Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason from Texas
Prayer can take many forms and is not limited to a specific time and place. Our technology has taught us to abhor any downtime, fill any silence, and avoid every moment of solitude. It is these brief moments on the train, in the line, and on the couch when we can freely connect with an ever-present God.

Originally published, April 1, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 19 & Colossians 2.

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 46 (Listen – 4:59)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Wake-up Call—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Mr. Dennis Makhandia, Kakamega, Kenya
The post came at a time when I was complacent with my faith and it was a stark reminder of what is expected of us as people who have been given the gospel

Originally published, July 15, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 11 & Matthew 25.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 25.44-46
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Jeremiah 11.11-14
11 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. 13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’
14 “Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.

Reflection: Wake-up Call—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

The three stories of Matthew 25 are connected, presented in series with an intentional theme. Last January we wrote:

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

The sin of neglect seems to be one that surprises each of the condemned groups and individuals in these stories. Pray that you may not be surprised.

During seminary days, while traveling on a ministry team on a long drive, someone suggested putting on a Keith Green album. The driver, a good friend, responded, “Oh good. I haven’t doubted my salvation in a while. Put it in.”

We all laughed but I will never forget it. Because, the truth was, and is, that we don’t often listen to music that challenges us. We tune in for encouragement.  We don’t often listen to sermons that challenge us. We tune out words of conviction.

This is bad news for us because when we tune out the voices correcting us for long enough, God lets us tune out. He allows us to develop spiritual cataracts and tunnel vision. He allows us to blow out our eardrums so that we can’t hear him anymore.

We need things in our spiritual lives to jar us out of our complacency and cause us to reevaluate our dedication to Christ. We need a wake-up call.

From the careless virgins buzzes an alarm: Take initiative! Don’t be passive about personal spiritual disciplines!
From the slothful servant rings a reveille trumpet: Be invested! Give your all to what providence invests in you!
From the goats, a clamorous claxon resounds: Serve Others! Serve the poor! Serve the hungry! Serve the outcast!
And from Jeremiah, we see the outcome of ignoring God’s calls—God will block our calls. “…I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.”

Don’t push “snooze” on the alarms sounding in these passages. Their intention is not to terrify us, but to guide us to action. His desire is for no one to perish, so open your eyes, open your ears. Attend to your spiritual responsibilities to yourself, to Christ, our master, and to those around you.

Music: The Sheep and the Goats (Live Performance) — Keith Green

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 42 (Listen – 3:44)
Psalms 18 (Listen – 5:47)

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 43 (Listen – 2:34) Psalms 19 (Listen – 1:52)
Jeremiah 44 (Listen – 6:10) Psalms 20-21 (Listen – 1:37)

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Convicted by Job’s Righteousness—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Paula, Columbia SC
This spoke to my heart when I first read it and after but a few months it was even more meaningful in light of everything going on nationally and world-wide. Let us look to Jesus and what He did for us.

Originally published, March 2, 2020, based on readings from Job 31 & 2 Corinthians 1.

Scripture Focus: Job 31.13-14, 28
“If I have denied justice to any of my servants, 
         whether male or female, 
         when they had a grievance against me, 
what will I do when God confronts me? 
         What will I answer when called to account? 
…then these also would be sins to be judged, 
         for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

Reflection: Convicted by Job’s Righteousness—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

There are many lists of sins in the Bible that should give the thoughtful Christian pause and send us to our knees in confession. Job’s list of sins in Chapter 31 contains famous verses, such as “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman,” (verse 1) and several more regarding sexual sins (verses 9-12) that I remember being pounded with as a youth and in college. But the majority of the sins Job lists in his denial have nothing to do with sex and are often skipped or skimmed over by preachers.

May we read verses 13-40 with opened eyes for our own sins and those of our leaders, both religious and political. If Job was defenseless before God, unable to stand before him despite all his blameless actions, what will we do when God confronts us?

May we run to Christ, the mediator that Job prophesied, with this confession.

*What we pray today is not a confession of individual sins, although any of these sins may be committed by one person. Instead, it is a corporate confession, as would be offered by the high priest or a faithful prophet on behalf of the people. As we confess sins of our communities and nations, we step into our role as a kingdom of priests. This does not mean we deny our own culpability. Instead it means that we say that we ARE culpable and confess each one as if it were our own individual sin.

Prayer of Confession
Based on Job 31:13–40

We confess, Lord, we are not like Job. (Job 31.13)

We have denied and delayed justice to servants, workers, women, and outcasts, propping up the reputation of abusive men and staining the reputation of Christ’s church.

We confess, Lord. (Job 31.14-15)

We have dishonored and disenfranchised those in the womb, though they, just like us, are being formed by the hand of God.

And we have discriminated against those who are born, who are our brothers and sisters, born equal before God but treated by our hands as unworthy and spoken of as if they were animals.

We confess, Lord (Job 31.16-23)

We have behaved heartlessly and selfishly toward the poor and the outcasts.

We have blamed them, denied our responsibility, and held them accountable for their deaths caused by our hand.

We have seen those perishing due to lack of bread, lack of clothing, lack of freedom, lack of shelter, and said, “It is their own fault.”

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.24-28)

We have cared more for economic health than spiritual health.

We have trusted more in gains of the stock market, than storing up treasures in Heaven.

We have made success our idol and wealth our god.

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.29-30)

We rejoice in the suffering of our enemies.

We cheer insults, we encourage and participate in violence, we mock our opponents’ tears and laugh to see them suffer.

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.38-40)

That the land and its people cry out against our abuse.

Neither the Earth, nor our brothers and sisters who live on it are more valuable to us than reaping wealth.

We pray for your forgiveness, Lord, but more than that, we pray that you would change the hearts of the oppressors, and may you begin in our hearts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 41 (Listen – 3:36)
Psalms 17 (Listen – 1:58)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post challenged or convicted you?

Read more about Righteousness Sets Things Right
Righteousness, as Job describes it, is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice.

Make No Peace With Death—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Rhoda Reynolds
I really like the guided prayers and shared this with others. The thoughtfulness of this one touched my heart.

Originally published, April 22, 2020, based on readings from Ecclesiastes 9 & Titus 1.

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 9.3-4
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

Titus 1.1-3
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

Reflection: Make No Peace With Death—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

With all his wisdom, Solomon, the teacher, recognized that God had set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11) but in some writings seemed to barely hold a glimpse of what God had in mind for humanity in eternity.

Solomon’s conclusion about death is not that dissimilar at times from billionaire tech giants of today (our culture’s definition of “wise men”) who see death as an evil that should be eradicated.

In 2018, Jacob Banas wrote about the cultish obsession of tech giants with longevity and defeating death:

“Traditional religion in the Bay Area is being replaced with…a belief in the power of technology and science to save humanity,” …Combine this…with leaders who are too young to find peace in the concept of death and who haven’t experienced the kinds of traumas that might inoculate them against some of that fear? You get a perfect storm of longevity obsession.”

When we look closer at the supposedly altruistic goals of “life extension” or “defeating death” we barely scrape the surface before uncovering the primary motivator—greed and the continued accumulation of wealth. 

The billionaire class is on a very real quest to create a new breed of altered humans who will live longer with greater ability to accumulate even more wealth and consolidate even more power. Sean Parker warned at a fundraiser for cancer research that wealth disparity will eventually create a “Class of Immortal Overlords.” He quipped, “Give us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.”

The only correct thought about death that these tech giants have is that death is an enemy. The Christian does not make peace with death. Death is the final enemy to be defeated. 

The difference for believers is that we, unlike Solomon, are certain that death is defeated. (Titus 1.1-3) Death’s sting has no venom for the believer and his victory is as hollow as Jesus’ tomb. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:8) Death which Solomon called “evil” is to us but a door leading the presence of God. 

Death is not kind nor a friend. He is not to be smiled at or joked with. He intends to make us suffer. But like the thief on the cross, if we have the simplest and smallest faith in Christ, on the other side of death we will be embraced by our truest friend, Jesus.

Further Reading:
The Men Who Want to Live Forever — By Dara Horn
Sean Parker Says Wealth Disparity Will Create a ‘Class of Immortal Overlords’ — By Billy Perrigo
Seeking eternal life, Silicon Valley is solving for death — By W. Harry Fortuna

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be too.” — Luke 12.33-34

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 40 (Listen – 3:50)
Psalms 15-16 (Listen – 2:03)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.

What post helped you forgive?

Read more about Too Much to Hold
Death’s jaws, snake-like, that swallow worlds
Cannot contain their maker
Christ is too sweet to see decay
The monster gets no supper

The Work of Faith—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Kim
This simple introductory sentence opened my eyes to understand what Advent was about! Prior to this I never understood how or why we would wait for something that had already happened (Jesus birth). But now I understand that what we are really waiting for (Jesus’ return) hasn’t happened yet, but the fact that Jesus already came makes his second coming all the more near. Come Jesus, come! 

Originally published, December 10, 2019, based on readings from 2 Chronicles 10 & Revelation 1.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 1.3
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy…because the time is near.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, 5a, 9b-10a
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
…our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction…
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…

Reflection: The Work of Faith—Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

Introduction: Advent is the season in which we anticipate and wait for Jesus’ return by remembering his first coming. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church are filled with references to Christ’s second coming, encouraging the believers to be actively waiting as they fully expected that Jesus would come back in their lifetime.  Paul commends their work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope.

Faith is the assurance that God has acted for our salvation in Christ, but what is Paul talking about when he refers to the “work of faith”? He is not referring to some action or work that we must do in order to receive faith. No, we know that saving faith is ours by the free gift of God’s grace, instead, he is referring to the transforming work that faith does within us once we receive the gospel message.

Faith is more than just belief, it is a power from God that works in us and changes us from within. Faith makes you turn from wrong to right, from the darkness of a selfish, harmful way of living to a true, generous and healthy way of loving, or as Paul puts it, faith makes you turn away from idols to serve the living and true God. We don’t simply decide to leave all our worldly idols and then stumble around until we find God. Rather, God pursues us and reveals himself to us and when we discover his glory and goodness, we leave behind all the cheap imitations.

Lee Strobel is the author of one of the premier books on Christian apologetics, The Case for Christ. Strobel had a law degree from Yale University and was an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune. He was an unlikely candidate to write such a book because he was an atheist and a skeptic. However, in 1979, Lee’s wife Leslie became a Christian and she began to live and model her new faith in such a way that it caused him to undertake a two-year journey of investigative research which eventually led to him also putting his faith in Christ. The transformation brought about by the work of faith in his life was so obvious that it caused their 5-year old daughter Alison to remark to her mother, “Mommy, I want God to do for me what He’s done for Daddy.”

Actively waiting for the return of Jesus begins with the work of faith. This Advent season, are you experiencing the work of faith, being transformed by the work of God within you, and inspiring others to do the same? If not, what are you waiting for?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.2-3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 39 (Listen – 3:11)
Psalms 13-14 (Listen – 1:43)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped you pray more passionately?

Read more about Anticipating His Advent
Let’s wait for Jesus with patience, encouraging one another to expect and anticipate with pleasure his second Advent, when he will set all things right.