Prayer for the Church from Indonesia :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:2-4
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.

Today we reflect on an Indonesian prayer, written in the late 1990s, that would be appropriate for Christians to pray on behalf of persecuted Indonesian Christians today. Since that time, persecution of Christians has worsened in Indonesia and all across the world. We join our voices in this nearly 20 year old prayer that seems more relevant today than when it was written. — John

Prayer for the Church from Indonesia :: Worldwide Prayer

Our God,
You who dwell in the highest
and who has called us
in your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Church…

We thank you today, for the rich heritage we claim,
a heritage born of courage, piety, and sacrifice.

We claim today fellowship in mission,
as we share of our wealth for the work of your Church around the world.
In healing the sick and feeding the hungry,
in redeeming through your Word that the blind may see,
and in so doing, freeing captives in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

We confess, our God, that in the comfort of your blessings and abundance
and in the safety of the blessing of peace in our land,
we too easily forget others of our body, your Church,
who pray today for your daily bread to feed their hungry children,
who pray for signs of peace in their land,
who pray for freedom to pursue a life worth the living.

So make us mindful, we pray,
that others of your Church today
eat the bread in secret, for fear of persecution,
and drink the cup in whispers, for fear of death.
For them, our sisters and brothers, we pray
that your spirit will watch over them with a mighty arm,
that your joy may be complete in them,
and that their hope in you may be realized in power and grace.

These things we pray in the mighty name of the One who makes us one,
Jesus Christ, Our Savior.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Small Verse
Keep me, Lord, as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 15 (Listen – 6:06)
2 Corinthians 8 (Listen – 3:25)

Bringing Back the Banished

Scripture: 2 Samuel 14:14
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.

Reflection: Bringing Back the Banished
By John Tillman

Joab is not remembered in the scriptures as a merciful man. If anything, he is David’s button man—eliminating David’s enemies while maintaining plausible deniability. Joab is a ruthless tactician, delivering to David cities to conquer and the corpses of his enemies. Joab uses any means necessary behind the scenes and allows David’s hands, to everyone’s eyes but God’s, to remain clean.

So it is somewhat surprising that the merciful, theatrical errand of reconciliation detailed in 2 Samuel fourteen is orchestrated by Joab to bring back David’s banished son, Absalom. It is unusual that the ruthless black-ops commander who assassinated Abner against David’s wishes would pursue this mission. It is a mission whose outcome is doomed.

Before long, it is clear that Absalom has not come home for reconciliation, but rebellion. Eventually it is Joab who, against David’s specific orders, murders Absalom, the hapless rebel, as he hangs in a tree, defenseless.

It is helpful for us to contrast David’s grudging approval for Absalom to return and Paul’s joyful and full acceptance of those involved in a conflict within the Corinthian church.

David allows Absalom’s return to the city, but not to community. He says of Absalom, “He must not see my face.” Yet Paul, speaks tenderly of relationships not only fully restored, but strengthened. “And his [Titus’s] affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.”

We are banished, sinful sons and daughters. But God, our king, was not theatrically cajoled into bringing us back. It was always his plan. Our king didn’t grant us partial forgiveness, keeping us from coming to his palace or being in his presence. He left his throne, his palace, and his privilege behind to come to us. By rights we should die rebels, as Absalom did. But our king died in our place, hung on the tree we were doomed for. Our king does not merely return the banished, but redeems them.

The message of the Gospel is not that we are grudgingly allowed back home but denied the privileges of family. Christ is not our parole officer, but our brother. Through him we become fully restored sons and daughters of his kingdom.

The Morning Psalm
…The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel… — Psalm 147:2

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 14 (Listen – 5:57)
2 Corinthians 7 (Listen – 2:58)

You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility

Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:7
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king — Hamlet

Reflection: You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
By John Tillman

You are the man!

To modern ears the phrase is an affirmation—a superlative compliment. You are the expert. You are the one to ask. You are the person we look to. You are our idol of what we want to be.

But the phrase’s first usage in history is not as affirmation, but accusation. It is the climax to a dangerous confrontation between a ruler in the wrong, and a prophet speaking truth to power.

Through Nathan we see reflections of the difficulty of God’s people interacting with government and politics. In chapter seven, Nathan is a close confidant of the ruler. He affirms the king without a word from the Lord, saying “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it.” However, Nathan soon hears from God, and must return to the king and walk that statement back. It is not until chapter twelve we see Nathan’s finest hour as a prophet.

Nathan didn’t let his cozy relationship strip him of his prophetic responsibility. Cozy is a pleasant word to describe a chair, a sweater, or a friendship. But with Christians and political leaders, it’s a short journey from cozy to cozened. It’s easy to be like chapter seven Nathan, but few are willing to be chapter twelve Nathan.

When Christians speak truth to power, we are empowered with the same Holy Spirit that spoke to Nathan. Whether to a monarch, a magistrate, or a magnate, we represent the message of the Gospel. We tend to use that power and authority inconsistently, however.

Too often we reserve “You are the man” for political opponents and “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it.” for political allies. Writing to American Catholics, Bill McCormick said:

Catholics often argue about which party better represents the Gospel. Have that argument if you like, but do not forget the bigger picture: Neither party can be the home of the Catholic voter…If you want to object and say that one party is better than the other for Catholics, you are missing the point.

It is important for us to remember that Nathan’s greatest prophetic moment was not speaking truth to powerful foes but to a powerful friend—his “boss” whom he was on good terms with. Everyone challenges those they oppose to change. Followers of Christ are called to challenge the communities and individuals we are closest to.

Challenging opposing political figures or faceless political parties requires neither tact nor courage when we reject them as part of our community. When we do this—just as the prophet Jonah—we forsake the purpose of prophetic confrontation.

Our purpose is not retribution or rejection, but redemption and reconciliation. When we confront others, we must let our tone reflect the ministry of reconciliation that we have been given.

“You are the man” is a challenging accusation, but it is simultaneously a heartfelt invitation back into community.

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

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 11 (Listen – 4:25)
2 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:02)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 12 (Listen – 5:25) 2 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 3:14)
2 Samuel 13 (Listen – 6:39) 2 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 2:31)

Inattentiveness in Worship

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Reflection: Inattentiveness in Worship
By John Tillman

As stodgy as C.S. Lewis sounds in his letter on Liturgiology (which we read together in two excerpts, here and here) one might mistakenly assume that he is campaigning for unilateral and unchanging homogeneity in worship style and liturgy. However, that is not the case. Lewis seems to appreciate variety, as long as the attention of the worshipers is drawn to God rather than the creativity of the celebrants.

Lewis chides his readers (Malcolm is a fictitious friend, standing in for Lewis’s reading audience) for casting judgment on the worship practices of others, making an appeal to variety within the community of the church.

Broaden your mind, Malcolm, broaden your mind! It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. “One fold” doesn’t mean “one pool.” Cultivated roses and daffodils are no more alike than wild roses and daffodils.

In a consumer society and culture, our identity is tied up in our tastes, and our tastes are broadcast through our criticism. The superiority of the role of worship critic is more attractive to us than the supplicative posture of a worshiper.

What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughtn’t even to have seen, let alone censured. “Who art thou that judgest Another’s servant?”

We must cultivate in worship a certain kind of inattentiveness toward other worshipers and even toward the leaders—maintaining our attention on God as the focus of all our joined efforts.

*Excerpts from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis.

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

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19)
2 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 2:25)

Prayer from India :: Worldwide Prayers

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

In our Worldwide Prayer posts we will be featuring prayers from Christians around the world. As we pray these prayers together, let us remember the words of C.S. Lewis discussing “ready-made” prayers. — John

It does not matter very much who first put them together. If they are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are someone else’s, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning. — C.S. Lewis

Prayer from India :: Worldwide Prayers

Our loving Father,

Thank you for releasing us from the bondage of sin by the shedding of the blood of your Son, Jesus, on that rugged Cross of Calvary.

Thank you for choosing us; for allowing us to serve you; for the privilege of bearing a cross and following you.

Daily we face shame, pain, blame, loneliness, and even exhaustion. But we believe that always you are present sharing our load and helping us bear our cross. Even when life seems to be at its worst we never despair because we live for you and your Son died for us.

Your Word tells us that we may need to suffer trials of many kinds and we should be glad for this will prove our faith is genuine. Lord we are here for you. We will lay down our lives if this will glorify your Name.

Lord use your people to spread the joy of your Kingdom.

In Jesus’ precious name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

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

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8-9 (Listen – 4:51)
2 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:13)

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