The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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A Prayer for a Divided World

From http://hearts-of-iron-4.smods.ru/archives/3296

O, Lord, we pray today that you would heal our nation.  In the midst of campaigns and elections, deliver us from the need to belittle or attack those who look, believe, or think differently from ourselves.  Deliver us, as well,  from the divisions that stop us from living up to our highest and noblest standards.

We would not pray for the nation alone.  O, Lord, we pray that you would also heal our world.  Bring an end to the cycles of hate and retaliation and hate again.  We pray for the end of ethnic anger and religious distrust.  We pray that you would find a way to bring to an end all ancient grudges.

We offer ourselves to You in the hope that in, this year, our hearts would advance as much as technology.  May our hearts be stirred, not by new inventions or new social media, but by the hope for peace that might come in these days.  Whether in person, or on the internet, help us to acknowledge whenever our words wound and our spirits attack others.  Should we demonstrate hostility, malice, or antagonism, convict us in the moment to cease.  Help us to express our beliefs in ways that please Christ, no matter how others respond to us.  In the greatest debates may we be found faithful, both in conviction and in expression. Make us instruments of your peace and teach us to examine our own words and the leanings of our hearts.

We also pray that you would heal our families.  Come into our homes and give us hearts that love like Jesus, hearts that give, hearts that serve one another, hearts that forgive, and hearts that keep commitments.  We pray that our homes might not only be  at peace, but be sources for the peace needed so desperately in this world.

We pray today that you would grant grace to all who seek it.  May every person who enters a church this Sunday know that you are love, know that you are welcoming, know that you have been looking for them, and know that their sins are forgiven.  Grant peace to each restless soul.

Lord, make us more like your Son, Jesus, so that we might give glory to you and the world.  In His name we pray, Amen.

 

See also:

A Prayer for Christian Citizenship

A Prayer for Elected Leaders

A Prayer for the World

 

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A Prayer for Christian Citizenship

From Robertjrgraham.com

A significant number of hits for this site come from searches for prayers, particularly for prayers on perplexing subjects.   My commitment when drafting these prayers has been to keep them above the fray of partisan politics. For instance, I wrote A Prayer for Elected Leaders in 2015 – in anticipation of a divisive election – and before anyone could claim it spoke to one side of the American divide or the other.

A Prayer for Refugees and Strangers  appeared here before the current illegal alien debate.  Again, whatever side of the divide you lean, surely we Christians can see the need to pray for people adrift in the world.  Jesus did say, “I was a stranger and you took me in.”

I offer the following prayer in the same spirit.  Our citizenship should be shaped by the living Lord, Jesus Christ.   Not by which primary we vote in.  Our nation when we are united. Surely we stand a better chance of being united when we all reflect the Spirit of Christ in the way we conduct ourselves in all things.

Therefore, here is a prayer for Christian Citizenship.

Lord of all life, we who claim citizenship in this great land give you thanks today for the benefits of liberty and freedom.  Help us to use our freedom as an aid to do what is right without fear of punishment, rather than as license to do whatever we please without thought of consequences.

Teach us to live each day in a manner that honors those who died that we might enjoy these blessings.  Remind us often that the sacrifice of the brave was not to protect us from all self-denial on our part, but in the hope that we might bear a lesser cost to pass a good nation to our children and to their children.  In this country as in your kingdom, lead us to live in the gratitude of knowing something has been done for us that we have not done ourselves.  May our lives today honor what past generations have given to us.

Remind us by your spirit that this country has always been its best for its citizens when our individual lives reflect the angels of our better nature.  Remind us that the moral compass of our collective leadership in the world is never more influential than when we shine as a thousand points of light.   Therefore, lead us always to seek first your righteousness.  For if we know that if we live in a way that is pleasing to you we shall do our part in preserving this noble experiment of democracy and in spreading it to the world.

As we open ourselves to your Spirit, we see now that the best way to secure the blessings of liberty for each of us to live in a way that is worthy of your blessings.  Teach us therefore, to speak peace, to live charitably with all, to bear our individual responsibilities willingly and nobly, and to fulfill our obligations of duty and citizenship  with the same character that has made this country great.

Remind us that as much as we love this land, our highest citizenship is in heaven.  That Jesus is Lord of Lords and the ruler of our hearts.

Look kindly upon all your children, in whatever land the dwell.  Guard those who suffer merely for serving you.  Hasten the day when the freedom of Christ and the liberty of the Gospel comes to them as well.

In the name of Jesus we pray.   Amen

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Praying for the Dead – A Baptist Look at “All Saints”

One of the Civil War dead buried at Rome's Myrtle Hill Cemetery © Joel Snider

One of the Civil War dead buried at Rome’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery
© Joel Snider

This was the post most often read on this site in 2017.  I’ve updated it slightly due to it’s popularity.  I hope it is a help to those who read it.  

I inherited a tradition at First Baptist, Rome that recognized recently deceased church members each year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  A couple of years prior to my retirement, Keith Reaves,  our Minister of Worship, began to make the case that the Christian Year already had a Sunday designated for the observations: All Saints Sunday. We already observe, what I call, “a modified Christian year,” including Advent, Lent, Holy Week, and Pentecost.  Adding All Saints Sunday would allow us another point of contact with Christians around the world who also honor sisters and brothers in Christ who have died.

As a life-long Baptist I had never participated in an All Saints worship service.  I had a general awareness of the day, but knew I needed a more complete understanding if I was to lead in worship that day.

Quickly I discovered the difference between All Saints and All Souls Days.  All Saints honors those who have died in Christ.  All Souls is more of a  Roman Catholic emphasis and focuses on concern for those in purgatory, awaiting full status in heaven.  All Saints Day is actually November 1, no matter what day of the week on which it may fall.  Since many protestant and other mainstream churches like ours do not worship on weekdays, we followed the practice of using the first Sunday in November as “All Saints Sunday.”

From my role as worship leader, the most significant responsibility I felt was how to design a morning prayer which was pastoral in spirit and theologically sound.  Across the years I’ve heard people pray aloud for and to deceased relatives ( I found the later quite disturbing). The easiest solution would simply be to correct people and remind them we pray to God and that, without a purgatory in our theology, there is nothing we can intercede for on behalf of the dead. But…. such an approach is not very pastoral and does little to address the deep human need that expresses itself in such prayers.

I’ve heard prayers of thanksgiving for deceased loved ones – thanks that is completely third person and prayers that call for God to remind the deceased that they are loved and missed. I’ve heard prayers requesting that the family on earth would not be forgotten.  Children ask God to “bless” deceased parents and siblings with the same language they use for living family members.  I imagine parents who have lost children privately ask the same.

I performed some internet searches in order to gain a theological perspective.  Clearly, opinions fall into two camps: Roman Catholics\Mormons (who pray for the dead)  versus protestants and most other Christians (who don’t).

I do not have a complete theology for an All Saints Sunday that incudes prayer for the dead, but, as a pastor, I tried to address the human-need side honestly, while addressing theological concerns soundly.  Here is the pastoral prayer I offered during my first observance of All Saints Sunday.  I hope it is helpful to any who express grief and hope by praying for deceased loved ones:

Eternal God, we, your children living our days measured by clocks and calendars, confess that we are anxious about death.  We still fear our own deaths for we find it hard to conceive of a life not measured, not constrained in the same way as the life we enjoy now.  We fear what we cannot imagine.

Therefore, place Your Spirit upon us.  Remind us of the promises that You have kept throughout our years.  Lead us now to hold fast to the promises we have not yet seen fulfilled.  How foolish we feel to think your promises are good for this life, yet might not hold true for life beyond the grave.

May those who rapidly approach the door to eternity not fear death.  May they find comfort, courage, and sustaining faith in our presence as we minister Your love to them.  May our faith be an asset to them as they prepare for their journey.  Let us not add worry to any soul because of our own anxiety.

While we give no thought that our prayers for the dead change a thing – our love for those gone from our sight causes us to lay them before you: children gone too soon, spouses missed much, parents honored still, friends and family with whom we had unfinished business.  We ask that by your hand, our love might reach across eternity to them.

Through Christ our Lord…

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A Prayer to Forgive

Overlooking Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches, Normandy, France © Joel Snider

Overlooking Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches, Normandy, France
© Joel Snider

O, God, you know our rising up and our sitting down. You are acquainted with all our ways.  We do not need to tell you that we fail daily, yet we acknowledge that each new days finds our commitments weakened and our will to do what is right has diminished during the night.  We trust in your grace to sustain and forgive us even though we confess the same sin for the hundredth time.  Forgive us still.

And may your grace take root in us in such a way that we are ready to forgive sins that have been commuted repeatedly against us.  Even if family members take us for granted again in a way that pierces our hearts, even if co-workers or fellow students disrespect our abilities or our contributions again, may we forgive them as often as you forgive us.

We acknowledge before you now what price it cost you to forgive us so often, for we know how dearly our hearts pay to forgive the repeated sins of others.  Change us.  Change our hearts and our minds so that we no longer see forgiving others as out loss — but as our gain.  Help us to see what you have meant forgiveness to be  — freedom from past hurts, a path to a new day and a new relationship with others, an unexpected way to receive blessing beyond measure from your very hand.

Forgive us and we commit anew to forgive those who have sinned against us.

In Christ’s name

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A Prayer by W.E. Orchard

O God, too near to be found, too simple to be conceived, too good to be believed; help us to trust, not in our knowledge of Thee, but in Thy knowledge of us; to be certain of Thee, not because we feel our thoughts of Thee are true, but because we know how far Thou dost transcend them. May we not be anxious to discern Thy will, but content only with desire to do it; may we not strain our minds to understand Thy nature,  but yield ourselves and live our lives only to express Thee.

Show us how foolish it is to doubt Thee, since Thou thyself dost set questions which disturb us; reveal our unbelief to the faith, fretting at its outward form. Be gracious when we are tempted to cease from moral strife: reveal what it is that struggles in us. Before we tire of mental search enable us to see that it was not ourselves, but Thy call which stirred our souls.

Turn us back from our voyages of thoughts to that which sent us forth. Teach us to trust not in cleverness or learning, but to that inward faith which can never be denied. Lead us out of confusion to simplicity; call us back from wondering without to find Thee at home within. Amen.


 

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