smiles, and the younger cousins squealed with delight when Robbie peeled off his sweatshirt, grabbed an iffy-looking rope, and launched himself into the bay. I know there were no shepherds abiding or angelic hosts warming up but, to me, it was the perfect kickoff to Advent, a season filled with the inexpressible and glorious joy.

Let’s take hold of that joy today in the same way that Robbie took hold of his rope. Here’s a prayer to get us launched; pray it for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Though we have not seen you, we love you, and even though we do not see you now, we believe in you. Help ____ to love you and believe in you, and fill _____ with an inexpressible and glorious joy! (1 Peter 1:8)

Amen.

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Giving Thanks

Psalm 100In my Bible, the heading under Psalm 100 says, “A psalm. For giving thanks.”

I think I might have embellished that title a bit. It is a psalm for giving thanks, true, but it is sooo much more. Just look at these promises: God is good. His love endures forever. We can enter his presence with thanksgiving. And we are his people – we belong to him! What a glorious privilege and joy!

I couldn’t pick just one verse, so here’s the whole thing, written in the form of a prayer. Pull out whatever phrase you need today…or do like I did and take it all!

Heavenly Father,

The whole earth shouts for joy to you!

Help us to serve you with gladness, to come before you with joyful songs.

How good it is to know that you, O Lord, are God – that you made us, and we are yours. We are your people!

Draw us into your presence: Let us come through your gates with thanksgiving and enter your courts with praise. 

May we always remember that you are good. That your love endures forever. And that your faithfulness continues to us, to our children, and to all generations.

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Paris

IMG_4337Two weeks ago, a Parisienne friend sent me this glorious photo in response to the Friday Prayer about being prepared, in every season. Seeing the Eiffel Tower framed by the beautiful trees and buildings brought to mind Psalm 139:5, “You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

Today, I looked up this verse in The Message translation. I love the promise it holds, and I am praying it now for mon amie, as well as for others in her city who may need to sense God’s nearness and feel his hand of blessing. I hope you will join me:

Heavenly Father,

May our sisters and brothers in Paris look behind them and know you are there, then up ahead and know you’re there, too. May they sense your reassuring presence, coming and going. (Psalm 139:5)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Sharing Faith

Philemon 6Philemon is a tiny little book; blink on your way to Hebrews or James and you’ll miss it. But it’s in the reading plan this week, and as I made my way through the 29 verses, this little gem caught my eye:

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (v. 6)

That seemed backwards, somehow. Had I been writing the letter to Philemon and his church, I might have said, “I pray that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ, so that you may be active in sharing your faith.” To me, the more you experience God’s blessings and know his character (the “every good thing” Paul writes about), the more you will want to tell people about Him.

But, reading Paul’s words, I guess it goes both ways. When we know the goodness of God, we do want to tell other people. And yet the reverse is also true:  The more we share our faith – actively, with words and deeds – the more we understand what it is that we are expressing. Maybe it’s like when you tell your friends that you need to “process” something with them so that you can figure out what it really means, or when you step out in faith and do something that you think God wants you to do and then, when you see what happens, you have a new awareness of some facet of His character.

Interesting.

In any case, verse 6 is a terrific little prayer that we can appropriate today for ourselves, for our kids, or for someone we love:

Heavenly Father,
 
May _____ be active in sharing his/her faith, so that _____ will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Philemon 6)
 
Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Every Season

2 Timothy 4-2If you knew you were about to die and wanted to get a message to someone you loved, what would you write?

The Apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote his second letter to Timothy, the young man he loved as a son. The letter is full of warnings and encouragements; reading it, you get the idea that Paul knew his end was near (and, in fact, he was martyred not long afterwards), and that he wanted to equip Timothy to hang in there, and finish strong.

There is a lot here that we could borrow in order to live our own lives well, but as Paul talks about the fickleness of people – people who reject truth and sound doctrine in favor of “what their itching ears want to hear” – let’s use his words about being prepared as the basis for our Friday Prayer. Pray this for yourself today, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Help _____ to preach your Word. Let _____ be prepared in season and out of season, and show _____ how to correct, rebuke, and encourage others with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Amen.

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Fall in Love

Psalm 119:97One of the best ways to get to know God better – and to fall more deeply in love with him – is to fall in love with his Word.

Psalm 119 highlights about a zillion reasons to love Scripture; let’s borrow just one line as the launching pad for our Friday Prayer:  “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97)

You can pray this verse for yourself today, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for revealing yourself through Scripture. Help ____ to fall more deeply in love with the Bible: To read it, study it, and think about it all day long.

Amen.

 

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Reflections of the Heart

Proverbs 27-19 (1)Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”

If that’s true – that our life mirrors what’s in our heart – then I definitely want a good heart! But (sigh) I can’t always make it behave. I try, but then all those nasty things like envy and pride and selfishness barge in and start throwing some elbows, and there are days when I feel like if you could actually see into my heart, you’d find kindness and faith curled up in the corner, bleeding or sucking their thumbs!

Happily, we don’t have to whip our hearts into shape. God promises to do that for us. I think King David prayed it best in Psalm 19, when he asked God to forgive his hidden faults and keep him from being mastered by willful sins. He wrapped up his petition with a sentence that I want to borrow for today’s Friday Prayer. Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.

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When Opportunity Knocks

Ephesians 5-15-16Back when Paul was writing his letter to the Ephesians, he described a culture marked by things like darkness, disobedience and empty words. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to remember that they were “dearly loved children” and that they should “live a life of love” – even when they found themselves surrounded by yuckiness.

The same charge holds true for us today. We are dearly loved, and we are called to be light in a dark and often confusing world. Sometimes the very things that conspire to bring us down – difficult relationships, career challenges, fears about the future – are opportunities to showcase God’s love. Sometimes they can open a door to trust, one that leads to a place of hope and security.

Living a life of love isn’t always easy (and some would say it’s getting harder all the time), but this little reminder from Ephesians 5 can help. Pray these verses for yourself, your children, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Help ____ to be careful how he/she lives. Let ____ be wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Everything

Untitled design (1)If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know that Fridays typically target a particular need or concern (things like trust, friendship, or safety) wrapped in a Scripture. I like to pray this way for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the Bible transforms fears and worries into confident expectations and songs of joy. God’s Word comes packed with power.

As does a little book that a friend sent me not long ago.  31 Days of Prayer, by Ruth Myers, offers a month’s worth of daily prayers about all sorts of topics – from personal challenges to worldwide concerns – with the words pretty much lifted right out of Scripture. The references are right there at the end of each entry, so you can check ’em out for yourself. Very handy.

It doesn’t matter whether you are brand new to prayer or a seasoned warrior, if you like the idea of tapping into the Bible (or if you’re just looking to breathe some fresh vigor into your prayer time), you’ll love this book.

Here’s a paragraph from Day 5 to whet your appetite. Pray it for yourself today, or for someone you love:

Guide me as I bring each problem area to You – my pressures, my finances, my uncertainties, my disappointments and failures (including my failures in relating to people). I trust You to work in my situations and give me practical wisdom in how to handle them. And even more, work in me. I lack power and I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You. (2 Corinthians 12:9; James 1:2-5; Psalm 37:5-6).

Amen.

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#Grateful

IMG_8137Hillary is now Mrs. Charlie Blakeley, and we couldn’t be more #grateful.

I’ll write a longer post with more details next week, but since Fridays are  prayer days I want to share part of the passage that Charlie picked as one of the readings during their ceremony. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Overflowing with thankfulness.

That pretty much describes how Robbie and I feel right now (although overwhelmed might be a better word than overflowing, cuz we are just sort of awestruck). I’m praying the Colossians verses for the newlyweds as they begin their new adventure, and I want to invite you to consider God’s blessings in your own life, and join me in this prayer for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

May ____ continue to live in Christ Jesus. Let ____ be deeply rooted and built up in Christ so that his/her faith will grow strong, and may he/she overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7)
 
Amen.

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A Prayer for Your Child’s Marriage

IMG_1069So tomorrow is the big day. Hillary will wed Charlie, a fella we’ve only known for a few years, but whom we’ve prayed for for about 25.

Seriously. Hillary might have thought her five-year-old wedding ensemble was just a Halloween costume, but Robbie and I have pictured her – and prayed for her – as a wife pretty much since she was born. And, given that Charlie is a little younger than she is, I figure we’ve been praying for him since before he was born. As I wrote in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, “It’s never too early to start praying for your children’s choice of a marriage partner, for their eventual spouse, and for their marriage itself.”

Don’t wait until your kids are grown up – or until their marriage hits a rocky patch – to start asking God to bless them, to shape them into men and women of sterling character, to “make them” (and I am tweaking Fiddler on the Roof here) “good husbands and wives.”

You’ll find some great qualities to pray for your girl in Proverbs 31, and Psalm 112 offers a wonderful template for sons. But if you want just one simple prayer for your child’s marriage today (or for your own), consider this basic, but powerful, request for the way we love:

Heavenly Father,

Show ____ and his/her spouse how to love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Amen.

Let the wedding bells ring! And, as we’ll be saying tomorrow and always, Thanks be to God!

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Friday Prayer for Our Leaders

Proverbs 21-1September 11th.

Let’s use today’s date as a prayer prompt for our leaders, and as a reminder to pray for those of every tribe and nation around the world:

Heavenly Father, 

Thank you that you hold the king’s heart in your hand. We lift up our elected officials today, as well as leaders around the globe. Bless them with your good counsel, and direct their hearts – their thoughts, emotions, and decisions – like a watercourse, making them go wherever you please.  (Proverbs 21:1)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for a Trusting Heart

Isaiah 26-3I don’t know about you, but there are times when it’s not that hard to trust God with my head (like, deep down, I know he has everything under control), but my heart can still go bouncing all over the place.

In an effort to get it to behave, I looked up a bunch of verses about trust this week. It will come as no surprise that a lack of trust opens the door to nasty things like fear, anxiety and sleeplessness, whereas when we stake our trust in God – in his character and his promises – we welcome a host of blessings (think peace, security, prosperity, steadfastness, and joy, for starters) into our lives.

I wanted to find us a really good verse to pray today, and I managed to narrow the list of favs down to about 20. Then 15. Then 6. And I finally picked Isaiah 26:3. I chose this one because it starts with the mind and yields results in the heart. It gives peace a chance to take root.

If Isaiah doesn’t hit just the right note with you, do what I did. Grab a concordance and check out the listings under the words “trust,” “trusts,” and “trusting.” Just be sure to pour yourself a big cup of coffee first and prepare to settle in, because it’s easy to get lost in the offerings.  They are that good.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your promise to keep us in perfect peace when our minds are steadfast, because we trust in you. Give ____ a steadfast mind today – one that stays fixed on who you are:  Your limitless power, your incredible faithfulness, and your everlasting love.  (Isaiah 26:3, NIV and NLT, with character traits added).

Amen.

P.S.  The runner up is Romans 15:13 (yes, Romans again!), which I am praying for you this week:  May the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

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Friday Prayer for Roots and Fullness

Ephesians 3-17-19I spied these veggies at the market (Charlottesville again!) and figured they’d make a mighty fine prayer prompt. Feel free to borrow these power-packed verses for someone you love…and know that, today, I am praying them for YOU:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

In His name, Amen.

(Okay so I’ve just realized that the title of this post – Friday Prayer for Roots and Fullness – sounds like something you’d want on your way to the salon. While I am not opposed to praying over your hairdo – I have a friend who always texts me before her appointments so that we can “agree together” about the result – I hope you’ll go back and read today’s prayer again, slowly. Let the words soak into your mind. Think of them as a deep conditioning treatment. For your soul.)

 

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Back to School

IMG_4563It’s back-to-school time, and I guess every household has their own “get ready” ritual.

If you’ve got little ones, you’re probably tucking things like glue sticks and scissors into pint-sized backpacks. (Niece Elizabeth, pictured here, is swapping her stylin’ pink bag for a much more grown-up version this year, a light blue number that features little white hearts.)

If, on the other hand, your kids are college-bound, they are probably stuffing a laptop, a few cans of Spaghettios, and a set of XL twin sheets into a Hefty trash bag.

That’s if they are a boy.

If they are a girl, there’s just no telling. You might have a daughter like Virginia, who couldn’t have imagined heading off to college without pretty much everything she owned, including her six-inch snakeskin heels, 60 pounds worth of high school yearbooks, and a sombrero (“What if they have a Fiesta?”). Or you might wind up with a Hillary, whose back-to-college strategy usually involved staying at the beach until the last possible second and then heading up the road, still in her bikini, with-or-without a backpack. Or a hairbrush. Or shoes.

Regardless of your child’s particular back-to-school style, consider packing a few prayers in the send-off. Here are ten of my favorites, simple one-liners that come equipped with the power of God’s Word:

Heavenly Father…

Whatever ____ finds to do, let her work at it with all her might, as working for you, Lord, rather than for other people. (Colossians 3:23)

Surround ____ with friends who will sharpen him the way that iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17)

Keep ____ from all harm; watch over her life, her coming and her going, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8)

May your favor rest on ____; establish the work of his hands. (Psalm 90:17)

Clothe ____ with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and let her forgive whatever grievances she may have against others. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Work in ____ to think and to act according to your good purpose.  (Philippians 2:13)

Let ____ be self-controlled and alert. (1 Peter 5:8)

Teach ____ what is best for him, and direct him in the way he should go. (Isaiah 48:17)

When ____ feels weary and burdened, let her come to you and find rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Let ___ grow as Jesus did: in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

You’ll find hundreds of prayers just like these in Praying the Scriptures for Your Children and Praying the Scriptures for Your TeenagersIf you don’t have these books, just grab your Bible and ask God to show you a few verses that you can turn into prayers for your family. You might even tuck one of ’em into a lunchbox, or tape it to the can of Spaghettios. (My own dear mother used to write prayers on cantaloupes and send them to my dorm at U.Va.) You might get an eyeball roll…but at least your kids will know they are loved.

Happy packing!

 

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Confidence

Jeremiah 17-7-8 (1)Summer can be a time of scorching heat and crippling drought.  For those whose confidence is in God, though, these things hold no peril.

Need a little water to refresh your soul today?  Here’s an encouraging promise to pray for yourself or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Teach _____ to trust in you.  Let his confidence be rooted in you, so that he flourishes like a tree planted by the water.  Show _____ that he doesn’t need to fear when life heats up, or worry during seasons of spiritual drought.  Remind _____ that when his confidence is in you, his life will never fail to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Friday Prayer to Listen and Follow

John 10-3-4I love it when a Bible verse practically jumps off the page, begging to be turned into a prayer.  John 10:3-4 did that for me this week.  It’s a short passage that is as precious as it is powerful – I prayed it for each of my children, and now I want to go back and pray it for myself!

Here it is, if you want to join me in praying for someone you love:

Lord Jesus,

Let _____ be like a sheep who listens to you.  Call ____ by name, and lead her.  Thank you for your promise to “go on ahead” of ____; may she follow you because she knows your voice.  (John 10:3-4)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for a Troubled Heart

John 14-1I love that Jesus knew our hearts would be troubled.  And I love it even more that he gave us the answer for that.  Instead of trusting in well-laid plans, favorable circumstances, or good results, he tells us to trust in him.

If your heart is anxious today – if things aren’t shaping up the way you thought or hoped they might – don’t worry.  And don’t let your peace or your happiness depend on results.  Instead, stake your hope in who God is, and turn Christ’s words into a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Don’t let my heart be troubled today.  Help me to trust in you – in your character, your faithfulness, your power, and your love.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Friday Prayer for When People Bug You

1 Corinthians 4-12 (1)So we did a little crabbing on the Fourth of July.

The little guy in this pic was too small to keep, but that didn’t stop Khaki from wanting some quality play time before we threw his new buddy back in the Bay. The two of ’em went at it for about a dozen rounds before they both got tuckered out.

I suspect that Khaki thought it was all in good fun, but if I had to guess I’d say that his crustacean pal felt a little persecuted.  Cursed, even.

But he took it like a champ.

Which made me think of how we react when people push our hot buttons.  Most of us aren’t facing anything close to real persecution, but we all have people who bug us.  Who pick on us.  Say mean things about us, even.

People who (a-hem) can make us kind of crabby.

The good news is that God has a plan for that.  The Bible has all sorts of verses about how his children should respond to insults, bullies, and undeserved attacks.  Something in the crab’s demeanor (okay, so that’s a stretch – but he did have remarkable endurance) made me think of 1 Corinthians 4:12.  Here it is, in the form of a prayer:

Heavenly Father, 

When I am cursed, help me bless those who are cursing me.  When I am persecuted, give me the strength to endure.  And when I am slandered, show me how to answer kindly.  (1 Corinthians 4:12)

Amen.

P.S.  Lest you think I am running some sort of violent canine-and-crab ring, let me assure you that 1., No animals were harmed in the making of this post (except I guess the big crabs, which we did eat) and 2., The dog-and-crab show was not my fault.  More and more criminals are implicating themselves through selfies these days, and Robbie is no exception:

IMG_9728

 

 

 

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Friday Prayer for the U.S.A.

2 Chron. 7-14It’s been a buckle-up week in America, as everything from Supreme Court decisions to the roller-coaster ride of presidential politics make newscasters giddy over the dramatic feast.  For those of us who pray for our country, there’s certainly no shortage of topics to cover!

I’ll confess that I started out this week praying some pretty pointed prayers:  Fix them.  Teach him.  Show her.  Protect us.

And then God drew me back to that old familiar passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14.  I grew up in a church where we literally sang this verse as a prayer; I should have remembered it without the Lord’s gentle prompting.  It’s a good one, and if you’ve got a few moments to  pray for our country this Fourth of July, I hope you’ll join me in starting with a petition aimed at those of us who believe:

Heavenly Father,

We are your people, called by your name.  Help us to humble ourselves.  Teach us to pray the way that you want us to pray.  Cause us to seek your face and turn from our wicked ways.  And then please, O Lord, hear us from heaven,  forgive our sin, and heal our land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Help and Healing

Psalm 121-1-2Seems like almost everyone I know needs help right about now.  I know I do – a combo of sickness and a too-busy schedule have knocked me down (and, for those who pay attention to these things, left me blog-less this week).

I don’t know what your need is – comfort, strength, a job, wisdom, healing – but I know God is the source.  Let’s borrow a prayer from Psalm 121 this week and trust him to provide:

Heavenly Father,

I am ______ (sick, confused, weak, discouraged, hurt, tired).

Lift my eyes to the mountains of your strength.  Help me, Lord, according to your promise, for you are the Maker of heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Making Plans

Psalm 138-8We all make plans.  Business plans, weekend plans, wedding plans – the calendar is full and, if you’re like me, the to-do list starts afresh each new day.

God’s a planner, too.  But unlike us (well, me anyway), his plans are always good, and he never fails to finish what he starts.

If you need a fresh awareness of God’s good purposes today – or simply a reminder that you can rest secure in the knowledge that He is on the job, no matter how upside down things may look right now – consider the promise in Psalm 138:8.  As the NIV puts it, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Here’s how this verse appears in the New Living Translation.  Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

Work out your plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.  Don’t abandon me, for you made me.  (Psalm 138:8, NLT)

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for the Brokenhearted

Psalm 34-18A dear friend and her family are hurting today, grieving the impending loss of a loved one.  I’ve been praying Psalm 34:18 for them; maybe you know someone who could use this verse as a prayer today:

Heavenly Father,

You are close to the brokenhearted and promise to save those who are crushed in spirit.

Be close to _____ today; let her sense the comfort of your nearness.  Wrap your saving arms around _____ to heal and protect her spirit.  (Psalm 34:18)

Amen.

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Friday Prayer for Love, Joy and Good Friends

Proverbs 27-17

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about friendship. Scripture has plenty to say on the subject, and when it comes to a life marked by friendship, love, and joy, it doesn’t get any better than John 15:9-17.  Today’s prayer is a paraphrase from the New Living Translation of this passage; consider praying it for yourself, your children, or anyone who is on your heart:

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving _____.  Let her obey you, remaining in your love so that she may be filled with joy.  Yes, let ____ have joy that overflows!

Surround _____ with good friends, and teach him to love them in the same selfless way that you love us.  Equip him with a willingness to lay down his life – his needs, desires, and priorities – in order love his friends well.

Let us live and love in a way that produces lasting fruit. Thank you for calling us friends, and for showing us how to love one another.

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayer for Good Men

IMG_2536Well, Annesley and Geoff are now Mr. & Mrs. Cole, and we couldn’t be happier!

I’d fill you in on the wedding details, but since Friday’s posts are meant to be prayer helps, I want to back up and give you a peek at something I prayed for Geoff last week.  (If you want wedding stories, check back in the next week or two;  for now, consider borrowing the prayers in this post for your own son-in-law, your son, your husband…or your hoped-for husband!  It’s never too early – or too late – to start praying for your man!)

First, though, a bit of background:

You know how if you’re in the market for new rug or paint color you can’t go to anyone’s house without noticing their floors and their walls?  Well I think it’s the same way with the Bible.  Whatever you’re in the market for tends to be what you find.  Which is exactly how, for me, the Christmas story turned into a Friday Prayer for Good Men.

Like many of you, I like to have a strategy when it comes to Bible reading.  I can get easily distracted, and having a plan for what to read each day helps keep me on track.  (It also means that, eventually, I will have to get around to the parts I wouldn’t normally read…and as some of you know, one of my greatest fears is showing up in heaven and having someone like Obadiah say, “How did you like my book?”  I want to be ready for that!)

Anyhow, right now I am on a two-year reading course (if you want to download the plan and join me, click here) that currently has me in Matthew.  I’ve probably read the Christmas story a zillion times and I’ve always admired Mary, but last week, as I thought about my own daughter and her impending nuptials, I found myself drawn to Joseph.  He doesn’t get much press coverage, but if you read Matthew 1 and 2 with an eye toward discovering a little bit about his character, you’ll find a treasure trove.

Here are just a few of the nuggets:

Matthew 1:19 calls Joseph a “righteous man” who didn’t want to expose Mary to “public disgrace.”  In an age where reality television has made revenge and public humiliation an acceptable response to just about any offense, we might not have blamed Joseph if he’d pointed a few fingers.  He had to have figured that Mary had cheated on him, but instead of ridiculing her or doing something to salvage his own reputation, he planned to end things quietly.  Classy guy.

And in the very next verse, when the angel shows up to set the record straight, Joseph doesn’t protest.  He had to have been thinking, “Whaaaat??”, but instead of peppering the angel with a bunch of questions, he simply accepts God’s word as truth – and he acts on it.  A man of genuine faith.

And that acceptance becomes a pattern.  Again and again in the narrative, we see Joseph following God without hesitation, even when the instructions seemed a little incomplete, or when obedience meant getting out of bed and fleeing during the night, with a wife and a baby in tow (see Matthew 2:13-14, 21, and 22-23).

What a guy!  And what a model for our prayers!  I used Joseph’s example as a way to pray for Geoff, as well as for my husband, my son, and my future son-in-law, Charlie.  Go ahead and put the name of a man you love right into this prayer, and make it your own:

Heavenly Father, make _____ like Joseph.  Let him respond to insults and offenses – whether real or perceived – with wisdom, tact, and grace.  May he always put the needs and reputation of others ahead of his own.

Give ____ a keen sensitivity to your Holy Spirit.  Speak to him, Lord, and tune his ear to hear your voice.  When you give him instruction, equip him to follow it wholeheartedly and without hesitation.  Strengthen his faith so that he will stay when you say “stay” and move when you say “move.” 

As _____ cares for his wife and family, be his protector, his guide, and his Father.  May he always put his trust in you.  

Bless him, Lord.

Amen.

 

 

 

Bible reading plan

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Friday Prayer for a Common Life

FullSizeRenderIt’s Wedding Time!  Whoop!  Whoop!

Instead of today’s Scripture-based prayer, I want to share the one I’ve been reading and praying for Annesley and Geoff this week.  It’s from the Book of Common Prayer, and it’s part of what we’ll pray for them tomorrow, during the ceremony.

Feel free to borrow this time-tested blessing today for your own marriage, or for any couple you love:

Eternal God, creator and preserver of all life, author of 
salvation, and giver of all grace: Look with favor upon the 
world you have made, and for which your Son gave his life, and especially upon this man and this woman whom you make one flesh in Holy Matrimony. 

Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.  

Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love
and peace with you and one another all the days of their life.  


Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours. 

Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair. 

Amen.

(This is only part of the prayer; if you want the whole thing (and you do!), click here and then scroll down until you get to page 429.)

Let the wedding bells ring!

 

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Friday Prayer for Waiting

FullSizeRenderIt’s peony time in Virginia Beach.

Every year, I watch the stems sprout up from the ground and form buds. It seems to take forever and then – just like that – they pop into bloom, great bursts of white and pink that can fill an entire house with their marvelous, heady fragrance.

I clipped this bunch this morning and thought about the waiting process. I don’t like it (who does?), but as I walked around the garden, I realized how creative God is. I would have had all the plants pop at once – one big noisy show of azaleas and hydrangeas and peonies – but then it would be over. God, in his wisdom, tells each flower when to “go,” and the result is a beautiful, season-long symphony.

When it comes to waiting, David was way ahead of me. Psalm 27 shows him surrounded by enemies, facing a day of trouble, and calling out to God for help…and yet there is no sense of panic or fear. Instead, David is confident that God  will show up. He knows God is good, and that his timing is perfect.

As we look to the Lord to work in our lives today – to be our helper, our teacher, our place of safety, and all the other things he is in Psalm 27 – let’s not give in to worry or fear, even if the answer seems to be taking longer than we’d like.  Instead, let’s borrow a prayer from David, and ask God to fill our hearts and minds with confident expectation:

Heavenly Father, let me be confident in your goodness.  Help me be strong and take heart, and to wait for you.  (Psalm 27:13-14).

 

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Friday Prayer for Being Still

Exodus 14-14I texted a friend yesterday to ask her to pray for me, since I felt weary.  She immediately shot back this promise:  “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I loved that!  Who wouldn’t?

Those simple words changed my perspective and carried me through a jam-packed day with grace and joy.  If you find yourself needing a break today – or better still, if you have a friend who could do with turning her battles over to God – why not turn Exodus 14:14 into your own personal prayer?

Heavenly Father, thank you that you know all that I am up against, and you promise to fight for me.  Quiet my heart and help me to be still, trusting in your sovereign power and endless love.  (Exodus 14:14)

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Friday Prayer for Your Diet

Leviticus 3-16Diets are all well and good (particularly if you are Annesley, and your wedding prep consists mostly of mac-n-cheese), and yet everyone has their limits.  I recently took a walk with a highly disciplined friend who’s dropping the pounds, but even she faced an emotional crisis when the trainer suggested she cut her daily almond intake from 17 to 9.

Nine almonds?  Seriously?

Anyhow, with swimsuit season just around the corner, I thought it might be time to trot out one of my favorite Bible verses.  Leviticus 3:16 says, “All the fat belongs to the Lord.”   To me, that has the makings of a mighty fine prayer (particularly for those who are just plain tired of counting their almonds):

Heavenly Father, all the fat belongs to you.  So does all of the protein, carbs, and the hipster stuff like quinoa and kale. Please give me wisdom and discipline to make wise dietary choices…and grace for the times that I don’t.

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Friday Prayer for Answers

You know how life can be kind of confusing?

Maybe you are wondering whether you should take that new job, get out of an iffy relationship, or (if you watch the ads on Fox News at night, like we sometimes do) talk to your doctor about whatever it is that you think you might have.

Or maybe you’ve just gotten yourself into a slightly awkward position, and you aren’t quite sure what to do about it:

photo 3

Anyhow…there’s a prayer for that.

Way back when Jeremiah was in prison (and maybe wondering why he ever got into the whole prophet gig), God made him a promise:  “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

That pledge wasn’t just for Jeremiah; the accessibility of God’s guidance is a theme that runs throughout Scripture.  When we aren’t sure which way is up (or even what we are looking at, options-wise), God can help.  When we need  wisdom and direction and answers, he promises that, if we earnestly seek him, he will deliver.

Whatever your need or uncertainty is today, call on God.  Seek him.  Make Jeremiah 33:3 your own personal prayer:

Heavenly Father, I am calling on you now.  Please answer me, and tell me great and unsearchable things that I do not know.  (Jeremiah 33:3)

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Friday Prayer for the Path to Peace

Luke 1-79

The Bible says that, as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).  Sometimes, that can be a tall order – especially when we aren’t sure how to get there, or what we can do to promote peace or “make things right” with people.

Happily, we don’t have to figure it out on our own.  Luke says that Jesus came to shine on those living in darkness, and to guide our feet into the path of peace.

If you find yourself at odds with someone today, or even just craving peace to quiet your own anxious heart, why not ask Christ to help you?  After all, that’s what he came for, right?

Here’s a simple prayer you can pray today for yourself, for a troubled relationship, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father, I feel like I am living in darkness.  Shine your light on me, and guide my feet – my thoughts, my words, and every step I take – into the path of peace.  (Luke 1:79)

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Good Friday Prayer

Untitled design (4)Good Friday.  It’s the day when Jesus hung on the cross, suffering and alone, and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I can’t imagine.

You know that song, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us?  There’s a line in there that always undoes me, one that kicks off the second verse:

How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns his face away…

The Father turns his face away.  As I said, I can’t imagine.

Incredibly, though, it is the very agony of abandonment that Christ faced that throws wide the door for us to draw near to God.  There is no pain or betrayal that he does not understand or hasn’t experienced.  And our sin, no matter how ugly or frightening, is never bigger than his obedience.

Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us of all of these things, and more.  Let’s make it our Good Friday prayer, knowing that God will never again turn his face away.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you understand our weaknesses and that you faced all the same testings we do, yet you did not sin.  Remind us, particularly when we feel rejected or forsaken, or when we struggle under the weight of our own inadequacy and failure, that we can come boldly to the throne of our gracious God, where we will receive mercy and find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16, NLT)  

 

(Click here to for the Phillips, Craig, and Dean version of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, written by Stuart Townend.)

 

 

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Friday Prayer: Just Do It

Philippians 2-14This week’s prayer verse is one I used to pray a lot for our kids when they were younger.  Now, I think maybe I need it more.

In any case, it’s short and to the point – and it’s a good one to have in the memory bank for whenever you or your loved ones need an attitude adjustment or a little divine motivation to “just do it.”

Heavenly Father, help ____ to do everything without complaining or arguing.  (Philippians 2:14)

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Friday Prayer for Hope and Healing

Isaiah 58-8-9All week on the blog, we’ve been talking about sexual assault and how to prevent it.  I am grateful to author Wendy Blight for her willingness to share her story (which, if you’re just checking in, is the subject of her book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner:  The Transforming Power of God’s Story).

Today, I want to offer a prayer for anyone who has ever been a victim of sexual violence.  Please join me  in praying this for yourself, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father, may your light break forth like the dawn in _____’s life.  May her healing quickly appear, and may your glory be her guard.  When ____’s calls, answer her.  When she cries for help, let her hear you say, “Here am I.”  (Isaiah 58:8-9)

 

 

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Friday Prayer to Refresh the Weary

Jeremiah 31-25Ahhhh.  Daylight Savings Time is finally here.  The beginning of happiness again.

Add a bunch of grocery-store tulips and a breath of a prayer, and hang in there.  I promise:  We’re gonna make it!

Pray this one for yourself, or for someone you know who may need God’s help to move from weariness and defeat to a place of joy and strength:

Refresh my weary heart, O Lord.  Satisfy me when I am faint. (Jeremiah 31:25)

 

 

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Friday Prayer for Anxious Minds

Earlier this week, I wrote about giving up worry.  I’m trying to give it up for Lent; I’d like to get rid of it forever.

Philippians 4:6 is, perhaps, the Bible’s best-known “anti-worry” verse.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Then comes the promise:  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (v. 7)

That’s all good – great, even.  But how do we do that, really?  How do we stop being anxious?

Philippians 4-6-8I think the answer comes in the very next verse, and it’s what I was trying to get at in my blog as I blathered on about cows in cornfields.  We train our minds to move along familiar pathways.  If we truly want to move from a place of worry to a place of peace, we need to heed Paul’s advice to the Philippians and focus on those things that enable peace to thrive:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

(Now there’s a little Bible Xanax to get you pointed in the right direction!)

If you wrestle with worry (whether it’s once in awhile, all the time, or as part of your Lenten fast), turn Philippians 4:6-8 into a prayer and get started on retraining your mind:

Heavenly Father, don’t let me be anxious about anything.  Send your peace to guard my heart and mind.  Help me think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  (Philippians 4:6-8)

 

 

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Friday Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Hebrews 10-33 (2)For Christians, persecution is nothing new.  Way back when the Apostle Paul was sending letters from prison, he warned his young protege, Timothy, that such suffering was part and parcel of the Christian life.  “In fact,” Paul wrote, without any attempt to sugarcoat his message, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Shortly after writing these words, Paul was martyred.

Persecution is nothing new, nor (if we believe Paul’s words) should it surprise us.  Still, though, we recoil from the horrific videotaped execution of 21 Egyptian Christians, or the news that 150 of our fellow believers – women, children, and elderly people – have been abducted in Syria.  We grieve, we get angry, we feel impotent.

And, even though we may live half a world away, we can relate to the Assyrian Christian woman interviewed by the Associated Press this week:  “I just feel so helpless,” she said, as she awaited news of her relatives’  fate. “I cannot do anything for them but pray.”

I cannot do anything for them but pray.  That sounds so insignificant, yet it holds so much power.

Encouraged by the #Pray703 movement, which calls people to pray for the persecuted Christians at 7:03 a.m. every day, I began praying in earnest this week.  I started by looking up verses about persecution, and was immediately captivated by Hebrews 10:33, written to a group of people who had faced more than their fair share of suffering:  “Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times, you stood side by side with those who were so treated.”

That’s what I want to do.

I want to stand side by side with my brothers and sisters in Libya, Syria, and all over the world.  I want to stand side by side with them in prayer.  They may be out of my reach, but they are not out of God’s, and I know that I can count on his infinite love, his limitless power, and his faithful promise to work “in all things for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Here are just a few of the verses I prayed this week, if you want to join me:

Show yourself faithful, O Lord.  Strengthen and protect our brothers and sisters from the evil one.  (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Remind these persecuted Christians that nothing – no hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword – can separate them from your love.  (Romans 8:35-39)

Thank you for our brothers and sisters who have given an answer to those who have asked about the reason for their hope.  Thank you for their gentleness and respect.  May those who speak maliciously against them be ashamed of their slander.  (1 (Peter 3:15-16.)

Let our brothers and sisters take refuge in you and be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, bless them, and surround them with your favor as with a shield.  (Psalm 5:11-12)

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he said that evil men would go “from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  Those words might as well have been written yesterday; they were true then and they are true today.  And yet neither Timothy nor Paul lost hope.  Instead, they stood side by side with their fellow Christians, enduring unimaginable hardship, trusting God, and proclaiming the name of Christ.

Side by side.  Let’s stand with them, together.

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Friday Prayer for a Clean Heart

To me, few things are more lovely than freshly fallen snow.

IMG_2330When my pal Laura sent me this pic, taken from her Charlottesville window, I couldn’t help but think of King David’s prayer in Psalm 51.  He’s painfully aware of the consequences of his actions (he’d slept with another man’s wife, then arranged to have the fellow killed), and when you read his words, you get the idea that he is just desperate to get rid of his guilt.  David longs to experience freedom and joy, and to have a clean heart again.  “Wash me,” he prays, “and I will be whiter than snow.”

Haven’t we all been there?  Haven’t we all said or done something we wish we could undo, something that fills our hearts and our minds with shame?  Haven’t we all longed for a clean slate?

I’ve been mulling over Psalm 51 all week, grateful that we serve a God who can – and will – do that which we cannot:  blot out our sin and restore our joy.  Imagine my surprise (my delight, actually) when Robbie and I went to the Ash Wednesday service and Psalm 51 was read aloud while our minister “imposed” the ashes (at least I think that’s the right term for what happens when you get them on your forehead).

Turns out, Psalm 51 is always part of the Ash Wednesday service, at least in the Anglican tradition.  Who knew?

(Well, probably a lot of you.  But, not being much of an Ash Wednesday girl, it was news to me.)

I can’t think of a better season than Lent – a time when our focus is on drawing closer to God – in which to borrow a prayer from Psalm 51.  You might find a verse or two that you like better in there, but I’m picking 10 and 12 as a prayer for myself, and for my loved ones, this week:

Create in ____ a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit in me/him/her.  Restore to _____ the joy of your salvation, and make me/him/her willing to obey you.  (Psalm 51:10 & 12, NLT)

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Friday Prayer for Overflowing Love

1 Thess. 3-12With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I figured this would be a good time to offer a prayer verse about love.  The good news is that the Bible has about a zillion of them to choose from.  The bad news is that the Bible has about a zillion of them to choose from.

We are called to love God, love our enemies, love each other.  We see links between love and obedience, love and blessings, love and fruitful lives.  We read about God’s lavish, unfathomable, and unconditional love for us.  It’s all pretty incredible.

In the interest of keeping things simple, and because we could ALL do with a little more lovin’ in our lives, here’s the verse I picked – pray it for yourself or for someone you love this week:

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.”  (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

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Friday Prayer for the Weary

Galatians 6-9Okay, so it’s February.  The Christmas decor is put away (well, most of it; never mind the knot of lights that my Instagram friends see dangling from the dogwood tree outside my window…44 days and counting, BTW), and the promise of Daylight Savings Time is still too far away to be counted on as a spirit-lifter.  If you’re like me, you might be feeling a bit weary.

Which is where Galatians 6:9 comes in.  This is my all-time favorite prayer verse for teachers (those blessed souls who keep at it with our kids, day after day), but it’s also a good one for anyone who might be struggling to restore a relationship, extend forgiveness, get out of debt, or just stick with the goals they set for the new year.  Any good thing that can sap your strength and make you want to quit the race can be targeted with this prayer verse.  Why not try it today for yourself, or for someone you love?

Heavenly Father, let ____ not become weary in doing good, but help him/her/me remember that at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

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Friday Prayer: You are Loved

photo 4Back in December, I wrote a blog about a message that had been painted on Beta Bridge at the University of Virginia. Driving through Charlottesville yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that the bridge – which sometimes gets repainted twice in the same night – still had the same message:  YOU ARE LOVED.

Clearly, it’s a promise that means a lot to the students.  It’s a promise that also means a lot to me, and it’s one that calls to mind the beautiful words Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, as he sought to reassure them that, despite the trouble and hardship they faced, God was on their side, and he was working for their good.

Today, if you need help remembering that God is for you – and that nothing can separate you from his love – turn these words into a prayer.  Or pray them for someone you love.

Beta Bridge is going to get repainted one of these days, but the words that are on there right now will never change.

You are loved.

 

Heavenly Father, help _____ be convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love that you have for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

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Friday Prayer for Good Communication

James 1-19If you saw Wednesday’s blog, you know we’ve been focusing on good communication in the marriage course that Robbie and I are doing at church.  But the “bad habits” outlined in that post don’t just plague marriages; every human relationship can benefit from better listening skills.

The Bible is full of good advice for improving communication, but few verses are as succinct and powerful as James 1:19.  Here’s how you can turn this verse into a prayer for your marriage, your friendships, or your kids, as they relate to their friends and to each other:

Heavenly Father, may ______ be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  (James 1:19)

(Photo Credits:  Many thanks to my daughter, Hillary, for getting one of her co-workers to snap the pic that goes with this prayer. Honorable mention goes to Annesley’s roommate, Kate Martin, who submitted this photo of her dog, Riley, whose bladder control issues are clearly offset by what looks like a keen ability to listen.)photo 1

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Friday Prayer for a Flourishing Life

I am not much of a cold weather gal.  I think I might have been the first person ever diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder); thirty years ago, the doctor said I could pick anti-depressants or sunshine to fix what ailed me.  At first, Robbie thought I was making it up (“Honey, the doctor says I have SAD and we need to go someplace sunny!”), but now he knows better.  And when he came home over Christmas and told us that he’d booked a four-day trip to Captiva Island, Florida for the whole family, I was ecstatic.

photo copy 3If you haven’t been to Captiva, you should give it a try.  Sandpipers compete with shells for space on the beach, and the dolphins come THIS CLOSE to the water’s edge (meaning that even people like me, who don’t tend to get wet, can get an eyeful of Flipper; truly, if that thing had come any closer, I would have offered it a beach chair).

It was marvelous.

But this isn’t a travel blog, it’s a prayer blog, so I will hasten to add that the island also has palm trees, and when I looked up from my shell hunting and saw the one pictured here, Psalm 92 popped into my mind.  (I didn’t know it was Psalm 92, but I once had a friend who was Treasurer of the National Palm Tree Society–who knew?–and he signed all of his letters, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree.”  Which, for those who don’t already have that one memorized, is from Psalm 92.)

2So anyway, I went home and looked up the verse in Matthew Henry’s commentary.  (I know, I know.  I am so much fun at the beach.)  Here’s what he has to say about Psalm 92:12-15 in general, and palm trees in particular:

First, palm trees grow (evidence that where God gives some grace, he will give more grace).  As a result, they become stronger, and fitter for use.

Second, palm trees flourish.  Palm tree people (my term, not his) are  “cheerful themselves and respected by all about them,” flourishing “in their profession and in the comfort and joy of their own souls.”  Plus, Henry says, palm trees are marked by a “stately body” (and hey, if you want to quit reading now and just skip to the prayer, that’s cool).

Third, even the harshest conditions don’t impact a palm tree’s health.  Palm trees are long-lived, Henry says, and (unlike some people) not changed by the winter.  In fact, it can be said of palm trees (and here I am quoting again, although I am sure this is a familiar refrain around your house):  Sub ponder crescit.

In other words, The more it is pressed down the more it grows.

Seriously.  Who wouldn’t want to be a palm tree?

But wait.  There’s more.  Verse 14 says that palm tree people, like the actual plants, will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.  “The last days of the saints are sometimes their best days,” Henry writes, “and their last work is their best work.”

As a SAD person who is sliding down the backside of life, I can’t think of a more encouraging promise than that!  Stately body notwithstanding, I really want Psalm 92 to be true in my life.  The next time you see a palm tree–or even just a picture of one–let it guide your thoughts toward these verses, and pray them for yourself or someone you love.

Heavenly Father, may _______ flourish like a palm tree, growing and bearing fruit–good words and works that glorify you and bring strength and grace to others–even in my/his/her old age.  (Psalm 92:12-15)

 

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Friday Prayer for Generosity

1 Timothy 6-18If you saw Tuesday’s blog, you know that generosity is one of the biggies when it comes to happiness in marriage.  While that finding came out of the National Marriage Project, you don’t have to be a sociologist or an expert researcher to know that generosity is a pretty great thing to have, regardless of the relationship.

Here’s a simple prayer that packs a powerful promise.  Try praying it for yourself or for someone you love:

I pray that _____ would be rich in good deeds, generous, and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18)

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Friday Prayer for Kindness, Humility, and More

Colossians 3-12Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the full house and the empty nest is the amount of laundry that needs doing. For years, particularly when we had four children all playing different sports, my life had a rhythm all its own:

Wash.  Dry.  Fold.  Repeat.

Partly to break up the monotony, and partly to attach some sort of meaning to an existence that seemed to be measured in soccer games and grass stains, I started using the laundry cycle as a prayer prompt.  I looked up a few verses about clothing and pressed them (a-hem) into service.

Here’s one of my favorites.  This year, instead of groaning when you see the laundry pile, why not try this prayer when you pull a load out of the dryer?  It might not help you find that missing sock, but at least you’ll be investing in something that lasts beyond tomorrow.

Heavenly Father, let _____ know that he/she is holy and dearly loved.  Help _____ to clothe himself/herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  (Colossians 3:12)

 

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Friday Prayer for Knowing Christ

2 Peter 3-18Christmas is a time of growth, a time when the soil of our hearts may soften and we sense God’s presence in new and often  unexpected ways.  As you think about the people you love and what they need during the coming year, sometimes the simplest prayers are the best:

Heavenly Father, may _____ grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 3:18)

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Friday Prayer for Help and Protection

Psalm 121Psalm 121 is the passage my mom asked us to learn this year (a Scripture verse, and going to the Messiah sing-along, is what she wants for Christmas every year).  With less than a week to go, I think my family might have a better shot at memorizing the Hallelujah Chorus than nailing the whole psalm, but we are trying.  And I gotta hand it to her; Mom picked a good one.  In addition to being just plain majestic, Psalm 121 is chock full of powerful prayer promises.

If you (or someone you love) could use an extra measure of help, strength, or protection, Psalm 121 has you covered.  Try praying the whole thing, or just use the last two verses:

Heavenly Father, keep _____ from all harm.  Watch over his/her life.  Watch over his/her coming and going, both now and forevermore.  (Psalm 121:7-8)

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Friday Prayer Verse: Let Your Light Shine

Matthew 5-16I don’t know about you, but as the days grow shorter and the darkness comes early, I find myself longing for light.  Any light.  Whether it’s a fire in the fireplace, the twinkle of Christmas lights in the neighbor’s yard, or the glow of a lantern in the snow, light just makes everything better!  No wonder God told us to let our light shine–and here’s a verse you can use to pray for yourself (or for someone you love)  and scatter the darkness with goodness and glory!

Lord Jesus, let ______’s light shine before others, that they may see his/her good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)

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The Best Christmas Present Ever

My pal Michelle says that shopping is her “spiritual gift.”  Sometimes, when she doesn’t want to sound all holier-than-thou, she just says she was born with “the shopping gene.”  Either way–anointed or genetic–she’s got it.

And I don’t.

And nothing shines the spotlight on my deficiency quite like Christmas.  Every year, I try to get my kids one practical gift, something that they can all use, something that will enrich their lives.  For years, I went with what I considered to be faith-building presents like The One-Year Chronological Bible (I think the best effort only made it through February) and the Navigator’s Topical Memory System (all I can say is that my kids don’t know quality when they see it), and then–because uprightness is not just a spiritual condition–the most inspired gift of all:  The Posture Brace.

The ad promised that the brace was “virtually invisible” and could be “comfortably” worn under clothes.

The ad was wrong.

photo 2

Another Christmas fail.

(And Kids, please forgive me for posting this pic.  You know I had to do it.)

How much better off would I be–and how much more grateful my family–if I would just stick with my grandmother’s gift-giving strategy?  She never gave us anything, at least nothing you could wrap.  Instead, she asked us to memorize a Bible verse for her each year and, in return, she promised to pray for us.

I will admit that, as a teenager, I was less-than-enthused by Gammy’s scheme.  I don’t know how I ever memorized any verses, given that my eyes were rolled so far back into my head.  Today, though, many of these nuggets are still locked in, and in terms of things like wisdom and peace and joy I can promise you this:  Her Bible verses have been a far better (and infinitely more comfortable) support system than even the most “stylish” posture brace!

And, while I will never know the full impact of her prayers, I am confident that Gammy’s gift to her grandchildren opened the door to all measure of divine protection, favor, insight, and blessing in our lives.  As a parent, I can’t think of anything I’d rather give my children.

I’m going to write more about the gift of prayer in my next post–and I’ll show you an idea that my kids actually did (and still do) like–but for now, would you just say a prayer for me?  I haven’t yet picked this year’s group gift, and I’d be much obliged if God (who, according to Matthew 6:11, actually knows how to give “good gifts”) would weigh in with some ideas.

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Friday Prayer Verse for Hope, Joy, and Peace

Romans 15-13

 

Insert your name, or the name of someone you love, into the blanks in today’s prayer verse for hope, joy, and peace:

Heavenly Father, you are the God of hope.  Fill  ______ with all joy and peace as he/she trusts in you, so that _____ may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

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Friday Prayer Verse for Peace & Thankfulness

Colossians 3-15

Yesterday, I wrote about the condition of our hearts, and the need to be grateful–particularly now.  (I mean, if you can’t count your blessings come Turkey Day, when will you ever be in the mood?)

Today’s prayer verse follows up on that theme.  Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”

So often in the Bible, peace is linked with words like rule, or the idea of authority, or of standing guard.  The peace that God gives does guard our hearts; it serves as an umpire of sorts, knowing when to call something a “hit,” or when it is a foul.  When we live under this banner–with God’s peace calling the shots in our lives–thankfulness has a place to flourish.

Needing a little of that peace today?  Put your name, or the name of someone you love, into the blanks in this prayer:

O Lord, may your peace rule in _____’s heart, and make him/her/me thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

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Friday Prayer Verse ~ Psalm 5:11-12

Lots of people post “Friday Favorites.”  I’ve picked up shopping tips from Melanie Shankle, followed Kate’s pregnancy through the eyes of new mom Elizabeth Robertson Williams, and snagged more than a couple of good recipes from any number of Friday bloggers.  But, not being much of shopper (or a royal watcher; has Kate had that baby yet?), you won’t find those types of good tips here.  And while I might share a recipe once in awhile, I am currently conducting an experiment to prove to Robbie that eating out–if you find the right “deal”–might actually be cheaper than cooking at home, now that it’s just the two of us.  (Wish me luck.)

When I use the word “favorite,” it is often in the context of a Bible verse.  Some people have their “life verse,” and they can tell you what it means to them, and why.  Not me.  I have any number of Bible “favorites,” and they change almost daily.

For me, then, Friday is going to be the day when I post whatever principle or promise has captivated my heart that week.  And, banking on promises like John 15:7 (“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you”) and Isaiah 55:11 (which tells us that God’s word does not return empty, but accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent), I will offer these verses in the format of prayers, with blanks where you can insert your own name, or that of someone you love.

I hope you enjoy praying this way, and that these words will serve to strengthen your faith and increase your joy.  I hope they will transform your perspective and breathe fresh hope into weary or challenging situations.  And I hope, actually, that some of these verses will become your new favorites.

Here goes:

Spread your protection over ____ and bless him/her.  Surround ____ with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)

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Test Drive

test-drive
I drove a Chevy Suburban for 19 years. I had three different versions—each one fueled by dog hair and the smell of soccer cleats—and they were all faithful.

Two years ago, with the empty nest looming, Robbie suggested that it was time to find a smaller, more fuel-efficient car. I wasn’t sure I was ready to say goodbye to my current road-beast, but I agreed to take a few test drives.

Oh my! Two decades and four kids’ worth of life behind the wheel of a tank had not prepared me for the feel of these younger, snappier cars. I took the on-ramps like I was channeling Danica, and even the salesman in the passenger seat marveled at my donuts in the parking lot. By the time we’d left the third dealership, I was hooked. Continue reading “Test Drive”

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Prayers from the Empty Nest

photo 1“You are reading your own book?” Virginia asked, pulling up short as she burst into my bedroom and saw me sitting up in bed, my dog-eared copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children open in my lap.  “Mom,” she continued, “That is just so…sad.”

I can understand why a 13-year-old girl would consider my actions pathetic. Teenaged girls tend to be embarrassed by a lot of what their moms do—or, in my case, wear.  Or say.  But it wouldn’t be the last time Virginia (or any of my kids) would catch my nose in the pages of my own book.  And happily, as they have grown, all four children have learned to appreciate the value—the power—of praying the scriptures.  Now, at age 20, Virginia will actually ask me to do so, on her behalf or for one of her friends.

Which is why I took a page right out of the book (or at least a picture of a page) and texted it to all four kids a few weeks ago, hoping that they would join me in prayer.  I had just dropped Robbie—our youngest—off at college, and my heart ached.  Not only is Sewanee a million miles from Virginia Beach (okay, so I don’t know the exact mileage, but it takes about 11 hours to drive there), my husband and I know almost no one at the school.  The way I saw it, I might as well have been sending my baby boy to China.   Continue reading “Prayers from the Empty Nest”

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